Sterling Nainital – Reviews, Photos & Experiences
Last 10 days of December are probably the happiest days in our home because we are blessed with the company of daughters and grandchildren. We usually plan a few of these adorable days outside Delhi to escape pollution and of course that necessary evil: the hospital calls. This year we zeroed on Nainital, the beautiful Kumauni hill with a beautiful lake.
350 kilometers drive from Delhi takes around 6+ hrs to reach Nainital which is at 2084 meters above sea level. Roads are quite good and en route snacking, breakpoints have decent facilities. Nainital finds its first mention in ancient Hindu text “Skanda Purana” which mentions about three saints Atri, Pulaha, and Pulastya who were on pilgrimage in the Himalayas. Wandering through high altitude forests they came across a place where they couldn’t find water to quench their thirst so they dug a huge pit and filled it with water from holy Lake Mansarover. Lake thus formed was called as Tririshi Sarovar (Lake of three saints).
The modern name of the lake is Naini Lake and the hill station is known as Nainital. The word Naini comes from Naina Devi (eyes of the Goddess), whose temple is on the northern end of the lake. It is NOT the Shaktipeeth as many believe. Naina Devi in Bilaspur district, Himachal Pradesh is the actual Shaktipeeth related to the story of “Sati and Shiva”. British scriptures credit this place to a British trader and trekker P Barron who found it in 1841 while trekking Himalayas. St. John in the wilderness church was built in 1846. Soon it became a summer home of many Colonial officers, Maharajas, and soldiers. Governor of United Province established his summer house by the lakeside. Many famous boarding schools were established later by the Britishers and they still remain schools for rich and famous in India.
Valley of Nainital is dominated by beautiful mango shaped natural freshwater Naini lake, surrounded by Naina peak (2615 meters) on the north, Deopatha peak (2438 meters) on west and Ayarpatha (2278 meters) on the south. Once upon a time, it was a beautiful hill station but now it is a chaotic city on the hills. The extensive green cover has given way to a concrete jungle and now even the winters have lot many tourists.
Trips To Nainital – Unforgettable Experiences
I have visited Nainital and its adjoining places many a time but my first visit in October 1976 is imprinted forever. It was my first visit to a hill station and I was quite excited as I had never seen a hill station earlier, not even in movies as before 1976 I had hardly seen any movie (Saw Kati Patang, a Rajesh Khanna 1971 release much later). The trip was organized by the Pharmacology department of our medical college. Best of our college adventure was trekking to China peak and coming down on the slippery rainwater tracks. That was real adrenaline for sure. Chai and Pakora at the hilltop tea stall were out of this world especially standing amongst the chilly winds and clouds. We had a great time although probably none of the “Haves” was successful in their courting efforts.
Immediately after my marriage I again visited Nainital along with my in-laws. This time we trekked to Snow View Point. In between visiting this hill station with friends and family and each time had a good time. Once a senior friend treated us with a lovely dinner at Boat club and that was a real privilege. In one of my trip, I forgot my camera battery charger and in desperation explored many camera repair shops in Nainital. That was the first time I went beyond Mall road and met an old British photographer who had settled down in Nainital. He couldn’t help me but meeting him was a real treat.
But, this trip was obviously different for the reason that the company of grandchildren made the trip to Nainital more interesting and enjoyable. We reached our hotel on Christmas Eve and our hotel had organized a big bash. Kids and family had a great time while I had my fill of Scotch in icy weather.
Our exploration started with Naina Devi temple. It is believed that the temple was first built in the 15th century but was destroyed by a devastating landslide in 1880. Locals rebuilt it in 1883. Entry point has a Hanuman and Ganesha temple which leads into a large courtyard. Sanctum has statues of Goddess Kali, two eyes of Goddess in the center and a Ganesha idol. The courtyard also has a Shivling which is very popular with devotees. The courtyard also offers a great view of the lake. Swami Vivekananda and his disciples stayed here in 1890 while traveling in Kumaon Himalayas. Temple has its share of many large bells as is the tradition in most Hindu Temples. There are a large Mosque and a Gurudwara outside the temple.
There is a large Bhotia (Tibetan) market as well as small eateries and sweet shops outside the temple and the area is always bustling with tourists. “Baal Mithai” the local Kumauni sweet is amazing and a classy delicacy. Next was the time for the main attraction, boating in Naini Lake. It is mainly the rowing boats that are available for the tourists while Yatch can be hired if it is not a very touristy season. In one of my previous trips, I was lucky with boating on a Yacht. Kids and all of us had a great time boating on the Naini Lake. Boating on Naini Lake always reminds me of Rajesh Khanna Asha Parikh Kati Patang song “Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar”, Shashi Kapoor Sharmila Tagore Waqt (1965) song: Din Hai Bahar Ke Tere Mere Ikrar Ke, Sunil Dutt Mala Sinha Gumrah (1963): Tujhko Mera pyar Pukare and, Naseeruddin Shah and Jugal Hansraj In Masoom 1983 Tujhse naraaz nahin Zindagi.
Thandi Sadak (colder road because of tree shades) is the road on another side of Mall Road encircling the Naini lake. It is less crowded, great for a stroll and has a beautiful Hanuman Temple midway. Area adjoining stadium is a great place to pass some time and I always enjoy sitting here photographing people.
After having a superb lunch we were off for Ropeway ride to Snow View Point. Nowadays Taxis are available for visiting all the important points of Nainital. Ropeway is very well organized but they need to increase the number of Trolleys. They have only two since last many years leading to quite a long waiting queue. There is hardly any point of going for viewing snow-capped mountains here as there are many much better places to do so. This place is a good time pass for kids as there are many interesting rides and an amusement park. It has many small eateries. Magi and “Chole Bhature” are quite popular with the visitors although there may be many questions about the hygienic status of these shops. It was getting dark and we had to leave although kids were not ready to forego the pleasure of driving the remote-controlled cars. View of the Naini lake and city is very impressive from the Ropeway trolley. We tried spending some time on Mall road but it was very crowded and is quite boring. It is dominated by hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Nainital candles are quite famous and there are many shops selling woolens and shawls.
There were a few other things that we could have done but didn’t do. Cave garden, Tiffin top and high altitude Zoo (I hate seeing caged wildlife). Nainital can be visited as a day trip staying at more picturesque places like Ram Garh (about 30 kilometers) or maybe from Pangot (about 20 kilometers). Both these places are more close to nature and are less touristy. This area of Kumaon is also famous as the Lake District and these can be visited as a day tour. Best thing near Nainital is Jim Corbett Tiger reserve which was our next destination.
I would definitely like to hear comments from my readers.
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