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What to See and Do in Nainital - Boating, Hiking, and Admiring Colonial Architecture

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Peaceful Nainital has something for everyone. Take your pick from a leisurely boat ride on Naini Lake for laid-back travelers, hiking trails to nearby peaks for nature lovers, or a tour of 19th-century heritage buildings for history enthusiasts. You can also visit the bustling bazaars which surround the lake to sample delicious Indian street food specialties.

Naini Lake and around

 

The most popular activity in Nainital is boating. Many Bollywood songs have been filmed in the scenic surroundings of Naini Lake, where coniferous forests are reflected in the still waters. You can choose between colorful gondolas, paddleboats, or pedal boats. Pedal boats and paddleboats can be hired on an hourly basis, or you can take a relaxing round-trip on a gondola. Strolling around the lake is another pleasant way to explore the area. You can walk along bustling Mall Road on one side or quiet, cedar-lined Thandi Sarak (meaning "Cold Road") on the other.

 

  • Nainital Boat Club, Mallital and Tallital, Nainital Lake, Uttarakhand; Website: Nainital Boat Club

Hiking in the mountains

 

If you want to work up a sweat, hike 6 km to Naini Peak, also called "China Peak," the highest mountain around Nainital (2,615 meters), which affords fabulous views of the town. Another option is trekking 4 km to Tiffin Top (2,292 meters), also known as “Dorothy’s Seat” after a British Colonel’s wife. Both of these hikes start from Mallital. Take a cable car to go to Snow View Point (2,270 meters) where you can admire the Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Trishul on a clear day.

 

  • Nainital Cable Car, Mall Road, Near State Bank of India, Nainital 263139, Uttarakhand; Website: Nainital Cable Car

 

Nainital’s 19th-century buildings

 

The legacy of the British, who established Nainital as a hill station, is everywhere to be seen. Many buildings dating back to the mid-19th century still endure today. The Raj Bhavan (Governor’s House), near Tallital, is a Neo-Gothic structure built in 1899. You need prior permission to enter the premises - only available when the Uttarakhand Governor is out of town. St. John in the Wilderness, set amidst a dense cedar forest near Mallital, is another Neo-Gothic structure. Established in 1844, the church has a brass plaque on its altar listing the names of victims of a landslide in 1880.

 

  • Raj Bhavan, 3 km from Tallital, Nainital 263139, Uttarakhand; Website: Raj Bhavan
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  • St. John in the Wilderness, 1 km from Mallital, Nainital 263139, Uttarakhand; Website: St. John in the Wilderness

 

The Indian “Lake District”

 

Within an hour’s drive from Nainital, you'll find 6 lakes. The 3 bigger ones are Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal, and Sattal. Bhimtal, 22 km from Nainital, is home to the Butterfly Research Centre which has the largest private collection of butterflies (over 1,500 species) and moths in India. Naukuchiatal, the "9-cornered lake," is another 4 km beyond. Thrill-seekers can get a bird's eye view of the lakes by paragliding from a hill between Bhimtal and Naukuchiatal. Sattal, a further 4 km from Bhimtal, is the least crowded of the 3 lakes and offers adrenaline-charged fun with rappelling and a flying fox.

 

  • Butterfly Research Centre, The Retreat, Jones Estate, Bhimtal 263136, Uttarakhand; Tel: +91 5942 247068; Website: Butterfly Research Centre