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Nainital

Set around a tal or lake, this small town with cottage-like houses and steep mountains covered with green forests is one of the most sought-after summer destinations of India. This charming hill station of Uttaranchal (former Uttar Pradesh), situated at an altitude of 1,938 metres, has many villas, bungalows, and a number of other sites of tourist importance.

Many legends are associated with how the town came to be called Nainital. It is said that the name of the place has been derived from the Naini Lake that lies just in the middle of the town. Legend also has it that after Sati, Lord Shiva’s consort, committed suicide at the yajna of Daksha Prajapati, Lord Shiva roamed across the universe carrying her dead body. During that period, Sati’s eye fell near the lake, where the Naina Devi temple now stands. The waters of the lake are therefore considered sacred and the Naina Devi temple is the venue of an annual autumn fair.

However, legends apart, it was in 1841 when an Englishman named Barron chanced upon the lake. Fascinated by the scenic beauty of the lake and thickly forested hills, he constructed a house here. By 1858, Nainital became a well-known hill station, and within a few years it became the summer seat of the provincial government.

The climate of Nainital is cool and pleasant. The best season to visit this place is during summer between March and June. However, the monsoon season that lasts from June to late August is best avoided.

Sightseeing:

Snow View:

This popular vantage point, situated at 2,270 metres above sea level, offers an excellent view of the northern Himalayan ranges. The point is accessible by a chair lift (ropeway) or you can hire horses and mountain ponies to reach there. You can even reach the place on foot but the climb is quite steep. From the top, with the help of powerful binoculars, you can have a close up view of Nanda Devi, one of the highest peaks in the country.

Naini Peak:

Five kilometres from the lake lies the Naina Peak. At 2,611 metres, it is the highest peak bordering the lake. A popular picnic spot, the peak offers a panoramic view of the resort and a stunning view of the Himalayas including Nanda Devi and the mountains on the Tibetan border.

Dorothy’s Seat:

Four kilometres to the west of the lake lies Dorothy’s seat, also known as Tiffin Top. Here a seat was built by an Englishman named Kellet in the memory of his wife, who was killed in an air crash. The spot offers a partial view of Nainital.

Land’s End:

Located on the southern border of the lake, and standing 2,881 metres high, this hill offers a view of another lake, Khurpa Tal.

Hanuman Garhi:

Three kilometres south of Tallital lies Hanuman Garhi, where there is a small temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The place is also a good spot for viewing the setting sun.

State Observatory:

Located around one kilometre from Hanuman Garhi on the top of a ridge is the State Observatory. The observatory is usually open to the public in the evenings but one should confirm the timings from the tourist office before visiting here.

The Mall, Nanital:

The Mall is Nainital’s popular promenade and the centre of frenetic activity especially in the late afternoons.

Excursions From Nainital:

Almora:
Nestled in the Kumaon hills, the hill station of Almora has fascinated travellers from far and wide. It is one of the very few hill stations not developed by the English. Geographically, Almora is bound by the district of Pithoragarh in the east, the district of Garhwal in the west, the district of Bageshwarin in the north and in the south by Nainital district. Almora is placed over a picturesque horseshoe-shaped ridge of a mountain. Some of the major attractions here are G. B. Pant Museum, Chitai Temple, Kasar Devi Temple and Udyotchandesvar Temple (also Nanda Devi Temple).

Corbett National Park:
Set up in 1936, the Corbett National Park is India’s first and the finest national park. Situated in the foothills of the western Himalayas in the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal, the park spans across some 920.9 square kilometres at an altitude of 600 to 1,100 metres. Today the park has grown considerably in size and now includes the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of its 1,319 sq. km of reserved forest area.

The park comprises mainly the valley of the Ramganga River. It has a varied topography which abounds with a variety of wildlife. The wildlife includes a large number of mammals, birds and reptiles. The river teems with mahseer, gharial, mugger and flocks of cormorants.

The park is quite popular for its tigers. Apart from tigers (90 in number in 1984), leopards as well as jungle cats and fishing cats are also found here. The sloth bear, Himalayan black bear, dhole, jackal, yellow-throated marten, Himalayan palm civet, Indian grey mongoose, common otter, porcupine, and black-naped hare are the other attractions of this area. Elephants can be seen all over the park.

Kasauni:
All mountain lovers who want to get a closer look at the Himalayas can head for Kasauni, which is situated at about 51 kilometres north of Almora. From here you can have a superb view of Trishul (7120 m), the twin peaks of Nanda Devi (7816 m), and Panchchuli or the Five Chimneys (6904 m).

Mukteshwar:
Set atop a high ridge, at about 51 km from Nainital, is one of Kumaon’s beautiful resorts, Mukteshwar. The resort is full of fruit orchards and dense coniferous forests. You can also have a fine view of the majestic Himalayas as well as of Almora from here. Mukteshwar is also home to the famous Indian Veterinary Research Institute.

Ranikhet:
Situated some 103 km from Dhikala, Ranikhet, as the name suggests, is a beautiful and quiet hill station at an altitude of 2,000 metres above sea level. It has a pleasant climate with mild summers and chilled winter. This is one of the few unexplored destinations in the country where you can find a serene environment, traffic-less streets, and hospitable people.

Sat Tal:
About 21 kilometres from Nainital lies Sat Tal, one of the most picturesque resorts of Kumaon. The resort has seven interconnected lakes. Accommodation facilities here are provided by Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam.

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