Nainital is a hill station that is part of the district of the same name located in the state of Uttarakhand in India. Nainital is part of the Kumaon foothills of outer Himalayas and was once regarded as the Summer capital of the United Provinces. The specialty of the hill station is, of course, the splendid sights of the mountain ranges that one can appreciate from the top.
The town also has the beautiful Naini river, after which it is named. The lake is shaped like an eye and branches into several spectacular tributaries including the Balia Nala. It is also surrounded by other mountain ranges like the Ayarpatta, Devpata, Alma, Lariya Kanta, etc. It is a relatively tiny town not more than 12 square kilometers and comprising a population of a little over 180,467. There’s much more to Nainital than what meets the tourists' eyes. Keep reading our Nainital travel guide to better plan your trip to this picturesque hill station.
Even though Nainital was historically a part of the Kumaon region, things significantly changed after the fall of the Katyuri Dynasty in the 10th century. Even as the Chand Dynasty tried to impose regional authority over the little princely state, it continued to resist absorption into any one particular dynasty for centuries.
The hill station was recognized in 1841 after it caught the eye of English sugar trade P. Barron who built a Pilgrim Lodge there. Because of the pleasantly chilly climate and the scenic gems that lay studded in the path leading to the Naini peak, the place began to be favored by Indians and Englishmen alike for its health-restoring properties and aesthetic beauty.
Nainital also has an interesting educational history. As it had been a local hotspot for wealthy Britishers for centuries, a number of Victorian-style schools and educational institutions were built in the area, a few popular ones being St. Joseph’s College, Philander Smith's College, and Sherwood College.
The local language of the region is Kumaoni and Hinduism is the majority religion of the region. Women traditionally don the ghagra pichora or Rangwali, to commemorate festive occasions, paired with a woolen cap called Digwa to protect themselves from the cold. The traditional cuisine of Nainital involves a lot of rice, cooked lentils, and preparations of potatoes in a variety of ways. Some interesting dishes to try while you’re there are ras (a dish made of several types of lentils), gulgula (a deep-fried sweet), baadi (a savory dish made with atta and cooked vegetables), bal mithai (chocolate fudge coated in white sugar) and aloo ke gutke (a dish of spiced potatoes).
Also Read: Best Homestays In Nainital
If you’re an international or out-of-state tourist, getting to Nainital via flight could be a struggle as the closest international airport to the town is in Delhi - Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI). The other closest airport to Nainital is the Pantnagar Airport (roughly 70 kilometers from Nainital) that has direct connecting flights only with Delhi as of now. It’s a two-hour drive from Pantnagar to Nainital.
The Kathgodam Railway Station is located roughly 34 kilometers from the town and is your best bet to get there. It is fairly well-connected to all the other major cities of the country like New Delhi, Dehradun, Lucknow, and Jammu and Kashmir.
Nainital has an excellent road transport system which enables tourists to travel from one tourist spot to the other fairly easily. It also boasts good connectivity with other towns in the North-Indian region through the National Highway 109 from Haldwani. You could also take State Highway 13 if you’re traveling through the city of Bajpur, Uttarakhand.
With its shimmering blue waters, quaint old-timey villages, and views of the mesmerizing mountain peaks, Nainital is a decked-up experience of beauty in every season. However, the best time to visit the hill station would be in the summer or spring as temperatures remain stable and pleasantly warm, although it could get chillier at night. The festival of Phool Dei in the month of March gives you extra incentive to plan your Nainital trip in the spring. This festival, which literally means Flowers and Sweetness, celebrates rebirth and the flourishing of nature that occurs in the months of March to June. The countryside becomes lush with the prospect of flowers in every shade of the rainbow and it’s truly a sight to behold.
If you don’t mind the cold and light showers every now and then, July to September is also a fair time to visit. However, if you’re from the warmer regions of the subcontinent, do make it a point to visit Nainital in the winter to witness heavy rainfall amidst the mountain ranges.
Taxicabs are available at any time of the day to explore the town. While it could be slightly expensive, the safety and reliability it offers are not to be overlooked.
Perhaps the best way to explore the inner life of Nainital is through cycle rickshaws that not only allow you to travel on a budget but also attain the local flavor of commuting in the little hill station.
You could also book yourself a private bus service for a limited number of days to visit the various places of tourist interest in Nainital.
The aesthetic lure of Nainital and its easy connectivity makes it the perfect candidate, in terms of a tourist destination, to explore by foot. The town is filled with long, winding roads dotted with small indoor cafes, shopping spots, and exciting sights that unfold. The Mall Road in the heart of the city is one such spot that can be easily traversed on foot.
"There is nothing more to Nainital than the famous Naini Lake."
While the Naini Lake is a large reason behind the beauty of the hill station and the origin story behind its name, Nainital is so much more than the eponymous lake. The Nainital Zoo, the Naina Devi Temple, the Eco Cave Gardens, the Raj Bhawan, and many more are all spots that accord their own levels of charm and cultural significance to the hill station.
The Tibetan Market is the perfect hub to enjoy a day at the marketplace and to try the local specialties that the town offers. It’s a colorful concoction of local spices, fabric, and an incredible variety of Uttarakhand street food including different types of momos and thukpa. It’s also a great spot to stop for pictures as the market offers a wide tapestry of contrasting colors and encapsulates the buzz of a local Indian market. It’s a mere 2 kilometers from the Nainital bus station and is located in the heart of the town.
The famous national park named after naturalist and tiger enthusiast Jim Corbett is located in this tiny hill station. The park was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative and is said to contain around 488 different species of flora and fauna. This ecotourism destination is enough to keep your fire going when it comes to preservation and a true passion for conserving the gifts of nature that we were lucky to be bestowed with. It contains a vibrant assortment of rare animal species, some of which are crested serpent eagles, leopards, sambar deer, Himalayan black bears, Indian grey mongoose, otters, crocodiles, gharials, Indian pangolins, langurs, and even the Great Indian python.
Sometimes, a sunrise is all it takes to shift your entire perspective. Tiffin Top is a famous vantage point at the peak of the Ayarpatta hills. It offers a jaw-dropping view on the mountain range below made only better with a sunrise or a sunset if you’re lucky. You could choose to reach Tiffin Top either through a trek or go horseback-riding if that’s your kind of thing. It’s also known as Dorothy’s Seat in the memory of English artist Dorothy Kellet – and for good reason! If Tiffin Top doesn’t inspire the hidden artist in you, we don’t know what will!
We can’t think of a better infotainment activity in Nainital than visiting the Eco Cave Garden in Sukhatal. The series of interconnected caves are not only fit for exciting exploration but also reveal a great many things about the nature of the different sections it comprises! It also comes with musical fountains and is open seven days a week!
How Many Days Are Enough For Nainital?
3-4 days ought to be sufficient for a Nainital visit if planned meticulously. However, if you’re the one to enjoy aimless traveling and sporadic exploration, reserve more time to savor the hill station.
Which Is The Best Time To Visit Nainital?
While every season has something new to offer in Nainital, the best time to visit is between the months of March and June.
How Far Is Ranikhet From Nainital?
Ranikhet is around 56 km away from Nainital.
Is Nainital Very Cold?
Nainital is a hill station and is, therefore, a relatively cold region. While the summers and springs see a pleasantly warm temperature range with spells of dry cold, the winters see temperatures dipping to 10°C with heavy snowfall to go. So, be sure to pack your sweaters and mufflers for the trip!
How Far Is Jim Corbett From Nainital?
Jim Corbett is at a distance of about 141 km from Nainital.
How Expensive Is Nainital?
For one day, you'll be spending around INR 1,000-1,500 in Nainital. Hotels are a bit pricey in prime areas of this location.
How Far Is Nainital From Delhi?
Nainital is approximately 315 km by road from Delhi.
How Far Is Nainital From Rishikesh?
Nainital is around 252 km by road from Rishikesh.