Often known as the Lake district of India, Nainital, nestled in the lap of the Kumaon range in Uttarakhand, was built in 1841, at a height of 2084 metres, as a British summer capital. The city derives its name from the eye-shaped lake in its centre (naini-tal; naini in Hindi meaning ‘eyes’) on the north shore of which is the holy Naina Devi temple. This bustling town offers panoramic views of the Himalayas all around and is a popular destination for families as well as honeymooners who are looking for a rejuvenating week of fresh, clean air and mesmerising and enchanting mountain views.
Although summer months are the most popular, Nainital can be a pleasant experience throughout the year. From backpackers on a budget to couples looking for an exotic stay, Nainital offers a range of accommodations and eateries.
This is also a trekker’s paradise as most of the high-altitude view-points can be climbed on foot. However, if trekking is not your idea of a perfect getaway, you can easily tour the sites in a cab that can be hired at multiple points in the city.
Pantnagar is the closest domestic airport and is connected to Delhi and Mumbai through several flights. Indira Gandhi airport at Delhi is the closest international airport. Kathgodam railway station is the closest station at a distance of 34 kilometres from Nainital. There are several trains available from Delhi, Agra, Kolkata, Lucknow etc. Nainital is also accessible by road- you can take a cab or bus from Delhi and reach Nainital in about 5 hours.
Nainital Itinerary Snapshot
Day 1- Nainital City tour
Day 2- City tour continued
Day 3- Almora
Day 4- Ranikhet
Day 5- Jim Corbett National Park
Detailed 5-Day Nainital Itinerary
Nainital City tour
Once you reach Nainital, start your vacation at the Naina Devi Temple on the banks of Naini Lake. This is an 8th century temple believed to be one of the 51 Shakti Peeths holy to the Hindu culture. Mythology states that the eyes (naina) of Goddess Sati fell on this site after the Tandava of Lord Shiva and the site is a pilgrimage spot for many Hindus.
The Naini Lake beside is the central attraction in the city and you can take a boat ride on it while enjoying the views of the Kumaon range surrounding it. The Governor’s House in Uttarakhand is located close to the lake and is a British colonial structure.
Visit the Eco Cave Gardens nearby for a fun-filled crawl through various animal-shaped caves. This site is especially popular with children. Next on your list could be the Aurobindo Ashram and the Gurney House, the erstwhile home of Jim Corbett.
You can then drive to Jeolikot, about 18 kms away, which is often called the gateway to Nainital to see the many-hued flowers and butterflies prolifically spread in the area.
Spend your evening at the Astronomical Observatory gazing up at the constellations in the clear sky. End your first day strolling through the Tibetan Market and Mall Road lined by many cafes.
City Tour Continued
Mallital, 5 minutes from the Naini Lake, is the other charming spot in the city. Take a ropeway ride from here to reach Snow View Point which provides extremely magnificent views of the mountain ranges all around.
Tiffin Top, at a height of 7,520 feet is another popular viewing point. The place is named so because many tourists come here for picnic with packed tiffins!
St. John Wilderness Church, located next to the High Court, is a fascinating structure and a must-visit. You can trek or drive up to Naina Peak, at a height of 2,615 metres, to see the rhododendron blooms lining the hill.
Next visit the ashram of the famed Neem Karoli Baba. His popularity was so widespread that many luminaries across the world, including Steve Jobs, wanted to become his disciple.
Khurpatal, a scenic lake, surrounded by pine and cedar trees and Land’s End, a cliff offering an adrenaline kick due to its treacherous viewpoint are the other popular sites in the city. Spend some time in the Himalayan Botanical Garden and the zoo with its many species of birds and animals.
Almora is a quaint yet spectacular town in Uttarakhand, about a 2-hour drive from Nainital. Shaped like a horse-shoe, this town gives visitors grand views of the Himalayas from its Zero Point in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Jageshwar group of temples is a cluster of over 100 temples built between the 7th and 12th century and is a holy site to the Shaivism sect of Hindus. Katarmal Sun temple and the Kasar Devi temple are also worth a visit in the town.
The Deer Park and Bright End Corner are the other popular attractions here. The latter is named after a Mr. Brighton and is the site for the Vivekananada Library and memorial.
Govind Vallabh Pant museum is an interesting site in the town that houses artefacts belonging to the Katyuri and Chand dynasty. It also displays many local handicrafts and paintings. Spend your night at one of the guest houses or homestays in the town to enjoy a chilly and silent sleep in the lap of the mighty mountains.
Ranikhet is 46 km away from Almora and should take you about 2 hours to drive. This picturesque town is known for its orchards and sprawling golf course and you will not regret spending the day here, watching the snow-capped peaks from every angle. The Jhula Devi Temple in the town is often visited by pilgrims.
Legend has it that Queen Padmini of Kumaon spent a large amount of her time in this hilly nest and the place received its name after her palace as the Queen’s farm. Though this palace has left no trace of its existence, this enchanting town draws tourists for its excellent views of the sunrise and sunset.
Head to Chaubatia Gardens which is spread over 600 acres of land! Its a must for every nature lover where one can find several orchards filled with apricots, peaches, apples and so much more.
On the road to Almora, you find this quaint town called Majkhali that is renowned for its natural beauty. The places hosts several picnic spots that is enjoyed by tourists coming here, not to mention an absolutely splendid view of the Himalayas.
You can return to Nainital at the end of the day or choose to stay overnight in this peaceful station.
Jim Corbett National Park
The wildlife sanctuary needs very little introduction. Situated 65 kms from Nainital (a 2 hour drive), this is the most exciting way to end your trip. Established in 1936, the oldest national park of India is the home to the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger. The Park is divided into 5 zones: Bijrani, Dhikala, Jhirna, Domunda and Sonanandi with different entrance points. Take a safari and immerse yourself in the sightings of hundreds of species of flora and fauna.
Even though tiger glimpses are very rare, you can certainly come across Asiatic Black Bear, Sloth Bear, Walking Deer, Hog Deer, Sambar, Yellow-throated Marten, Otters and Ghariyal. The aqua fauna include: Golden Oriole, Pallas Fish Eagle, Indian Pitta, Tawny Fish Owl, Scarlet Minivet and more.
The species of birds found here are the Great Pied or hornbill, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, Hodgson’s Bushchat, White-Backed Vulture, and reptile like Ghariyal or Aligator, Mugger or Crocodiles.
Definitely stop by the Corbett waterfall. You can also opt for an elephant ride for that ultimate jungle experience. Sit by the Kosi river or enjoy fishing in its catchment area. Visit the Sitabani temple, dedicated to Sita as it is believed that she resided in these terrains before her Agnipariksha.
You can drive back to Delhi from Jim Corbett itself or come back to Nainital and head towards your return journey from there.