Something for everyone might probably be a line that best suits Nainital in India, a relatively small location with a number of places and other interesting activities to spend a weekend for any type of traveler. Nainital was one name that caught the attention as a tourist place while growing up, most likely because of the sweetness of that name itself and it did not disappoint either as a rare combination of natural and artificial locations in the form of magnificent and mighty Himalayas, a telescopic view on Himalaya to capture some hidden temples, a walkthrough through some artificial cave in which hanging gardens, a horse ride to the top of a mountain, a cable car ride along with the city which makes a trip to this place nothing but cherishable.
WHERE IS NAINITAL
Nainital is another hilly place like many famous tourist spots such as Dehradun, Mussoorie, Valley of flowers, Rishikesh to name a few in the state of Uttrakhand in India. Nainital is almost 2 KMs from Mean Sea Level in case if the elevation is calculated in kilometers which makes it well be one of the tourist spots that sitting at the peak among Himalaya’s feet. From many trips made to the other places that blessed by the presence of mighty Himalayas, enjoying a trip also depends on how Himalaya will reflect upon us with its different avatars, sometimes snowy like a white feather, sometimes glowing, sometimes like crystal clear, sometimes like emitting cloudy waves from its peak, etc and as a matter of fact, Nainital in India didn’t disappointed in that case too.won.
And for the people who are fond of traveling and sightseeing, it won’t be luckier than getting a job offer in Delhi, having many places with historical importance as well as picnic oriented are easily accessible from Delhi. When off days are in excess of two, the best way to utilize those days was to select a proper destination suitable to the climate and Google will help anybody’s task for this if it wants to. During a Holi holiday, I packed my bag to explore it and from Delhi, plenty of tourist buses are available in which it only takes a night’s journey
HOW NAINITAL WELCOMED ME
As I opened my eyes in the morning hours sitting on the side seat which is my favorite place since a kid, it was a delight to see the uninterrupted view of morning sunrays and the slow rise of the sun from the horizon seen through small paddy fields and in between trees sitting on a side seat as an adult made a joyful start to the trip that looks like a warm welcome offered by nature.
Early morning Nainital, as the bus came to a halt, was so different than one expects. Probably the namesake development such as some building here and there didn’t seem to alter the originality of this tourist spot, the 21st century Nainital looked like same as that of an old one that British rulers planned then and developed in a way that any tourist would like to see it too. Many places around Delhi being developed by British rule and the same with this place too.
A SHORT HISTORY ON NAINITAL
Nainital in India is also a small place compared to other tourist locations. Like saying “Small is beautiful “NAINITAL’s charming might be too because of the same. The hotel was so close to the bus stop and the perfect climate doesn’t allow us to stay inside the room for long too.
There was enough time in between to get some mythological facts that Nainital is known for by the time the previously booked car has arrived. This is the place where Sati Devi’s eyes fell down while Lord Shiva was carrying her lifeless body and one of the 51 Shaktipeetha across India. The spot where the eyes (Nain or Nayan meaning eyes in Hindi) fell exactly is known as Nain-Tal means lake of the eyes and that happened to still exist as the lake in the heart of the city and the famous Naina Devi Temple across the lake.
SURPRISE # 01: 6 ARTIFICIAL CAVES & A HANGING GARDEN
The first spot the driver cum guide took was a real surprise that didn’t read anywhere earlier while trying to know more about Nainital. It was different man-made caves with each one identified with different animals and trees name Panther caves, Tiger caves, Apes cave, etc with a total of six in numbers. These caves are interconnected with each other and a hanging garden is made in between to add its beauty. It was very hard to imagine, inside in a populated town they have made something which people would look like experiencing some old world struggle.
Some places were so narrow that it was very difficult to cross without adjusting the body and in some other places climbing through the rocks was so difficult that others were gracious enough to help each other. The time we spent inside was one of a kind of experience that never seen anywhere else. Both kids and adults looked happy with the fun the caves offered as we came out.
SURPRISE # 02: A HORSE RIDE TO PATNI TOP
Nainital has many options to make the trip a memorable one, and horse riding was one among them other than trekking, ropeways, cable car, etc. Hardly adventurous nowadays, maybe due to age is catching up but that was not a good reason to skip one of the interesting activities in one of the famous places. And it was time for trying some horse riding for the first time to reach my next spot known as Tiffin top. For those who never tried horse riding before it must have been a terrifying mode of traveling.
Before I realized that the horse was carrying me, the place became narrow enough for only 2 pairs of horse legs with a deep valley on the other side, enough for feeling fear and anxiety simultaneously despite horseman accompanying. Soon wondered how the kings and queens were so expert in horse riding to travel through any kind of places like this and horses were an integral part of their army too that they were very expert in riding and fighting. Practice makes perfection must be the motto then too.
Few minutes of chit chat and riding afterward, the jockey was smart enough to convert the fear to enjoyment. It took 20 minutes to reach the top. There was a small temple at the peak and the view was another spectacular feast of Himalayas here. Nainital town can be also visible from here as said but thick fog blocked the entire view except that of the gigantic Himalayas at the far end.
SURPRISE # 03: TELESCOPIC VIEW OF GREAT HIMALAYA
In hilly places surrounded by the Himalayas, as long as we are out there never a chance for being as exploring the beauty of mighty mountains is always a pleasurable activity. The next destination was another such place whose name itself is Himalayan viewpoint or Himalayan Darshan around 4 km from the town. I missed an opportunity to travel in the cable car and another chance to view the mountains and city from the top as the service was not available on that day.
The place looked congested with many visitors and their vehicles. This new location found to be a place that is specially made for another dazzling sight of Himalayas. Covered in a thick white snow blanket the glorious look was another highlight of the day. It was a surprise to know that 350kms of Himalayas can be able to view from here.
What made it more enjoyable is the presence of some people stationed with high power binoculars to offer a closer look at the mountain for a price of as low as 30 Rs. They promised us to show five important places which included two temples in the mountains such as Nanda Devi, Nanda Koot, Trishul, etc. I also tried to take a few snaps in my camera looking through binoculars keeping the viewfinder in its tip and after many efforts, I succeeded in snapping one temple.
I wind up the day as the driver wished to leave early as it was Holi next day. The lake and the town were so close to my hotel that without him it could manageable in the late evening after a little bit of rest in the hotel.
Mall road was another attraction and it was a wise decision to be a little late so as to avoid the crowd. It is a parallel road to the profile of the lake with many shops on the other side for buying a variety of local stuff and souvenir items. It is better to say that the road connects the two ends of the town.
DAY 2: BOAT RIDE IN NAINA LAKE ON A FESTIVAL DAY OF HOLI
Another ‘must-do’ activities have been kept for a fresh day that is, boating in Nainital lake and the visit to Naina Devi temple. It was holi on this day and one has to be in North India and outside of their comfort in their home to realize what and how exactly Holi is. All shops remain closed till evening, kids to aged people, women, and man from all religion will be everywhere with colors with them to apply on others
Grownups were celebrating by applying colors to other faces, kids were using a toy gun to splash colors on everyone passing nearby and new Gen was using their own style in a freaking way in two-wheelers and four-wheelers, etc with the same affection. People from the balcony were also trying to make fun by sprinkling colored water on to the known people walking below. It was like experiencing colors of love in an altogether different location far away from my home town.
Soon the memory took me back to a few years where another day of Holiday in the first year of our professional college life. That was too hard a celebration to imagine for conservative college management in the 90s that the Holi festival has been banned forever in that college campus; not sure though whether the ban is still there or not?
As it was a public holiday there was no crowd as expected in the lake for boating or for roaming anywhere. Every single person present in the city was found to be playing with colors and it was difficult to get someone ready to take for boating. Finally after spending too much time wandering the nearby locations boating people were starts approaching with discounts and offers. The boating was interesting and enjoyable with only very few boats in the lake. Even the boat driver was not in a hurry as we tried to get friendly with few visitors from the boats riding nearby. They were happy too as everyone wants to share the camera with each other so that exclusive photos could be clicked with others. The funny ride then ended at Naina Devi temple on the other side. Only after packing and got ready to leave it realized the bus services would resume only late in the evening due to Holiday and only option for me was to get a taxi and the driver was so friendly to stop at many locations to show us a very interesting view of the hilly mountains on the way down. Many photographs followed in each location and I was able to catch an early bus back to Delhi to resume my day to day life again.
Footnote: This travel story has been first published in my private blog viz: Travel Stories