In India, for countless people, summer vacation means heading to Nainital, a picture-perfect hill station in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Boasting abundant natural beauty at an elevation of 2084 m, Nainital is surrounded by seven hills, collectively known as Sapta-Shring. You will also be delighted to know that this popular hill station offers a host of activities if you are planning a fun vacation with your loved ones. From boating and shopping to trekking and camping, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Nainital. Read on to know all about it.
1. Take a boat ride on Naini Lake
A trip to Nainital is incomplete without a boat ride on Naini Lake. This freshwater body lies in the centre of the city and is counted among the most popular lakes in Uttarakhand. It is surrounded by Naini Peak, Tiffin Top and snow-capped mountains, so you can revel in the beauty of the surroundings during boat rides. The lake looks particularly stunning during sunrise and sunset, making it a must-visit for nature lovers and peace seekers. You can also plan a picnic here and engage in landscape photography.
- Timings: 6:00 AM to 6 PM; 7 days a week
- Boating Charges (per person): Starts from INR 150
- Activities: Boating, photography, picnicking, evening walk
- Travel Tip: If you are visiting during the winter season, carry proper woollens as the weather can be quite chilly
2. Seek blessings at Hanuman Garhi Temple
Perched at a height of 1951 m above sea level, Hanuman Garhi Temple is quite popular among the devotees of Lord Hanuman. The temple was built in 1950 by a local saint called Baba Neem Karoli and is one of the most visited attractions in this hill town. Apart from seeking blessings at the temple, you can enjoy some amazing sunrise and sunset vistas here. The sight of the rising and setting sun, rosy sky, and the surrounding hills is mesmerizing and unmissable.
- Timings: 5:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM; 7 days a week
3. Pay respect at Maa Naina Devi Temple
A revered pilgrimage site in Nainital, Maa Naina Devi Temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in India. It is said that Nainital got its name from this ancient temple. As per Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu had cut Goddess Sati’s lifeless body into 51 pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra to save the universe from Lord Shiva’s wrath. The goddess’ body parts fell in 51 different places on earth and Naina Devi Temple was built on the spot where her eyes are supposed to have fallen.
The temple’s inner sanctum has two netras (eyes) in the centre and idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali on the sides. The two netras represent Goddess Naina Devi. The temple premises have a Peepal tree with idols of Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesha across it. Thousands of devotees from across the country visit Nainital every year to seek the blessings of Maa Naina Devi.
- Timings: 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, 7 days a week
- Travel Tip: Apart from cabs and auto-rickshaws, you can take the ropeway or palki from the bottom of the hill to reach the temple
4. Enjoy stunning views from Tiffin Top
Also known as Dorothy’s Seat, Tiffin Top is a popular attraction among nature and photography enthusiasts. The place offers enticing views of the surrounding Himalayan ranges and is a preferred spot for picnics and adventure activities. You can also catch glimpses of Naini Lake, Naina Devi Temple, and other popular attractions from this beautiful point. Tiffin Top offers a range of adrenaline-boosting adventure activities as well, such as hiking, rock climbing and rappelling.
- Timings: 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM
- Activities: Picnicking, hiking, rock climbing, pony rides, rappelling, photography
- Travel Tip: The hike to Tiffin Top can be a bit strenuous due to the rough terrain. You can take a horse from Bara Pathar to reach the point if required
5. Spot endangered wildlife at Nainital Zoo
Nainital Zoo, also known as Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo, is a haven for nature and wildlife lovers. It is perched on Sher Ka Danda Hill at a dizzying height of 2100 m above sea level and covers an area of 4.6 hectares. The zoo houses many endangered species of animals, including the Royal Bengal Tiger, Himalayan Bear, Tibetan Wolf, Himalayan Civet and Barking Deer. If you are a birdwatcher, keep your eyes peeled for rose-ringed Parakeet, Khalij pheasant, red junglefowl and Lady Amherst pheasant, among others. Being the only zoological garden in the state of Uttarakhand, Nainital Zoo is a must-visit.
- Timings: 10 AM to 4:30 PM; Closed on Thursdays
- Entry Ticket Charges (per person):
- Adults (13-60 years): Indians: INR 100; Foreigners: INR 200
- Kids (5-12 years): INR 50; Foreigners: INR 100
- Free entry for children below 5 years of age, specially-abled and senior citizens
6. Explore the shops and restaurants on Mall Road
If you are a foodie or a shopaholic or both, a stroll along Nainital’s Mall Road is going to be a rewarding experience. This popular road was built by the British and runs parallel to Naini Lake. Besides being an important shopping, food and cultural centre of Nainital, Mall Road is also the connecting point between the two ends of the town – Tallital and Mallital. The road looks vibrant and busy in the evening when large groups of locals and tourists throng the place to take a walk or just eat and shop.
- Timings: 24×7
- Shops opening and closing time: 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM
- Travel tip: Parking is not allowed on Mall Road and entry of vehicles is prohibited during peak hours, i.e., from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
7. Shop for souvenirs at Tibetan Market
A paradise for shopaholics, Tibetan Market is the best place to hunt for inexpensive and beautiful Tibetan products in Nainital. It is also known as Bhotia Market and the entire setup is run by natives of Tibet. The market is located at one end of the popular Naini Lake and is known for its extensive collection of products reflecting Tibetan art, culture and tradition. From handicrafts and trinkets to winterwear and home décor items, the market has them all. Tibetan bags, scarves, designer shawls, ethnic dresses and Himalayan products are some of the bestselling items here.
- Timings: 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM; 7 days a week
8. Take a ropeway ride
Also known as Gandola or Cable Car Ride, Nainital Ropeway is one of the main attractions in the town. The ropeway connects the city to the snow viewpoint, taking passengers to a height of 2270 m above sea level. It travels over the beautiful Naini Lake and offers a spectacular bird’s eye view of this scenic hill station. The ropeway has 2 trolleys and the distance between the two terminals is about half a mile. Each trolley can accommodate around 5 people and it takes less than 3 minutes to cover one side of the journey. The Nainital Ropeway is also famous for being one of the safest and fastest ropeways in the country.
- Timings: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM; 7 days a week
- Ropeway Charges (per person):
- Adults: INR 300 for a two-way journey
- Children (between 3 to 12 years): INR 200 for a two-way journey
9. Trek up to Naina Peak
Boasting a height of 2611 m, Naina Peak is the highest peak in Nainital. It is also referred to as Cheena Peak or China Peak by the locals. The mountaintop, which is covered by snow throughout the year, is a popular attraction among nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. If you are looking for some fun, you can trek up to Naina Peak and enjoy panoramic views of Nainital as well as the surrounding Himalayan ranges. The hike is a small and easy one that takes you through forests of deodars, rhododendrons and cypresses. The fresh mountain air coupled with scenic surroundings makes the trek a beautiful one.
- Travel tip: Apart from trekking, you can reach Naina Peak by hiring a horse or pony
10. Take a guided tour of the Governor’s House
Popularly known as the second Raj Bhawan of Uttarakhand, Governor’s House is an impressive British era building in Nainital. The structure was built by an architect cum designer called F.W. Steven in 1899 and it now serves as the summer retreat of the Governor of Uttarakhand. Resembling the Castle of Scotland and the famous Buckingham Palace, this stunning Victorian Gothic structure exudes royalty and attracts tourists in large numbers.
The Governor’s House has a two-storied building with 113 rooms, a swimming pool, and a 45-acre golf course. Some rooms are not accessible to the public as the Governor of Uttarakhand still resides here. Taking a guided tour of this beautiful place is one of the best things to do in Nainital.
- March to April: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- May to August: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
- September to October: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- November to December: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Governor’s House is closed on Sundays and national holidays
- Entry Ticket Charges (per person):
- Governor’s House: INR 50
- Golf Course: INR 450
11. Explore Eco Cave Garden
A recent attraction in Nainital, Eco Cave Garden is a wonderful place for people of all ages. It has a group of six interconnected rocky caves of different sizes that look like natural habitats. The caves here are named Tiger Cave, Panther Cave, Flying Fox Cave, Bat Cave, Squirrel Cave, and Apes Cave, each providing information about wildlife in the Himalayas. There are hanging gardens and a musical fountain as well, adding to the charm of the place. Eco Cave Garden is a popular attraction among children and exploring the entire place with little ones is one of the best things to do in Nainital for families.
- Monday to Saturday: 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM
- Sunday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- Entry Ticket Charges (per person):
- Adults: INR 20
- Children: INR 10
- Camera fee: INR 25
12. Plan a picnic at Lands End
When you’re in Nainital, there’s nothing better than enjoying a picnic on the top of a mountain. This is what Lands End offers. As the name suggests, Lands End is the dead-end of Nainital city. The picturesque place is positioned at a height of 2118 m and offers enthralling views of snow-clad mountains, lush green valleys, pine forests and small villages. You can also see the popular Khurpataal Lake from here. This beautiful mango-shaped lake is known for its crystal-clear water and a variety of fishes that thrive in it. Adventure enthusiasts can enjoy a nice trek to the spot, while others can take a taxi, pony, or horse to reach Lands End.
- Timings: 24×7
- Activities: Trekking, picnicking, photography, sightseeing
- Travel Tip: Visit the place on a clear day to enjoy the best views of the surroundings. The best time to visit Lands End is in winter
13. Enjoy a wildlife safari at Jim Corbett National Park
Established in 1936, Jim Corbett National Park in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand is the oldest national park in the country. It is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas and is famous for housing the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger in abundance, along with many other species of flora and fauna. This huge national park is spread over an area of 521 sq. km. and divided into 5 zones – Bajrani, Dhikala, Jhirna, Domunda and Sonanandi. Each zone has a different topography and visiting period.
A safari through the park is the best way to spot different kinds of animals and birds here, up close. The national park allows 180 vehicles or jeeps to enter every day. You can also opt for elephant safaris and canter safaris here. The park conducts walking safaris in buffer areas too. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, make the most of your trip by opting for a night stay inside the Dhikala Tourism Zone. Gayatri Devi Temple, Kosi River and Corbett Falls are other important attractions at Jim Corbett National Park.
- Distance from Nainital Centre: 64 km
- Jeep Safari: 6:00 AM to 9:30 AM and 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
- Canter Safari: 6:00 AM to 11:50 AM and 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
- Price (per person):
- Jeep Safari (Indians): INR 5000 per jeep
- Jeep Safari (Foreigners): INR 12000 per jeep
- Canter Safari (Indians): INR 1600 per person
- Canter Safari (Foreigners): INR 3500 per person
- Best Time to Visit: Mid-October to Mid-May
- Travel Tip: Indians must book safari tickets 45 days in advance, while foreigners should book them at least 90 days in advance
14. Enjoy camping in Kumaon
Apart from hills and lakes, Nainital has some beautiful meadows that promise the best camping experience in Kumaon. Thanks to the fresh mountain air and pleasant weather conditions, camping here is a different experience altogether. You get to wake up to the sounds of chirping birds, enjoy short treks, sing and dance around bonfires and sleep under a blanket of stars. And when you’re camping in the Kumaon region, you can also enjoy mesmerizing sunrise and sunset views.
- Charges/ Fees: Roughly between INR 1000 and INR 4000. Prices may vary depending on the season of booking, permits required, entry fees and other factors.
- Activities: Some common activities include nature treks, birdwatching, rock climbing and rappelling
15. Spend a day at Bhimtal
About 24 km from Nainital is a small and scenic town called Bhimtal. The place is particularly known for housing the beautiful Bhimtal Lake, the largest lake in the Kumaon region. The island at the centre of the lake and the revered Bhimeshwara Mahadev Temple on the bank are popular attractions here. If you are a nature lover, you can spend some quality time at Victoria Dam, Hidimba Parvat and Nal Damyanti Lake at Bhimtal. As a devotee, you can pay your respects at Karkotaka Temple. The place is ideal for a day trip from Nainital.
- Distance from Nainital Centre: 24 km
- Activities: Boating, camping, trekking, horse riding, sightseeing, nature walks, photography
- Travel Tip: Carry some woollens as the place gets a little cold in the evening
To wrap up, Nainital is a wonderful destination with plenty of options for different types of travellers. So, whether you are planning a laidback holiday or a fun-filled and adventurous one, you can pack your bags and head to this beautiful town without worries. And if you book tickets and hotel rooms in advance, you are sure to land some of the best deals too and save money.