In India we have a rich collection of stories for almost everything including names of cities, lakes, rivers, mountains, gods, goddesses, festivals, forests….
According to one such mythological story, the Goddess Sati felt insulted that she and her husband Lord Shiva were not invited as guests by her own father King Daksha for prayer gathering. She forced her way in the palace and jumped in the holy fire. Lord Shiva took her charred body back and one of her eye fell in this part of Himalayas creating an eye shaped lake… Nain(eye)-Tal(lake). The temple at the north of lake ‘Naini Devi temple’ is considered one of the 64 ‘Shakti-peeth’ (Religious site for Goddess)
I have visited Nainital in other seasons as well in August and October to be precise…… nestled in the foothills of beautiful Himalayan mountains at a height of 6837 ft above sea-level, it is always cooler than other town in plains. The last visit to this hill station was a spur of the moment decision to celebrate the dawn of a new year…So there we were, two couples with our kids in tow, driving to the town on the first day of January!!
Driving to Nainital from Bareilly which itself was freezing and foggy, I was not expecting it to be so full of warm sunshine. I had instead prepared myself to be enveloped in a dull morning with bone chilling temperatures and thus armed myself with heavy-duty woollen jackets, woollen scarf, gloves, twin layer of warm socks and our car’s air-conditioner blasted warm air too. However once in Nainital, we were greeted with this so so perfect weather…neither scorching nor chilling, and we decided to ditch loads of all our warm clothing in our room at Army Holiday Home, just across the Naini Lake.
With an aim to just relax, we strolled along the Mall road, enjoying every bit of the sun and indulging in all touristy things…and then we all went for the very-popular-among-tourists boat ride on the lake….the ‘Nain-Tal’ which eventually became the name of this hill station town…a summer residence of British Governor.
Can a bright sunny pleasantly warm morning turn into a freezing what-the-brrrr-evening as soon as the sun goes down?
Oh, Yes!! And soon we realised our folly!
As we rowed back towards the lake shore, it was already four in the evening, with cold breeze gaining slight speed. Then, suddenly, the sun set and hid behind the mountains….it all happened as if magic…as if some large hand had just picked up the golden ball of fire and vanished….
With the sun suddenly going down, the temperatures plummeted to almost zero…the breeze turned into howling wind and we, having taken a very intelligent decision of leaving the warm clothes in room(???), shivered like the yellowed fall leaves…. The only option left with us was to either brave the chill and walk till our holiday home or to buy more winter clothing!! Huddling together like little puppies, we decided to buy more woollens from the Tibetan market and spend more time outside the room before calling it a day!
A popular tourist destination of Uttarakhand, it boasts of many activities that will keep the tourists engaged in and around Nainital. The Sukhtal, some 20km far from Nainital offers parasailing and hot air balloon rides. Trekking, camping, rock climbing have become favourite among adventure enthusiasts.
Me, however wanted a more easy paced weekend escape, so I gave all these hectic activities a miss. And if absolute relaxation is what one is looking for in Nainital, then these are some of the things to do….and chill:
1.Boat Ride at the Naini Lake
Row your boat, or paddle it or just sit back, click some photographs, view the houses of the hill town stacked on the mountain slopes and let the boatman do his job. Kayaking, Canoeing and Yatch clubs have activities lined up at different times of the year.
A boat ride on the clean lake with the soft sound of oars pushing the water is a sure shot relaxing activity.
2. Stroll down the Mall Road
I just love going for long walks…it relaxes me no end. The fresh air refreshes and drives away all the stress.
Strolling down the Mall Road gives one a view of the huge span of the lake, closely clustered houses, shops and restaurants. At certain times of the day, even the vehicular movement is stopped on the road and it is safe for the pedestrians. While strolling at the road snack on the buttery steamed corn, salted-boiled black gram, sugar candy and locally made Kulfi sticks(ice cream) sold by the many vendors.
On one side of lake there is a spot marked for vendors of small knickknacks, hand-made decoration stuff and stalls for balloon shooting etc….more like a small-sized fair grounds. Let kids shoot balloons, buy soap-bubble dispensers, hair bands, Yo-Yos, LED devil horns, glitter in dark bouncy balls…meanwhile get yourself a hot cup of sweet ‘Chai’ or coffee from the street vendor.
As the evening approaches, some tucked in spots come alive with amateur skaters showing off their skills. The skaters let the interested tourists and kids skate for fun too, but of course charge some fee per hour.
3. Horse Riding
This is a must-do and lots of fun. Mall Road is the main place for horse riding and the place for hiring horses till snow view-point. One doesn’t get tired yet can enjoy the view of whole town.
4. Naina Devi Temple
Visit the temple, it is one of the holy and important ones.
5. Tibetan Market
On the lookout for some cheap woollen clothing? Head to the Tibetan Market just outside the temple. Narrow lanes of shops overflowing with woollens and summer clothes of all shapes and sizes are available at throw away prices. Haggle…haggle and haggle…till you compromise!!
Not to miss are the ‘Momos’ shop at the farther end of the Tibetan Market which serves delicious mutton and vegetable momos , hot and fresh… It sells out fast and at times finished by late afternoon.
6. Cable Car ride to Snow View Point
Ride the Nainital Ropeway till the Snow View Point to savour the breathtaking views of snow-clad Nanda Devi and Trishul peaks of the great Himalayas. This however depends on how clear the day is!
Stay for an hour or so before it is time to head back from the view-point.
Instant noodles never tasted so good….till I had it from one street vendor at the view-point. The steaming pot on a hand-cart was tempting and we couldn’t resist the aroma of hot noodles…..
7. Trek to Naina Peak
When you have fortified yourself with noodles and momos…trek to Naina Peak or take a horse.
Next time I visit Nainital, it would be for the adventure sports probably…