FUN WITH KIDS : Nainital has always been known as a child- friendly holiday destination – choose from between a rowboat or paddleboat for a round of the lake, feed the ducks under the Municipal Library or try some horse-riding to any of the hill-top viewpoints around the town. The imaginatively named Ariel Express – a Cable car ride to Snow View – is an eternal favourite and provides for great photo-ops of the lake and surrounding countryside. Snow View itself has lots of activities for children, with go-carts and bumper-cars ensuring a fun time for all. The Cave Garden in Sukhatal provides children with a fun way of learning about the ecosphere and geology of the region. Also, the Nainital Zoo is one of the highest in India and houses, among other animals, the Himalayan black bear, a snow leopard and even a tiger!
BOATING : Whether in the newer paddle boats or in the old faithful – a brightly-coloured row boat – one of the best ways to enjoy Nainital is to go out on the lake for an hour or two. A leisurely round lets you enjoy different views of the town at your own pace and the kids will have a lot of fun feeding the ducks who are also sure to come by!
BIRDWATCHING : Nainital and its surroundings are well-known for being a bird-watcher’s paradise: – you may hear calls from the forest behind the hotel, but any walk along the quiet paths around the lake will have you spotting any number of Barbets, Verditer Flycatchers, Kingfishers, Drongos, Lampuchias, Blue Jays, Ospreys and Redstarts. If you go further into the forests, you are sure to glimpse rarer species like the Black Headed Sibia or the Gray Winged Whistling Thrush.
WALKING IN THE HILLS : For those who can’t imagine a hill-station without thinking long walks, Nainital provides ample opportunity for all types of walkers. The easiest, of course, is to walk around the lake itself – nothing like a brisk three kilometre walk to start the day along the Thandi Sadak with the early morning Whistling Mountain Thrush singing in the trees. Or try the uphill walk on the Government House road, which provides for great views of the lake and reach the top just in time to watch the sun rising over the mountains in the distance. Harder walks are to the top of Dorothy’s Seat, Camel’s Back, Cheena Peak, Kilbury or even Ratighat, all between two and ten kilometers long, along winding forest paths.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE (RAJ BHAWAN) : Government House, the erstwhile seat of governance when the British designated Nainital as the summer capital of the United Provinces, is now the residence of the Governor of Uttarakhand when he is in Nainital. Built of grey stone, in what is described as the ‘Victorian Gothic style’, along the lines of Buckingham Palace, the building was completed in March 1900. Surrounded by beautiful lawns and stately Deodar trees, it offers a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the town. Beautiful walks around the eighteen-hole golf course lead to spectacular views from the cliffs and perhaps a sighting of mountain goats (Ghural) and other wildlife.
GOLF : Built by the British Army Engineers in 1926 within the Government House grounds and fringed with towering cliffs on one side, this eighteen-hole golf course is one of the most challenging in the world – don’t be surprised if mist suddenly descends on to the fairways as you prepare to tee off!
ST. JOHN’S IN-THE WILDERNESS : This old church, which still holds services to this day, was established in 1844 and stands tucked away amongst the tall Deodar trees on the northern end of the town. A plaque was added inside the church as a memorial for the people who lost their lives on 18th September 1880, when a deadly landslide swept down the Alma Dhar hill and created the present day ‘Flats’, now a sports and recreation ground. Another plaque commemorates those who lost their lives during WWI.
BREATHTAKING VIEWS FROM EVERY PEAK : Naina Peak, also known as Cheena Peak, is the town’s highest point and is a steep 3 kms. trek (or by horseback) from the ‘Tonkey’ bend. The effort to get up the hill is rewarded with magnificent views of the Himalayan mountain range, the teardrop-shaped lake, and the sweeping plains beyond. Equally spectacular views of the lake and surrounding countryside can be enjoyed from the top of Snow View or Dorothy’s Seat.
OUR LAKE DISTRICT : One lake not enough for you? Never fear, because Nainital is India’s Lake District – comprising of many stunning lakes, each ensconced in its own rolling valley. Bhimtal, Saat-tal, Naukuchiatal, Khurpatal, Sariyatal are all within easy driving distance from Nainital and make for happy day excursions.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS : The Nanda Devi festival takes place in the first fifteen days of September each year and is held on the Flats, attracting local artisans from around the Kumaon region. Other traditional festivals observed in the hills include Phooldeyi, Uttarayeni and Harela. The Autumn Festival showcases Indian artistes in drama, dance and music and is hugely popular. The beautiful ‘Deep-Daan’, when hundreds of tiny diyas are floated on the lake at night, is a highlight of the festival.