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Lakes & Hills – Nainital and Ranikhet – Part I

I am sure there aren’t many Indians who don’t know of this place called Nainital located in the Indian state of Uttaranchal. Uttarakhand was carved out of the then largest state – Uttar Pradesh and was later renamed to Uttaraanchal.

Getting There –

  • Flight to Delhi,
  • An overnight train plys from old Delhi rail station to a place called Kathgodam,
  • Take a shared taxi from Kathgodam to Nainital (it is about 45 mins drive)

The Background

Nainital – means eye (Naini) shaped lake (Tal), is one of the five famous lakes in Kumaon Hills. The other Tals are Bhimtal, Sattal, Khurpatal, and Naukuchia Tal. Uttaranchal is now becoming known for its natural beauty (being located in the foothills of the Himalayas) and tourism is rapidly increasing. Nainital, however, has been a well-known tourist center for many decades.

The Journey

Our onward journey began from Hyderabad to Delhi by Indigo, from the airport we went to Cannaught place for dinner. We didn’t want to miss the experience of traveling Delhi metro. The metro rail and the setup was very similar to Singapore’s MRT. The crowd was much more though :)

The metro took us to the old Delhi station and that was a station that I would want avoid always. Over-crowded, stinky, confusion and un-maintained with no amenities are some keywords I would associate with that rail station. But it happens to be starting point for most north bound trains from Delhi. I had gone through the same station for reaching Kalka in Himachal Pradesh earlier.

The train to Kathgodam starts at 10:45 PM from Nizamuddin station and reaches Kathgodam at 6:00 AM the next morning. We had made reservations in the 2nd AC compartment and the journey had been very comfortable.

When we got out of the stations a lot of taxi drivers approached us for a drop to Nainital. After bargaining (for Rs. 100 each) we finally got into one of them. The sojourn to Nainital is really rewarding, extremely scenic route is a treat for the tired travelers. We stopped at a restaurant on the way for a short breakfast and tea. When we got to Nainital, we found that the city is comprised of a wide main street and then, a lot of very narrow side streets. The houses were densely packed into flat surfaces among the hills.

We got to our hotel – I noticed that not only our one was under renovation – probably all hotels in Nainital were under perpetual renovation. Later, learnt that the city had exploded in terms of population and tourist in-flow and the infrastructure was constantly challenged. One more point to be noted was that buses and large vehicles were not allowed inside the city and so, any day-trip buses start outside of the city gates.

We checked into the hotel, and took some rest before we went out to explore the city. The streets were clogged with traffic, luckily our hotel was close to the lake and the market. So, we went to the lake area and visited the temples there.

We planned for short boat ride in the lake and it started raining as soon as we entered the waters. We came back and waited for the rain to subside and again ventured for completing the boat ride.

While we enjoyed our day at Nainital (it was Friday in June), we found the streets, shops and restaurants very crowded. It was clear that tourist inflow was taking a toll on the natural beauty of this place. Anyways, we made booking for doing a site trip for the next day.

We had to walk down the city outskirts to catch this trip bus to the other 4 lakes and some temples. The roads in the area weren’t good, so got off to a slow start and there was other tourist traffic.One of the things that caught our attention while our bus passed through the villages and market areas is the variety of fruits. Kumaon has, probably, the best collection of exotic fruits in India. The plums and various kinds of cherries were simply delicious

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