The last article talked about the initial few hours I spent in the capital city as a detour. This post will cover the next few hours I spent amidst cool breezes, good company, and hills.
After almost burning to ashes in the capital city, my next destination was the Himalayan Hill station Nainital. It was a definite shock to my body, since temperatures in Nainital dropped considerably low to 21 degrees during the morning, compared to the 40 degrees in Delhi.
Nainital can be considered the ultimate travel destination for people who love hills. The hill station is almost always filled with people throughout summer, so much so that Nainital had to replace it’s ‘Welcome to Nainital’ banner has now being replaced with a ‘Nanital is Housefull’ banner owing to the lack of parking spaces in the town.
I chose a hotel which was very close to Mall Road and had a magnificent view of the Naini lake.
Travelers Tip: Everything in Nainital is costly, especially during the peak seasons of Summers where tourists are sprawling the space. It’s recommended you book your favorite hotels in advance as early as possible.
The hotels that were directly facing the lake were considered costlier than the ones situated away from it.
I had to cover maximum places in Nainital before the weather conditions took a turn for the worst.
There are mainly seven lakes that surround Nainital- Bhimtal, Sattal, Naukuchiatal, Khurpatal, Malwatal, Harishtal and Lokhamtal. I covered a total of 3 out of the seven lakes.
The first pit stop I made upon reaching Nainital was to the Bhimtal Lake. The Bhimtal Lake is the most massive water body in the Kumaon district of India and is built in a ‘C’ like shape. There is a small island structure in the middle of the lake. However, it is closed off to tourists.
There are lots of fun activities to do in the lake; you can choose to take a Shikara ride through the lake or get inside a Water Ball to walk through the lake. I also noticed a ziplining facility. However, it was closed.
Travelers Tip: The best paisa wasool option is to get a Shikara ride, A Shikara will hold a total of 2 adults, and one child. The whole thing will take you about 15-20 mins for a half circle and will cost you anywhere about 250 INR.
Up next was the Naukuchiatal Lake, which is barely a 20 mins drive from the Bhimtal lake. The Naukuchiatal derives its name from the fact that the lake has a total of 9 corners.
The next stop was Sattal Lake; the name comes from the fact that it also happens to be the point where all 7 of Nainital’s lakes join. Sattal Lake is considered to be one of the few unspoiled lakes in the Kumaon Valley and flaunts a wide variety of migratory birds. The place has Paragliding facilities which can give you the pleasure of having a bird’s eye view of the interconnection of the lakes.
Travelers Tip: Sattal has a lot of cheap paragliding options for the adventure junky in you, but make sure you use proper judgment before getting into one.
I chose not to cover the remaining four lakes and made my way back to Nainital for a tour of the Eco Cave garden and Ropeway ride.
The Eco Cave Garden is a 9 min drive from the main mall road and is home to 6 man-made caves. The cave structures were made to depict the natural habitats of 6 of Nainital’s animal species- Tigers, Panthers, Bats, Porcupines, Apes and Flying fox.
The Tiger cave is the easiest to get in and get out of. All the caves are interconnected to each other. I found the Batcave the hardest to get in and out of, due to the narrow and dark lanes.
Overall the garden offers immense fun to people of all ages. The ticket prices are 20 INR for adults and 10 INR for kids.
Travelers Tip: Wear comfortable clothing that would allow you to crawl through the caves. The caves are narrow, and some parts lack oxygen, so if you have breathing issues, you should limit yourself to the Tiger cave.
The final pit stop was the Ropeway at the Snow View Point in Mall Road; there is a steep slope that you need to climb to reach the start of the cable car. The cable car will give you a complete aerial view of the entire town of Nainital. You can choose to have a two-way ride, which will cost you 230 INR per adult and 150 INR for kids aged 3-12 years. The whole ride will take a maximum of 3 minutes.
Travelers Tip: Nainital Ropeway currently has a total of 2 fully functional ropeways, so there is a considerable waiting time that needs to be met. The best time is to take the ride during the first half of the day if you plan a tour in the Summers when the skies are clear, and the view is breathtaking. The Ropeway operates daily from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Descending, I chose to walk back to my hotel on Mall road. Mall road remains closed to 4-wheeled vehicles post 6:30 PM, so the only traffic you’d face is foot traffic. Mall Road is laden with a variety of restaurants and fast food centers to cater to all your culinary needs. Vegetarian restaurants are offering mouth-watering veg thali at very economical rates. However, you might want to mention your spice need separately, if you have a low tolerance to spicy food.
The market holds lots of shops that sell beautiful scented candles, dream catchers, antique clocks and other souvenirs. You’d also find a few herbal tea shops that sell lovely tea. There are very minimal clothing stores in the Mall Road itself, but if you wish to buy clothes, there is a Tibetan market right across Naina Devi temple at the far end of the Mall Road.
Travelers Tip: Pick pocketing is extremely common here, so it’s highly advisable you keep a watch on your belonging. If you’re traveling with kids, there are prams available throughout the Mall road that you can hire on a time basis. Kids can also ride mountain bicycles that are also available for hire on the Mall road. There are a few Gaming outlets in the stretch as well, in case you or your kids want to have some fun.
At the end of the Nainital Mall Road, is the famous Naina Devi Temple. The interiors of the Naina Devi Temple is ladened with bells and gives visitors a fabulous view of the Naini Lake.
Naini Lake also offers boating experiences, Shikara and Yacht rides. The most popular among them are the Paddle Boats. Paddle Boats in Naini Lake can be hired for 150 INR for a half circle, while a Yacht ride costs 500 INR for two adults. I decided to go for the more uncommon form of experience- the Yacht ride. The yachts are the property of the Boating Club of Nainital, and only 3 out of the seven yacht’s are used for commercial and tourism purposes.
The next installment of the Uttarakhand trip took me to Ranikhet. Ranikhet is a 1-hour drive from Nainital through hilly roads and hairpin curves. On my way to Ranikhet, I happen to notice something strange. In comparison to Mall Road, the moment you get out of that stretch, you would not find cars honking on the road. Most cars have bells attached to them that make a sweet sound as they make turns, but it’s mostly the skilled drivers who manage to make the right turns safely without creating too much noise.
Ranikhet has five main attractions, the temple of bells or the Jhula Devi temple, an Apple garden or the Chaubatia garden, the Haidakhan Babaji Temple, the Ranikhet Golf Course and the Ranikhet Jheel. The Chaubatia garden is also known for its picture perfect view of the Nanda Devi peak.
The first stop at Ranikhet was the Jhula Devi temple. The Jhula Devi temple welcomes its visitors with bells, thousands of bells ringing around. The main temple requires you to climb tons of steps, every step laden with bells that you can ring on your way up. I chose to climb halfway because honestly, speaking treks are not my cup of tea. The Jhula Devi temple offers a great green view of hills, and if you are lucky, you might get to see the peak.
Travelers Tip: While I was there Ranikhet was comparatively cold, with an average temperature of about 24 degrees. Being at a higher altitude in comparison to Nainital, you should take adequate precautions.
Quick Tip: Sour candies are a great way to curb motion sickness in hilly areas. Have one.
The next stop was the Apple Orchards or Chaubatia Garden. The Chaubatia Garden is known for its Apples and terrace farming. It lies close to the Jhula Devi Temple but requires a good amount of trek to cover. Chaubatia garden allows you to have a good view of the Himalayan peaks, but it’s mostly visible when the skies are clear. To my horror, however, by the time I reached Ranikhet, it had rained, and the clouds had covered most of what was thought to be visible. Talk about bad timing.
Travelers Tip: The best time to visit Ranikhet, to get a view of the peaks is during the monsoons. The Apple orchard has some lower areas that are not open to the general public unless you have a guide along with you. The guide will charge you anywhere around 250 INR to 300 INR.
The next destination in line was the Ranikhet Golf Course. The Ranikhet Golf Course is a reasonably large golf ground with green scenic beauty all around. The golf course has a total of 9 golf holes in it. The entry to the main golf ground is restricted for tourists.
While you’re getting into Ranikhet, you might want to make a halt at Ramgarh which flaunts the Frog point. The Frog point gets its name from the fact that it is home to a natural rock formation taking the shape of a frog. There is a large British styled suspension bridge on top of the Koshi river that makes for a breathtaking view altogether. The Koshi river also hosts a wide range of adventure sports opportunities such as River Rafting, Kayaking, etc.
After closing the Ranikhet chapter, I was back at Nainital for the night’s rest before leaving for Mukteshwar the following morning.
Mukteshwar was the coldest destination on the list with a temperature of 22 degrees. Mukteshwar on a typical day, with clear skies, promises to deliver a 180-degree view of the Himalayas. The highest place we visited in Mukteshwar was the Mukteshwar temple. The temple is about 100 steps high from the base of the temple. It gives you a great view as a reward to those who can manage to climb all 100 steps.
There is a small juice stall in the middle of the route; you can replenish lost energy by drinking fresh lemonade or a juice made from Buransh. I chose to have the Lemonade on my way back. Yes, even though I hate treks, I still climbed all the 100 steps. It was worth it.
Travelers Tip: There are a lot of good places around the temple which serve terrific Maggi, make sure you get some of that if you’re starving. Locals around the temple also sell some sour berries, I did buy some, but you should taste one before buying the whole pack. The berries are said to cure motion sickness, but the taste may not suit everyone.
Mukteshwar was the final stop of Uttarakhand. The last stop of the tour heads back to Delhi for the final and even hotter Agra chapter.