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Nainital – the Land of Lakes

Nainital – the Land of Lakes

It is ensconced at an altitude of 1938 m and girdled by seven hills of which Cheena Peak is the highest, 2611 metres above sea level. Nainital sprawls over an area of 14.32 sq km. It is 34 km from Kathgodam, the nearest railway head and 320 km from Delhi. Nainital is a favoured tourist destination owing to its picturesque surroundings, its proximity to the plains, a salubrious climate and its educational institutions.

History of Naini Tal

Nainital Lake, One of the four lakes of Kumaon
Nainital Lake, One of the four lakes of Kumaon

The earliest reference of Naini Tal is in the Manas Khand of Skanda Puran, where it is referred to as the Tri Rishi Sarovar or the lake of the three sages, Atri, Agastya and Pulaha. It is believed that these three sages arrived here on a penitential pilgrimage while going to Kailash Mansarovar. On finding no water to quench their thirst, they dug a large hole and with their spiritual powers siphoned water into it from the lake Mansarovar. The ancient Indians believed that that a dip in Nainital Lake, the lesser Mansarovar, earned merit equal to a dip in that holy lake Mansarovar. The place was considered so sacred that before the advent of the British, the lake and the whole valley of Naini Tal was treated as a temple by the Indians and people entered the valley after bathing and removing their footwear in reverence.

The second important mythological reference to Naini Tal is as one of the 64 Shakti Piths, or centres of powers of the Shakti cult. These centres were created wherever parts of the body of Sati fell, when Lord Shiva was carrying her corpse in grief. Sati was the consort of Lord Shiva, her father Dakshaprajapati deliberately insulted Lord Shiva by not inviting him to the grand ‘yagna’ held at Kankhal, near Haridwar. Shocked by her father’s behaviour and unable to bear the humiliation to her divine husband, Sati immolated herself in the sacred fire of the ‘yanya.’It is said that the left eye (Nain) of Sati fell here, and this gave rise to the patron deity of the town as Naina and the lake as Naini Tal.

The British occupied Kumaon and Garhwal in 1815 and developed Naini Tal as a health and recreational resort after 1841. G.W.Traill the second Commissioner of Kumaon who had a good knowledge of Indian culture was the first British to have visited the place but he did not want Europeans to know about it owing to its divine sanctity. P. Barron who is credited to have come here first was helpful in popularizing Naini Tal and facilitated the process of urbanization. It assumed a new importance in 1857, as a safe place for the British as there was no outbreak of disorder here during that period. In 1862 Naini Tal became the summer seat of the North Western Provinces. After it was made the summer capital, a remarkable expansion of the town occurred with the setting up of the Secretariat and other administrative units. On 15th October 1891 Naini Tal became a district owing to its administrative importance. In 1908 the summer seat of the Chemical Laboratory was established here It also became famous as an important centre of education for the British who wanted to educate their children in better air and away from the discomfort from the plains, not to mention the risks of living in the south after the uprising of 1857 By the turn of the century Naini Tal became a famous tourist centre and after Independence as a centre of administration. With the formation of the Uttarakhand State the town was embellished with the establishment of the High Court of Uttarakhand in Naini Tal and the Uttarakhand Academy of Administration for training of bureaucrats.

 TOURIST SPOTS IN NAINITAL

1-Naina Peak

It is the highest point in Nainital (2611m) and commands an excellent view of the surrounding ranges and the entire town. Naina or Cheena peak is the most popular picnic spot in Nainital and very rich in biodiversity. The soft cool air, the shade of the tall trees and the songs of the birds welcomes you. One can see the towering Himalayas in their majestic glory and an indicator built there facilitates one to identify the sparkling snow laden Nanda Devi, Kamet, Badrinath, Trishul and Panchchuli etc. One can witness the Kosi River and the townships of Almora and Ranikhet. Turning south one can catch the glorious glimpses of the endless stretch of the green and brown plains appearing abruptly from the foot of the mountains and blending mysteriously into the blue horizon.

2-Snow View

It is the mostly easily accessible hill top, height 2270m and one can negotiate the distance on foot or the spot can be approached through a ropeway. It affords, as the name suggests, an indescribably beautiful and breath taking picture of the glittering snows. In Snow View there is a beautiful temple of Lord Siva about which it is very popular that the unfulfilled wishes and aspirations of the people are fulfilled in unseen intangible ways. Hugging the mountains, one can feel the closeness of the supernatural, and the peace of mind here transforms into a kind of ecstasy starting with the love for self and evolving into an unconditional love for humanity at the higher levels.

3-Dorothy Seat

It is 2292 m and is also known as Tiffin Top. It is a memorial to Mrs. Dorothy Kellet built by her husband. The road to this picnic ground crawls along the rugged hill side swaying this way and that, and then all in one breath in hushed silence suddenly unfolds a canvas on which nature has painted this beautiful spot. Dorothy Seat commands an excellent view of the Himalaya as well as the neighbouring country side.

4-Lands End

Its altitude is 2118 m. The best feature of this spot is that one does not have to climb much, and as the name suggests, one feels on reaching the area that the end of the land has really come. Needless to say the view of the neighbouring hills and valley and the Khurpa Tal lake is exquisite from this point. Horse riding is popular in this area and one can go on horse back to Dorothy Seat through Lands End. The forest between Lands End and Dorothy Seat is very rich in biodiversity and one cannot be but in awe to witnesses the consuming love of nature, which counters the drabness of mundane life while passing through it.

5-Kilbury

Quietly ensconced at an altitude of 2194m and 10km from the town, this place is accessible by a motorable road also. Encompassed by mountains, it opens a whole new vista of the snow clad peaks of the Himalaya in their bewitching splendour. One can spend the night there in the forest rest house and its sylvan surroundings are an ideal spot for a quiet and peaceful holiday. It is the sanctum sanctorum of biodiversity, a representative area for all such sites in the Himalayan region, an ecological paradise and a haven for bird watchers and nature lovers.

6-Pangooth
In close proximity to Kilbury is Pangooth hamlet and forest area. It is a unique creation of Mother Nature and the camping sites and the cottages there provide a refuge where people can attain their peace of mind.

7-Kunj Kharak

About 10 km from Kilbury is Kunj Kharak, which again is a very rich region in biodiversity. The misty hills, the sylvan surroundings, the towering Himalaya and the divine serenity weave a magical spell. The mountains standing like sentinels and the idyllic clouds floating atop whisper in your ears that you are the chosen spectator here and the blessed one to witness the glorious rainbow of life arched across the sky.

8-Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant Zoo

Nestling snugly at an altitude of 2100 m on Sher-ka Danda ridge, Bharat Ratna Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo was established on 1st June 1995 with the objective of conserving and protecting the wildlife and biodiversity of Uttarakhand. It is involved in several activities such as pheasant breeding programmes, animal adoption schemes and zoo outreach activities to create awareness towards wild life conservation. The zoo is also maintained as a ‘polythene free zone,’ for disseminating environmental consciousness. It is the best high altitude of the country.

9-The Himalayan Botanic Garden

The garden is in close proximity to Naini Tal and situated on the Naini Tal Kaladhungi road. The garden sprawls over an area of 75 ha out of which 35 ha are open for the tourists. The main objectives of establishing the garden are conservation of Himalayan flora, to create awareness about regional biodiversity, nature education, establishing a centre for research, display of Himalayan Natural History and marketing of forest produce. The Forest Department is not only planning to etch history here, but to develop it into an ecological paradise.

10-ARIES

It is a centre of astronomical studies and optical tracking of artificial satellites. The observatory is 1951 m in altitude and 4.4 km from the town through a bridle path and 9 km by motor road. Consequent upon the formation of the State of Uttarakhand on 9th November, 2000, it has been named as ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences). The acronym ARIES also signifies the zodiacal sign of Sun. The Institute is devoted to research and development in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Atmospheric Sciences. ARIES is very popular with tourists for night gazing. for night gazing of the sky.

11-Khurpa Tal

Quietly ensconced at an altitude of 1633m and 10 km by road from Naini Tal on the Kaladhungi road, this small hamlet is endowed with a beautiful lake and its clear waters are a paradise of perfection for the anglers and the swimmers. One can also trek to this place; it is about 5 km by a bridle path. Enroute to Khurpa Tal are two popular tourists spots, Sarita Tal a small lake and beyond it is the waterfall. Both the spots can be visited by cabs or while trekking to Khurpa Tal

12-St. John in the Wilderness

The site was chosen as early as 1844 and was first opened on April2, 1848. It is a beautiful church with a marvellous interior and stained glasses on the window. There are several memorials in the church of which two are of immense importance. One commemorates those who were killed in the diabolic landslide of 1880 in Naini Tal in which 151 people died and the other is a memorial tablet of the members of the Indian Civil Service who were killed in the First World War. It is the first church of Kumaon.

13-The First Methodist Church

The Methodist church sited on the Mall road boasts of being the First Methodist of India and arguably that of Asia. It was built in 1858 and the tourists coming here state that one can feel the divine presence.

14-Gurney House

This building was owned by the legendary conservationist Jim Corbett who got it constructed when he returned finally to his home town, Naini Tal in 1919. Today it has become a great centre for nature lovers and admirers of Jim Corbett.

Ayar Jungle Camp

In close proximity to Gurney House, it’s the most popular tourist resort and a haven for nature lovers.

Raj Bhawan (Governor’s House)

The most beautiful building constructed during the 19th century in Naini Tal and a tourists’ delight is the present Raj Bhawan. Its foundation stone was laid on April 27, 1897 and the building was completed in March 1900. It has an 18 holes old golf course, one of the best golf courses in Northern India. For draining out the water from the golf course, an underground tunnel, 137.1 m in length has been constructed in the lowest bowl of the course, which is a marvel of engineering skill.  The area of Raj Bhawan is 82 ha chiefly of hill and forest. It has been designed after the Buckingham Palace and the architecture has been professionally described of “the early Gothic style.” The Raj Bhawan has a rich collection of the 19th and 20th century’s weapons like lances, swords, muzzle loaders etc., including weapons of the legendary bandit Sultana Daku, elephant tusks and other trophies and collection of medals and antique furniture.

Naini Tal Mountaineering Club

It is not only a tourists’ delight owing to its scenic beauty but also a ‘training centre of excellence’ for short term courses on rock climbing for tourists. It was established by Late Sri Chandra Lal Sah Thulgharia in 1968 and is dedicated to the cause of promoting adventure tourism.

Hanuman Garhi

It is 1951 m in altitude and 3.22 km from the town. Hanuman Garhi is a religious centre and a highly charged place. The temple of Lord Hanuman was constructed by the famous Neeb Karauli Baba who lived in the 20th century. He appeared to be an ordinary human being, but was actually divinity incarnate. His actions revealed an all knowing, all pervading, and all powerful being that had nature itself under his command.

Hanuman Garhi is very famous for its sunset views and for the surreal designs that the clouds weave during the rainy season. The temple is surrounded by a rich forest and is a haven for bird watching and also for wild life like the barking deer and the panther.

Cave Garden Sukha Tal

Nestling snugly on the Kaladhungi road and next to the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) tourist bungalow is a garden constructed inside natural caves. It is attracting a large number of tourists.

EXCURSIONS FROM NAINI TAL

Bhawali

is 1706 m in altitude and 11.27 km from Naini Tal on the Ranikhet Almora road. A beautiful health resort, it is famous for its scenic grandeur and as a hill fruit mart. Bhawali is also famous for its T.B. Sanatorium and luminaries like Subhash Chandra Bose, Kamla Nehru, wife of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru and Kundan Lal Sehgal, the famous singer were treated here. In close proximity and enroute to Bhawali is a beautiful mosque with semblance of hill architecture. Only 3 km from the township is Ghorakhal, famous for the temple of Lord Golla, the God of Justice and Sainik School. Beyond Ghorakhal is the famous tea garden established by the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN). It has assumed great importance as a tourist spot and a sale centre of the famous Kumaoni tea.

From the tea garden one can proceed to Mahesh Khan one the Ramgarh road, famous for its nature walks and rich biodiversity. Here one steps into the water colours of nature and the vast canvas of breath taking beauty, which nature has so generously painted. The quaint forest bungalow in the forest adds to the magical charm.

Bhim Tal

is 1218 m above the sea level and 22.53 km from Naini Tal. The pride of Bhimtal is its beautiful lake, which offers magnificent vistas for the tourists. The sightseer drinks long at its enchanting beauty, the poet finds avenues of inspiration and the painter thrills at the tempting prospects of his canvas. In Bhimtal the cynosure for tourists is the state of art aquarium on the island almost in the middle of the lake. In this aquarium there are fishes from all over the world as well as local fishes. Technically and thematically the Bhimtal aquarium is at par with the best in the world (way ahead of Indian standards) and unique for its educational and aesthetic values as marine, estuarine and fresh water aquaria, all are present there.

Naukuchia  Tal

is 1219 m in altitude and 26.27 km from Naini Tal. A pretty lake with its nine corners is a captivating site. It is a paradise for anglers and a haven for migratory birds. The water is cool and inviting during summers and swimming is a rare pleasure in this beautiful lake. Between Bhim Tal and Naukuchia Tal the KMVN has introduced gliding and is very popular with the tourists.

Kainchi Ashram

on the Almora-Ranikhet road has achieved spiritual recognition owing to the ashram and temple of the Wonder Mystic of Northern India, Neeb Kaurali Baba. One of the miracles he performed during the pre-Independence period was of stopping a train when he was forced to leave the first class compartment at Neebkarauri though he had purchased a first class ticket. After this incident he became very famous as Neeb Kaurari Baba. He sojourned for a very long period in Kainchi. On 25th May, 1962, he put his sacred feet here and since that time the Ashram is known as the treasure trove of spiritualism. Sat Tal, sited at an altitude of 1219 m is 20.92 km from Naini Tal. Unique, unforgettable, one is apt to run short of superlatives to describe this unsurpassed spectacle of lakes. It has to be seen to be believed. These picturesque lakes are a paradise for the anglers and the swimmers and it is a joy to bask on the shores strewn with pebbles. Sat Tal is a haven for migratory birds. The Sat Tal Christian Ashram and the church is the centre of attraction for tourists.

Ramgarh,

a picturesque hamlet in the heart of apple orchards is situated at an altitude of 1789 m and 25.75 km from Naini Tal. The museum of the famous Hindi poetess Mahadevi Verma is located there. She used to sojourn here during the summers and drew inspiration from the irresistible wonder of nature. Rabindranath Tagore also spent some time here and in the unsurpassable grandeur of forests he experienced oneness with nature. It has ideal spots for picnics where people can sit enraptured by the immeasurable beauty around as well as of the towering Himalaya.

Mukteshwar

is 2286 m in altitude. It is situated at a distance of 51. 49 from Naini Tal and is the seat of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute. Mukteshwar is a unique creation of Mother Nature and an irresistible wonder for nature lovers. Famous for its apple orchards and magical scenery of the Himalaya, it is a paradise of perfection for the sightseer.

Kaladhungi,

Jim Corbett spent most of his life here. Today the building where he stayed has been converted into a museum and his belongings there remind us of that great hunter and conservationist. Jim Corbdett and his family spent the summers in Naini Tal and the winters in the foothills at Kaladhungi. In 1917 Jim Corbett purchased the hamlet of Chhoti Haldwani in Kaladhungi to develop it into a model village and settled some forty tenants here. Corbett lived like a patriarch here and remained concerned for the hamlet and the tenants even after his departure to Kenya. He made the tenants owners of the land and continued to pay the land revenue on behalf of the villagers until his death. Today the Corbett Museum housed there and Chhoti Haldwani serve as the nucleus of the Jim Corbett Heritage initiated by the Forest Department.

 Jungle Camp Chhoti Haldwani.

The Corbett Gram Viksa Samiti (CGVS) Kaladhungi has established a jungle camp in Chhoti Haldwani and is doing a yeoman’s service in eco-tourism The CGVS is working with the inmates of this village for environmental conservation. The Samiti organizes jungle camps, awareness campaigns on various environmental and conservation related issues and encourages tree plantation during monsoon season. A nature club of local students is also a part of Samiti’s activities for sensitizing villagers on wild life conservation. The villagers stage a play on Jim Corbett’s book, My India every year in which the leading role of Jim Corbett is played by Tom Altar.

Corbett Fall

is situated at a distance of about 4 km from Kaladhungi. It has been named after Jim Corbett by the Forest Department and has been developed into a rich centre of biodiversity and pristine beauty. It is a representative area of sub- tropical forests of the Himalayan region and is a unique creation of the Forest Department.

Corbett National Park,

aptly called the land of roar, trumpet and songs is a show piece of India’s wild life conservation. Quietly ensconced at the foot hills of the Himalaya, it is dream in reality. It is 118 from Naini Tal via Kaladhungi and just short of 300 km from Delhi. The pride of Corbett National Park is the distinction of being the first National Park in India. It was established in the year 1935. In 1957, the park was re-christened as Corbett National Park in the memory of Jim Corbett, legendary sportsman, great naturalist, eminent conservationist and prolific writer, who spent some of the best and happiest years of his life in Kumaon Himalaya.

The park embraces the picturesque Patli Dun in both Naini Tal and Pauri districts.. The Ram Ganga river meandering its way through the park with some deep pools and foaming rapids forms the main water source. The area of the park is 1318.54 m out of which the tourist zone is 520.82 sq km. More than 50 mammals, 580 birds and 25 reptile species have been have been listed in the park. The insect life is also astounding, noticeable especially after the monsoons. But undoubtedly, the jewel of Corbett is the Indian tiger. ‘Project Tiger’ was launched here in 1973. After the inception of Corbett National Park, a number of tiger reserves throughout India receive support from ‘Project Tiger.’

conservation. Quietly ensconced at the foot hills of the Himalaya, it is dream in reality. It is 118 from Naini Tal via Kaladhungi and just short of 300 km from Delhi. The pride of Corbett National Park is the distinction of being the first National Park in India. It was established in the year 1935. In 1957, the park was re-christened as Corbett National Park in the memory of Jim Corbett, legendary sportsman, great naturalist, eminent conservationist and prolific writer, who spent some of the best and happiest years of his life in Kumaon Himalaya.

The park embraces the picturesque Patli Dun in both Naini Tal and Pauri districts.. The Ram Ganga river meandering its way through the park with some deep pools and foaming rapids forms the main water source. The area of the park is 1318.54 m out of which the tourist zone is 520.82 sq km. More than 50 mammals, 580 birds and 25 reptile species have been have been listed in the park. The insect life is also astounding, noticeable especially after the monsoons. But undoubtedly, the jewel of Corbett is the Indian tiger. ‘Project Tiger’ was launched here in 1973. After the inception of Corbett National Park, a number of tiger reserves throughout India receive support from ‘Project Tiger.’

KMVN has established a jungle camp in Dhikuli near Corbett National Park. Their jungle camps are also in Sigri near Naini Tal, in Ramgarh and in Dudholi near Ranikhet. In these jungle camps nature walks are organized and the inmates are given an opportunity to come closer to nature, to interact with others and to experience the charm of community living in wilderness.

 Jungle Camp Dhikuli.

The KMVN has established a jungle camp in Dhikuli near Corbett National Park. Their jungle camps are also in Sigri near Naini Tal, in Ramgarh and in Dudholi near Ranikhet. In these jungle camps nature walks are organized and the inmates are given an opportunity to come closer to nature, to interact with others and to experience the charm of community living in wilderness.

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