Splendid lakes surrounded by Himalayan peaks, with an incredible view of pine and oak forests, dotted by colonial bungalows and artistic churches. That’s Nainital – also known as the ‘Lake District of India’ – located at an altitude of 2,084 meters above sea level alongside the foothills of the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand. Legend has it that Goddess Sati lost her eyes here when she was being carried by Lord Shiva to Kailash Parvat. And that’s how the lake came to be called ‘Nainital’(‘Naina’ means eyes and ‘tal’ means lake). For those who like to wander and chart their own path,‘offbeat Nainital’ is the way to go.
Leave behind the hustle bustle to treat your ears to the music of over 250 species of birds. Barely 15 km from Nainital, Pangot is a dreamy Himalayan hamlet popular among birdwatchers, mountain bikers and trekkers. One of the most sough-after treks from Pangot is to Corbett National Park, about 80 km away. With Pangot becoming a part of The Naina Devi Himalayan Bird Conservation Reserve about two years ago, Pangot tourism is picking up steam. There are many good hotels in Pangot today, amidst the crisscross of running streams.
Want to try your hand at nature photography? Head to Sattal, a cluster of seven fresh water lakes, rooted in intriguing mythological tales. Located at an altitude of 1370 meters above the sea level, Sattal Lake is barely a 23-km drive from Nainital. Whether you are looking for an adventure-filled holiday, or a laid back break on a hammock with a book, there is no dearth of decent hotels in Sattal. We suggest Sattal Camp or Sattal Forest Resort for an unforgettable weekend trip.
Add Bhimtal Lake, the largest in the district, to your list of places to visit near Nainital, for a glimpse of the little island surrounded by crystal clear water. The legend goes that when the Pandavas were in exile, they were unable to find any water body to quench their thirst. That’s when Bhima hit the ground with his ‘gada’ to form this magnificent lake. Situated about 22km from Nainital, Bhimtal is calmer and much cleaner. What’s more, there are many beautiful resorts in Bhimtal. Don’t forget to stop over at the Bhimeshwar temple and The Museum of Folk Culture (Lok Sanskriti Sangrahalaya).
If all you wish to do is hibernate in the lap of nature, Gethia is your best bet. This modest village near Jeolikote, about 28 km from Nainital, promises to transport you to another world, where life just flows. Among the many homely cottages and lake resorts in Gethia, we suggest you try Two Chimneys, for its unwavering service and splendid design.
Here’s a sure-shot way to attain nirvana. Try to get a glimpse of all the nine corners of Naukuchiatal Lake at once (with your feet on earth). It’s not a feat for mere mortals! At 1,220 meters above sea level, Naukuchiataloffers the perfect chance to experience some adrenaline-inducing fun such as paragliding. The place is also known for yachting and paddling. The Lake Resort Naukuchiatal, lost amidst miles of oak and pine forests, should definitely be among your places to visit in Naukuchiatal.