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A vast crescent-shaped stretch of emerald-blue waters, the Naini Lake is one of the major attractions of the hill station. A picturesque spot, it is surrounded by seven hills that are mirrored in its blue waters, giving it a greenish hue. Lush forests of tall oak trees fringe this freshwater lake that lies at the foothills of the Great Himalayas. The Naini Lake has been divided into two sections: the northern part is called Mallital and the southern is known as Tallital. People come here to enjoy picnics or simply sit back and let the serene natural surroundings take away their stress. The lake is a major boating site and on most days, you can see its surface dotted with colourful pedal boats, row boats and yachts that are an ideal means to explore its pristine beauty. For an immersive experience, tourists can rent several hotels and homestays that flank the lake. Wake up to a glorious sunrise and the see the mist-shrouded lake echo with the calls of various birds that find shelter here. The best time to visit the lake is during the annual boat riding festival. Another attraction is the Naini Temple located on its shores.
Snow View Point offers sweeping and panoramic views of the city of Nainital. Lying at a height of 2,270 m, it gives a bird's eye view of the area and the majestic snow-clad Himalayas. It is said to be one of the best viewpoints in Nainital and visitors can see also Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Trishul peaks from here. To let visitors closely admire the enthralling view, a huge pair of binoculars has been installed at the point, which is well-connected with roads. Tourists can also reach via a cable car or a ropeway, and admire the picturesque views gliding by. Another attraction is a small temple that houses the idols of Lord Rama, Lord Lakshmana, Goddess Sita and Lord Hanuman.
Lying on the outskirts of Nainital, at an approximate height of 2,292 m, Dorothy Seat offers an effortlessly breathtaking view of the entire area, along with the surrounding hills. It is also known as Tiffin Top and is a popular picnic and photography spot. A beautiful spot surrounded by oak, deodar and cher trees, one can see the majestic Naina Devi peak from here.It is said that Tiffin Top got its name as locals used to trek to the top of the hill during the day to have lunch. Another local attraction is a memorial dedicated to an English artist, Dorothy Kellet, after whom the place has been named. Legend has it that Dorothy Kellet, the wife of an army officer, Col JP Kellet, drowned while she was travelling and was buried in the Red Sea in 1936.
Naina Peak, also known as Cheena peak or China peak, is the highest peak in the area, standing at an altitude of about 2,600 m above sea level. This topmost point not only gives a view of the majestic Himalayas but a sweeping vista of the entire city. From this quiet place, mountains of the Tibet border can also be seen. Visitors can reach here on horseback. The peak invites a lot of trekkers for its high altitude and forests of rhododendrons, cypresses and soaring deodar that add to the thrill of the trek. It is a 6 km trail from Mallital to Naina Peak. Don't forget to tote your camera or a pair of binoculars to capture the breathtaking view along the way.
Lands End is aptly named as it marks the final point after which stands an iconic cliff and there is no land. Located at an elevation of 2,118 m, it gives panoramic and exhilarating views of the forests, mountains and valleys surrounding the Khurpatal lake. To reach here, one can either hitch a ride on a pony or take the bridleway to the vantage point. Situated near Barapathar, Lands End invites photographers for captivating views of valleys and mountains. The area also invites adventure-seekers, who come to avail trekking opportunities from Tiffin Top to Lands End. The two trails run almost parallel to each other. Lands End lies at a distance of about 4 km from the city of Nainital.
A cluster of seven interconnected lakes, Sattal is located about 22 km from Nainital, at an altitude of about 1,370 m above sea level. The group of lakes, namely, Purna Tal, Ram Tal, Sita Tal, Laxman Tal, Nal Damyanti Tal, Sukh Tal and Garud Tal, are nestled amidst dense forests of oak and pine trees. The Garud Tal is a solitary lake while the Ram, Sita and Laxman Tal together form the Sattal main lake. The surrounding area is home to more than 500 species of resident birds, 20 species of mammals, over 525 species of butterflies and more than 11,000 species of moths. A freshwater spring named Subhash Dhara comes from the dense forests of Sattal. The area also offers boating facilities and water sports opportunities like rowing, kayaking and paddling. Sattal has an interesting myth associated with it. According to the epic Mahabharata, king Nala and his wife Damayanti drowned in one of the seven lakes while they had been exiled by the king's brother. Thus, that lake was named as Nal Damyanti Tal.
Bhimtal lake is a prominent stopover on the tourist circuit. It is located at a height of 1,200 m above sea level and is named after Bhima, from the epic Mahabharata. A vast stretch of emerald blue waters, the lake reflects the surrounding greenery. Bhimtal is spread over an area of 47 hectare and is home to a diversity of aquatic life. During winter, one can see a number of migratory birds perching here. The best way to explore the lake is on a boat cruise. Float along the tranquil waters and soak in the serenity of picturesque surroundings. The lake has an island in the middle, where a restaurant, a temple and an aquarium with a variety of fish species, are located.
About 13 km away from Nainital lies the quaint little hill town of Pangot. Nestled in the Kumaon region, amidst the dense forest of Naina Peak range, it makes for an ideal off-beat travel stopover. Pangot provides shelter to a wide variety of birds like slaty-black forktail, lamergeyer, the Himalayan griffon and Khaleej pheasant. You can head to Snow View Point and Kilbury that are ideal vantage points for spotting birds. The lush jungles of Pangot also shelter species like leopards, ghorals, barking deer and sambar. Those interested in adventure sports can visit the trek route from Pangot to the Naina Peak. A challenging feat, it makes for an exhilarating trail.Pangot makes for a beautiful travel stop between the months of November and February, when it is covered with a sheet of snow.
Lying on the outskirts of Nainital, Mukteshwar is a quaint hill town set amidst lush coniferous forests and sweet-smelling fruit orchards. Drenched in colonial charm, Mukteshwar is lined with British-style bungalows that boast red roofs, picket barriers and ancient wooden window frames. The entire area is doused with screaming silence and makes for an ideal natural retreat. Since it lies at a height of 7,500 ft above sea level, you can get splendid views of Nanda Devi, one of India's highest peaks, and the Himalayas, from here. Mukteshwar has been named after Lord Shiva, who is worshipped here as the one who offers moksha (salvation). The Mukteshwar Temple, dedicated to the lord, is the main attraction. Besides, tourists can also take a detour to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute campus, which was established in 1893. Another noteworthy site is the Renewable Park developed by the Energy and Resources Institute, which uses solar energy to meet its electricity needs.
Naukuchiatal is a quaint village that lies at an altitude of 1,200 m above sea level. This off-beat stopover is ideal for those looking to immerse themselves in peace and quiet. Naukuchiatal is known for its nine-cornered lake that is about 1 km in length and 40 m in depth. The village is blessed with pristine beauty and peaceful surroundings, and thus, is a great place to rejuvenate both body and soul. Enjoying pleasant weather throughout the year, Naukuchiatal makes for th perfect retreat away from the daily din of the city.There is a popular folklore attached to the lake and it is said that if one takes even a glimpse of all the nine corners of the lake with both feet touching the earth, then the viewer will vanish in smoke and attain nirvana (enlightenment).
The emerald blue-green hues of the Khurpatal lake set it amongst the natural jewels of Nainital. Lying amid lofty pine and cedar trees and beautiful surroundings, the lake is a magnificent sight. Situated at a height of 1,635 m above sea level, it is known for angling opportunities as it has a good harvest of fish. The clear water of the lake makes the experience all the more interesting. The lake also provides boating facilities and the beautiful trails winding through the forest make for a good walk in the midst of nature. Till 19th century AD, the region around the lake was known for the making of iron implements, but now it is more popular for its vegetable farms. It is said that it was a favoured vacation spot of the British as well.
Nainital Zoo or Sher-ka-Danda is among the most attractive tourist spots in the region. A high altitude zoo ( 2,100 m), it is home to many endangered species, besides several mammals like the Himalayan bear, Tibetan wolf, leopard, Royal Bengal tiger, sambar, barking deer, ghoral etc. It is rich in avifauna as well and houses the rose-ringed parakeet, blossom-headed parakeet, Lady Amherst pheasant, Steppe eagle, hill partridge, silver pheasant etc. Sprawled over a lush green area of about 4,693 hectare, the zoo was established in 1984 and was opened for visitors on June 1, 1995. It has been named after Bharat Ratna recipient, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, and thus is officially called Pt Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo. The zoo remains closed every Thursday.
Ringed by dense forests, Kilbury is one of the country’s most popular birding routes. The Kilbury Bird Sanctuary is home to more than 580 species of birds that include brown wood-owls, collared grosbeaks, white-throated laughing thrushes and many others. It also houses mammals like leopard cat, sambar, red fox etc., with oak, pine and rhododendron ensuring a verdant landscape. The sanctuary is also home to the Naina Devi Himalayan Bird Reserve. With the snow-clad Himalayas rising in the background, the sanctuary is a picturesque spot, lying at a height of about 2,200 m above sea level. The best time to visit is in the early hours of the morning. Other nearby attractions include Lands End, the Naina Peak, Snow View Point and Naina Devi Temple.
Jim Corbett National Park is spread over an area of 520 sq km that comprises large lakes, grasslands, marshy depressions, hills and riverine belts. Renowned for sheltering the royal Bengal tigers of India, the park also houses more than 650 species of native and migratory birds, along with over 50 species of raptors, 33 species of reptiles, seven species of amphibians, seven species of fish and 36 species of dragonflies. Some rare species like the endemic fish-eating crocodiles and otters can also be spotted. A wildlife safari either in an open jeep or on the back of an elephant, proves to be a memorable experience here. The park is one of the few places in the country that allows visitors to stay overnight.
The park is a part of the Corbett Tiger Reserve and was established in 1936 as the Hailey National Park. It also has the honour of being the place where Project Tiger was first launched in 1973.