THIS PRETTY hill station,nestled in the Kurnaon Hills, is named after the emerald green eyes (naina) of Parvati, Shiva’s consort. A temple dedicated to the goddess stands on the northern shore of the large freshwater lake (tal). The old summer capital of the British Raj’s United Provinces, Nainital is today part of the newly-formed state of Uttaranchal. The lake is encircled by the Mall Road, and the “flats”, a large field which is a popular promenade and recreation centre. The Boat House Club, set up in 1890 on the water’s edge, is the huh of many activities and has a number of sail boats and rubber dinghies for hire. The many attractive colonial buildings include the governor’s summer residence (built in 1899), St Joseph’s School, the old Secretariat (now the Uttaranchal High Court) and the Municipal Library. St- John-in-the-Wilderness is an evocatively named Gothic church, with fine stained-glass windows and dark wooden pews. Nainital also has some beautiful walking trails, one of which leads up from the flats,through the densely wooded Ayarpata Hill, to Tiffin Top and Dorothy’s Seat, lookout points offering panoramic views of the lakeside. Close by, and almost hidden by the forest, is an old public school, the appropriately named Sherwood College. The Upper Cheena Mall leads to Naina Peak, with breathtaking views of the mountain ranges. Less energetic visitors can take the cable car up to Snow View for scenic views.
ENVIRONS: Described as India’s Lake District, Nainital’s environs have a number of serene lakes, surrounded by thick forests. Excursions are offered to Brim Tal, 22 km (14 miles) east of Nainital; Naukuchiya Tall, just Jag 4 km (2.5 miles) from Brim Tal, is a lake with nine corners, rich in birdlife; and Sat Tal, a conglomeration of seven lakes, located 21 km (13 miles) northeast of Nainital. Mukteshwar, 30 km (19 miles) northeast of Nainital, is one of the most beautiful spots in the area, along with the orchards at Ramgarh, close by.