Exploring Nainital – Things to do

Exploring Nainital – Things to do

Exploring Nainital is actually great fun! Unlike Shimla, Nainital is quite enjoyable despite the crowds and traffic, which is thanks by no means to the efficient administration. In terms of things to do, there is the Naina Devi temple, the main Nanital lake and of course the Governors House. Then there is the Eco Cave Garden, a relatively newer attraction. But clearly, nothing beats walking on the mall road that is along the Nainital lake.

Misty Mountains to Nainital

Once again, it is NH 109 that gets you from Misty Mountains, Gangolihat to Nainital. This time our run was for 160KMS, which we expected to complete in a little over 5 hours. Having left at 1030HRS after breakfast, we headed on towards Raiagar and on to Jageshwar, Almora and Nainital. We made quick time, and by 1245HRS were at the same dhaba where we’d stopped on the way to Misty Mountains.

Not wishing to stop in Almora, what with the traffic and crowds, we decided to break for lunch here. It was tried and tested, so why not! It’s a shame we don’t remember the name of the place but if you ever happen to travel to the Misty Mountains, you cannot miss it. The spot is about 70KMS before the Misty Mountains right on a turn as the highway takes a hairpin bend up the mountain. It features a sitout with two tables and about four more tables in the covered space. The description probably fits every second dhaba in Uttarahakhand, but I guess it’ll have to do.

The meal this time featured besan ki kadi besides the saag. The proprietor was so thrilled to see us again that he quickly rustled up some delicious aloo mutter too. After a leisurely lunch, we got on our way once again.

Enjoying a relatively uneventful and scenic ride through the mountains, we got to Nainital around 1730HRS. This was nearly two hours behind schedule. The main reason for the delay was that knowing the drive was just about five hours long, we’d stop wherever we found a picturesque spot to stretch our legs, enjoy the mountain air and generally laze around. Eventually, after 5 or 6 such unscheduled stops we got to the toll at the entrance to the mall road of Nanital.

The lake looked serenely beautiful on our left in the light of the setting sun. The mall road was largely bereft of vehicles thanks to the heavy toll one needs to pay to go through it. A pretty sound strategy to control traffic, that seems to be working for the local administration! We quickly crossed the mall road, turned around the mosque road and headed uphill to get to our destination, the Chevron Fairhavens Resort.

Exploring Nainital: Chevron Fairhavens Resort

This is a 100 year old colonial hotel with a well – kept small lawn and a beautiful stone and timber colonial building. As you enter, a covered central courtyard greets you, not unlike an atrium, with the rooms built all around it. This atrium now serves as the restaurant and is quite quaint. The rooms are comfortable and well – heated.

Nainital is at an altitude of 2100 meters, and the Chevron Fairhavens is higher by a few meters. Plus, a fair amount of greenery abounds. Effectively, these factors make the place a couple of degrees colder than Nainital town. Thankfully, the rooms are well – insulated with the wooden flooring and paneling affording a reasonable degree of warmth. The efficient heaters placed in each room too go a long way in adding to the comfort.

Front facade of the Chevron Fairhavens Niainital
Chevron Fairhavens is a heritage property in the quieter part of Nainital


There are way better hotels in Nainital to stay at, but we really had no complaints with the Chevron Fairhavens. It's got good, comfortable rooms, decent food and excellent hospitality. In addition, it is away from the crowds and is a heritage property to boot. Basically all that we look for in a holiday destination!

The little patch of greenery is probably the only concession the Chevron Nainital makes towards being eco - friendly. Other than that, it is a regular resort for all practical purposes, at least as far as it's carbon footprint is concerned.

We settled in for a cozy dinner at the property itself. After all, we'd anyway be exploring Nainital over the next couple of days.

The Mall Road

Like I’d said, unlike Shimla or Mussoorie, the Nainital Mall Road is a pleasure to walk along. Traffic is regulated on the carriageway alongside the lake. This means that you’re spared the nuisance of errant drivers, noise and other forms of pollution that they are want to spread. Exploring Nainital is incomplete (and impossible, actually) without a visit to the lake.

A cafe on Nainital's mall road
The mall road features quaint cafes and restaurants overlooking the lake. Cuisines differ, but the view is uniformly brilliant!


The lake looks absolutely beautiful in the winter sun. You can spend a leisurely couple of hours walking along the promenade. Or you could simply sit on one of the benches placed along the path, gazing at the lake. For shopping enthusiasts, there are shops selling everything from winter – wear to artefacts. These are interspersed with delightful cafes and restaurants. One can easily spend a whole day walking along the lake, eating at one of the cafes and browsing through the many shops there. And then of course, you could visit the Tibetan market.

Tibetan Market

A little off the Nainital lake is the Tibetan market. This is a bustling community of shops and restaurants serving Tibetan & Chinese food. Those exploring Nainital for bargains will absolutely love this place. Indigenous woollens to cheap Chinese imports, it's got it all. I guess the unlawful occupation by China has it's fringe benefits for the displaced Tibetans. It's really no consolation for losing your home though!

Tibetan market, Nainital
Thukpa can wait oh Lord, serve us our maggi no matter where we may be


For my money, it is a fun place to spend an hour or so, wrapping it up with a meal at one of the restaurants. While you do get the Chinese fare, the highlight is the Thukpa, Dimsums and noodles. All decidedly Tibetan, fiery and absolutely delicious!

Boat House Club Nainital

If you are a member of a club affiliated to the Boat House Club, do make it a point to visit this iconic watering hole in Nainital. That is not to say that this is only a bar. Far from it in fact. The club features various water activities like any boat club does, besides a gorgeous restaurant and bar overlooking the lake.

Overlooking the lake
The mist rolled in as we spent a lovely afternoon on this deck overlooking the lake


We got in thanks to our membership of the Bowring Institute in Bangalore. It's a great place to spend a lazy afternoon sipping beverages and watching the waters of the lake as ducks (or swans) paddle along. Exploring Nainital takes on a whole new dimension when you're perched on the open deck of the club!

Eco Cave Garden – or not

On our last day we decided to visit the Eco Cave Garden. While driving there, we found a long line of cars driving in the same direction. Upon checking with one of the ever – present traffic policemen, we found that about 10KMS up ahead on the road Kaladhungi, there were huge banks of snow on the mountainside. Apparently, all the cars were heading out to get a glimpse of that. On popular demand by the assorted kids we decided to join the hordes and junked our plan of exploring Nainital any further.

 True to the policeman’s promise, a quick 20 minute drive brought us to entire mountainsides covered with week old snow, which was great. The downside was that everyone, their neighbour and mother – in – law seemed to have had the same idea. Consequently, they'd jammed the highway for a couple of kilometers on either side. To make matters worse, a few morons had parked their cars alongside the road. They'd blocked about 30 percent of the carriageway and were merrily frolicking in the snow. The callousness of someone who'd do that is mind - numbing! Perhaps the local administration should charge these morons a hefty parking fee.

snow banner Nainital
We found our private sno bank to frolic in!

Aditya and I got out of the car and helped out with a couple of good Samaritans to get the jam cleared. This took the better part of 30 minutes before we were finally on our way. We figured there should be more snow up ahead and drove on.

Thankfully, a further 7 to 8 KMS drive brought us to another snow bank on a secluded section of the highway. All the tourist cars were still clustered at the previous place where we’d encountered the jam, and we had the entire snow bank all to ourselves!

Ritika and I quickly led the kids up to the snow bank, which was a steep climb of around 50 meters up the mountainside. Unlike Misty Mountains, the snow was untrampled over here and the kids had a ball playing in the white stuff. Ritika and I climbed up a little further, before we all returned in about 30 minutes. All in all, a morning well – spent.

Climbing up to the top of the snow clad hill
We managed to climb up about 50 meters more, before returning


Nainital to Delhi

On the last morning we all headed out towards Delhi, the last leg of our trip. The drive from Nainital to Delhi is again pretty decent. You head out on NH 9 which goes past Kaladhungi on to Bazpur, Moradabad, Ghaziabad and eventually Delhi. The distance is around 300KMS and takes about 6 hours to cover. The roads were pretty good, except for a section just outside Ghaziabad which was under construction.

Other than a brief stop for lunch, we made the run to the airport with no breaks at all. Having left at 0900HRS for a 1840HRS flight, we got into Delhi around 1615HRS. The evening traffic had just started building up in the city. As a result it took us nearly an hour from Indirapuram in Ghaziabad to the airport. Still, well in time for our flight. We handed over the Pajero to Sushil at the airport. Given the truncated holidays for the kids, we were to fly back while Sushil brought the car to Mumbai.

Walking in to the terminal, I looked back on the last two weeks. Of all the road trips we'd undertaken so far, this had easily been the best! Be it Ranthambore, Corbett or the Misty Mountains, I don't think any other road trip has been this much fun.

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