Weekend Getaways from Delhi – Nainital: Lake District of India
After Shimla, Nainital might get the award of most popular weekend getaway destination from Delhi. Merely 6 hours drive away from the capital city of India, Nainital offers the best of adventure as well as leisure travel options to its visitors. We visited in October and the Nainital weather was absolutely perfect for those visiting from the plains.
How to reach Nainital from Delhi by road
There are various options to read Nainital. Kathgodam is the nearest railway station to Nainital. The Pantnagar Airport is around 65 kms away. Air India – Alliance Air offers daily non-stop flights from Delhi. However, we opted for the road trip on our very faithful TATA Tiago XZ, which has already given us a road trip from Delhi to Kolkata via Allahabad – Varanasi – Asansol.
If you are looking for ideas on how to plan a road trip from Delhi to Kolkata, there is a very popular post listing the travel guide & tips on planning a road trip.
This is the basic route that we followed for our Nainital from Delhi roadtrip. We started early in the morning from West Delhi and chose Eastern Peripheral Expressway that cuts through Kundli – Gaziabad and leads you towards National Highway for Nainital via Hapur – Moradabad. The roads are no doubt absolutely spectacular. Driving is truly a pleasurable pursuit on these roads. At a slight premium price of Toll, you get to cover a considerable distance with much less effort.
Travelling to nainital by road is a promise of picturesque views throughout the northern plains of India as you pass through the jungles of Corbett. We stopped near Bhowali, a tiny hamlet in its own where we saw Monitor Lizards minding their own business around the bushes beside the National Highway. At this part of the jungle, leopard attacks are also not unheard of.
Local newspapers keep reporting these wild beasts attacking the unsuspecting motorcycle riders after sunset. While its completely safe for driving during the broad daylight, night driving is usually not advisable.
Mountain Driving 101
Hill driving or mountain driving is very different than driving through the plains. Most seasoned drivers are aware of this fact and drive accordingly. For those who are new to mountain driving skills, here are some quick pointers for driving through high altitude in India:
- No matter how clear the road is always drive in your lane. Specially during the turns and the blind turns.
- Always honk before the turns.
- Keep to your left as much as you can because the incoming vehicles might give you less space sometime.
- Keep the speed steady, don’t go over 30 or 40 kmph, depending upon the road traffic and turns.
- Lower your speed before the turn. Drive at lower gears or else car engine heats up and may switch off.
- Always keep a look at the rear view who is approaching to overtake you. Allow them to pass if they honk or seem to be in a rush.
- Use hand gear as much as you can while slow driving uphills as the car tends to rollback.
- Be extra cautious when you see a bus or truck approaching towards you. It is always best to lower the speed and allow them to pass. Since they are regularly driving through these roads, they often tend to drive fast.
- Switch off the AC in hills or else the car (engine) will get too hot and will not be able to take the steep turns. Open the window a little depending upon the pollution.
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Nainital Places to visit | Things to do in Nainital
Surrounded by the mountains on its three sides, Nainital’s Naini Lake or as it is known as Naini Tal (Tal means lake) offers a breathtaking view of the rising mountains covered by pine trees and deciduous forest. There are several legends which narate the reasons behind calling this oval shaped lake as ‘Naini Lake’. Legend has it that Hindu Goddess’s eye dropped here, thus making it one of the 64 ‘shakti peeths’ or holy shrines dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Durga and her avatars. The lake head has a beautiful Naina Devi temple, dedicated to the patron deity of the city, which is thronged by the Hindus from all over the country.
The Nainital Mall Road is a bustling part of the city which has an array of prominent branded stores and cafes offering a lovely view of the drive by the lake and the lake itself.
A couple of steps ahead, you will come across ‘The Flats’ which is the large ground often used as the Parking Ground during peak tourist season. Near Naina Devi Temple, you will a bustling market with a throng of shops selling apparels, winter wear, jackets & sweaters, local handicrafts and souvenirs.
Shopping in Nainital:
Shopping is an unavoidable part of travelling. Even if you have countless jackets and sweaters, buying one more never hurts, right? And, Nainital’s Bhotia Market & Tibetan Market near Naina Devi temple will leave you with an empty pocket if you are a shopaholic!
Nainital is quite famous for its fancy candles. You will find a variety of scented candles, aroma candles, fancy designer candles, floating candles and tealights along with fancier votives and candle-holders. So, if you are looking for meaningful (yet cheap) souvenirs for your friends and family, you can buy these candles in bulk.
They are pretty cheap with the jelly-wax candles starting from Rs. 20 per piece to the aroma pillar candles for Rs. 100-150 or so. They also offer sturdy packaging so rest assured, they will reach the destination unharmed.
Local Trivia: Ram Lal & Bros is the oldest standing shop in the Nainital. Situated in the Purana bazar, it is open on everyday of the week ever since it was established in 1901.
What are the top travel tips while visiting Nainital?
- If you are looking for a peaceful weekend getaway at Nainital, then I would suggest you opt for accommodation away from Nainital. We were looking for a leisure trip, focussing on rest & relaxation. So, we went for OYO Home Stay at Bhimtal.
- From Bhimtal, Nainital is an hour journey so, you can easily drive up to the hills in the morning and roam around the Lake Naini and again come back before the sunsets.
- The Kumaon Hills of Nainital makes it pleasurable throughout the year, except the winter months of January to March. During this time, Nainital witnesses snowfall which might not be very tourism-friendly. Again it is better to avoid the rainy season as the roads are prone to landslides during heavier raining uphills.
- The best time to visit Nainital would be April to June and September-October.
- If you are visiting during these popular months for tourism at Nainital, it is always advisable to book your accommodation beforehand. Also, before starting your journey, do give them a call and seek confirmation from them. This would help you avoid unwanted circumstances of misplaced bookings.
- Ensure that the car you are driving to Nainital is in top condition. Hill driving is strenuous for both the driver as well as the vehicle. Always make an arrangement for on-road assistance in case of any mishaps.
- While you are in Nainital, be prepared to walk long stretches. So, have a comfortable pair of shoes handy. It would be better to leave those stilettos and high heel boots back home. Grab a pair of comfy Crocs or Sports Shoes for greater ease.
For more road trip tips, you can read our Delhi to Kolkata Roadtripping article where I have shared numerous ways of saving money while being on the road!