It is impossible to imagine a weekend getaway from Delhi during Christmas holidays to a place not brimming with tourists. Or is it? A visit to Naukuchiatal (26 kms from Nainital) revealed that within the shadow of the popular lies the pristine.
Thanks to 25th December being a Friday, I planned a trip with my mother to Naukuchiatal. We took an overnight bus from Delhi to Nainital. From Nainital one can take a taxi or the Uttarakhand State Transport bus to Naukuchiatal (via Bhimtal); we opted for the latter. An hour and a half drive brought us to our destination for the weekend.
The place has a very peaceful feel to it. The locals are very warm and welcoming. On our first day, we went for a walk towards the lake. A walk around Naukuchiatal is quite an experience if you are a bird watcher with an interest in flora and fauna. Orange trees laden with fruits, a slaty-headed parakeet flying past, a crimson sunbird staring at you and bulbuls chirping away to glory gave our vacation the perfect start. Given my mother’s interest in gardening, she got enticed by the lovely entrance of a house with a beautiful garden. A knock at the gate led to an hour long discussion with the lady of the house who told us all about the place and happily obliged to our request for a few plants. During the conversation we got to know that the family ran (extremely pretty) home-stays in Naukuchiatal.
Our hotel was extremely close to the Hanuman Temple in Naukuchiatal. There is a restaurant, opposite the Temple, that serves good vegetarian food (with prices so low that the total bill would be less than the amount of tax we pay in Gurgaon for a meal for two!). In front of the Temple I was accosted by two Labradors sniffing for food. Obliging them with a packet of tiger biscuits each, I asked around about the two labs. The locals had different stories ranging from the labs’ owner having gone out post Diwali, giving them away to the temple, to the labs belonging to the Temple. Whatever the case, they were adorable and I felt bad for their lack of a nice home.
The next day we walked to the local nurseries and spent a good amount of time in looking at the plants on offer. The nurseries had a really good collection of flowering plants, cacti and succulents. Post the nursery visit, we walked towards the Lake Resort for lunch. We picked up some ferns and succulents that lined our path towards the resort. The picturesque setting of the resort and the peaceful atmosphere make it worth a visit. While the monkeys are a menace, the serenity of the place compensates for them.
We came back to our hotel by sunset where the receptionist would start his jamming session. His jamming was a daily routine. Everyday in the evening the whole atmosphere would come alive with the tune of his chords and the bells ringing in the temple nearby.
The next morning we left for Nainital. Leaving behind the peacefulness of Naukuchiatal we were now a part of the maelstrom of tourists that thronged the Mall Road in Nainital. The place is a shopper’s paradise with lovely candles and wooden products at reasonable prices. Sakley’s has some good bakery products on offer. There is a rope way that takes tourists to the lake-view point. There are amazing views to be had of the Himalayas from there.
A walk through Mallital and via the High Court brought us to Cafe Chica in Hotel Abbotsford. For all the hype around the place (on Trip Advisor) it did not meet expectations. While the view was amazing, the food was deplorable. A chat with the staffs revealed that the property belonged to Jitin Prasad (Congress leader and former Minister of State for Human Resource). The place seemed to mirror the current state of the Congress Party-a long history but not able to meet expectations.
Post our meal, we walked back to the Mall Road and indulged in a second round of shopping. By the time we were done, it was time to board our bus. And so ended yet another amazing holiday.
About our Hotel: We stayed in Hotel Spring Bird in Naukuchiatal. Extremely reasonably priced, the hotel has all the basic facilities. It is very conveniently located (though not very close to the lake) and has really well behaved and courteous staff. Food, especially breakfast, will remind you of home. Do not order coffee. What it lacks in terms of luxury, it makes up through its gregarious staff. I had randomly chosen this hotel on Make My Trip and I am not disappointed.