Like many of India’s classic hill stations, Nainital is criticised for tourists, traffic and commercialisation, and yet manages to take your breath away at the odd moment. It is still possible to track down the soul of the place, especially in off-season spring or autumn, in its rich bounty of flowers. Taking a walk along quaint pine trails in the neighbouring woods, walking on the lanes away from standard tourist spots, it’s possible to see why one P. Barron, stumbling upon the Valley of Naini Lake in 1893, was smitten enough by its beauty to stop trading in sugar and build the first European house here. He started a trend that lasted till the 1920s; only then did the number of Indians start to rival British presence in Nainital.

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