Lucknow to Nainital – Road Review

During Ramzan Eid , we had a long week end holiday which I wanted to encash through visiting the nearby place and spend some quality time with family. Hence, we decided to visit Nainital which is a hill station and around 400 Kms from Lucknow. To reach to Nainital we have 4 options 1) By Train Journey till Kathgodam and from Kathgodam to Nainital by hiring taxi 2) Through UPSRTC Volvo Bus 3) Hiring a taxi 4) Hiring a Driver for own Car 5) Self Drive.  All the options except 5 were not working favorable to us due to Ramzan holiday and there was no availability of train ticket, and engaging taxi and driver is very very costly affair. Hence, I made up my mind to let me try self-driving.  


I have enquired with many people and done lot of research on the route through google and zero down following route. Lucknow-Sitapur- Shahjahanpur- Bareilly bypass – Kathgodam – Nainital 392 kms.  

According to google to cover the above distance it takes 8 hours journey. There is another route through Philbit which is passing through the scenic jungle. As per the suggestion, the road is isolated and no help is available but no traffic comparatively on this stretch. I am sharing my experience for the benefit of those first time travelers through this route.


Road Review

My Journey is divided into 4 parts

  • Lucknow Home  -Sitapur – 89 Kms – 1.45 hour
  • Sitapur Cross – Bareilly to shahjahanpur -160 kms- 6 hour
  • Bareilly Cross – Kathgodam – 140Kms – 2.45 hour
  • Kathgodam – Nainital – 35 Kms – 1.15 hour


Part 1 : Lucknow Home  -Sitapur – 89 Kms

We started at 5 am on the day of journey and we entered the National Highway through faizabad road, munshipulia and aliganj it took 16 kms and 30 min drive. Since no traffic in the morning we reached quickly to the Sitapur highway. From Highway to Sitapur it is 73 kms. Road is in good condition and we can go with the consistent speed of 80 per hour. We covered the distance in about 1 hour 15 mins. It drive was smooth sailing. The toll fees of Rs.70 paid (40+30). We reached Sitapur Bareilly bypass at 6.45 am.


Part 2: Sitapur Cross – Bareilly via shahjahanpur -160 kms

From Sitapur to Bareilly is a totally different story of driving. The new road is being constructed on this stretch and hence too many diversions on the road. The Road is single lane road with lot of potholes speed breaker etc. One can see vehicles coming on one way in opposite directions.  Further, there is one mandi near Shahjahanpur due to which both sides of the road are jam packed with huge lorries and we found big traffic jam.

It is definitely tiresome to drive on this road and we could not cross the 40 kms speed during this stretch up to Shahjahanpur which is 90 kms distance from Sitapur Cross. We have come across all possible worst thing like bad road, heavy traffic due to lorry , pollution , rude behaviours of truck drivers , not giving way, hot weather etc.  We were literally tired on this stretch and once decided to go back to lucknow. But somehow make up our mind and continued.

 Added to this there is one Railway Crossing on the road which will also slow down the traffic to great extent. During this stretch we had 30 min tea break and 1 hour lunch break in road side Dhaba. All these resulted in and took us 6 hours to reach Bareilly Nainital Road and at 1.00 pm.  We were dead tired by this time and once we thought of staying in Bareilly and continue the journey next day to Nainital. However, since the hotel was already booked we didn’t wanted to waste money for one day and decided to continue the journey.


Part 3: Bareilly Cross – Kathgodam – 140Kms

Near Bareilly about 20 kms before on  the highway we took U turn to connect to bareilly- nainital highway (NH) the road is about 59 kms and 4 lane stretch and is in excellent condition. I drove through the road and covered the distance in 1 hour and thereafter remaining 80 odd kms through single lane.

Here also we have experienced movement of trucks, lorry but the density is not that much as observed from Sitapur to Shahjahanpur Road. The road is drivable with a speed of 60 to 70 kms per hour. We covered the distance in 1 ½ hour and reached kathgodam around 3.30 pm . In kathgodam we took a break for lunch and refreshment.

We had a sumptuous lunch in Zyka Restaurant.  Adjacent to Zyka Restaurant there is a Udupiwala Restaurant which is also good and we had good lunch there as well during our return journey.


Part 4: Kathgodam – Nainital – 35 Kms


After taking 1 hour of lunch break at Kathgodam which is must before climbing the hill, we started from Kathgodam to nainital at 4.15 p.m. As it is getting evening and dark, we wanted to reach nainital before sunset (driving on the hills under the light is difficult for a inexperienced driver).  The road is in good condition due to  tourist centre.

I drove cautiously and carefully and not exceeding a speed of 30 kms per hour. Initially , I was little scared to drive in a curvy road. But there was lot of vehicle on the hilly road, hence I got encouragement and continued.  I got butterfly in my stomach whenever to cross the  curvy, hairpin bend, high incline and decline on this stretch.

I was very carefully driving on the hills and whenever there was curve , I used to slow down completely and after crossing the curve used to pick up the speed of 30 kms. Throughout this route I stayed left side only and never overtook any vehicle. One thing I want to share here is we should not drive single handedly on this stretch and never look at the steep down while driving.

 By looking so we may get scared and lose confidence and go off the road which is dangerous.  After driving about 1 hour 15 min in the valley we finally reached Nainital entrance at 5.30 p.m. It was already started to dark and we need to cover another 2 kms but to our dismay, there was huge jam near the entrance of nainital and police was diverting the traffic through another route which is 4 kms more due to season. The alternative route suggested by police, `was new road which is under construction.

It’s very scary to drive in that route since there is no barricade and very very narrow lane and watery road.  Since we have followed the traffic, some how we reached nainital at 6.00 pm. Definitely very scary to drive in isolation in this route.



In nainital , there is a policy that after 6 pm up to 9 pm police will not allow vehicles to Mall Road and therefore we could not go straight to the hotel to drop luggage and family and to onward to park the vehicle. Near the Mall road i.e. at Mallital, in front of Mosque there is huge parking space is available which charge Rs.100 per day per vehicle on 9.00 am basis.

We parked our vehicle there and engaged one coolie to carry our luggage to the hotel room. We walked about 1 kms to reach the Hotel on the Mall road which was pre booked. We entered the hotel at 6.30 p.m. That day after refreshing ourselves we went for mall road walk and ate snacks, momos and thereafter dinner at Embassy Restaurant.

Next day we covered local sight-seeing through own car. All the tourist spot in local Nainital are within radius of 4 kms and can be easily drivable. We covered all the spot. We did online cable car booking through cleartrip .com and enjoyed cable drive as well which is must to try. We did not engage local taxi in nainital for sightseeing due to abnormal taxi rates there due to peak season and also due to our convenience. It is not required also for local sightseeing. Instead we can try their services for lake tour, Kausani, Ranikhet, Mukteshwar etc.

After spending 2 nights in Nainital with 2 boat driving we returned back to kathgodam. On the way back from Nainital to Kathgodam about 20 kms distance and half way through we will come across Bhimtal, Sattal and Naukuchiatal . We covered all the three and reached Kathgodam before lunch time and thereafter to Lucknow.

Overall it was memorable trip and naini lake was awesome and fresh in my memory.



Try to avoid Sitapur –Shahjahanpur Stretch which is more painful. If need be take a break in Bareilly and continue.

Never drive in single hand in hill section.

Go with maximum speed of 30 kms per hour in hill section and never overtake and always drive on left side.

If you want to enjoy the serenity, park the vehicle in appropriate place where one can see movement of vehicle from both the sides. Don’t park vehicle near crossing.

Slow down near the curving. Use first gear while climbing uphill. Put off the AC.

Before climbing hill ensure that tire is having sufficient thread and air.

While coming down the hill stay ride on 2nd or 3rd gear and never ride on clutch. Apply break judiciously.

Try cable car ride and don’t miss boat riding.

Hope my blog will help many first time driver to Nainital from Lucknow.

Please like and comment.


  • Patrick Jones says:

    Good first attempt, Prashant, both drive and post.
    Your description of first hill-drive reminds me of my own years back. Though Shimla highway was smooth and broad every vehicle was overtaking me, even slow-moving trucks. It was frustrating but definitely the right thing to do.
    Keep going.

  • rajesh says:

    Very good Prashant giving do’s and dont’s
    I too visited Nanital some years back self driving from Delhi. I tried to find the best less trafficked route and places to eat. But I found some information on google which was out of date. So as you pointed out, I will request all the future Ghumakkars to let the reader know the does & dont’s and places for eating/resting/buying local goods etc

    • Anuj Vishwakarma says:

      Very good information for first time outing nainital… lko. To nainital self drive.. this information is very helpful.

  • Debjit Chakraborty says:

    Very good and well informative write up. The Philibit way is much smoother as you said. I like the way you suggest dos and don’t s for hill drive. Also there is a common practice in those area that not to honk in the corners which is much needed.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Prashant.

    The last I drove on this route (Bareily – Shanjahanpur – Lucknow) was in 2009 I guess. And it was equally worse even then. I always thought that things would have improved for better but looks like they haven’t.

    Thank you for sharing your ride. Please respond to comments when your time allows. Wishes for many more travels.

  • Welcome to Ghumakkar Prashant. I haven’t been to Nainital, but have always wished I to. If I do, I probably wont do road trip though, especially after hearing so much about the route. Having said that, I particularly like road trips, so much to enjoy en route to a destination. Have done few until now, wish to do more soon!

    Thank you for the wonderful post! Eagerly awaiting next one.

  • moinuddin khan says:

    Awesome explanation of a rod trip . i will surely share my experience

  • Rajesh says:

    Nicely explained Prashant, Recently I have visited on this route from Lucknow to Bareilly by Sitapur during night and found road was okay , traffic was also less since it will midnight. I was uncomfortable at some places where only single road was available after Sitapur. Still road was having many diversions and construction work in progress.

    I would like to know about route from Lucknow to Bareilly by Hardoi since Google was showing me this route 20 KM shorter then Sitapur route, if anyone has any idea kindly share?

  • Rajeev Srivastava says:

    Your experience is very valuable for me. Now I will making plan to go to nanital by my car.
    I think now road will be in good condition between Sitapur to Sahjajanpur.

    • S BARAI says:

      can anyone update me about current road condition between sitapur and bareily as on june 2023? or is it better to take the pilibhit route to reach Haldwani from lucknow?
      Thanks in advance

  • DEVANK DUBEY says:

    Can you please share the hotel details

  • Devanand Sahu says:

    Hello Prashant,Your vlog is very helpfull to me as I am going Nainital first time so long travel by My car driving Lucknow to Nainital and got some confidence to travel with family. Is any issues to travel to Nainital via pilibhit.?

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