Shimla, the famous holiday resort that was once the summer capital of the British Raj, is now the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. Draped in forests of oak, pine and rhododendron, it is situated at a height of 2,130 m and is blessed with perennially cool air and superb panoramas. Like most hill stations, it sprawls across ridges at many levels, connected by steep lanes. It has now grown into a large, prosperous town and is on its way to becoming a cosmopolitan centre. It is famous for its buildings styled in Tudor and Neo-Gothic architecture reminiscent of the colonial era. The British government used to leave the winter capital at the end of March or beginning of April and move to Shimla until the end of October. Once the Kalka-Shimla railway line was laid down in 1903, Shimla became the favourite haunt of those wanting to escape the summers.
How to Reach Shimla
- Shimla has an airport at Jubbarhatti, which is 23 km away from the city.
- It is connected to Kalka by a narrow-gauge railway line with a total length of 96 km. Kalka is connected to Delhi by a few express trains.
- Shimla is 370 km from Delhi and takes around nine hours to reach by road.
: Established in 1844, Christ Church is considered the most prominent building on the entire Mall Road. Don't miss the pipe organ inside, said to be the biggest in India.
Considered to be the highest point of the Mall, the Scandal Point is marked by a statue of Lala Lajpat Rai, the freedom fighter.
Located on the Mall, this theatre built in Neo- Gothic style was inaugurated in 1887 and was constructed to entertain the English elite.
Himachal State Museum
Located near the Scandal Point, it is housed in a charming colonial building with huge lawns.
: It was constructed as the residence of Viceroy Lord Dufferin but has now been converted into the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Do not miss the astounding view of
the sunset or sunrise from its terrace.
The historic Peterhoff complex, now a heritage hotel, is located at Chaura Maidan, in the heart of the city. From here you can see the scenic beauty of Choorchandani on the front side, Dhauladhar ranges on the western side and Kinner Kailash on the eastern side.
Perched on the highest peak in Shimla, the Jakhu Temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
Dhanu Devta Temple
: About 4 km from the city, Dhanu Devta Temple is one of the rare temples where a male god is worshipped. Built in
traditional Pahari style, it is replete with intricate woodwork.
Golfing in Shimla is a gift from the British. Naldehra, 22 km away from Shimla, is one of the first golf courses in India. Paragliding is another sport you can try at Intkali or in the hills of Mashobra. Trekking is very popular quite a fun in Shimla and there are plenty of trek trails. The flowing stream of river Sutlej is ideal for rafting. Kufri and Chail offer good ice-skating options. Biking amidst the lush surroundings of nature is a dream come true,and Cycling in Shimla has recently developed as an adventure sport. You will enjoy skiing at Kufri
, about 16 km away from Shimla. Narkanda
about 64 km from Shimla, also has skiing facilities.
What to Eat :
The restaurants in Shimla are mostly lined along the Mall. They are inexpensive and generally offer a multi-cuisine menu. The food is not typically Himachali. Rather, the inclination is towards the Punjabi style with a free hand for spices and oil. The Mall has bakeries serving fast food, and ice-cream parlours.
What to Shop for :
Shimla has numerous shops selling various souvenirs. Lakkar Bazaar opposite the Ridge is popular for its wood craft and souvenirs, while Lower Bazaar, the main market, has a range of colourful winter and woollen garments. Must-buys from these markets, however, are the hand-painted pottery
, the famous Himachali cap
and the wooden walking stick.
How to Move Around :
You can avail of the local bus services between 7 am and 9 pm. Taxis are also available for both local travel and sightseeing. Tourist buses are run by HPTDC and bookings can be made at the Tourist Information Centre on the Mall. Walking on foot from the Ring Road up the steep hills is also a good option.
Chail is a tiny hamlet close to Shimla. Surrounded by lush forests, it offers a commanding view of the Himalayas blanketed with snow. With the majestic snow-capped Shivalik peaks in the background, the beautiful orchards and the sylvan pine valleys, Chail is sure to cast a spell on you. On a clear day it offers a magnificent view of the valley and the river Sutlej winding its way between the mountains, overlooking both Kasauli and Shimla (45 km) at the same time.The view in the night is an even more splendid, view in the night, with the distant lights of the surroundings creating their own magic patterns on the horizon. Chail is different and quite refreshing with ancient ridges teeming with flora and fauna, making for a nature-lover's delight. Gigantic deodars and heavily scented pines are a trademark of Chail. It overlooks the Shimla town and the famous Chauradhar ranges and is well known for its medicinal herbs, flora and fauna. Chail Palace is the landmark of the hamlet. The Palace is now being run as a heritage hotel by
Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC). The Chail Wildlife Sanctuary, hidden in the deodar forests, has abundant birdlife and a decent population of Scottish red deer. Chail's greatest pride is a cricket field at the top of a hill, said to be the highest in the world. The Indian Army has now taken it over.
A small town developed by the British during the heydays of the Empire, Kasauli still retains its old-world charm. During the lean season (Nov-Feb), it is still possible to walk for kilometres without running into people. Being a cantonment town, Kasauli has restricted entry. Foreign citizens must carry their passports. Kasauli can be reached by a branch road from the Kalka-Shimla way. The most happening place here is the junction of the Upper and Lower Malls, both of which have shops selling daily commodities and souvenirs for tourists. The Lower Mall boasts of restaurants selling local fast food. Kasauli has many outdoor trails where one can experience natural serenity. A thick cover of pine, oak, rhododendron and horse chestnut embraces the entire area. Traffic is restricted on these roads. Some of the better trails are located off the Upper Mall Road and originate near the BSNL quarters located within the Indian Army Premises. One such trail leads to the Hanuman Point. There are other trails on the Lower Mall that will take you towards Gharkhal. The trails are safe and easy. The main trail to the Monkey Point leads through the Air Force Guard Station at the end of the Lower Mall where one must first register. The entry closes at 5 pm. Legend has it that Lord Hanuman, on his way to getting the Sanjeevani herb, stepped here. Today there is a Hanuman Mandir atop the 300-metre-high hillock. Kasauli is also famous for the
Pasteur Institute that produces the anti-rabies vaccine. The Central Research Institute (CRI) at Kasauli is renowned in the field of immunization and virological research. Prominent among the town's architecture is the Christ Church (located near the bus station) and Lawrence School, Sanawar (6 km).