Pine forests and apple orchards, crisp, clean air and breathtaking views. Sprawled over 12 kms on a crescent shaped ridge lies Shimla, the largest hill station and erstwhile summer capital of the British in India. Descending in layers from the top of the ridge, at 2,213 metres, Shimla straddles several hills, including the Jakhoo, Prospect Hill, Observatory Hill, Elysium Hill, and Summer Hill.
Though Shimla, which is now the capital of Himachal Pradesh, has come a long way from the days of the Raj, the old British buildings, quaint cottages and churches still remind visitors of an era long gone by. Here, in the heyday of the Empire, officers and their wives strolled down the Mall, exchanging pleasantries with fellow officers.
Many a grass widow spent time wandering through the beautiful walks through pine forests, while dashing Indian princes left many an English lady heartbroken. From the days of the British, when it was the popular retreat of the sahibs, Shimla has now become the hub of major activities in Himachal Pradesh. Being the seat of government and a major tourist attraction in north India, the town has grown to bursting point. In peak tourist season, traffic jams, and crippling water shortage are common.
So travel to Shimla and get rejuvenated by its fresh air, magnificent snow peaks and refreshing green.
How to Reach Shimla?
By Air : The Jubbarhatti airport, 22 km from Shimla has regular flights from Delhi. But due to rough weather conditions during winter, flights may be irregular, especially from December till February. Alternatively, Chandigarh Airport at a distance of 120 kms, can be used for air connections and then up to Shimla by road.
By Rail : The broad-gauge line terminates at Kalka, about 100 kms down in the plains. The Kalka station is connected to most major cities in India, including Delhi and Calcutta. From Kalka, the narrow-gauge line connects to Shimla. The toy train that runs from Kalka and back takes about five-and-a-half hours to reach. The luxury first class compartments have glass sides to give a superb view of the ride through tunnels, over bridges and up steep slopes. Though the train journey is romantic, it is much slower than travelling by bus.
By Road : Shimla is connected by road to Chandigarh, Delhi, Dehradun, Kalka, and other major north-Indian towns. There are regular bus services to Chandigarh, Kullu, Manali, Delhi, Mandi Pathankot, and Ambala. Most travelers prefer to drive up to Shimla in private or hired vehicles.
Best Time to Visit Shimla
Shimla is a favourite getaway for people in the summer. Most people like to come here in the summer months from April to June to escape the heat of the plains. The temperatures are bracing at this time in the region of 15-30 degrees Centigrade. This also happens to be the peak season, so it does tend to get overcrowded with tourists thronging the town.
A quieter time to visit Shimla is between October and November, when the temperatures are moderate. From December till February it gets very cold with heavy snowfall. If snow and snow sports are of interest to you then visit Shimla in January or February as at this time you are sure to get a good carpet of snow. Temperatures are freezing at this time but it is great to sit before a log fire in the evenings and warm yourselves! There is also a festive spirit in the air during December and many tourists visit just to get a touch and feel of the snow.
Things to do in Shimla
Take a long walk on the vibrant Mall Road or stroll through the pine and oak trees, this enchanting hill station offers a fairly long list of things to do. The popular places amongst travellers are focused on Shimla’s colonial past that includes Town Hall, timber lined General Post Office and the old Gaiety Theatre. Shimla has many old temples, churches and museums to visit. You can plan picnics and trails in the woods.
Want to experience a spectacular sunrise? Trek up to the top of the Jakhoo Hill that houses Hanuman Temple and an old Christ Church, and absorb in the magical yellow-orange view of the valley below. Visit Shimla during winters and enjoy skiing or skating on ice. Shopaholics can buy Himachal handicrafts, embroidery, bright and beautiful Kullu shawls, Tibetan jewellery etc at a bargain price. Visit Lakkar Bazaar for wood crafts.
Feast on delicious Chinese and Indian cuisine at various restaurants on Mall road or just enjoy aromatic hot cup of coffee at one of the coffee shops.
You can visit various places near Shimla if you want to be away from the crowd. Visit Kufri that is renowned for its ski slopes and hiking or Naldehra that has a nine-hole golf course.
Places Near Shimla
Kurfi, Fagu, Naldehra, and Chail are some of the interesting places near Shimla that you can visit from here.
Kufri, at 2501 metres and 16 kms from Shimla, is popular for its ski slopes and for hiking. The Mahasu peak dominates this tourist spot, which can be visited on a round trip from Shimla.
Fagu, 22 kms down the old Hindustan-Tibet road is another enchanting retreat. It has enchanting views and a pleasant environment.
Naldehra, 22 kms away on the Shimla-Tattapani road has a nine-hole golf course. The British viceroy, Lord Curzon who had supervised the laying of the Kalka-Shimla railway line, designed it. In the middle of the golf course is the Mahunag Temple. Near Naldehra are the villages of Mashobra and Craignano. Surrounded by thick forests, Mashobra has an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Durga (manifestation of Shakti). Craignano is popular as a quiet picnic spot.
Chail, about 45 kms from Shimla, was the summer retreat of the Maharaja of Patiala. Spread over three hills, the sleepy town has a bird sanctuary, which was the erstwhile ruler’s hunting reserve. Chail also boasts of the highest cricket ground in the country. Himachal Tourism has now converted the former Maharaja’s palace into a hotel.
Narkanda, at 2708 metres, about 60 kms also on the Hindustan Tibet road, is promoted for its skiing slopes. A trek through Deodar forests leads up to the Hatu Mata temple on Hatu peak.
Hotels in Shimla – Choice is Yours
There are numerous hotels in Shimla ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.