Queen of the Hills: Shimla
Once the summer capital of India (during the British rule) and currently the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla is easily one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Country.
The spectacularly cool hills accompanied by the structures made during the colonial era create an aura, which makes it very different from other hill stations. Set atop a mountain in the Himalayas at an altitude of 2,159m (7,083ft) only makes this the journey to this Indian destination all the more exciting.
Here’s a look at Shimla as your next vacation destination:
Queen of the Hills
Dubbed ‘Queen of the Hills’, Shimla is the most popular hill station in India today and with very good reason. Shimla is wonderfully picturesque city, draped in forests of pine and oak with a natural climate that makes for pleasant summers and cold, snowy winters.
The city’s architecture is reminiscent of the colonial era with its grand old buildings like the Viceregal Lodge, the charming iron lamp posts and Anglo-Saxon names which brings this destination a charm like no other in India.
Area : 5131 square kms.
Altitude: 2,900 m (9,514 ft)
Climate/ Avg. Temperature : Temperature varies from 16 -28o C in Summers and in Winters its in the range -7-10 o C with snowfall.
Best Time to Visit: April to August & December To January
Languages : Himachali (Pahari), Punjabi, Hindi and English
Telephone Access Code : 0177
How to Get There
By Air: Shimla Airport is at Jubbarhatti, 23 kms from the city and is connected to Chandigarh, Kullu and Delhi. Commercial service at the Jubbarhatti Airport is limited with six flights a week operating to and from Delhi, all operated by Jagson Airlines. Chandigarh offers far better options. Major airlines including Indian, Jet Airways and Air Deccan operate flights to Delhi, Jammu, and Mumbai (with a Delhi stop-over).
By Train: Shimla is connected to Kalka (96 kms) on narrow-gauge and it takes around 6 Hrs from Kalka to reach Shimla. There are 3-4 trains daily from Kalka to Shimla and vice-versa. This railway track has recently been granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The view is stunning, with the line passing through an amazing 103 tunnels, the longest being 1.2 km long. The fastest way to get to Kalka is to catch the Shatabdi Express, which departs early morning from the New Delhi Railway Station, arriving at Kalka four hours later or a number of other options from Delhi.
By Road: Shimla is connected by road to all the major towns. A few distances between the Major Towns and Shimla and duration of journey are mentioned below-
Kalka- 80 kms (3 – 3 ½ hours by bus or car)
Chandigarh- 119 Kms (3 ½ – 4 hours by bus or car)
Ambala – 166 Kms (4 ½ – 5 hours by bus or car)
Delhi – 370 Kms (8 – 9 hours by bus or car)
The Ridge /Jakhu Hill
Built at the top of the town at 2230m, The Ridge is the center of Shimla’s cultural and social life – an excellent place to view the surrounding mountains. Shimla’s landmarks – the Neo-Gothic structure of Christ Church and the new Tudor Library building are worth seeing.
Open every day, services Su 8a.m-11a.m. Constructed in 1846, this is one of the oldest churches in North India. The stain-glass windows and 19th century organ are particularly impressive, and the fresco that surrounds the chapel window was designed by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard Kipling’s father. Entry is free, but donations are welcome.
The Mall further joins the Ridge at the ‘Scandal Point’ of Kipling’s Shimla, where a statue of the nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai has been erected. This is the main shopping centre of Shimla with restaurants. A passenger lift of HPTDC can be taken from the Cart Road to the Mall.
Lower Bazaar (the lower mall)
The Lower Bazaar is home to the city’s less expensive hotels, cheaper restaurants and stores, and a congested wholesale vegetable market. Although less opulent than its upper neighbor, the Lower Bazaar retains an old worldly charm and is an excellent place to try some Shimla specialty dishes, like Uradh Dal with rice or Shepard’s Pie.
Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Gardens
Also known as “Rashtrapati Niwas” the Viceregal Lodge atop Observatory Hills is a magnificent building was the residence of the British Viceroy Lord Dufferin. This six-story building completed in 1888 is surrounded by well-maintained gardens and lawns. The lodge has now been converted into an Institute of Advanced Study and is 2-km from the State Museum. The entry in the institute is by ticket and only on Sundays the grounds are open for the public.
Himachal State Museum & Library
Housed in a reconstructed Raj-style building, the State Museum displays a collection of around 10,000 artifacts gathered from all over Himachal Pradesh. It is located 2.5-km west of the scandal point and opens daily except on Mondays and public holidays. It has also got a library, which houses many historical books and manuscripts.
Jakhu Hill & Temple is set overlooking the town with some spectacular panoramic views over the surrounding valleys right out to the snowcapped peaks. According to the epic Ramayana, the monkey god Hanuman rested here during his journey to the Himalayan Mountains. The temple is a 45-minute walk from the Ridge, one can also hire pony or taxi to visit temple. It is a vantage point for witnessing the changing skyline as the sun rises or sets.
At an altitude of 1,283m, Summer Hill is a picturesque spot on Shimla-Kalka Railway line offering shady walks in quiet surroundings. The Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to Shimla lived in an elegant Georgian House of Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur located here.
Home to native species such as the great Himalayan Snow Leapord, and varieties of Musk Deer. The Kufri Zoo is a good place to visit. It is Open daily with an entry fee of Rs 15 or so per person.
Shimla is situated in the Shivalik range of Himalayas with combination of low lying hills to gigantic mountains. Shimla district is full of thickly populated pine trees and small rivulets, rivers in deep gorges and placid mountains lakes, mountain sides draped in snow, and green alpine meadows, all form a part of this immense spectrum. And the possibilities for a wide range of adventure activities is enormous.
There are day-hikes by the thousand in Shimla and trek routes follow trails that can last couple of days or even extend over a few weeks. These vary from gentle walks over easy terrain, to grueling expeditions. Shimla to Kullu over the Jalori Pass (3300 m), Shimla to Kullu via Bashleo Pass (3250 m) and Shimla- Rohroo- Sangla are some trails to speak of.
There’s no better way to explore Shimla’s vast natural beauty than to live in the outdoors and camp. You can put up your own tent or take shelter under the roof offered by any of several camps that are situated in various parts of Shimla and it’s surroundings. These camps offer accommodation, catering and lot of other activities. Most of these camps good quality services.
Between January to around mid-March, skiing is possible at Narkanda and Kufri. HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) organizes ski courses of 7 days and 15 days duration at Narkanda. One can register with the HPTDC for the course and all the facilities of equipment, lodging and boarding are provided.
The Shimla ice-skating rink has one of the largest open-air areas, with naturally frozen ice in this part of the world. The Ice Skating Club has already celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. Held between December to February it’s fun for everyone.
Acclaimed as the best sport fish in the world, both Brown and Rainbow Trout are found in the Upstreams of Pabbar river in Rohru, 110Kms from Shimla. There are several spots ideal for fishing around here like Reema, Mandil, Sandsu, Tikri and Dhamvari all within 5 to 25 km of Rohru. Licenses for fishing at Pabbar can be obtained from the Officer of Fisheries stationed at Chirgaon. There is No Fishing at Mahseer between 1st June to 31st July (General water) and No fishing in Trout waters from 1st November to 31 January.