Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh is a magnificent hill station that has remained a popular destination for tourists from the time of British Raj. The narrow winding pathways and the busy Mall Road along with numerous apple orchards and snow covered peak thrill the people living in the plains. It’s cool climate attracts people in droves during the height of summer while the intensely cold winters of Shima makes it ideal for winter sports such as skiing, paragliding and tobogganing.
Shimla was a quaint rural habitation during the British era. However, it was the Englishmen who converted into a planned city and made it the summer capital. The city has remained a strong favorite with the masses planning a trip from the hot and humid plains of India. The foreigners particularly enjoy the climate as well as the various winter activities that the city is famous for. Vehicles are forbidden to enter the main part of the city making it an enjoyable area for walking. The roads are elevated and consist of twists and turns compelling one to breathe heavily while negotiating them. However, the city happens to be well planned as well with the relics of the past and the modern structures standing side by side enhancing the charm of Shimla in the process. There are quite a few ancient temples in and around the city making it possible for both the religious minded and fun loving visitors to enjoy their stay here.
Shimla stands at 2200 m with its highest point being the Jhaku Peak with the Jhaku Temple devoted to Shyamala Devi, a form of Goddess Kali. The city had been named for the deity that rules over Shimla. The area around Jhaku had been thickly covered in pine forests back in the 19th century, however. It is not unnatural to find the tourists congregate on Mall Road, the main thoroughfare while the Ridge is a 12 km picturesque stretch that houses a number of eateries and has the tourists hooked who are also pleased to find lovely gardens on each side of the Ridge as one walks through it leisurely. There is absolutely no need to stay put within the city though. The tourists set out for the beautiful locations of Kufri, Chail, Tattapani, Narkanda and Mashobra once they are done sightseeing within Shimla.
Apart from being a busy tourist center, Shimla is also known for to quality of education. There are numerous students residing in the city and pursuing their academic interests at the best universities of Shimla. This makes the local population fairly young and active. It is therefore natural that Shimla would have a bustling nightlife to cater to the students and tourists at the same time.
The Ridge, apart from the Mall Road is a popular destination for walking in the late evening. The visitors particularly honeymooners choose to enjoy a romantic walk in this picturesque location. The entire road remains lighted and security arrangements made by the local administration are more than adequate. The excitement at the Ridge reaches its peak during the Summer Festival when the entire stretch resembles a carnival with lilting music playing round the clock and live performances taking place on the road. The sound is carried by the wind and the visitors to Shimla are delighted to view the entire city from the Ridge.
There are a number of watering holes in the city too. Most tourists prefer to step into the Rendezvous Bar and Restaurant because it is open to women. It is well known for its snacks and liquor where the visitors love to lounge around catching the cricketing action on television and support their own teams vociferously.
Shimla is a favorite shopping destination as well. The Night Bazaar attracts many individuals who spend a beautiful time at the Lower & Ram Bazaar shopping for souvenirs and local clothing. Bollywood music keeps the shoppers entertained all the while and bargaining is brisk here too making the activity truly worthwhile.
Best Restaurants and Foods
The people of Shimla prefer to cook and eat their traditional meals that are a trifle different from the standard North Indian fare found in other regions of India. Sadly, the city is now chock-a-block with numerous eateries that serve Punjabi, Continental and Chinese cuisine to the visitors. People who are keen to get a taste of the best Himachali cuisine would, however, find it hard to miss khoru (yogurt soup), patore (colocassia wrapped in rye leavea) , murg anardana (chicken cooked with pomegranate paste) and chaa gosht(lamb in yogurt based gravy) that has been revived and is served in the high end Oberoi Hotel, Shimla. All the dishes are laced with the delicate herbs that are indigenous to Himachal making their thali (platter) a must have for every tourist intent on tasting local food. The price is anything but inexpensive though with a meal for two costing Rs 1500 to Rs 2000.
You will be sure of finding tiny cafes and street side eateries throughout Shimla as well as pricey, starred restaurants. Yet the middle range is entirely missing from its culinary scene. However, you are sure to find something to delight bith your heart and the palate when you drop into:-
Indian Coffee House- A favorite hangout of students, this is the place to be when you want to make friends over a cup of hot coffee. This is an ageless institution belonging to the British era that will have you all excited to revel in the aura of the long lost tradition.
Lutyens Restaurant- This upscale restaurant is located within the hotel Wildflower Hall. You can definitely spend a pleasurable hour here savoring authentic Indian food while looking out at the spectacular views of the valley beneath the window.
Ashiana & Goofa- The best place to enjoy the traditional cuisine of Shimla is the twin restaurants run by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department. The price is immensely affordable while view from the eateries is stunning to say the least.
How to Reach
By Air– Jubbarhatti Airport serves Shimla and is placed at a distance of 22 km from the city. Although it connects to several cities of India, the climate and elevation make it difficult for Airlines to stick to a schedule. Most visitors prefer to reach Chandigarh by road and then avail a flight to their destination.
By Rail– Kalka is the connecting Railway Station to Shimla. Passengers are thrilled to ride the mountain train up to Shimla that travels through the high mountainous terrain passing through 103 tunnels on the way. The track has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The view from the train is breathtaking and the tourists do not want to miss out on this opportunity.
By Road– There are air-conditioned buses operated by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation that ply from Delhi to Shimla. There are a number taxi services available from the nearby cities of Delhi, Kalka and Chandigarh as well. Booking private cars is easy enough with many private operators engaged in the trade.
Best Time to Visit
March to June happens to be the peak tourist season at Shimla when the weather is pleasantly cool with very little rain. However, a number of travelers prefer to visit Shimla as a weekend gateway from Delhi and Chandigarh during the festive month of October. The winter is exceedingly cold with snowfall experienced in December and January. However, this is the time preferred by the winter sports enthusiasts who arrive here in droves.
What you will like
The spectacular scenic beauty.
Opportunities for winter sports.
Sumptuous food and quaint roadside eateries.
Amazing shopping opportunities.
Kalka-Shimla Mountain train ride.
What you might not like
Crowds on the Mall Road.
Littering by tourists.
Shimla is known as the Queen of hill stations and is reckoned to be ideal for honeymooning couples, family vacations, winter sports lovers and backpackers.
Day 1- Book a Volvo bus or travel through the awe inspiring route via the Kalka-Shimla mountain train. You will be overwhelmed to find high snow peaks on both sides of the track as the tiny train climbs steadily up the mountain. The stain en route is small and resembles toy stations as well. Watching the clouds coming up to the window is an amazing sight that is sure to prepare you for the upcoming spectacular sights ahead. It is sure to be an experience of a lifetime. Reach your hotel from the station by following the porter carrying your luggage. Watch the lofty mountains on either the side of the road as you take the narrow winding path. Rest a bit and go out to enjoy coffee and snacks at the roadside eateries on Mall Road. Be sure to reach the Ridge or Scandal Point as it is popularly known to view the entire city laid out below. The view from this point is magnificent indeed. Drop into the Tudor Library and go back to the hotel after watching the marvelous sunset from the Ridge.
Day 2- You would not be inclined to rise early when it is intensely cold. So take your time, have a hearyy breakfast and set out to view the sights within the city limits. Visit the Indian Institute Of Advanced Studies to learn about the history of Shimla. Trek up to the highest point of the city to Jakhoo Temple and admire the majestic Hanuman Ji statue. Look around and marvel at the lush greenery and forests interspaced with the lofty peaks that stand out on all sides. Walk down after spending half an hour there and reach Mall Road for lunch and souvenir shopping. Return to your hotel tired but happy.
Day 3- Check out of the hotel and head to Kufri to see the wonderful valley. Do not miss out tobogganing or skiing and a host of winter sports if you have reached Shimla in winter. Go on to Naldehra and enjoy horse riding amidst the densely packed chinar and deodar trees. Spend a good 2 to 3 hours there and head to the vehicle that will take you to the bus stand in Shimla. Depart to Delhi by embarking a bus or hire a private taxi to reach your destination in time.