Shimla – Himachal Pradesh
Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh, is the best-known and most popular hill station. It is located at an altitude of 2200m. It has a good atmosphere and is a pleasant place to visit on a stopover to Manali or points north. It is pleasant to walk along The Mall and The Ridge. It is a beautiful area with good views of the Himalayan Mountains.
Because higher class Indians tend to frequent Shimla, accommodations are fairly high priced. Most foreign travelers stay only a day or two on their way north.
The best time to visit is from late September to early November, when it is not too cold or crowded and the sky is clear in the mornings. From late April to early July the weather is warm during the day, but Shimla is crowded with Indian tourists and it can be difficult to find a place to stay and accommodation prices are high. From December through March, Shimla is covered with snow and is very cold. Even in the summer it can be cool at night and you will need some warm clothing.
In the beginning of the 19th century, Gorkhas would regularly raid this village. The local ruler asked the British for help, which the British gladly gave. The British defeated the Gorkhas in 1815. Over the next half century, the British used Shimla as a resort during the hot summer months. In 1864, Shimla became the summer capital of the British Raj. In 1946, leaders of the Indian independence movement held an important meeting here to discuss Independence.
Shimla is spread out over several hills connected by winding streets and steps. Two main roads run east–west through the center of Shimla. The Mall in the north goes from the far west of town to Scandal Corner. The Mall and The Ridge are for pedestrians only. Cart Rd is the south road, on which the railway station, bus stand, and taxi stand are located. A passenger lift goes from Cart Rd up to the eastern end of The Mall. Between The Mall and Cart Rd is the busy bazaar area.
There is an ice skating rink in the winter. The Gaiety Theater often has shows.
Viceregal Lodge (Rashtrapati Nivas)
The Lodge on top of Observatory Hill was once the summer headquarters for the British Raj. This impressive building was built between 1884 and 1888. It was the first government building in India with electricity, and had an indoor tennis court. At one time over 800 people, 40 of them gardeners, were engaged at the Lodge. The Indian Institute of Advanced Study now uses it.
There is a guided tour of the Lodge’s ground floor. There is a bronze plaque on a stone terrace to the rear of the building that names and describes the peaks that can be seen from there. It has a nice garden and well-kept lawns. Open daily 10 am to 1 pm and 2 to 4.30 pm.
To get here, walk west along the Mall for about an hour. It is about a 15-minute walk past the State Museum.
Himachal Pradesh State Museum
This interesting museum has exhibits containing woodcarvings, ancient sculptures, weapons, jewelry, costumes, paintings from Chamba, musical instruments, and well-preserved terracottas from the Shunga period (2nd to the 1st century BC). There is an excellent collection of Pahari miniature paintings, other style miniatures, and paintings by contemporary Himachal Pradesh artists. There is a Gandhi exhibit, which mainly includes pictures and photocopies of letters.
The museum is a 40-minute (about 2½ km west) walk from Scandal Corner. To get here, you walk west on The Mall to the concrete ramp with the sign that says “Museum”. It is next to the Ambedkar Chowk sub-post office. Open daily except Mon and holidays 10 am to 1.30 pm and 2 to 5 pm; free.
Jakhu Temple (2455m)
Inside this temple are what are said to be Hanuman’s footprints. Hanuman is the loyal monkey servant of Lord Rama as described in the Ramayana. It is said that Hanuman rested on Jakhu Hill while carrying back to Lanka a mountain containing healing herbs to save Laksman, Rama’s wounded brother. The temple itself is not so interesting. There are many potentially aggressive monkeys here. Early in the morning on a clear day you can get some good views of the mountains from here.
The temple is located on top of a hill at the east end of Shimla. It is a steep 45-minute walk to the top of the hill. The trail leading to the temple is marked by a sign put up by the Lion’s Club, and is located just to the left of the yellow Christ Church.
There are two paths that lead down the hill. The path on the right is especially interesting. It takes about 45 minutes to walk down either path, and you will arrive near Lakkar Bazaar, 25 minutes from Scandal Corner.
Prospect Hill (2176m), from where there are good views, is located down the asphalt road with a gate, left of the main entrance of theIndian Institute of Advanced Study (Viceregal Lodge), 5km west of Shimla.
Next to the Viceregal Lodge is the Himalayan Aviary. This bird sanctuary has splendid peacocks, pheasants, and red jungle fowl. Open daily except Mon 10 am to 5 pm.
Christ Church, built in 1857, has clocks and excellent stained glass windows. St Michael’s Church is located below the Central Telegraph Office.
There are nice walks at Summer Hill (1980m), 5km from town.
Chadwick Falls is a 65m high falls, 6km from Shimla past Summer Hill. The falls is only interesting from July to October, during and just after the monsoon.
The Glen (1,820m), 4km from downtown Shimla, has nice walks. To get there, you pass Annandale, which is also a nice place to walk.
There are some good views from Prospect Hill, and it is a nice place to walk around.
Tara Devi Temple is on top of a hill 9km from Shimla. It is a nice walk to this place from the Tara Devi Station. You can take a taxi to this place.
It is a nice walk to Sankat Mochan, on the road to Chandigarh, 7km from Shimla. There are some nice views from there.
There are three groups operating taxis in Shimla: HPTDC, from their office at Scandal Corner; the Vishal Himachal Taxi Operators’ Union, near the lift on Cart Rd; and Kalka-Shimla Taxi Union, on Cart Rd. They all have fixed prices. During the off-season, you may be able to get a cheaper price.
There is a passenger lift that goes from Cart Rd, near Vishal Himachal taxi stand up to the eastern end of The Mall, about half a km from Scandal Corner.
Porters carry baggage to and from the bus and railway station. If you have heavy luggage, hiring a porter may be a good idea, especially if you are going from the railway station to The Mall.
Air Jabbharhatti Airport is 22km south of Shimla. Jagson Airlines has flights to Delhi and Kullu.
There are buses run by the HPTDC that go to and from the airport. There are also city buses. Taxis to and from the airport are a fixed price.
Train To get to Shimla you can get the narrow-gauge train at Kalka (5 hr). There are three classes. There are usually four trains daily and seven during the season.
When you arrive in Shimla you should not get off the train at the Summer Hill railway station, which is 5km from the downtown. Traveling from Shimla to Chandigarh you can get the train to Solan and from there a bus to Chandigarh.
To get to Shimla from Delhi you can get the Himalayan Queen (6 hr) at 6 am from the New Delhi railway station to Kalka. You then get the train to Shimla at 12.30 pm and arrive at 5 pm. From Shimla you can take the 11.55 am train and then get the Himalayan Queen to Delhi in Kalka at 4.40 pm.
At the railway reservation office you can book the Shimla to Kalka train. You can also book trains departing from Kalka and other places in north India. Open Mon to Sat 10 am to 5 pm & Sun 10 am to 2 pm.
Bus There are two bus stations in Shimla. You can book a bus at the bus station up to one month in advance. When buses arrive in Shimla from Manali and Chandigarh via Cart Rd, they usually stop at the HPTDC Tourist Center above the railway station. It is usually better to get off the bus at this place (rather than the bus stand) because it is an easier walk to the top of town where most of the accommodations are located. Buses arriving from Kinnaur, Narkanda and Rampur arrive at the “Lakkar Bazaar” bus stand.
Public long-distant buses go to Mandi (9 daily), Kullu (5 daily), Manali (10 hr, 2 deluxe buses), Dharamsala (10 hr), Chamba (3 daily), Dalhousie (1 daily), Dehra Dun (9 hr, 1 daily), Chandigarh (4hr, regularly) and Delhi (11 hr, a few daily). Public buses go to places in the area such as Kasauli, Nahan, Paonta Saheb, Narkanda (every half-hour), Rampur (every half-hour), Kufri, Tattapani and Theog
HPTDC operates luxury buses to Delhi (10 hr) via Chandigarh, Dharamsala, Manali and Kaza, the capital of Spiti and Lahaul (often cancelled). These buses usually only run in the high-season. You book the HPTDC buses at the tourist office at Scandal Corner or from travel agencies on The Mall.
Private companies operate buses to Delhi and Manali during the high-season. They can be booked through travel agencies on The Mall.