A hill station which was born to serve as the summer retreat of the British Raj during their rule has now become one of India’s most popular hill stations. Whether you are out for a trekking holiday, a family vacation or a romantic getaway, Shimla or Simla is the place will be the perfect destination. The lofty mountains, the snow clad peaks in the distant horizon; the flower strewn valleys- all make Shimla simply magical. The capital city of Himachal Pradesh came into the limelight in the year 1819 and was declared as a summer capital of the colonial rulers in the year 1864. The hill station also served as the capital of undivided Punjab in the year 1871 until Chandigarh was formed and finally became the capital of Himachal Pradesh in the year 1971.
The hill station of Shimla derives its name from “Shyamala Devi” an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali. Even after so many years, Shimla has retained its colonial charm. The neo-gothic and tudorbethan style of architecture incorporated in the buildings are great reminders of the by gone era. The vibrant Mall area and the Ridge make for the heart and soul of Shimla. The natural landscape of the hill station is beyond description and is something to be experienced in person.
Shopping in Shimla is fun and tourists will find a number of things to take back. The Mall with its many small and big shops offers the buyers’ best deals in garments and all types of handloom and handicraft items. For wooden items, the Lakkar Bazaar is the best market. Shimla being the hub of food processing business is equally renowned for its jams and squashes. Dry fruits and medicinal herbs are worth a buy.
With mild summers and chilly winters, Shimla is best to visit in the months of April to August or December and January. Nestled in the north-western ranges of the mighty Himalayas, Shimla makes for a superb holiday destination.
How to reach Shimla?
The hill station of Shimla is extremely easy to reach. The easy availability of trains and flights and the well maintained national highways make traveling easier.
Shimla enjoys the services of an airport which is situated at Jubbarhatti which is 23 kilometers away from the hill station. Direct flights are available from Delhi to the Jubbarhatti airport. Jagson Airlines operates six flights to Shimla in a week to and from the capital city. Tourists can also opt for the bigger Chandigarh Airport to which there are comparatively a greater number of flights. From Chandigarh, flights are available for Mumbai, Delhi and Jammu. Major carriers like the Jet Airways, Indian Airlines and Air Deccan all operate their flights to and from Chandigarh. Relatively smaller towns like Dharamsala and Kullu, also has flights from Chandigarh. Tourists might get down at any airport according to their convenience and then take a prepaid taxi to reach their destination.
To enjoy the scenic beauty of Shimla, the best way option is to avail a train. On the broad gauge line, Kalka is the nearest railhead. The best way to reach Kalka is by availing the Shatabdi Express from Delhi. After reaching Kalka, tourists can enjoy the toy train ride from Kalka to Shimla. This rail route which came up in 1906 reduced considerably the hassles of reaching Shimla. Not only is the view enjoyable, but this railway line was a major achievement and is named as the “British Jewel of the Orient”. There are quite a number of trains between Kalka and Shimla namely the Kalka Shimla Mail, Himalayan Queen Express, Shiwalik Deluxe Express and Kalka Shimla Passenger. An alternative way is to get down at Chandigarh and avail a taxi from there.
Roads conditions are definitely good and tourists can also reach Shimla via the national highways. Those who are starting their journey from Delhi can take the NH1 to Ambala via Karnal and Panipat. After reaching Ambala, the NH22 is to be followed from here right up to Shimla via Chandigarh. Other than taxis, deluxe, Ac and semi deluxe coach services are available to Shimla. A bus service operates between Chandigarh and Delhi.
What to see in Shimla?
The natural wonders of Shimla are perfectly balanced by a number of tourist attractions in Shimla. This hill station of Himachal Pradesh is rich in culture and has nicely blended the old with the new. From the beautiful colonial style buildings, to the recent additions, Shimla is panoramic and dynamic in nature. Located in the north western ranges of the Himalayas, Shimla is simply mystical with its pine and oak forests, mountain peaks and virgin valleys.
The Mall is the heart of Shimla always pulsating with activities. A place for social interaction, the Mall houses the maximum number of restaurants and shops. The Ridge also forms an integral part of Shimla’s cultural life. The place is best to view the surrounding mountain peaks.
Shimla is extremely famous for its Seven Hill Attractions. Located on different hill tops, there are a total of seven prime attractions of Shimla. They are Summer Hill in western Shimla which houses the University of Himachal Pradesh, the Prospect Hill in Western Shimla with the famous temple of Kamna Devi, Inverearm in Western Shimla which is well known for the State Museum, Bantony in Central Shimla notable for the Grand Hotel, Elysium in North western Shimla renowned for Longwood and Auckland House, Observatory Hill in Western Shimla which is home to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study and finally the Jakhoo Hill which is worth the fame for the temple of Lord Hanuman.
Among other attractions in Shimla, there is the Christ Church near the Ridge which is notable for being one of the oldest Churches in North India and also famed for the frescos and the stain glass windows. Then there is the Viceregal Lodge noteworthy for its fine British style gardens and rich teak interiors.
This lodge was constructed under the vigilant eyes of Lord Dufferin in the year 1888. A visit to the Dorje Drag Monastery, Image Art Gallery, Naldehra Golf Course and the Zoo is a must. But the Shimla trip only gets completed after you have visited the Gaiety Theatre. This renowned theatre has been the stepping stone for many fine and world famous artists and came into existence in May 1887. The theatre is situated at the Mall.