Scenic Shimla, the biggest hill station of the world and the capital of Himachal Pradesh is perched at a height of 2,100 metres. The stunning beauty and charm of Shimla was first discovered by a British officer, Lt. Rose, during the Gorkha war and was named after the temple of Goddess Shamla, which was situated here amidst thickly wooded forest. Shimla became the favourite hill resort of the British and also the summer capital of India during the British Raj.
Shimla Tourism Information
In the days when Shimla inspired scenes from Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, it was a popular pick-up center for lusty British officers and flirtatious maidens keen to create a stir among the scandal-mongerers who gathered along The Mall during the summers. Shimla enjoys a proud history as the preferred mountain escape retreat from the unbearable summer heat of the plains (or “downstairs,” as many Himachalis refer to their low-altitude neighbors)—a cool spot in which to sink into a life of idle gossip, romantic conquests, and military brown-nosing. Today, this romantic image has been somewhat ruined by unchecked urbanization and reckless construction. Development has now been curbed, but the clogged roads and ugly concrete tenements that cling to the mountainsides beneath historic Shimla detract significantly from the town’s former glory.
Sprawling over seven hills fringed by dense forest and magnificent mountains, Shimla is a useful starting point from which to explore more untouched parts of Himachal, and the town’s timbered cottages and wood-gabled buildings retain a degree of charm, but if you’re expecting a quiet hill station, you may be disappointed. The Mall, a promenade on the southern slopes of the ridge, remains a pedestrian preserve, thronged by tourists and local Anglophiles who tend to echo the social mannerisms of the Raj at its most British. Below the ridge, however, an overwhelmingly Indian conglomeration of buildings constitutes the bazaar, and a sweep of modern dwellings has the distinctly untidy appearance of unplanned urban sprawl. Shimla is, however, in close proximity to a number of lesser-known hill resort getaways: Naldehra, Narkanda, Kufri, and Chadwick Falls are all destinations offering relative peace and quiet as well as scenic splendor guaranteed to capture your imagination. And for those seeking adventure and remote beauty, Shimla is a useful confluence of roads leading west to the Kangra Valley; north to Kullu, Lahaul, and Ladakh; and east into the valleys of Kinnaur and Spiti.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Shimla’s main promenade is The Mall, a pedestrian avenue stretching across the length of the city from Gopal Mandir in the west to the suburb of Chhota Shimla, roughly south of the town center. Along this stretch, crumbling remnants of the British Raj abound. Above The Mall is The Ridge, a wide-open esplanade watched over by a statue of Gandhi to the east, where the nearby Gothic Christchurch is one of Shimla’s most imposing structures, situated adjacent the faux-Tudor half-timbered library. Note the fresco around the chancel window, designed by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard’s father. Also on The Mall are the Telegraph Office, an interesting example of stone ashlar work completed in 1922 and, to its right, the old Railway Booking Office, a sadly decaying building frequently overrun by obnoxious monkeys. Marking the area where The Ridge joins up with The Mall, Scandal Point continues to be a popular social hangout, supposedly taking its name from an unconfirmed scandal involving the elopement of a handsome Patiala prince with the daughter of a British commanderin- chief. Beyond the fire station, after the dressed stone building housing the Municipal Offices, is the Gaiety Theatre, originally the Town Hall. Renowned for its excellent acoustics, the Gaiety continues to showcase local dramas on a stage where notable personalities, including Lord Robert Baden-Powell and novelist M. M. Kaye, once graced the planks—not all with great success; a fashionable piece of gossip tells how Rudyard Kipling was booed off the stage. A short walk east of The Ridge will take you to the start of a rather strenuous but worthwhile hike to the summit of Jakhu Hill which, at an altitude of 2,445m (7,800 ft.), is Shimla’s highest point and affords excellent views of the city and surrounding valleys. You need to trudge up a steep 1.5km (1-mile) path, commencing at The Ridge and culminating at Shimla’s highest point, to get to the Hanuman Temple on Jakhu’s summit. Try to make it to the top in time for sunrise or sunset, either of which is glorious. The little temple is dedicated to Hinduism’s popular monkey god (who is said to have rested on Jakhu Hill on his return from a mission in the Himalayas). Today his brazen descendants continue to patrol the path, so beware of carrying food or doing anything likely to provoke them. After you sound the bell at the temple entrance, enter to discover a curious concoction of serious Hindu faith and jovial Christmas pomp suggested by the tinsel and streamer decorations; the priest will happily give you a blessing. To the west of the city, beyond The Cecil Hotel, is the vast six-story Scottish baronial mansion formerly known as Viceregal Lodge (Observatory Hill; Tues–Sun 9am–1pm and 2–5pm). The admission fee of Rs 100 ($2.30) includes a guide. Built in 1888 at the behest of the British viceroy in an approximation of the Elizabethan style, the lodge is Shimla’s single greatest architectural testament to the influence of the British Raj, and its luxuriant woodwork, handsome lawns, and lovely views attract numerous visitors. Even in 1888 it had electric light and an indoor tennis court, both rare for the times. The building was the summer residence of all viceroys until 1947, when India was granted independence and the building renamed Rashtrapati Niwas, a retreat for the president of India. The first president of India thought it should be put to better use, however, and in 1964 it was inhabited by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, an academic foundation still housed here.
A mere 12km (71⁄2 miles) from Shimla, the forested village of Mashobra is great for scenic walks but is best visited as an excuse to step into one of India’s loveliest hotels, Wildflower Hall (see “Where to Stay & Dine,” below), for high tea or lunch. From the village, you can attempt a trek to the area’s highest peak—Shali—which reaches 3,200m (10,000 ft.), or take the 2km (11⁄4-mile) pedestrian track to the “sacred grove” of Sipur, which is where you’ll find the charming, indigenous-style temple dedicated to the local deity, Seep. Because they are considered the personal property of Seep, no trees may be cut here; so superstitious are the locals that they pat themselves down before leaving to ensure no fallen cedar needles have accidentally dropped on them. Beyond Mashobra is the popular picnicking resort of Naldehra (23km/14 miles from Shimla), which has an extraordinary 9-hole golf course designed by Lord Curzon (British viceroy of India, 1899–1905). Golfing on the world’s highest course is best arranged through your hotel in Shimla.
This large open space in the heart of the town is a major attraction of Shimla. Tourist coverage here while taking leisurely walks through the mall and Lakkar Bazar and enjoy the scenic beauty and charm of Shimla.
The second oldest church in northern India was built between 1846 and 1857 and is one of the major landmarks of the town. It is set on the edge of the Ridge and noted for its Neo-Gothic architecture and immense historical value.
The mall Road
This main shopping area of Shimla is also dotted with fine eating out places. The Gaiety Theatre here is a replica of an old British theatre and id the cultural hub of Shimla. No vehicular traffic is allowed on the Ridge, mall Road and Lakkar Bazar. A passenger lift run by HPTDC links the Cart Road and the Mall.
It lies near the Ridge and is popular for wood articles and souvenirs. The Roller Skating Rink here is also visited by the tourists.
Kali Bari Temple
It lies near the Scandal Point towards General Post Office. The idol of Goddess Shamla is enshrined here.
Jakhoo Temple (2.5 km)
The Lord Hanuman shrine set atop the Jahoo Hill (2455 Metres), the highest peak of Shimla. It affords breath taking views of Shimla and its surrounding. The temple can be reached on foot from the Ridge near Christ Church. A pony or taxi can also be hired to reach the shrine.
State Museum (3 km)
It lies on the western edge of the town and exhibits ancient sculptures and ‘Pahari’ miniature paintings of the State.
Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (4km)
This prestigious institute established in 1964 is housed in the old Viceregal Lodge, one of the finest British colonial buildings. The structure was built in 1888 and is a fine blend of Scottish Boronial and English renaissance architectural styles. Its interiors are noted for excellent woodwork and were the first building with electric light in Shimla. The Viceregal Lodge was the summer seat of British government till 1940s.
Shimla Tour Information
The tiny hill resort amidst verdant forests was established by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, after he was banned to enter Shimla by Lord Kitchener in 1891. A Chail sprawl over three hills atop the Rajgarh Hill is the Palace; Old Residency ‘Snow View’ on the pandava Hill and Siddh Tibba is known for the temple of Baba Sidhnath.
Chail (2,150m/7,000 ft.), 2 hours from Shimla, can be visited as a day trip out of the
capital. Chail grew out of a romantic scandal, when Bhupinder Singh, the dashing Maharajah of Patiala, eloped
with (or abducted, depending on who’s telling the story) the daughter of Lord Kitchener.
Predictably, the Maharajah was forced to return the daughter and was banned from
ever again entering the Raj’s summer capital. Enraged, the Raja combed the neighboring
hills in search of a location from where he could literally look down on the town that
had snubbed him. Chail was the answer to his ego-driven quest, and there he set about
establishing his own “summer capital,” building a lavish Georgian palace, as well as the
highest cricket pitch in the world (2,444m/7,800 ft.).
The magnificent green-roofed palace amidst thick deodar trees was built in 1891. It has been converted into a premium Heritage Hotel.
It was built atop a hillin 1893 at an elevation of 2444 metres and is the highest cricket and polo ground in the world.
Chail Wildlife Sanctuary
Key fauna ghoral, baking deer, sambar, red jungle fowl, Khalij and cheer pheasants.
The tiny picturesque hamlet is very popular among tourists. During winters a large number of winter sports enthusiast flock to this fine skiing resort. There is also small zoo. The Himalayan Nature Park her provides eco-treks and camping site.
Fagu(22km) The scenic site lies on the Hindustan – Tibet Road.
It is surrounded by thick forests and is known for the Goddess Durga temple.
Naldehra, the abode of Lord Nal is known for the thick cedar forest and world’s highest nine hole par 69 golf course. An ancient nag temple is also located here.
This small village 24km from Naldehra is known for hot water springs and temples.
The charming skiing resort affords breath taking views. The Hatu Peak (8km) and ancient shrine of Hatu mata are worth visiting for spectacular views.
Captivating Kasauli, nestled at a height of 1927 metres is noted for its colonial charm, lush tranquil surroundings full of deodar and pine trees, scenic views and cleanliness. It was founded by the British forces in 1841 and developed as a cantonment sanatorium. The Pasture Institute established here in 1900, is the oldest of its kind in the country. Kasauli lies in Solan district and is 12km from Dharampur, located on the kalka Shimla highway.