Travel

Travelogged #8 An Insider Guide To The Queen of Hills & Bollywood’s Favourite Background: Shimla

By Sanjay Gouda

Updated - Feb. 9, 2019 6 min read

When hill retreats and summer getaways were being established by the British in colonial India, Shimla was definitely the favorite child. Declared the official summer capital of British India, Shimla at an altitude of 2,205 meters offered much sought after a respite from the scorching plains. With smatterings of a colonial past still evident amidst lush surroundings of pine and oak forests, Shimla’s rich heritage and natural beauty make it a popular holiday destination even today.

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Places To Explore:

Mall Road

The town’s lifeline, the Mall Road is the main street in Shimla. It’s the center of all activity. Over time, colonial buildings have been overrun by kitschy boutiques and buildings. Cafes, restaurants and social hangouts on Mall Road are especially popular with locals and tourists alike.

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Viceregal Lodge

Shimla’s Viceregal Lodge was designed by British architect Henry Irwin and served as the residence of the British Viceroy of India. A fine display of Jacobethan architecture complete with Tudor-style arches and carved brick detailing on pillars, parapets, and porches, Viceregal Lodge dates back to 1888. Historically, within the walls of Viceregal Lodge was where the Shimla Agreement was sealed.  Today, a guided tour of the stately interiors reveals rooms with a collection of photographs, books, and artifacts.

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Rothney Castle

Often overlooked on the sightseeing trail, Rothney Castle was the home of Allan Octavian Hume, the British civil servant who founded the Congress in 1885. Though in much need of restoration, this now privately held property on Jakko Hill still has reflections of its glorious past in the intricate wood and glass work that can be seen here.

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Christ Church

The second oldest church in India dating back to 1857, Christ Church is a prominent landmark in Shimla. Situated on the Ridge, it’s a fine display of neo-Gothic architecture. With stained glass windows, a pipe organ, a clock tower and a rich collection of old scriptures, Christ Church stands out for its grandeur. A spectacular sight to behold is Christ Church illuminated at night!

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Scandal Point

As the name suggests, Scandal Point was where the then Maharaja of Patiala had eloped with the daughter of the British Viceroy. Needless to say, a scandal of the highest order for its times, the couple was banished from Shimla as a result. The General Post Office stands nearby Scandal Point where the Mall road joins Ridge road on the west side.

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Things To Do Around:

Stroll On The Ridge

The Ridge is an area in Shimla between Observatory and Jhakoo hills. The heart of soul of Shimla town, the Ridge is the hub of activity with tourists coming to see several colonial style buildings including a church and library and statues of Mahatma Gandhi. The Ridge is also where Shimla’s fairs, festivals, and functions are held.

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Hike Up Jhakoo Hill

Well worth the 30 minutes and a few mischievous monkeys en route, a hike up Jhakoo Hill takes you on a trail through lush forest terrain. At an altitude of 2,455 meters, the climb ends at a plateau where the Jhakoo Temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman stands.  From atop, feast your eyes on splendid views of the Shivalik mountain range.

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Catch A Performance At Gaiety Theatre

Gaiety Theatre first opened its doors in 1887. It was a platform for dramatic arts with performances and plays taking center stage. The Victorian façade has been restored and preserved over the years and the grandiose of the interiors have often been compared to great theatres like London’s Albert Hall. The Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex continues to host events and shows even today.

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Ride The Kalka-Shimla Mountain Railway

Take a ride through the mountains from Kalka to Shimla on a toy train. The 96-kilometer route is most famous for the scenic vistas that accompany you through the journey that takes you over 864 bridges and 102 tunnels, including the longest one at Barog.

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Suggested Reads

 

Relish The Local Delights:

Guchhi Mattar: A popular staple of Himachali vegetarian cuisine, guchhi mattar combines mushrooms and peas in a spicy gravy.

 

Dham: Dham is a dish usually cooked during festivals. The recipe involves rice, daal, and rajma cooked overnight in yogurt.

 

Best Time To Visit:

Shimla is a popular hill station all through the year with three distinct seasons.

March to June: These are the summer months in Shimla with temperatures averaging 25C. June is the hottest month that sees temperatures peaking 30C.

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July to October: This is the monsoon season in Shimla with August being the wettest month.

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November to February: These are winter months in Shimla and the air is crisp and cold. Shimla also sees snowfall in December, making it a winter wonderland.

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Getting There:­­

By Air:

Jabarhatti, 22-kilometers from Shimla is where the nearest airport was located. However, due to altitude and load restrictions, commercial planes no longer operate to and from here. Chandigarh, at a distance of 115-kilometers, is the next nearest airport to Shimla.

 

By Road:

Shimla is easily accessible by road and makes for a great drive from nearby Delhi (340 kilometers) and Chandigarh (115 kilometers). Public buses run by Himachal Road Transport Corporation and private taxis ply frequently from nearby towns and cities.

 

By Train:

The toy train from Kalka to Shimla is a charming way to get to the hill station. Kalka is connected by several trains from Delhi and Chandigarh. The Kalka Shatabdi Express from New Delhi Railway Station to Kalka Railway Station takes 4 hours 10 minutes and is the fastest train plying the route.

 


Suggested Read:

The 10 Cleanest & Most Magnificent Villages In India Where You Must Plan Your Sojourn

This Newly-Opened Snow Trek in Uttarakhand is All That You've Been Waiting For This Winter

Trekking Calendar For Indian Adventure Junkies: 12 Treks For 12 Months

29 Extravagant Hotels To Stay In 29 States Of India


 

What To Pack:

  • If visiting Shimla in the summer, carry light cotton for the day as the sun is quite strong. The evenings require a light jacket as temperatures tend to drop.

 

  • If visiting Shimla in the winter, carry woolens, thermals and a heavy jacket. To keep warm when it snows, boots, gloves, a cap, and muffler are essential.

 

  • Motion sickness medication is recommended for those who are prone to sickness on winding roads.

 

  • Sunblock and sunglasses will help shield you from the strong sun at a high altitude.

 

Shimla is a popular holiday destination 365 days a year. Abounding in natural beauty, the town has retained its colonial charm. Easily accessible, Shimla sees visitors from far and near who are allured by Shimla’s distinct character.


FAQ

Q. What is the best time to visit Shimla for snowfall?

A. The hill station witnesses heavy snowfall and tourists throng Shimla in December during Christmas and New Year.

 

Q. What is the timing of the bus from Chandigarh to Shimla?

A. Every 15–30mintues you will get a bus to Shimla. Mostly from ISBT 43. Few from ISBT 17 (buses from Delhi and Haryana to or fro from Shimla goes to Sec17). ISBT 43 is the main center to connect Himachal to the rest of India. So you will find buses to every part of Himachal from ISBT 43.

 

Q. How do I reach Kufri from Shimla?

A. That's easy. You can either opt for the local transport from the lakkar bazar or hire a taxi. You can also take a local bus till dhalli amd then walk ahead if you want to experience the stunning views. P.S choose to walk only if you are a trekker, an unfit person cannot do it

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