A very well-known and popular tourist destination of India, Shimla is a name that almost every child has heard of. A beautiful little city, with fabulous heritage structures built during the British Raj, it is definitely a wonderful place to visit.
I am lucky that I got to go there very often as it is where my maternal grandparents reside. I have spent a lot of time in the beautiful hills and pleasant weather. Today let me share few places in and around Shimla that you must visit.
Travelling to Shimla is not a hassle as the city has very good connectivity, not because it is an important and well-known tourist spot but also because it is the capital of Himachal Pradesh.
You can either take a flight till New Delhi or Chandigarh and travel by road OR take a connecting flight to Shimla. Flights to Shimla are not operational throughout the year due to the weather and also because the airport is really small, approximately 12kms away from the city. From New Delhi, it takes 9hrs to reach Shimla and from Chandigarh, approximately 4hrs. Currently, the route is a little bumpy and traffic is slow moving due to the expansion of roads leading to Shimla. So keep a buffer of at least 1hr if you are traveling by road.
If you are traveling by train, come till Kalka and then go ahead by road.
For those who are interested to travel in the narrow gauge train from Kalka, as happy and excited you might be to do the same, I am sorry to disappoint you by saying that the train is way too slow, sometimes does not reach Shimla at all because it breaks down in the middle of no-where and can come to a halt due to a landslide or even few small rocks causing an obstruction on the way. I have faced the “trauma”, hence would like to throw in a word of caution.
Now for the places that you should visit:-
Mall Road: –
The Mall is the main shopping street of Shimla. It has many restaurants, banks, bars, post office and tourist offices. The Gaiety Theatre is situated there. You will also find small food joints/eateries serving local delicacies as well as mouth-watering north-Indian & Tibetan cuisine at very reasonable prices.
From the mall road itself, there are routes to reach Lower Bazaar and Lakkad bazaar, which like the name suggest a market at a lower level than the main Mall road and another market popular for wood and wooden artifacts. Lower Bazaar also has a small but strong Tibetan market where you will get beautifully woven clothes, scarves and hand-made carpets.
Carpet stores and pure leather shoes and wallets are also made and sold by population from Kinnaur/Lahaul-Spiti region which is now well-settled in and around Shimla itself.
You must get pictures clicked in local attire as it is a lot of fun and a cute memory to come back home with. Photos get developed within an hour and are handed over to you. Another interesting place at the Mall Road is the “Scandal Point” which is right outside the municipal corporation’s office.
Scandal Point is located along the western end of Shimla where the Mall road joins the Ridge road. A meeting place for locals, tourists and lovers, Scandal Point is a name wrapped in mystery. One legend suggests that the controversial name comes from the scandal caused by the elopement of the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh with the daughter of the British Viceroy.
It is also famous for the statue of the Indian freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. One can relax here as there are many benches to sit and enjoy the beautiful view of the city. Right next to the Scandal Point is the fabulous stone colonial structure of the General Post Office.
The Christ Church:
Situated on the Ridge, Christ Church is the second oldest church in North India. Inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility. Near the Christ church is also a very old and popular skating rink.
2 km from Shimla, at a height of 8,000 ft, Jakhu Hill is the highest peak and has views of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas. At the top of the hill is an old temple of Lord Hanuman, which is the home of monkeys. A 108 feet (33 metre) statue of Lord Hanuman, at 8,500 feet (2,591 metres) above sea level, is the statue standing at the highest altitude among several other masterpieces in the world, overtaking the Christ Redeemer in Brazil. However, tourists should be careful when they visit the temple as there are a lot of monkeys who are experts at taking away your sunglasses, wallets and purses. Never feed the monkeys and pay heed to all the advice/warnings given by locals before you visit the temple.
Shimla State Museum: –
The museum, which was opened in 1974, has tried to protect hill-out and the cultural wealth of the state. There is a collection of miniature Pahari paintings, sculptures, bronzes wood-carvings and also costumes, textiles and jewellery of the region. You should try to visit the place if history and culture interests you or if you wish you absorb the wonderful heritage of a wonderful part of our country.
Summer Hill: –
The township of Summer Hill is at a height of 6,500 ft on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. Mahatma Gandhi lived in these quiet surroundings during his visits to Shimla. Himachal Pradesh University is situated here and summer hill is also home to Indian army officials.
Developed as the racecourse of Shimla, Annandale is 3 km from the Ridge at a height of 6,117 ft. It is now used by the Indian Army.
Tara Devi: –
11 kms from the Shimla bus-stand. Tara Devi Hill has a temple dedicated to the goddess of stars on top of the hill. There is a military Dairy Town here as well as the headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides. People come from really far off places only to seek blessings of Mata Tara Devi
Sankat Mochan: –
A famous Lord Hanuman temple is located here. Not as big as the Jakhu temple, however, locals have a strong belief that if you visit the temple here, your wishes do come true.
16 kms from Shimla at a height of 8,600 ft, Kufri is the local winter sports centre, and has a small zoo. During the tourist season, you can even get a chance to ride a Yak. Riding a pony and mules is very common here.
22 and 16 kms respectively from Shimla, with a nine-hole golf course at the Naldehra Golf Club. The annual Sipi fair in June is held in Naldehra.
Chail was built as summer retreat by the King of Patiala during the British Raj, it is known for its cricket pitch, the highest in the world. It should definitely be one of the places to visit when you are in Shimla. However, keep in mind that it is approximately 45kms from Shimla and will easily take 2hrs to reach the place.
The main suburb of Shimla. The commissioner of Shimla lives in Sanjauli and the accommodation is simply breath-taking. The sanjauli market is where you will get really yummy aloo-paranthas, samosas and teas.
So here I have shared a lot of places that you can and must try to visit if you plan a visit to this popular hill station I proudly call my “naanka” (maternal grandparents home)
Hope you get to visit soon! Bon Voyage!