Shimla, also known as Simla, is a tourism paradise located in the midst of Himalayan cedars and pines at an altitude of 2,205 m above sea level. Known as the 'Queen of Hill Stations', the destination is spread over an area of 18 sq km. The capital city of Himachal Pradesh is located in the northwest Himalayas, in the northern part of India.
The erstwhile summer capital of the British features dense woodlands, apple orchards and beautiful landscapes. Capitalising on grand old testimonies, colonial characteristics, peace-loving environment and adventure opportunities, Shimla welcomes tourists from around the world. It offers beautiful façades from the crescent shaped ridge to the descending valleys of evergreens.
The word 'Shimla' originated from 'Shyamali Devi', a re-incarnation or descendant of the fearsome Goddess Kali. The altar at Jakhoo Hill was initially shifted by the British to the place known as Kali Bari Temple at present. The hill station is enveloped by seven hills that include Jakhoo Hill, Bantony Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Observatory Hill, Invererarm Hill and Elysium Hill.
The historic Hindustan Tibet Road was commissioned in 1850 commencing from Kalka to Shimla and thereafter to the Chinese ruled territory, Tibet. In 1864, the town of Shimla was declared as the summer capital of the British Empire in India. Another red-lettered event in the history of the town was when the foundation stone for the Kalka-Shimla railway line was laid here in 1903.
The route from Kalka to Shimla on the narrow gauge is a major tourist attraction. The route, along with trees of fir, pine, walnut, apricot and terraced paddy fields of corn and the famous capsicum, locally known as 'Shimla Mirch', runs through 102 tunnels. The district of Shimla has numerous rivulets, small streams and springs and provides opportunities for trekking, rock-climbing and ice-skating. Shimla holiday packages offer a chance to explore Shimla better.
The hill station is dotted with structures from the colonial era such as the Auckland House, Gaiety Theatre, Gorton Castle, Peterhoff House and Viceregal Lodge. Famed for its Victorian architecture, most of the houses in the hill station are built with timber (oak) wood in Gothic style.
Since ancient times, Shimla has maintained its retreating charm and became one of the major tourist spots in north India. Tourists can participate in many activities in and around Shimla. Trekking in Shimla is a must. The ideal time for trekking is between the months of March and August when Shimla is a little warm. The Manali Mountaineering Institute conducts trekking tours in and around Shimla.
For tourists not seeking any form of adventure, taking a leisurely walk on Mall Road to shop for local souvenirs, enjoying some street food or watching a film at the Gaiety Theatre is recommended. Visit Indian Coffee House for some hot coffee and snacks. Ashiana and Goofa, two restaurants run by the State tourism department, serve authentic Himachali cuisine, which is worth a try. Shimla is also known as a haven for fresh fruits. Tourists can try some local fresh produce like guava, strawberry and litchis.
Places like the Mall Road are great for shopping. State run shops like the Himachal Emporium on Mall Road offer local handicrafts, Himachali shawls and woolens. Located near Mall Road is the Lakkar Bazaar, famous for selling locally made wooden handicrafts and furniture.
The city is a popular holiday retreat during the summer season from April to August. However, it is also frequented in the winter months of December and January, when the hill station is covered with snow. Shimla can be visited throughout the year, as various activities can be enjoyed in different months.
Shimla can be reached by air, rail and by road. The Jubbarhatti Airport is 25 km away. Daily flights ply between Delhi and Shimla. Kalka is 96 km from Shimla and is the nearest railhead connected to the hill station. It takes close to six hours by train to reach Shimla from Kalka. Tourists can also travel to Shimla by road. The drive is scenic and the National Highway from Delhi to Shimla is well maintained. Taxis and buses also ply on the route and it takes an eight-hour drive to reach Shimla from Delhi.
Shimla is a popular hill station and is thronged by tourists during the peak season. It is advisable to book holidays in advance. Hotel options in Shimla range from 5-star hotels, resorts to budget options like guesthouses, lodges and budget hotels.