Until the British arrived, there was nothing at Shimla but a sleepy forest glade known as Shyamala (a local name for Kali – the Hindu goddess who is the destroyer of evil).
Then a Scottish civil servant named Charles Kennedy built a summer home in Shimla in 1822 and nothing was ever the same again. By 1864 Shimla had developed into the official summer capital of the Raj. Every summer until 1939, the entire government of India fled here from the sweltering heat of the plains, with all their clerks’ books and forms filled out in triplicate. When the Kalka–Shimla railway line was constructed in 1903, Shimla’s status as India’s premier hill station was assured, and a number of prestigious schools are now based here. The city was even briefly the capital of Punjab until the map was redrawn in 1966. Strung out along a 12km ridge, Shimla is an engaging blend of holiday town and Indian city. Along the Mall and the Ridge, vacationers stroll around licking ice-cream cones, gazing at the views or into store windows. Cascading down the hillsides, bazaars flowing with local life are packed with shops selling hardware, stationery, fabric, and spices. Many of the hand-painted signs in the market are so retro they look like they haven’t been changed since the British left. With cars banned from the main part of town, walking anywhere is truly pleasant – even when huffing and puffing uphill. Shimla sprawls for miles, but the official center of town is Scandal Point. From here, an open area known as the Ridge stretches east to Christ Church, where trails lead uphill towards the Jakhu Temple.
HIMACHAL PRADESH SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES SHIMLA:-
There are some good forest walks nearby and a jagged line of snow-covered peaks is clearly visible from April to June, and in October and November. The long, winding, pedestrian-only Mall runs west and east from Scandal Point. Downhill is Cart Rd, with the train station, the Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) and taxi stands. A passenger lift provides a quick route between the Mall and Cart Rd, or you can go via the maze of alleyways of the Middle Bazar and Lower Bazar. At the bus or train stations, you will be besieged by porters offering to carry your luggage uphill for ₹50 to ₹80. Most double as touts and hotels will increase your room tariff to cover their commission.
Jakhu Temple HINDU TEMPLE :
Shimla’s most famous temple is dedicated to the Hindu monkey god Hanuman; it’s, therefore, appropriate that hundreds of rhesus macaques loiter around harassing devotees for prasad (temple-blessed food offerings). Set atop a hill awash in devotional music, the temple houses a small shrine surrounded by funky relief murals of Hanuman performing feats from the Ramayana. The dining hall serves delicious all-you-can-eat plates of dhal, rice and sabzi (vegetables) from 10 am to 4 pm (donations appreciated), so coordinate your visit with your hunger! Getting here involves a steep 30-minute hike to the top of a hill, starting at the east end of the Ridge. Primate alert: the monkeys on this route can be a menace! Consider renting a walking stick at the start of the walk (from ₹80) to discourage them. Taxis from either stand charge around ₹1000 return.
Himachal State Museum & Library MUSEUM (Indian/foreigner ₹200, camera/video ₹500/
1500; h 10 am-1.30 pm & 2-5 pm Tue-Fri, Sun & 2nd Sat each month) About 2.5km west of Scandal Point and a stiff walk up to the telecommunications mast, the state museum is home to an impressive collection of miniatures from Kangra and Rajasthan, as well as Chamba embroidery, coins and jewelry, temple carvings, paintings of Shimla, and various weapons.
Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Gardens :
(Indian/foreigner ₹20/50; h9.15am-1pm & 2-5pm, to 7pm May-Jul, tours every 30min) Built as an official residence for the British viceroys, the Viceregal Lodge looks like a cross between Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School and the Tower of London. Every brick used in its construction was hauled up here by mule. Today it houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, but you can take a guided tour of the buildings. Tickets cost ₹20 if you just want to look around the gardens. Opposite the lodge entrance is the Himalayan Bird Park (admission ₹5; h10am-5pm), where you can see the iridescent monal pheasant, Himachal’s state bird, among others. The lodge is a 4.5km walk west from
Scandal Point along the Mall, but it is poorly signposted, so you should try to aim for the telecommunications mast, then stick to the largest road.
One of the little joys of Shimla is getting to or from it by the narrow-gauge toy train from Kalka, just north of Chandigarh. Although the steam trains are long gone, it’s a scenic four- to the six-hour trip, passing through 103 tunnels as it creeps up through the hills. Tiny Shimla train station is 1.5km west of Scandal Point on Cart Rd – about a 15-minute uphill walk. The left luggage office is open from 9 am to 5 pm. Ordinary trains (1st/2nd class ₹189/16) run downhill to Kalka at 8.30 am, 2.25 pm, and 6.15 pm, returning at 4 am, 6 am and 12.15 pm. To travel in style, catch the posh Shivalik Express at 5.40 pm (returning at 5.30 am; ₹280, the 1st class only) or the Himalayan Queen at 10.30 am (returning at 4 pm; ₹167, chair car only). All 1stclass prices include food. The Himalayan Queen service connects with the Himalayan Queen trains to and from Delhi (chair car/2nd class ₹284/75). The train from Delhi’s Nizammudin station leaves at 5.25 am, departing from New Delhi station at 5.50 am. There’s a rail booking office next to the tourist office on the Ridge (h9am-4pm), or you can book at the train station.
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