Shimla – The Erstwhile Summer Capital of British India

The breathtakingly beautiful hill station of Shimla, often referred to as the Queen of the Hills, is situated in the north-western Himalayan mountain range resting on a ridge at an altitude of 2,205 m or 7,234 ft. It is the capital city of the state of Himachal Pradesh in India and is surrounded by 7 hills – Jakhoo Hill, Bantony, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Observatory Hill, Invererarm Hill and Elysium Hill. The name Shimla is derived from the Goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali.

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Surrounded by dense pine, fir, rhododendron and oak forests and several small springs and streams, Shimla has a salubrious subtropical highland climate with pleasant summers and cold snowy winters. Popular activities for tourists include heritage walks, hiking tours and treks, skiing, ice skating and river rafting.

Shopping: Shimla is famous for handicrafts, wood and metalwork, shawls, pullovers, local tweeds, caps, Tibetan carpets, pickles, jams and squashes. One can pick up exquisite woolen and pashmina shawls, decorative items, handmade shoes, dolls, woolen caps, carved wooden sticks, toys and other wood items.

Attractions

Here is a brief list of the important places and events:

1. Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Gardens

Located on the Observatory Hill is the Viceregal Lodge and Botanical Gardens. Beautifully trimmed and cultivated gardens surround three sides of the building. The lodge now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies.

2. Indian Institute of Advanced Study

The Indian Institute of Advanced Study, located in the Viceregal Lodge is involved in research in humanities, Indian culture, religion, social sciences and natural sciences. Surrounded by spacious gardens and pine trees, the institute is an ideal place for students to study in peace.

3. The Mall

The Mall with many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, post offices and tourist offices is the main shopping center of Shimla. The famous Gaiety Theatre is also located here. Some of the historic buildings in the Mall include the Dalziel House which is one of the oldest buildings in Shimla, the Fingask Estate where Lord Chelmsford was born, the Chelmsford Club and the Sacred Art Convent Tat Tara Hall.

The Mall is the center of the cultural and social life of the people. Walking along the Mall and meeting people is a pleasant experience. The Ridge and Scandal Point are 2 places on the Mall which are favored by people for hanging out.

4. The Ridge

The Ridge is a huge open area near the Mall in Shimla with scenic views of the surrounding mountains.

5. Lower Bazaar

The Lower Bazaar is filled with less expensive hotels, restaurants and stores. A wholesale vegetable market is also located here.

6. Jakhu Hill

Jakhu Hill is at a distance of 2 km from Shimla and an altitude of 8,000 ft. Views of the rising and setting sun, the town of Shimla and the surrounding snow capped mountains from here are mesmerizing. There is also an ancient temple of Lord Hanuman at the top of Jakhu Hill.

7. Shimla State Museum

The Shimla State Museum has several interesting galleries related to pre-historic, Indian archaeology, wood carvings, Himachal archaeology, Pahari miniature paintings, monuments, photographs, Rajasthan paintings, bronzes, numismatics, arms, philately, anthropology, contemporary art & wall paintings.

8. Himachal State Museum & Library

Situated about 2.5 km from Scandal Point is the Himachal State Museum and Library. The museum has an interesting collection of historical sculptures, paintings, coins and photographs relating to the history of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Pahari, Mughal and Rajasthani miniature paintings are on display.

9. Summer Hill

Summer Hill is a charming township at a distance of 5 km from the Ridge and at an altitude of 6,500 ft. Summer Hill has the distinction of hosting Mahatma Gandhi during his visits to Shimla. Himachal Pradesh University is also located here.

10. Prospect Hill

A 15 minute walk from Boileauganj on Shimla-Bilaspur road, Prospect Hill – topped by Kamna Devi Temple – is an interesting place to visit.

11. Glenn

Glenn at a distance of 4 km from the Ridge is surrounded by thick forests. With gurgling streams flowing through, Glenn is an attractive picnic spot.

12. Elysium Hill

On the road leading through Lakkar Bazaar is Elysium Hill. Auckland House, the former home of Viceroy Lord Auckland – now converted into a girls school – is located here.

13. Chadwick Falls

Plunging down 67 m from Summer Hill is Chadwick Falls. Set amidst sylvan surroundings and some ancient old temples nearby, Chadwick Falls is the site of a fair held in the month of April every year.

14. Annandale

Situated at a distance of 2 to 4 km from the Ridge and at an altitude of 6,117 ft, Annandale is popular as a playground for cricket and polo. It is also a pleasant place to enjoy picnics.

15. Shimla Ice Skating Rink

The only natural ice skating rink in India is found in Shimla. An ice skating carnival is held annually by the Ice-skating Club in the month of January. A fancy dress competition is also held at the same time.

16. Tara Devi Hill

Tara Devi Hill is situated 11 km from the Shimla bus stand. A temple dedicated to the Goddess of stars is on top of the hill. A military dairy and the headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides are also located here.

17. Mashobra

Mashobra, at a distance of 13 km from Shimla, is the site of the annual Sipi fair held in the month of June. Mashobra is an ideal picnic spot and one can take pleasant walks in the oak and pine forests here.

18. Kufri

Situated 16 km from Shimla at a height of 8,600 ft. above sea level, Kufri is a haven for winter sports like skiing. Surrounded by dense forests, Kufri gives splendid views of the Himalayan Mountains. There is also a small zoo and a Potato Research Station here. The mini zoo houses pheasants, Tibetan wolves, brown bears, barking deer, leopards, yaks and black bears.

19. Chharabra

Chharabra is situated 13 km from Shimla en-route to Kufri. Surrounded by evergreen and dense pine forests, Chharabra offers stunning views of the Himalayan Mountains.

20. Naldehra

The Naldehra Golf Club with its 9 hole golf course is situated 22 km from Shimla. With curving hills and deodar forests, Naldhera is a beautiful place for picnics. Buses and taxis ply to Naldehra from Shimla.

21. Arki

Arki situated about 46 km from Shimla is the site of an old fort dating back to the 18th century.

22. Tatapani

Situated at a distance of 43 km from Shimla on the bank of the River Sutlej, Tatapani is famous for its hot sulfur springs. It is believed that the waters of the springs heal skin diseases. Semarsot Wildlife Sanctuary is nearby. One can reach Tatapani by taking a bus or taxi.

23. Fruit Research Station

The Fruit Research Station is located 18 km from Shimla and has the distinction of being the biggest of its kind in northern India.

24. Chail

Chail is at a distance of 43 km via Kufri and 62 km via Kandaghat from Shimla and an altitude of 2,250 m. Chail is a quaint and peaceful place and was the summer capital of the Maharaja of Patiala. The lush and thick forests surrounding Chail are home to several varieties of birds and deer.

25. Barog

Situated at a distance of 55 km from Shimla, Barog is a picturesque place with stunning views of the snow capped mountains and valleys.

26. Kasauli

The peaceful and pretty place of Kasauli is 77 km from Shimla at an altitude of 1,927 m. It is the place to be for unwinding and relaxing and getting away from the stress and strain of everyday life.

27. Solan

Named after Shoolini Devi, Solan is located 48 km from Shimla and is called the Mushroom City of India. The Dr. Y S. Parmar University of Horticulture & Forestry is situated here.

28. Chabba

Chabba is at a distance of 53 km from Shimla on the road to Tattapani. Apart from offering river rafting to visitors, it also houses one of the oldest hydroelectric power projects.

29. Narkanda

Situated at a distance of 64 km north of Shimla and at an altitude of 2,700m is the ski resort of Narkanda. Spectacular views of the Himalayan Mountains can be had from here.

Religious Places

30. Sankat Mochan Temple

A temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is located here at Sankat Mochan. A pretty view of Shimla town can be had from here.

31. Kali Bari Temple

Kali Bari Temple located near the Mall is dedicated to Shyamala Devi an incarnation of Goddess Kali.

32. Tara Devi Temple

Tara Devi Temple is situated on Tara Parvat at a distance of 15 km from Shimla and an altitude of 6,070 ft. Spellbinding views of the surrounding areas can be had from the temple. The forested hills around the temple give peace to the weary traveler.

33. Christ Church

Having the distinction of being the second oldest church in Northern India, Christ Church is situated on the Ridge. Christ Church has an aesthetically pleasing architecture and stained glass windows which represent the virtues of faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility.

34. Kalka-Shimla Railway

The Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge Railway connecting Kalka and Shimla was started in the year 1903. It has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The railway has entered the Guinness Book of World Records with the steepest rise in altitude for a distance of 96 km. A large section of the narrow gauge track is curved. The railway features a total of 102 tunnels and more than 800 bridges and viaducts.

The train journey through dense deodar, pine, oak and maple forests is truly amazing. The journey from Kalka to Shimla takes about 4 to 6 hours.

Fairs and Festivals

1. Bharara Fair

Bharara Fair is held in May in Bharara village near Kumharsain. Dances and rides are a highlight of this fair.

2. Bhoj Fair

Bhoj Fair is held in Guman village in Rohru Tehsil in November. This fair is attended by a large number of people.

3. Lavi Fair

Lavi Fair held in a place called Rampur in the month of November is a very important fair. Woolen goods, dry fruits, medicinal herbs, food grains, clothes and utensils are traded at this fair. People throng to this fair to watch the ‘Natti’ dances and cultural performances.

4. Mahasu Jatar

Mahasu Jatar is celebrated near Mahasu village about 6 km from the Shimla-Kotkhai road in the month of May. It is a 2 day festival. ‘Natti’ dances and folk songs are a huge draw with the people. Archery is another attraction for visitors.

5. Pathar-Ka-Khel-Halog

Pathar-Ka-Khel-Halog Fair is held in Halog village in the month of November. Stone throwing and ‘Hindola’ rides are the main highlights of this fair.

6. Sipi Fair

Sipi Fair is held in a place called Sihpur below Mashobra on 1st of May. Archery, cultural programs, variety shows, ‘Karyala’, juggling, magic and acrobatics are the main attractions of this fair.

7. Rohru Fair

Rohru Fair is held in Rohru on the 9th and 10th of April on the banks of river Pabbar. Trading, ‘Natti’ dances and cultural activities draw people in large numbers to this fair.

8. Summer Festival

The Summer Festival is held annually in May on the Ridge. Cultural programs and performances by school children are the major events.

9. Winter Sports Festival

Winter Sports Festival features ice skating in the natural ice skating rink, fancy dress carnivals, ice hockey and dances.

Quick Facts

Location: Shimla is located in the north-western Himalayan mountain range in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India.

Altitude: Shimla is located at an average altitude of 2,205 m or 7,234 ft.

Climate: The average annual temperature ranges from 3.95°C to 32.95°C. The summer season is from April to June with average temperatures from 14°C to 20°C. The winter season is from December to February with temperatures ranging from -7°C to +10°C. The monsoon season is from July to September which brings an average annual rainfall of 1,520 mm or 62 in. Heavy woolen clothing in winter and light clothing in summer is recommended.

Best Time to Travel: April to July is the best time to visit Shimla.

Accommodation: Budget hotels, luxury hotels, YMCA and homestays are available.

Getting There

By Flight: Jubberhatti is the nearest airport to Shimla at a distance of 26 km. Jubberhatti airport has connecting flights to Delhi and Kullu. Chandigarh airport which is the second nearest airport at a distance of 117 km from Shimla is connected to all the major airports in India. One can take a taxi from Jubberhatti airport to Shimla which takes about an hour to travel.

By Train: The nearest broad gauge railway station to Shimla is Kalka at a distance of 96 km. Kalka has direct train services to Delhi, Calcutta and Amritsar. A narrow gauge railway line connects Kalka and Shimla with the trains Shivalik Express, Shimla Mail and Kalka Shimla Rail Motor Car running between them. The journey from Kalka to Shimla takes about 4 to 6 hours.

By Road: Shimla has a good road network with towns and cities like Kalka, Chandigarh, Ambala, Delhi, Dehradun, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Jammu. The distance from Shimla to Kalka is 96 km, to Chandigarh is 117 km, Delhi is 370 km, Ludhiana is 220 km, Dehradun is 240 km, Kullu is 240 km, Manali is 280 km, Kalpa is 260 km, Narkanda is 64 km, Mandi is 156 km, Dharamshala is 280 km and Naham is 140 km. Taxis ply between Shimla and Kalka. Bus services are available between Shimla and Delhi. Driving time from Delhi to Shimla is approximately 8 hours and from Chandigarh to Shimla is 4 hours.

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