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Shimla Travel Review: The Queen of Hills

4 stars - based on 6 reviews

Traveling to India in the summer can be a grueling experience for your senses even if you’re a seasoned traveler. Indian summers are well known for their extreme temperatures which can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) in some regions.

You no longer have to worry about facing the heat anymore though – as we start our journey to one of the coolest and most peaceful places in India.

Introducing Shimla

The long mountain range of Himalayas is a sight to behold; be it the snow-covered peaks or the lush green valleys; the mere sight of it is awe inspiring. Nestled in the lap of Himalayan ranges, Shimla, the “Queen of Hills” is a perfect mix of nature and culture.

Start planning your trip to Shimla
Shimla

Shimla © by Raman Sharma

Better known as the “summer capital” of India during the British rule, Shimla is a welcoming city offering great accommodation and mouthwatering Indian dishes to its travelers. Perched on the edge of modernism, the city still manages to hold on to its cultural values.

Age old Victorian architectural marvels, tall mountains, the picturesque landscape and its glorious sunny weather wrapped in chilly winds make it a perfect summer getaway.

Victorian Building in Shimla

Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla © by Ashok666

Brief History of Shimla

Shimla, in old times, was only famous because of the temple of Shyamala Devi, a Hindu goddess, after whom the name for the city has been given. As it was a welcome refuge from the heat of the Indian plains, many British officers built up their residences here. It soon gained the title of “summer capital” of the British India, with even the rest of the officers’ families settling here.

When a fire burned up the “upper bazaar”, which was the residence of Indians, the site was converted and rebuilt as the Mall Road – complete with a Town Hall, government offices and other entertainment facilities; whereas the Indians were shifted to the lower parts of the mountain now called the “lower bazaar”.

Due to the growing popularity of Shimla, the Kalka-Shimla railway line was constructed in 1903, complete with 103 tunnels and 864 bridges, easing accessibility to Shimla. An engineering wonder, it is now one of the UNESCO world heritage sites.

Shimla Kalka Railway

Shimla Kalka Railway (c) by gopal1035

Getting to Shimla

Now that you have decided to give it a chance, how will you get here? Shimla is a world famous city with good connectivity to the major cities of India. You can travel by any means of transport.

By air:  The closest airport would be the Delhi airport, although the Amritsar airport also caters to certain international destinations. Those looking for a quick visit can then board an hour long flight from New Delhi to Shimla, the only flight route to the city.

By train:  Kalka station is the only one that directly connects to Shimla.

This is the best way to reach Shimla as the journey offers mesmerizing scenery. The train is fully packed in every season, so make sure you book in advance.

By road:  Taxis are readily available outside of the Kalka station. Although it is a little more expensive, this way you can get the best view of the scenery along the winding roads. Not advisable, however, for people who are prone to motion sickness.

Additionally, you will find numerous buses that run between Delhi and Shimla, which can be booked online.

Tourist Attractions in Shimla

Probably the most famous tourist attraction in Shimla, and one that you must certainly not miss, is the “Mall Road”.

Scandal Point, Mall Road, Shimla

Scandal Point, Mall Road, Shimla (c) by Naciketa Datta

Automobiles are strictly forbidden here, so you can explore the entire Mall Road by foot. You will find lots of shops, apart from hotels and restaurants, selling everything from cheap artifacts to branded clothing.

The beautiful Christ Church located on Mall Road is one of the oldest churches in India and a major tourist attraction of Shimla, making it a perfect spot to take pictures.

Shimla Church © by Nick Irvine-Fortescue

British history is imprinted all over the city, on your strolls you will find that every famous building is an architectural marvel of the Victorian era. Some of these buildings are St. Michael’s Cathedral, Vice-Regal Lodge, Georgian Mansion.

Another famous attraction in Shimla is the Jakhoo Temple. The temple is of great mythological importance to Hindus and always has monkeys lurking around, which can steal your delicacies if you are not careful enough. Other temples of importance in Shimla are Kali Bari, Sankatmochan and Tara Devi.

At about 20 km from Shimla is the Naldhera Golf Course, which is considered to be one of the most challenging golf courses in India. Its popularity has led to many hotels which have sprung up around the area.

Naldhera Golf Course

Naldhera Golf Course (c) by code_martial

The ice skating rink in Shimla is the only natural one in south Asia.

At an altitude of over 1800 meters, Annandale, often called the playground of Shimla, is a popular destination for picnicking and is a favorite among tourists.

Annandale, Shimla © by Rohit Chhiber

Kufri is a winter destination about 19 km from Shimla and is famous for skiing and horseback riding.

Tattapani, about 55 km from Shimla city is known for the hot water springs on the banks of river Satluj.

Shimla is a fitness hub and provides a variety of recreational and adventurous activities such as hiking, trekking, skiing, and paragliding.

Where to stay

You can find 3 star hotels in Shimla on Mall Road(!) starting from around $54 per night, but more options are available.

Some of the best hotels in the city are Oberoi Cecil, Willow Banks Hotel, Radisson Hotel, Koti Resorts and East Bourne Resort.

Besides Shimla City

Shimla may be one of the most popular summer destinations from the British rule to the recent times, but some people who have visited the city may vouch the fact that it is overcrowded with more hotels than there are trees adorning its landscape.

A few kilometers drive away, you can find some of the most beautiful and unspoiled scenic beauties there are. Some of these popular places are Mashobra, Fagu, Shogi, Chail with many renowned hotels already opened up there.

Some of the well recommended luxury hotels here are Wildflower Hall (Mashobra), Park Woods (Shogi), Tarikas Jungle Retreat (Chail) and Hotel Oakwood (Chail).

Wildflower Hall Hotel

Wildflower Hall Hotel

Wildflower Hall, Oberoi Group offers the perfect refuge for people who are looking for a peaceful and relaxing holiday. With the per night cost of a room for one person being just around 300 USD, it is an affordable price for the extreme luxury you will experience.

Guesthouses in Shimla

Another inviting feature in Shimla tourism is the availability of guesthouses there. Homemade food, warm and courteous people, and the first hand experience of Indian culture will make your trip memorable.

Some of the best guesthouses nearby are: Aapo Aap Homestay, North Moon Homestay, and are both less than half an hour drive away from Shimla.

Pros:

  1. Breathtaking sceneries that will soothe your eyes and soul
  2. Affordable accommodation
  3. Much to see and many activities which will keep tourists engaged
  4. Shops offer inexpensive artifacts made out of wood, along with woolen clothes and jewelry.
  5. Variety of Indian cuisines to sample.

Cons: 

  1. Very crowded in the peak season.
  2. Be careful when booking budget hotels in the main city. Read reviews first.
  3. Getting to Shimla can be difficult and tiring.

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