Shimla, an urban hill town, is one of the most popular travel destinations in Himachal Pradesh. Situated in the Shivalik Hills of the lower Himalayas, it is spread across seven hills and connecting ridges. The colonial past; the amazing views of the higher Himalayas; the walks along the mall and the bazaars are some of the attractions of Shimla. It is true that with the development, the forest cover has turned thinner in the town. But you can still find some wooded trails here which will satiate your eagerness of connecting with the nature. During the British rule, Shimla was the summer capital of India. After independence, it became the capital of the newly formed state of Himachal Pradesh.
Attractions in Shimla:
An open stretch of land, straddling the ridge connecting Shimla’s hills, is the hub of Shimla’s social scene. Situated at a height of 7,316 feet, it also serves as a breezy promenade. From here, you get splendid views of the rolling foothills and the distant snow-clad Pir Panjal and the Great Himalayan ranges. During summer, the bands please the visitors with their performances. You can get your kids some pony rides here. Several roads and lanes go in different directions from the Ridge offering you ample opportunities to embark on endless walks. But before you begin, don’t miss to check out the Christ Church.
This neo-Gothic Christ Church is a prominent landmark of Shimla. It overlooks the eastern end of the Ridge. Designed by JT Boileau, this church was built during 1846-57. It is the second oldest church in the northern India. The church organ and the stained-glass windows are the notable elements of the building.
The Mall forms the centre of the 7 km long pedestrian-only mall road of Shimla. This mall is more happening than any other hill-town malls of Himachal Pradesh. With its modern cafes, restaurants and shops, it is in sync with the present era. Scandal Point is the highest and the busiest part of the mall. A walk from Scandal Point to Combermere Bridge is popular amongst locals and tourists alike. The Mall is dotted with many heritage buildings like Gaiety Theatre, Gorton Castle, Oakover (now the chief minister’s house) and a wooden mansion which has been turned into Punjab Circuit House. To reach the Mall from the Cart Road, you can utilize the passenger lift run by HPTDC.
A popular landmark of the Mall, Gaiety Theatre was built in 1887. This small theatre, just nine rows deep and 12 seats across, was meant for amateur theatricals. Some of the popular names connected with this theatre include Rudyard Kipling, Lord Lytton and Amrita Shergil. Prithviraj Kapoor and many other actors of the Indian film industry have acted here. It was renovated in 2008. Website: www.gaiety.in
Viceregal Lodge (Rashtrapati Niwas)
Viceregal Lodge is the most impressive colonial-era monument in Shimla. This grey stone structure, built under Lord Dufferin in 1888, flaunts English Renaissance style. The building is surrounded by trimmed lawns adorned with flowerbeds. It is now called the ‘Rashtrapati Niwas’ and houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Its magnificent teak-panelled entrance hall and lawns are open to visitors. It was from this building that the viceroy would control the vast territory under the British rule. A plaque on the rear of the building has names of the peaks visible in the distance.
Temples in Shimla
Kamna Devi Temple
This small temple is situated on the top of the Prospect Hill. It is a little over 2 km from the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies and a short climb from Boileauganj. There are spectacular views of the hills, valley and Shimla town from up there.
Jakhoo Hill Temple
On the top of the Jakhoo Hill, there is a small Hanuman Temple and a giant Hanuman Statue. You can either trek up or drive up. Beware of monkeys if you go on foot.
Kali Bari Temple
This ancient temple is dedicated to Shyamla Devi, an incarnation of the Goddess Kali. It is said that it was originally on the Jakhoo Hill; British had shifted it here. The temple is just a short walk from the mall. Beware of monkeys.
Tara Devi Temple
You can drive up to this temple; trekking is exhaustive (about 2 hrs). This is one of the most revered temples of the region. It is said that the Goddess had commanded the Raja of Junga to build a temple here.
Walks and Treks
The summit of the Jakhoo Hill is the highest point in Shimla. It has a temple and is surrounded by the forest. This place is 2 km east of the Ridge and is located at an altitude of 2450 m (8038 ft). The path meanders through deodar and oak forests. Some of the places on the way offer panoramic views of Shimla and its surroundings. Sunrise and sunset appear beautiful from the top. The path to Jakhoo Hill is the favourite haunt of the monkeys of Shimla. Hence, it is risky to carry any food items in hand.
Walk to Annandale is the finest of all the walks in Shimla. This four-kilometre long walk from Scandal Point will take you through the shady woods. During the colonial times, all major social events were held here. Annandale has a golf course and an army museum.
You need to walk further, towards west, from Annandale to reach Glen. It is a picnic spot with a stream flowing through the forest.
Potter’s Hill and Chadwick Falls
Peaceful and beautiful Potter’s Hill can be reached by a 1 km long walk from the Summer Hill. Chadwick Falls is located a bit further and it comes to life during the monsoon.
Trek to Taradevi Temple
This is the longest trek in the vicinity of Shimla. It takes about two hours to reach the shrine from Tara Devi bus stand on Kalka-Shimla Highway. You won’t get any provisions on the way up, so carry enough water with you. The path traverses through the oak and pine forests.