Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India: A Complete Tour Guide

A wonderful abode in the Himalayas, the city of Shimla is surrounded by scenic pine-covered hills and snow-capped peaks. Located in the magnificent hill state of Himachal Pradesh in India, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. From honeymooners to adventure seekers, the city serves as a charming retreat to a large number of people. The enchanting beauty of this hill station has attracted countless filmmakers and cinematographers. This erstwhile summer capital of the British, still retains its colonial-era charm through its spectacular historical churches and institutes, like Christ Church, Indian Institute of Advanced Study and many more. The majestic Himalayas have a certain allure that makes you forget all your worries. Walk along the charming Mall Road and fill your shopping bags with beautiful souvenirs. When you are exhausted with all the shopping, you can satiate your taste buds with hot, steaming local food. Revel in the picturesque views from the scenic Jakhoo Hill or explore your spiritual side at the ancient Jakhoo Temple. Indulge in the adrenaline-pumping activities such as skiing, bungee jumping and zip-lining at Kufri. Shimla gives its tourists the chance to discover the best of the Himalayas, completed by rich cultural heritage and enthralling attractions.

Snow-capped Himalayan peaks and green pastures surround Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Its spectacular hills are dotted with old buildings from the colonial era and the town’s bazaars bustle with local life and quaint little shops. Bordered by a dense cedar forest, Shimla offers spectacular vistas of majestic snow-clad peaks. The charm of this town lies in its narrow lanes, the people you bump into and the wonderful views that greet you around every bend in the road.

Best time to Visit Shimla

Answer to this question will depend on whether you are planning a winter trip or in the months of summer; and what exactly do you seek. From an overall basis however, the months from March to June are fairly considered as the best time to visit Shimla. The temperature at this time will range between 10°C to 28°C. This is the time when the weather is neither too cold or warm; and both days and nights are pleasant. If you were however planning a winter tip and wanted to see plenty of snow, then the months of January and February will be the best time to visit here. Temperature however at this time can dip as low as −4 °C, so carry plenty of woolens, jackets and warm clothes is highly advised.

If you however would like to witness the lush green valleys; and different type of flowers blossoming all around than the months of July, August and September would be best to visit Shimla. This is the time when the monsoon is either in the valley or has just passed and breathes in life to the fauna and flora of the region. Be advised however that rainy season also brings in the risk of incessant rains and landslides as a result. You may even get restricted to your hotel room entirely if it rained non-stop.

How to Reach Shimla

Shimla is very well connected and you can reach here either by road, air or train. Jubarhati, which is about 23 kilometers from the town, is the nearest airport. There are regular flights going from Jubarhatti to Chandigarh and Delhi.

An even fun and better way however will be to get here by Train. Yes, I am referring to the famous toy train that travels between Kalka and Shimla. You can reach Kalka by either a train from Delhi or Chandigarh and then board the Toy Train. The entire journey is on a narrow gauge rail track, covering a distance of 96 kilometers in about 7 hours.

If you want to get here by Bus, then there are regular buses to Shimla from almost all major cities in North India. Chandigarh is at a distance of 117 kilometers from Shimla, Manali at 260 kilometers and Delhi at 343 kilometers. Coming from Delhi, you can board overnight air conditioned luxury bus from ISBT Kashmiri Gate, or may even catch a daytime bus that starts from ISBT in the morning.

Best way however would be to travel by your own vehicle; either by a motorcycle or Car. Driving from Delhi, you will first travel on NH1 to reach Ambala. After crossing Ambala and just before Chandigarh, take the diversion to the right on NH22 and continue towards Shimla via Kandaghat. The entire journey from Delhi to Shimla will take about 6-7 hours and about 2-3 hours from Chandigarh, depending upon your speed and breaks.

Road Condition to Shimla

The entire stretch between Delhi to Shimla is a smooth run. Both NH1 between Delhi and Chandigarh and then NH22 between Chandigarh and Shimla remain in excellent condition throughout the year. The only problem on this stretch earlier were the narrow roads and traffic of Kala but with Himalayan Expressway being now operational, the complete journey has turned into a bliss.

Where to stay in Shimla

Shimla is one of the most visited hill stations in our country which means that no matter which month you arrive here in, finding a place to stay will not be a problem at all. Hotels here are available in every range, from luxury 4 star resorts to budgeted guest houses. You can easily find a room here for as low as Rs. 500 – Rs. 700 per night. As a matter of fact, the moment you enter Shimla, you will have agents chasing you for a good hotel deal.

Whether or not to book in advance depends upon your discretion but is not required. If you have already decided on a hotel and know where you want to stay, you may book. If you are on a budget or not sure of the hotel, then best would be to reach Shimla, find a hotel per your liking and negotiate an on the spot deal.

What to See in Shimla

Shimla has an ample list of tourist attractions. You can spend days here and still not be done with the list. Some places are right in the town whereas some other are at a little distance like Kufri. Below is a list of some of the primary attractions of Shimla; places that can be termed as a “must visit place” and are located in the city itself.

Mall Road: Main shopping street known as “The Mall” or “Mall Road”. It is more or less the centre of all activity here and runs as town’s lifeline. Cafes, restaurants and social hangouts on Mall Road are especially popular with locals and tourists alike.

Christ Church: It is the second oldest church in Northern India, dating back to 1857. Situated on The Ridge, it is one of the prominent landmarks of Shimla and a fine display of neo-Gothic architecture.

Scandal Point: It is known so because this is where the Maharaja of Patiala had eloped with the daughter of the British Viceroy. Back then, it the the scandal of highest order.

Jakhu Hill: The highest peak around Shimla, at a height of 8,000 ft, offering a magnificent view of the valley around.

Shimla State Museum: Full of several ancient artifacts displaying the cultural wealth of Himachal Pradesh

Statue of Lord Hanuman at Jakhu Hill: This 108 feet tall statue stands at a height of 8,500 ft above sea level.

Viceregal Lodge: Dating back to 1888, this lodge was built by British architect Henry Irwin and served as the residence of the British Viceroy of India

Rothney Castle: Rothney Castle was the home of Alllan Octavian Hume, the British civil servant who founded the Congress in 1885

Things to do in Shimla

Below is a list of some activities that you may indulge yourself in while visiting Shimla. I am not including things like hiring a cab and drive an hour to visit a nearby place; but things that you can do while staying in Shimla city itself.

Take a Walk on The Ridge

The ridge is an area in Shimla near Jhaku Hill and the Observatory. This is the place where Shimla’s fairs, festivals and functions are held. Tourists come here to see several colonial style buildings; a church; a library and statues of Mahatma Gandhi.

Trek to Jhaku Hill

At a height of 2,455 metres, the top of Jhaku hill offers a mesmerizing view of Shimla and the entire Shivalik range around. It is a fun trek of about 30 minutes to the top through a lush forest terrain.

Shop at Mall Road

While you are in Shimla, do not forget to do some shopping at the famous Mall road and buy yourself some souveniers.

Ride the Kalka – Shimla Mountain Railway

Take a ride in the famous Toy train of Shimla. It is a journey of 96 kilometers that will take you over 864 bridges and 102 tunnels, including the longest one at Barog. Scenic vistas will accompany you throughout the journey and you will have a hard time to stop clicking your camera.

Weather of Shimla

The weather in Shimla is mostly cool through the year. The summers can be moderately warm but winters will be extremely cold. During summer, the temperature will fluctuate between 10°C to 28°C. The average temperature during winter is is 10°C to 0°C, but the record low temperature is −12.2°C.

Clothes to Pack for Shimla Trip

If visiting in summer, pack light cottons for the day as the sun is quite strong. The temperature at evening however may drop a bit so pack a light jacket as well.

If visiting Shimla in the winter, carry woolens, thermals and a heavy jacket. To keep warm when it snows, boots, gloves, a cap and muffler are essential.

If you are prone to motion sickness, then do not forget to pack some medication for it.

If visiting in Summer, packing a good Sunblock lotion and sunglasses will be a good idea.

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