Shimla is the capital of the Indian state Himachal Pradesh. It's also the largest city in the state and was once known as the summer capital of India. It's surrounded by green pastures and snow-capped Himalayan peaks. As a summer capital, Shimla has hosted many important political meetings in the past and has acted as a summer retreat for most of the prominent members of the government. Most of the buildings, temples and churches in Shimla have been styled in tudorbethan and neo-gothic architecture which adds to the charm of the city. Apart from being a major tourist attraction, Shimla is also known for it's colleges and renowned research institutes. It also has South Asia's largest natural ice skating rink.
In the month of January, I had the opportunity to visit Shimla and the place left me spell bounded! It has so much to offer - Temples, Churches, Museums, Adventure Activities, Markets, Food, View Points, Trekking Spots and the list goes on. Here's some of the places I was able to visit along with a few activities that you can enjoy :
1. Toy Train Ride : While there are quite a few ways to reach the city, the best means is to enjoy the toy train ride from Kalka to Shimla. The kalka-shimla railway was built by the British during their rule and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ride takes around 4-5hrs depending upon the weather and fog condition. Recently the Indian Govt. has introduced vistadome coaches for the passengers to enjoy the clear blue sky. Here's another interesting fact : In the 5 hours ride, you'll encounter 100+ tunnels!! If this doesn't get you on the toy train, I don't know what will!
2. Mall Road : The mall road provides an excellent view of the city. On either side, you'll come across innumerable shops selling all sorts of items. Shoes, clothes, woolens, food, wine, accessories, - there's nothing that you can't find. Enjoy a peaceful evening sipping a hot cup of coffee in any of the restaurants and watch the sunset over a snow-capped peak!
3. Jakhoo Temple : This temple is situated on top of the Jakhoo Hill which is the highest peak in Shimla. It's dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The statue of Hanuman built in the temple is considered to be the tallest statue in the entire world (108 feet) at such an altitude. It's visible from the city as well.
4. Sankat Mochan Temple : The sankat mochan temple is dedicated to Lord Ram and is another well known temple in the city. Located amidst lush greenery with a tranquil, picturesque surrounding, this temple provides you with the peaceful environment you're seeking. Beware of monkeys though!
5. Viceregal Lodge : This was by far my favorite tourist spot in Shimla. The Viceregal Lodge is also known as 'The Rashtrapati Niwas'. This was once the home of the British Viceroy Of India. Presently, most of the rooms in the place is restricted for tourists, the library and 1st floor is open only for scholars. They conduct a 45min tour which is a must-attend for everyone visiting the Lodge. The interiors are such as breathtaking as the exteriors and the tour guide does an excellent job explaining about the history of the place. Each room, each item in the house, each photograph on the wall has a story to tell.
6. The Ridge : The Ridge lies on the center of the city, adjacent to the Mall Road. It's a large open space and is a center of all cultural activities in the city. You'll fall in love with the architecture of the buildings and the view from the top. This place looks like a heaven after a snowfall which you might witness if you're lucky enough.
7. Christ Church : The Christ Church is located on the Ridge and is the most famous church in Shimla. It's the second oldest church in North India. Whether it's daytime or night, this place is a visual treat for the eyes. It's one of the important landmarks of the city. The prayers in the church are conducted in Hindi as well as English.
8. Kufri : Kufri is a small hill station located at a distance of 20km from Shimla. Any trip to Shimla is incomplete without visiting Kufri. This place has so much to offer. You can enjoy the various adventure activities at a very nominal price like - skiing, ice-skating, horse-riding etc. I'll be writing a separate blog to cover Kufri as it has so many amazing things to offer that it can't be confined here.
9. Enjoy Food At The Local Market : The local shops have some delicious food to offer. From budget-friendly places to fine-dine restaurants, from indian dishes to continental delicacies everything is available.
10. Buy A Souvenir : I always make sure to buy something from each place I visit. You'll find a wide variety of items to choose from if you're looking to buy a souvenir for yourself or gifts for your loved ones. As for me, I couldn't resist buying this hourglass :)