Things To Do In Shimla
Most famous for its breathtaking views of the beautiful snowcapped Himalayan Mountains, Shimla is a city that has stood untouched since British colonial rule, a city suffused with Victorian architecture and history. A favorite retreat in the summers for both British and Indian travelers, Shimla is both calm and comfortably relaxed. The capital, Himachal Pradesh, has places like Scandal Point, where labyrinthine bazaars meet sprawling shopping mall. This is the city Mahatma Gandhi used to frequently visit in the 1930’s and 1940’s, to stay in a gorgeous Georgian mansion.
When To Go:
The weather is always good in Shimla, and you can visit at any time of year. If you ask the residents the best time to visit they will explain that the spring is made for cuddling, the winters are there for fuddling, summers are for mingling, and autumn is for bustling. Monsoons, of course, are for tumbling. In the fall, you go trekking or hiking in the alluring green hills of the beautiful city. The monsoons can be slightly dangerous if you are visiting with family because the rain causes excessive landslides in the region.
Winter in Shimla falls between November and December. The temperature can drop to between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius, and if you are lucky, you might see a rare freeze in January. Shimla is at its hottest in April, when the temperature rises to 27 degrees Celsius, which is very mild and pleasant. All in all, Shimla is worth exploring throughout the year. However, if you're planning a visit, the best months of the year to go would be September, October, November and then again from February through May. If you go during the summers you may find some snow capped peaks in the higher region.
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Here's a list of all the fun things to do and places to visit while in Shimla:
The Viceregal Lodge, located on the Observatory Hill, is also known as the Rashtrapati Ni. It is the only building in Shimla that occupies an entire hill all by itself. Built in 1888, this lodge was the summer home for the Viceroy of India, the British Raj leader who governed the subcontinent from 1888-1946. The massive stone edifice still stands surrounded by lush green grounds and tall pine trees on the hill. The architect was Henry Irvine, who worked for the Public Works Department of the colonial government.
The six-story lodge was built in the style of the mansions of Scottish barons. The entrance opens to the south and leads to the reception hall, which is decorated with a magnificent spiraling staircase and a grand fireplace. History says that all the bricks and stones were brought to the hill by mule. The gallery, paneled throughout with teak, leads to the state drawing room, ballroom, and the wood-paneled dining room, which has a splendid display of armors from the previous Governor-Generals and Viceroys of the subcontinent. The historical architecture of the lodge is a must-see.
Tara Devi Temple
The Tara Devi temple is located on top of another hill, about 11 kilometers away from the main Shimla region. It can be reached by traveling on the Shimla National Highway. The verdant landscapes surrounding the building give the temple a very peaceful environment. The incredible views from the temple and the hill are breathtaking, adding extra incentive to visit this holy place. The origin of the temple can traced back to about 250 years, when it is said that the goddess Tara was brought all the way to Himachal Pradesh from West Bengal.
The story of the building of the temple is very interesting and if you get the chance, you should hear it from a local. A Maharaja visited and ordered a particular temple made for the goddess out of ‘Ashtadhatu’, a material made from eight different elements. When the cool breezes roll along the hilltop, the view from the temple is so awe-inspiring and spiritual that it feels like the goddess Tara is giving her blessings to visitors. A trip to this historic temple with such an interesting story behind its building is a must! Rejuvenate yourself with the scenery of the temple and the customs within it.
The vast meadow of Annandale is filled with dense trees and is surrounded by a valley. This spot is most sought after for picnics and serenity. The picnic spot used to be a racing ground, which was also used for polo and cricket. It is well kept by the army, boasting an Army Heritage Museum, containing many historical uniforms, weapons and even signed documents from the 1971 war with Pakistan.
The view is highly picturesque, so do not forget your camera! Now misspelled as Annandale by the locals and other people, the grounds have always been an important part and venue for various Anglo-Indian festivals and events. Visit this place for a picnic, a party, fancy fairs, flowers, polo tournaments, and races. In addition to its natural beauty, Annandale now hosts the Dussehra festival, army exercises and parades and also functions as a heliport. Take a basket of food with you and enjoy sitting in the midst of mountains and trees while relaxing and truly taking a vacation.
Kalka Shimla Railway
The Kalka Shimla Railway has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage and is one of the best ways to enjoy the sceneries and views within Shimla. This toy train takes you to Kalka and back. The journey is long, about 5 to 6 hours, but well worth the time spent. You pass through a landscape of dense plantation and hills— full of oaks, wild pomegranate plants, brick viaducts and Himalayan springs. If you want to admire these sights, book your seat in advance, because this activity is one of the most famous ones amongst tourists and it can be difficult to secure a spot on short notice.
The Railbus is another exciting and enticing feature of the railway line. This bus has costly seats but is faster than the toy train. Prime Minister Benazhir Bhutto once traveled in the Railbus to discuss the terms of the Shimla agreement with Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mr. Zulfiqar Ali. Take a ride in this historic vehicle and enjoy the natural beauty of Shimla.
Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex
Located in the heart of the city on the Mall Road is the Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex, a distinctive old building with Victorian and Gothic style architecture. It is one of the oldest buildings in both the Himachal Pradesh and greater India. It dates back almost 122 years and was designed by the architect Henry Irwin. You can visit many sections of the complex, which includes the city museum, an art gallery, an amphitheatre, the new multipurpose theatre, the old theatre and even a conference hall.
The city museum displays different historical items and artifacts. The Victorian theatre in the Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex is where legends like Rudyard Kipling, K. L. Sehgal and Prithviraj Kapoor were known to perform. Built in 1887, the Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex has been a major attraction for both local people and for tourists from across the world. Go explore the culture and traditions of the city in the complex and enjoy the performances.
The famous Jakhu Temple of Shimla lies on top of Jakhu Hill, a few kilometers away from the main city. The climb to the temple is beautiful, the trail studded all around with deodar trees. The temple is dedicated to the Monkey God, Hanuman. Situated on the highest peak in Shimla, this temple also has an interesting historic and religious story behind its construction. Ask the locals there to explain the legendary story to you!
The temple is supposedly built around the area where Hanuman’s footprints were found and is one of the most sacred places for his followers. Tourists throng to see the magnificent scenery and to experience the aura of the temple itself. Many monkeys can be found here, fed by people who pay their respects to the temple. Go to this profound place of religion and learn the history it has to share.
The Glen of Shimla is situated near Annandale and the Summer Hills, in a U-shaped valley surrounded by the dense forest of Summer Hills. It is hard to find and it is better if you find a guide who knows the way because the path to this hidden glen is trek of about 3 to 4 kilometers. The Shimla Glen is like a small waterfall right in the middle of the forest.
Plan a picnic and trek down to this site to enjoy the view of water within the forest. The Glen is basically a reserve forest and a habitat for a wide variety of animals. Take a proper tour with a guide and make the most out of your day. It is not safe or advisable to stay at the glen after evening so be sure to plan accordingly. Away from the busy city, this spot is perfectly peaceful with no noise and interruption. This exciting trek will add enthusiasm of your trip and offers a natural touch to your vacation in the beautiful mountains of Shimla.
The mysteriously named Scandal Point is located at the convergence of the two main roads of Shimla city, the Ridge and Mall Roads. The tale of the Scandal Point involves the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, who was known for his charisma and charming character, and the daughter of the British Viceroy. She was forced to live here until she fell in love with the Maharaja and it is said that in 1892, they both eloped together from the Scandal Point.
Rather than having him executed for this act, the Viceroy expelled the Maharaja from Shimla. Some tour guides will spice up the story by telling that the Maharaja kidnapped the Viceroy’s daughter from this point rather than eloping with her. There are many versions of the story and it is believed by some that it was Rajindra Singh who kidnapped the girl because he had an English wife. Experience the mystery by taking a tour, and feel the story come to life.
Shimla Christ Church
The Shimla Christ Church, built in 1857, is the second oldest church in North India, taking 11 years to complete. The structure is made of bricks and stone mortared with lime. Located near the Ridge, the church is easy to reach and a central place for the people of Shimla. The interior is plain, but this only adds to the majesty of the five glass paintings inside, which give the church a divinely grand look.
The paintings represent 5 virtues of the Christianity: faith, hope, charity, patience, fortitude and humility. At night, the church becomes a scenic place, with lights illuminating the building. Take a trip to this sacred site and walk in the footsteps of the British Raj and many other generations of visitors.
Shimla Heritage Walk
If you really crave the history and culture of Shimla, the Shimla Heritage Walk is the best way to get a closer look. The walk is about 4 kilometers long, starting at the Viceregal Lodge and the Church, then taking you in sequence to all the principal sights of Shimla. This walk is carried out by professional tourism companies and the people leading the walk are all well-educated about the history of the area and the buildings that you visit.
During the walk, you will catch beautiful glimpses of the Himalayas, along with colorful buildings and breathtaking natural beauty. Take your camera along to capture the memories. The Shimla Heritage Walk is an absolute must for you to enjoy the true essence of the city and to learn the true history of the sites from an expert.
The Mall Road, Shimla
The Mall Road of Shimla is a major tourist attraction in the city. You will find plenty of shops, restaurants and a heritage theatre here. The Mall Road is known to be the hub of merriment and fun in the city itself. Right adjacent to the Mall Road are the Tibetan and Lakkad bazaars which are another site for shopping.
You can find a range of cuisines here, from Punjabi to Chinese and Continental to the South. There's even some delicious fast food. If you are looking for some traditional things from the Himachal Pradesh, then you're in luck— this is a great place to find shawls and handicrafts of the region. Walk along the Mall Road to find places to shop and eat while also admiring the Gaiety Theatre here.
Sidh Baba Ka Mandir
A little farther from the main city of Shimla, at the top of another hill between the Pandhawa and Rajgarh, lies the Sidh Baba Ka Mandir. Legend says that Maharaja Bhupinder Singh wanted to build a temple, but the construction could not be completed. Then one night the Maharaja had a dream, in which a saint told him that he was buried on the hilltop and that it was his place of meditation, and the Maharaja should build a temple there instead. So the Maharaja built the temple Sidh Baba Ka Mandir in honor of the saint. The temple offers peace of mind through its spiritual aura and its natural beauty. The green trees and the lush grass are perfect compliments to the temple. A trip to the Mandir is recommended for all visitors to Shimla.
The city of Shimla is beautiful and full of intriguing history related to both British and Indians. Plan your trip here to revel in the pleasant weather of the mountain area throughout the year. Explore the places and discover the history. Go trekking and sit at the Glen. Plan a picnic to Annandale. Go to the Jakhu and Tara Devi temples to delve into the religious and cultural activities of the city. The hustle and bustle of the Mall of Shimla, along with the variety of food it has to offer, can't be beat. Visit the highly educative Shimla Heritage Walk or the peaceful Sidh Baba Ka Mandir; there are many experiences to be had, but above all: enjoy your trip to this heavenly place.
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