Located in the mid hills of the Western Himalaya, the town of Shimla came up in the wake of the ‘Gurkha wars’ that came to an end in 1815-16. From a small village, it grew to become the ‘summer capital’ of British India and from its heights almost one-fifth of the entire human race of the world was ruled for well over a century. Steeped in history, Shimla presents excellent examples of Colonial architecture. Set under the gaze of the snow-clad mountains – Shimla is now the State capital of Himachal Pradesh. With its easy paced life, enjoyable walks, well-developed facilities, year-round salubrious climate and a variety of sightseeing and other activities, Shimla has long been one of India’s most popular tourist destinations.
SEVEN HILLS: Shimla is built on Seven Hills which are:
Prospect Hill in western Shimla, which has the Kamna Devi temple.
Summer Hill in western Shimla, where the campus of Himachal Pradesh University is located.
Observatory Hill in western Shimla has the former Viceregal Lodge presently the premises of the Indian Institute of Advance Study.
Inveram Hill in western Shimla where the State Museum is housed.
Bantony Hill in central Shimla which has the Grand Hotel and ancient Kalibari Temple.
Jakhoo Hill in central Shimla is crowned by the temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
Elysium Hill in north-western Shimla on which are located the Auckland House, Longwood and which further reaches out towards the Bharari spur.
Height: Between 1950 m and 2300 m
Climate: Summer is mild and cottons and light woollens are suggested. In winter, the sunny days are pleasant – though the nights are cold and heavy clothing is required. Through the rest of the year, light woollens/cottons are suggested.
Getting There & Away: How to reach Shimla
Road: Chandigarh is at a distance of 125 kms and Delhi is 375 kms away.
Rail: Kalka railway station is 90 kms away and Chandigarh is at a distance of 125 kms. Shimla is connected by the charming heritage Narrow-gauge Kalka – Shimla train.
Air: Chandigarh airport is at a distance of 130 kms. Delhi 395 kms away and Shimla airport at Jubbarhatti is at a distance of 22 kms.
Tourist Attractions in Shimla
The Mall (2200 m) is the hub of Shimla’s social life and is lined by shops and restaurants. It is a pedestrian’s haven with no vehicular traffic.
The Ridge (2250 m) lies just above the Mall and has wide views of the mountains and valleys. A place for the family with ice-cream shops, balloon-sellers and horse-rides. It is flanked by the Christ Church consecrated in 1857, with fine stained glass windows and memorial tablets, and the neo-Tudor building of the Library. The Church remains open every day from 10 AM to 1 PM and 3 to 7 PM (summer) and 3 to 5 PM in winter.
The Lakkar Bazaar (2255 m) lies just 0.5 km off the Ridge and has budget-range souvenir shops. The Bharari spur (5 km round trip) is approached through Lakkar Bazaar and makes a good walk.
The Gaiety Theatre complex is on the Mall. A part of the old neo-Gothic Town Hall that was partially demolished as far back as in 1911, the building has recently been restored and adaptively rebuilt. The jewel-like Victorian theatre, where several notables have performed, has all its glory back. Drama, music, dance and other performances are held regularly at the Gaiety which also has an art gallery.
The Tibetan Market sells a variety of inexpensive imports – primarily apparel and electronic trinkets.
The temple of Kali Bari (2100 m) 1 km, lies past the half-timbered General Post Office and the deconsecrated church of St. Andrew (now a wing of the State Library). The temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali and is believed by some, to hold the original stone image of the goddess ‘Shyamala’ after whom the town of Shimla may have been named.
St. Michael’s Cathedral lies just below the Deputy Commissioner’s office and is built in the French-Gothic style. Over the altar is a rich tapestry of glass that depicts a group of the crucifixion. A statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, presented by the people of Mexico has also been installed in the church.
Indian Institute of Advance Studies – The former Viceregal Lodge (1983 m), 4 kms from Scandal Point today houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Completed in 1888, this combines a variety of architectural styles like Scottish Baronial and English Renaissance. The interior has remarkable woodwork. The building is surrounded by attractive gardens while the hill has some good short walks. Entry by ticket. Open form 10 AM to 5 PM on all weekdays.
Himachal’s State Museum (2150 m), 3 kms from Scandal Point, has a rich display of the state’s cultural, artistic and archaeological heritage. Open from 10 AM to 5 PM on all weekdays except Mondays and ‘Gazetted Holidays’.
The Jakhoo (2455 m) hill towers over Shimla. The top is crowned by the temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman (2.5 kms). The views from the top are fantastic and you can hire a pony (from the Ridge) or a taxi (via Sanjauli) to go to the top.
The Glen (1830 m) 9 kms round trip by foot going downhill. It is a thickly wooded ravine, through which a stream flows. It is a popular picnic spot and is quite pristine after crossing the initial stretch. It can be approached by small vehicles or on foot.
Annandale (1864 m) 9 kms round trip – downhill going, uphill returning and also accessible by car is best known as a helipad. It is a large glade that has a golf course and is surrounded by thick deodar woods. There is an attractive little temple, built in the local style on its periphery. A museum of army history and a large green house are also located here.
Kamna Devi Temple (2150 m) 5 kms is revered by many and lies above Bolleauganj. This offers good views of the town, the airfield and the mountain ranges.
Tara Devi (1851 m) 12 kms is crowned by a temple of the same name. Vehicular access to the shrine is along a road that bifurcates at Shoghi. The views are spectacular. Sunday mornings witnesses a throng of devotees while the temple administration offers a lunch ‘Bhandara’.
Sankat Mochan Temple (1250 m) 6 kms is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and lies short of Shimla by the highway and is accessible by vehicle.
Both Potter’s Hill (1280 m) and the Chadwick Falls (1586 m) 9 kms, lie past the university campus at Summer Hill. As the name suggests, Potter’s Hill was where Shimla once got its clay for pots and pitchers. Ahead of this lies the rain-fed Chadwick Falls. Summer Hill and Potter’s Hill are accessible by car. The former residence of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, where Mahatma Gandhi often stayed is also located here.
On Shimla’s southern slope, lies the village of Bihargaon (a 8 kms hike going downhill). This has excellent examples of traditional Himachal architecture. The main temple is dedicated to the deity of harvest, Dhanu Devta is located by a glade looking up at the town of Shimla. It is approached through the old cemetery road below St. Edward’s School or via ‘Mist Chamber’ in Khalini, through Tuttikandi.
Buddhist monasteries are at Kusumpti (Nyingma-pa sect, accessible by vehicle, 7 kms) and at Sanjauli (Geluk-pa sect, 5 kms).
Excursions around Shimla
Kushala village is 8 kms from Shoghi and has an attractive temple.
At an altitude of 1486 m, Hewan village is 9 kms from Shimla and 4 kms from the University Campus at Summer Hill. Surrounded by thick woods of pine and oak, the village has the rustic shrines of Gan Devta and is well known for the rain-fed Chadwick waterfall. This also has the art gallery of the internationally renowned artist and sculpture Sanat Chatterjee whose work has been supplemented by his talented artist family.
Junga (1500 m) 26 kms has an old palace, the State Police Training Centre and the Ashwani stream. A hike trail leads from Shimla’s Kasumpti locality to Junga.
Dhami (2090 m) 28 kms was the seat of the erstwhile princely state of the same name and lies just off the highway that leads from Shimla to Mandi. The remains of its old palace may still be seen. Its thick woods of oak and deodar were popular hunting grounds of the British viceroys.
Arki (1045 m) 52 kms was the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Baghal. The old palace has some fine wall paintings. There are many old temples in the area – one of the interesting ones is that of Luturu Mahadev that lies in a deep cave accessed by a sharp climb. Picturesque picnic spots are there at Kaliseli, Brahmpukhar, Bari Dhar and Ghanagu Ghat.
Mashobra (2149 m) 12 kms is a well wooded suburb with good views. Nearby is the pleasant picnic ground of Craignano, the site of the celebrated confectioner Cavalier Peliti and the Fruit Research Station where the English varieties of apple were first grown in the 19th century. Down the valley is the beautiful glade of Sipur.
Naldehra (2044 m) 23 kms has a thick cedar forest, picnic grounds and a nine hole par 68 golf course. One of the oldest golf courses in the country. It was designed by Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy of India (1899 – 1905). He often camped here for days on end and even named his daughter as ‘Naldera’ after this spot.
Tattapani (650 m) 51 kms has hot sulphur springs that are known for their healing powers.
Kufri (2510 m) 16 kms is one of the earliest places to be associated with skiing in India. It has fine views of the deep valleys and thick forests that are framed by a backdrop of unmelting snows. This also has the Himalayan Nature Park.
Fagu (2450 m) 22 kms is a small village on the way to Narkanda. It offers wonderful views and walks in the area.
Narkanda (2700 m) 64 kms is famous for its ski slopes and wide views of the snow covered mountains. This place lies close to Himachal’s apple growing heartland of Kotgarh and Thanedar.