Status: Summer Capital of India
Attractions: Mall Road
Best season: Summers
Excursions: Chail, Kufri, Rohtang Pass
Shimla derives its name from Shayamla, which is another name for Goddess Kali. Shimla came into light when the Britishers discovered it in 1819. Till then it was a part of the Nepalese kingdom. Soon after the British came to this place many Europeans started making houses here. In 1864 Shimla was declared as the summer capital of India. After Independence Shimla was the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. In 1903 a rail line was constructed between Kalka and Shimla.
Shimla has been blessed with all the natural bounties which one can think of. It has got a scenic location, it is surrounded by green hills with snow capped peaks. The spectacular cool hills accompanied by the structures made during the colonial era creates an aura which is very different from other hill stations. Shimla has all the facilities required for tourists but they can be very expensive particularly during the peak season. Often it becomes difficult to find accommodation here during the peak season. And remember water is a perennial problem in Shimla.
Shimla in itself is a very small town and is very well maintain and neatly kept city. In central part of the town is Mall which almost divides the city in two parts. In the center of the city is the famous scandal point which was immortalised by Rudyard Kipling. From Christ Church to the Scandal point is the Ridge area. The Ridge is a place where all tourist flock and spend time. From the ridge one can hire a pony to other places in Shimla. Just below the ridge is the Tibetan market where one can purchase foreign items which often are fake. Shimla has got a big but very unorganized bus stand on the cart Road. A lift has been provided from the Cart Road to the eastern Mall road. This lift carries people from lower to upper Shimla. The rest of Shimla is connected by unnamed and steep lanes and steps.
Climate : Shimla is located on the slopes of lower Himalayas. The altitude of Shimla from the sea level makes it a very cool place. The temperature range is not very high and the maximum temperature rarely crosses 25 degrees during summers. The summers are marked by rainfalls. The nights of summers are cool and light warm cloths are required during this time. Winter are cold and chilly winds from the upper Himalayas makes the place really cold. Around Christmas or last week of December Shimla gets snow. The snowfall during this time attracts many tourists and accommodation can prove to be difficult. The Best season to visit Shimla is between April and August. But the main season is between December and January. It is better to avoid the rainy seasons.
Getting There : The Jubbarhatti airport is 23 kms from Shimla. Major domestic airlines cater their services to Shimla. The flights are mainly form Delhi. Shimla has a narrow gauze railway line on which toy train runs from Kalka to Shimla. The train cruises its way through valleys and beautiful landscapes at a very slow pace making the journey very pleasant. From Kalka one can take trains to other parts of the country. The Toy train from Shimla is of two types. One is the normal multi coach train and the other is the single car train which has a glass roof giving an enthralling experience during the journey. Roads connect this capital city of Himachal with other places in the state as well as other major towns and cities. There is regular bus service from Delhi and Chandigarh. Ordinary, semi deluxe, deluxe and AC coaches are available for Shimla. One can also cross over to Leh and Ladakh via Rohtang pass from here. Local transportation is very good, with taxies and buses available for the nearby places.
Himachal State Museum& Library
This museum opens daily except on Mondays and public holidays. It is located 2.5 kms west of the scandal point. The entry is free. It has got a good collection of statues, coins, photos and other items from all over the state as well as outside it. It has also got a library which houses many historical books and manuscripts.
Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Gardens
On the Observatory Hills is located Viceregal Lodge which is called also called Rashtrapati Niwas. This magnificent building was the residence of the British Viceroy Lord Dufferin. The palatial building was the venue for many important decisions which changed fate of the sub-continent. This lodge was completed in 1888. It is said that every brick for the building was carried by mules. This is a six storey building and is surrounded by well maintained gardens and lawns. A cafe is also there. The lodge has now been converted into Institute of Advanced study. The lodge is further 2 kms from state museum.
Close to the Viceregal lodge is the Himalayan Aviary or the Himalayan Bird Park. This park has very good collection of birds found in Himachal such as Himalayan monal, pheasants, peafowls and national bird of India, the peacock..
Christ Church & St. Michael's Cathedral
In 1846-1857 was built the second oldest church of Northern India. The Christ Church overlooks the ridge and is one of the landmarks of Shimla. The clocks on Christ Church were added later and none of them are functional now. The Church looks very beautiful with the stained glasses fitted on the windows. The other church of Shimla is just below the Central Telegraph Office and is Known as Michael's Cathedral.
Shopping : As such Shimla has nothing special to offer to the tourists. But being the state capital handicrafts from all over the state come here for sale. The Mall has some of the good and big names in the garment and textile industry. But the garment or the woollen material which are sold here are not manufactured in Shimla, they are all brought from Ludhiana and adjoining places. The State emporium on the Mall offers many handicraft and handloom items which are made by the artisans of Himachal. The famous Himachali hat comes in different rates and vivid colors. The quality also differs. To avoid any fakes it is better to purchase these items from Government approved emporiums. Lakkar Bazaar is famous for items made from wood. These decorative wooden items are made from the soft wood found in the region. Further, dry fruits and natural herbs which have many medicinal properties are easily available in the shops. But the fact can not be denied that Shimla is a place to rest and not to go on shopping sprees.