Stepping out from the little tempo traveler, the first thing I felt was a cold breeze, which made me shiver, and this was in the month of June, when summer is at its peak in India; but this wasn’t unexpected, as I had landed straight into the “Queenof Hills”, Shimla.
Being one of the most beautiful, popular and crowded hill-stations in India, Shimla is the perfect getaway for anyone belonging to any of the heat-scorched states of North and Central India. Situated in the north-west Himalayas, this city presents a brilliant amalgamation of scenic beauty and architectural wonders, as the buildings are styled in tudorbethan and neo-gothic architecture, reminiscent of the colonial era. Earlier pronounced as Simla, it was once declared as the summer capital of the British Raj in India.
The best time to visit this place is either between April to August or December to January. The first option lets you escape from the heat wave, and the latter lets you enjoy the mildly falling snow during winters.
Hailing from Delhi, I had three options to travel to this capital of Himachal Pradesh – road, rail and air. I opted for road travel, because I wanted to enjoy the picturesque view all through the journey. It was a family trip, so we hired a tempo-traveler, which is a kind of a mini bus.
Our trip began at 6 O’clock in the morning. We started early, keeping in mind the traffic of Delhi, even in the wee hours of morning. The journey took almost 12 hours and we reached Shimla by 5:45 in the evening. In between, we stopped over twice; once, at a roadside Dhabi on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway and then at Chandigarh itself. Shimla is approximately 365 km from Delhi and 115 km from Chandigarh, which is its nearest major city.
As soon as we stepped out of our tempo traveler, a chilly breeze hit us. Although we were carrying warm clothes with us, none of us was wearing them, so the impact was greater. This gives a noteworthy point about the trip to Shimla; always carry warm clothes.
The hotel we were booked into was a little away from the main hustle-bustle of the city. It was farther up, and consequently, much colder. The first thing that one should keep in his travel bag while planning a trip to Shimla, or any other hill-station, is a pair of comfortable shoes, preferably sneakers. They not only prevent the feet from cold, but also make walking uphill a lot more easier and comfortable. I discovered this while walking towards the hotel, the road to which did not allow private vehicles, and thus, we had no other option but to walk uphill.
The first day, or rather night was spent in the hotel as it starts getting dark at around 7 pm, after which the markets start closing down. The next morning, we had our breakfast at the hotel and headed towards the very famous Mall Road. Any hill-station in India is incomplete without this prominent landmark. The Mall Road is full of electricity, with hawkers and vendors shouting on top of their voices, and loads of tourists running in and out of the shops. The market is large enough to consume the whole day. We shopped till we dropped, because there were all sorts of things available; from clothing to footwear, to various accessories and toys. Not only were there a variety of shops to shop from, but also many other sources of entertainment like video game parlors and a cinema hall. Since vehicles aren’t allowed there, we had to walk all the way to the end of the road and back.
We had our lunch at one of the little restaurants on the Mall Road. Since Shimla offers a variety of popular cuisines, Thai, Italian, Chinese and Mughlai, the tourists don’t face much of a problem regarding the food, but one thing which was unexpectedly missing was the typical Himachali Khaana.
There’s a church in Shimla, the Christ Church, the only church in the city, and the second oldest church in Northern India, which we thought of exploring in the evening. It is situated on the ridge and has a very majestic appearance; but unfortunately, by the time we reached it, its doors were closed, and so we were left with no option other than to roam on its outskirts, which were as beautiful and serene as the church itself.
Dinner was a special occasion, as we were treated to the best of Punjabi food at one the most famous eating joints in Shimla, Sher-e-Punjab.
A trip to Kufri was planned for the next day, which is a tiny hill station, 13 kms from Shimla. Kufri has a Himalayan Nature Park which is home to some of the rare species of animals and birds found only in Himachal Pradesh. Indira Tourist Park is also located in Kufri, which provides panoramic view of the locations around. Although the place is generally over-crowded, yet the tranquility and serenity which its natural beauty offers, makes you sit there for a long time, never wanting to go away.
The third day, an excursion to Shilon Resort was decided upon. This resort, at a distance of 22 kms from Shimla, is a hugely built architectural beauty. It’s also known as Mini Switzerland because of the photographic scenes all around.
Shimla is still one of the most popular tourist destinations. Apart from the above-mentioned places in and around the city, one can also visit Tara Devi, Solan, Chail, Kasauli, Summer Hill, Annandale and Shimla State Museum. It is a boon for people interested in adventure-sports, as apart from trekking, one can indulge in bungee jumping and mountain climbing as well.
On my visit to Shimla, I realized that it does not matter if you want to lie down in the lap of Mother Nature, or climb the mountains, or be one with nature and experience snow falling on your face; this is definitely the best place to rejuvenate yourself in any which way you want to.
My Wife is from pune and she has seen very few places in north India, so I decided to take her to Shimla on our first anniversary. This trip was exciting since beginning. Our train (Howrah – Kalka express) was supposed to arrive Delhi at 2045 hrs. on 20 Nov but my wife was denied leave from office for that day. So I went to Noida to pick her up at 1900 hrs. and we reached home 1930 hrs. Meanwhile she was having dinner I went to hire auto for old Delhi railway station, I was lucky to get auto soon. The autowala was Michael Schumacher he drove fast but safely and we reached station at 2035 hrs.
The moment we reached station we got to know that the train was 1 hr 55 mins late which made my wife very furious. Thank god they have Mc Donald’s at Old Delhi station which helped me in cooling her down. We spoke to other people who were supposed to travel with us in the same train. These people told us that the train was supposed to reach Kalka at 0430 will now reach at 0530. I asked them about the toy train that was suppose to leave Kalka at 0510… what about that? They told me that I am going to miss that train as this train is already late.
After hearing this I looked at my wife with a smile but she was not carrying the same expression. To cross check this information I went to Station master and he assured us that we will not miss the toy train as toy train leave Kalka station 30 mins after arrival of Howrah Express at Kalka. Then the funny thing happened… while I was going to sleep something fell from my pocket, when I looked carefully I found that it was Ghukamkkar sticker. I forgot to stick that on my bag (hahahahah). I pulled out my bag out did what was required, while doing this my wife furiously stared at me.
We reached Kalka at 0530hrs and found that our toy train was there, that brought smiles to our faces. I have been to Shimla before but this was my first time on toy train. Just for your information I would like to tell you that there are 3 types of toy trains that run from Kalka to Shimla. Best one is Shivalik Deluxe Express this is the fastest train it takes 5 hrs. to reach Shimla. Tickets cost around Rs 280, it includes food and is a chair car. This is express train so it has only one stop at Solan. The second best is Himalayan Queen, its takes 6 hrs. 30 mins. Ticket is around Rs 170, it doesn’t include any food and there are 4 stops. The seats are like normal trains. Last one is local train, I don’t know how much time it takes but the ticket is close to Rs 60 and it stops on almost all the stations. It is like a local train or a shuttle and is lifeline of the local people, you will find people travelling in huge number in these trains.
While traveling in these trains you will see the beauty of the hills. The train passes from valleys, bridges and tunnels. The best time to travel in these trains is either at sunrise or sunset (Only Shivalik express runs at these times). The moment the train stops, people get off and start clicking pictures of the train or the natural beauty around. Most common pose is of people standing on the engine and getting clicked. If you have not booked the hotel of the car, you can talk to the pantry boy in the train and he can arrange it for you according to your needs (never tried it though).
We reached Shimla at 1100 hrs. and hired a cab from the station to our hotel “Quality Inn- Himdev”. This hotel is 4 kms. away from mall road. The worst part of Shimla is taxi fare, hotels don’t provide pickup and drop facility. There is a transport union that rules. So for 2-4 kms you will end up paying Rs 250- Rs 300. The taxiwala took Rs 200 from station to hotel. We inquired him about the charges for the site seeing, finally he agreed on Rs 2500 for 2 days and drop to Station on the last day in Shimla. We reached hotel and took rest in evening we went to mall road. This is not a peak season so the shop closes around 8 in the evening. There are 2 lifts that are installed so that you can travel from taxi stand to Mall Road, so it’s just Rs 8 per person for one way travel.
The Mall road is the main shopping area of Shimla. The road is divided into 3 parts. The top most Road is the mall road where you will find most of the visitors, most of the shops here are branded like levis and woodland stores. You will find several stairs that runs downwards to the local market this is the real market where you will find local shopkeepers selling woollen and there are various small restaurants that sells tasty food. We bought few gloves and warm ladies suits, they really got good stuff. On mall road you will find a Municipal Corporation office and a church, they catches your eye due to their structure. We sent whole evening shopping, eating momos/ice-cream and enjoying the cool weather. Our day ended with a small celebration of our first anniversary by having candle light dinner.
Next morning we started our journey at 9 am. Our first stop was “The Green Valley”. This is the most beautiful valley in Shimla, as it is covered with trees. This was on our way to Kufri. You will find people stopping their vehicles there just to click the beauty of nature. It is one of the most clicked places in Himachal. After traveling for like 20-30 mins we reached Kufri. The best indication of you reaching Kufri is the smell of horses. The moment you reach Kufri you will find lots of horses.
Only way of Transportation to Kufri
If there is no snow then then Kufri can be disappointing for you as there is nothing to visit except the Nag Devta Mandir. Kufri is like an open ground where you have yaks standing, you can sit on those yaks and get yourself photographed. There are several vendors renting traditional Himachal clothes for photograph. There is a telescope point which shows you 10 points including the Chanchar House (3 idots). We enjoyed everything but the best part was having Maggie in the cold weather.
Himalayan Range from Kufri
Ganpati Temple at Sankatmochan Temple
Jahku Temple Entrance
Jakhu Temple from Mall Road
Room Where the Hanuman Ji’s Foot steps are preserved guarded by monkeys
Har Har Mahadev
Rashtrapati Niwas, Observatory Hill, Shimla, the former Viceregal Lodge, completed in 1888 now the Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Main Hall at Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Pics at Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Indian Flag at Indian Institute of Advanced Study
We were almost wasting our time at railway station when a railway employee asked us to visit a railway museum nearby. He asked us to walk alongside the railway tracks and the track will lead us to the museum. After walking for like 15-20 mins we reached there. It was a very small museum and the ticket was costing Rs 10 only. The visit to the museum was very informative as it had all the tools, crockery and other equipment that were used under British rule. We reached the station on time and boarded the toy train. This time it was sunset view that we witnessed. We were sad as our vacation was nearing its end. But to summarize, it was a great and economic trip and we had a lots of memories to cherish.
Gear to change Tracks – Rail Museum
Police assistance Center
Railway Engine Repair Workshop
How to check whether rail is coming or not While working in tunnel – Rail Museum
Hi, My Name is Anupam Dixit and I live in Delhi. I am not a frequent traveler but I always go out on a long vacation with my family in the month of Nov-Dec and tries to post my stories as they were so that others may know about the place before visiting. Thanks :)