Over a century and a half ago, Britishers found Shimla and made it their summer capital. Even after independence, it remains the epicentre of the state of Himachal Pradesh with imprints of the colonial era still visible amongst a thick cover of pine and oak trees.
Serving as a good base for exploring the Himalayan interiors, it is always buzzing with tourist rush and local life. Including the long and windy Mall Road, ancient buildings and majestic peaks, Shima has a lot on offer for tourists.
Best Places To Visit In Shimla
- Summer Hill
- Viceregal Lodge
- Jakhoo Hill
- The Scandal Point, Ridge
- The Shimla State Museum
- Shaily Peak
- Chadwick Falls
- Mall Road
- Johnnie’s Wax Museum
- Christ Church
- Jubbal Palace
- Rothney Castle
- Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary
Offering stunning views of the snow-capped mountains, Summer Hill falls on the Kalka-Shimla railway line. Located towards the outskirts, it rests at a height of 2,123 meters as part of the seven-hill cluster that constitutes Shimla. Locals call it Potter Hill because it supplies most of the clay used by potters in the area.
Covered with pine and deodar trees, this place is perfect for leisurely walks and relaxation. Adding a touch of colonial design to the town is the Georgian House of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. It is historically significant for hosting Mahatma Gandhi during his visits to Shimla during the independence struggle.
Go for: Some peace away from the city rush.
A piece of architectural brilliance, the Viceregal Lodge is situated atop the Observatory Hills and serves as a fine example of colonial influence on the city. While most visitors usually drive up the steep slope to get to the ridge, you can choose to walk as fluttering butterflies give you company.
The grand Victorian-style design of the house stands distinctly against the green-carpeted lawns, offering tourists a fascinating glimpse into history. It is the former summer residence of the British Viceroys of India and was used to take important political decisions during their heydays. Now, old articles and photographs adorn its walls, and interiors remind one of the bygone eras.
In 1965, it was turned into Indian Institute of Advanced Study – a centre for research in various disciplines.
Go for: Photography and sightseeing.
Touted as the playground of Shimla, Annandale has gained popularity due to the Army Museum that houses an excellent collection of army heritage.
Just 2 kilometres from the Shimla Railway Station, a curved path leads to this historical playground. Sitting peacefully in a valley of village Kaithu, it has been an important centre of Anglo-Indian playful activities, amusement and entertainment since the 1830s. Now, it is a regular spot for picnic parties, birthday-balls, fetes, races, polo matches and sports like cricket and golf. You will need around two hours to complete a tour of the place including the museum, Shaurya hall, glasshouse and the golf course.
Maintained and secured by the Indian army, an ID proof is required for entry.
Go for: The army museum and sports.
At 8,000 feet above sea level, this is the highest peak in Shimla. From the Ridge, it takes a 30-minute steep climb on the staircase to reach the top of the Jakhoo Hill. If you want to take the easy way, taxis and cable car also go the colourful Jakhoo Temple perched on the summit. The shrine is surrounded by tall pine trees and attracts pilgrims with a 108-feet-high idol of Hindu Lord Hanuman.
The peak overlooks the city and affords a grand view of the Shivalik mountain range. However, visitors must watch out for monkeys on their way up.
Go for: Peace and prayers.
The Scandal Point, Ridge
The Scandal Point is the intersection between the Mall Road and the Ridge marked by the statue of Indian freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. The exact reason why it was named so remains a mystery, usually associated with romantic folklore.
Perfectly poised against the stunning mountains, its strategic location forms an ideal base from where you can make visits to nearby tourist attractions. Dotted with numerous shops and cafes, this is an excellent place for enjoying horse-riding or just relaxing on the benches.
Go for: Horse-riding and views.
The Shimla State Museum
This museum is housed in an old Victorian mansion that previously served as residence to the British officials during their rule in India. Perched on an isolated hilltop known as ‘Inveram’, it is surrounded by sprawling lawns and quietude.
The museum is a preserve of the rich cultural heritage of the state and exhibits a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, coins, handicrafts and photos depicting the life and culture of the hills. It is situated on the Mall Road which is easily accessible from all points in the city.
Go for: A heritage tour.
A two-hour drive from Shimla to Khatnol followed by a five-kilometre steep trek leads one to the Shaily Peak. The steep trail crosses dense forests and perpendicular trails covered in foot-deep snow.
Stranded on an isolated rock-face amidst green deodars and pure-white snow, this point attracts countless adventure seekers every year for its splendid views of the expansive landscape. Those not good at steep treks can ride on ponies available at the base.
Do carry charged batteries to capture the breathtaking views in your camera.
Go for: Views and photography.
This waterfall is right in the middle of the thick Glen Forest, 7 kilometres from the main city. Its refreshing sight gives travellers a much-needed break from the hectic travel schedule.
It’s possible to get to the base point by car, and trek onwards to reach the falls. The spectacular falls drop from a height of 86 metres with stretches of hills and pine woods on either side. Since rainwater feeds it, it is best to visit during monsoon or post that when its impact on the swell of the falls still lingers.
Go for: Trekking and views.
Taking a stroll on this road is one of the first few things a visitor does when in Shimla. Constructed during British colonial rule, this street is now the centre of the city’s bustling social life. Stippled with numerous showrooms, shops, restaurants and cafes, this is where popular tourist attractions like Scandal Point, Gaiety Theater, Kali Bari Temple and Town Hall are located.
Apart from being a tourist-friendly spot, this road is also a shopper’s paradise, famous for locally made items of wood and woollen clothing. Put your bargaining skills to use and walk away with exquisite products at pocket-friendly prices.
Go for: Shopping and eating.
Johnnie’s Wax Museum
A must-visit place in Shimla, this museum is located within the historic Willow Banks estate on the Mall Road. It has 16 life-size wax figures of icons from Bollywood, Hollywood and politics standing side by side, all imported from London.
Mahatma Gandhi’s idol is installed right at the entrance with statues of Johnny Depp, James Bond, Robert Downey Jr, Harry Potter, Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and others completing the display at the museum.
This spot provides for a somewhat unusual experience for visitors who come to this hill station expecting the regular sightseeing routine.
Go for: A museum tour.
Holding the title of the second oldest church in North India, the architectural beauty of this site has made it a signature landmark of Shimla. This church took 11 years to come to completion, and today it stands as a faint reminder of the British Raj.
It’s yellow exteriors with a front porch, church bells and stained glass windows represent the neo-gothic style of architecture. As the sun goes down, the church starts glowing with lights. In winters, when its roof is covered in snow, it looks like a magnificent castle. Even with all the hustle-bustle outside at the Ridge, the interiors of this holy place remain peaceful and spiritual.
Go for: Photography and peace.
At a distance of 5.8 kilometres from the heart of the city, this mansion is inarguably the grandest structure present in Shimla. Coloured in a cream hue with sloping roofs and red chimneys, it stands tall between the dense forests of pine and cedar, along with terraced gardens and Virginia vines adding to the finesse of the building.
History has it that Raja Rana Sir Bhagat Chandra demolished the original Victorian structure in 1938 to build this summer palace in its place. A unique blend of Indian and Chinese architectural styles was used to put it together. The exteriors are all about elaborate citadels and artistically designed walls, while intricate carvings, suspended attics, signed photographs and paintings of eminent people fill its interiors.
A massive wooden door covered with copper and studded with coins marks the entry to the palace. Old furniture and other artefacts from the time of the Kings are still well retained along with a rich library.
Go for: A heritage tour.
On the road that goes up to the Jakhu Temple near Lakkar Bazar, you can peep through the gates of this 19th-century mansion to lay your eyes on its intricate glass and wooden work.
This house was built for colonial reformer and naturalist Allan Octavian Hume who spent most of his time here working for political reforms and documenting birds of the Indian subcontinent. After more than a hundred years, the house is now in shambles with moss growing on its walls, looking more or less like a garden.
Entry inside the property is restricted, but it is still worth a visit for those who love history.
Go for: The architecture and history.
Theog is a reserved little place sitting snugly in the arms of the lofty Himalayas. Here you will find nothing but a mix of wooden and concrete houses, with apple trees hugging their walls. There isn’t much chatter and movement and that is precisely its charm.
The village forces you to slow down, and to shift your attention to the little details around you, like the way sunlight falls on the leaves of the trees across the window of your room. But you can work up an appetite for local delicacies like sidu (steamed bread stuffed with seeds), and saag, and interact with the locals about the joys of simple living.
32 kilometres away from Shimla, Theog is blissfully far from its madding crowds.
Go for: A peaceful break.
Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary
This reserve is home to the usual suspects like leopards, deer and jackals. Go for surreal views of Deo Tibba, Bandar Poonch, Pir Panjal and other peaks. Monkeys and langurs occupy the canopies of trees like deodar, pine and oak. The abundance of weeping willows and maple provide ample cover to stalking animals. During monsoons, wild strawberries grow to add colour to the forest.
Apart from its aesthetic appeal, it is an important corridor that connects Shimla Reserve with the Chail Sanctuary in the south. Home to a variety of birds, species like the Himalayan eagle, chikor, partridge and pheasant can be seen flitting about the low canopy.
Perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers, the Forest Sanctuary is spread over an area of 951 hectares at a distance of 11 km from Shimla.
Go for: Wildlife and photography.
To get away from the regular tourist trail in Shimla, you can also visit Kufri, Mashobra, Chail, Tattapani, Naldehra and Fagu.
Shimla has all the frills of a quintessential hill station. You can visit its most popular tourist spots or use it as a base to stray off the beaten path. Whatever you choose to do, Shimla will make you want to return for more.
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