Shimla, the summer capital of the British, is the very often the first destination that comes to mind when one thinks of a summer getaway. Such is the charm of Shimla tourism, that many people especially from North India even make regular annual trips to this destination with their families. Be it young couples on their honeymoon, families on a summer holiday, a backpacker on a solo trip, or a group of friends on a self-drive holiday, this Himachal town has a universal allure.
For the ideal holiday in Shimla, start your experience from the journey itself. Board the toy train that chugs up to this quaint hill station from Kalka. Admire the lush hillsides on the way and then step on to the platform at the tiny railway station that still retains its old world charm.
Shimla holidays are all about exploring the colonial structures and heritage of the city, starting with the majestic Viceregal Lodge that houses a museum and lush gardens for leisurely walks. Visit Christ Church, the second oldest church in Northern India and the famous Gaiety Theatre, strategically located on the action packed Mall, where honeymooning couples rub shoulders with elderly couples reminiscing over their yesteryears. If it is ideal viewpoints that you are looking for on your Shimla trip, head to Summer Hill and Annandale, both situated within 5 km of the Ridge. The Jakhu Hill 2 km away offers a splendid view of the surroundings and also boasts of a much revered Hanuman Temple. Shimla holiday packages are incomplete without excursions to nearby destinations like Mashobra, Kufri and Naldehra, which are within 20 km radius of Shimla. Another place worth a visit is Chail, 45 km away, where you must visit the Chail Palace, now a government run hotel. You can also expand your journey to cover more places to visit around Shimla such as Kullu Manali, Dharamshala, Dalhousie, and many more.
Best time to visit Shimla
Traditionally, the peak season for Shimla tourism has been the summer months of April to June. This is the best time to visit Shimla if you wish to enjoy clear sunny days and pleasant Shimla weather with your family. A large number of tourists visit Shimla during this season.
July and August is the monsoon season when rain tends to keep visitor counts low in Shimla. If you wish to have a quiet getaway in a comfortable resort, and are not too concerned about missing some sightseeing, you could take advantage of some really great off-season discounts for Shimla hotels during these months. Enjoy the Shimla weather from your hotel balcony with a warm cuppa!
The Shimla weather grows pleasant again from October onwards, attracting visitors in large numbers, especially couples. If you wish to enjoy the cold weather, winter months from November to February would be the best season to visit Shimla. For those who are keen to see the snowfall and enjoy the coldest Shimla weather, December and January would be the best time to visit Shimla.
How to reach Shimla
Travellers can plan to reach Shimla by air, by train or by road – or a mix of these.
By Air: A direct flight from Delhi to Shimla airport is operated by Air India during the tourist season. In addition, travellers can also fly into Chandigarh airport from cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru etc. From Chandigarh airport, cabs are available for the journey till Shimla.
By Train: The closest railway station to Shimla is Kalka. Kalka is connected with many cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Jammu, Jaipur, Jodhpur etc. by train. From Kalka, travellers can either travel by Toy Train to Shimla (prior booking is a must during tourist season), or take a taxi from Kalka railway station.
By Road: Shimla is connected by road to major cities in North India like Chandigarh, Delhi, Manali, Dharamshala, etc. There are good quality direct buses including Volvo bus to Shimla from Chandigarh, Delhi, Kullu, Manali etc. Many tourists also prefer to travel to Shimla by cab or self-drive as the roads are in a decent condition and it is a scenic hill drive after Parwanoo.
Places to visit in Shimla
1. Mall Road: Bustling with eating joints, colonial-era monuments and numerous shopping outlets, Mall road is Shimla's main (pedestrian-only) promenade. At one end of the road you will find the Lakkar Bazaar, known for shops selling handlooms and wooden handicrafts. There are many colonial buildings on Mall Road like Gaiety Theatre, Gorton Castle, etc. Since the Mall Road is a pedestrian area, cars can only go till the parking, from where visitors would need to either take the Lift (paid) or walk to Mall road. This is the main Shimla tourist spot to see and be seen at.
2. Viceregal Lodge: For the history buffs and lovers of architecture, the Viceregal Lodge, also known as Rashtrapati Niwas, is a must-visit place in Shimla. Built in the Jacobethan style, this former summer residence of the British Viceroys located on the Observatory Hill presently houses the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study. This is the historic building where various discussions related to India’s Partition and the future of India and Pakistan took place. Inside, visitors can see photographs and memorabilia from the British colonial era including the wooden table on which the revised maps of India and Pakistan were first drawn. The building features Belgian chandeliers, and walls and sweeping staircases made of Burmese teak.
3. Kufri: Located 16 kilometers ahead of Shimla, the slopes of Kufri are a hub for adventure lovers. A great place to unwind, Kufri offers panoramic views of the Himalayas. This tiny town offers a number of places of interest like the Himalayan Nature Park, Chini Bungalow, Kufri Fun World, etc. Mahasu Peak, the highest peak in Kufri, is yet another famous Shimla tourist spot. Tourists can reach Mahasu Peak either by trekking to it, or by hiring ponies.
4. Jakhu Temple: Settled at an altitude of 7,500 feet, Jakhu Temple is located on the tallest hill of Shimla, known as Jakhu Hill. The temple is known for its approximately 108 feet tall statue of Lord Hanuman which watches over the town. This temple is one of the most important places to visit in Shimla for many tourists. According to the legends, Lord Hanuman took a break at this location while travelling in search of the Sanjeevani Booti. From this temple, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Shivalik range.
5. Christ Church: Built in 1857, Christ Church in Shimla is the second oldest church in North India. The impressive church is located on the Ridge and is a popular Shimla tourist spot. The neo-Gothic architecture of this historic church with its stained-glass windows is worth seeing. The Pipe Organ in the church, built in the year 1899, is the biggest in the Indian Subcontinent. A visit to this church is an essential inclusion in your Shimla sightseeing plan.
6. Annandale Ground: Annandale, high up on the list of Shimla tourist places, was once used by the British for their leisure activities. It is famous for its serene atmosphere and pretty views. Here you will also find a Golf Club, a Cactus museum, a playground, and an Indian Army Museum. This is a popular picnic spot for tourists as well as locals. Explore the picturesque surroundings or play cricket, golf or polo to enjoy a break during your Shimla trip.
7. Gaiety Theatre: An architectural landmark on the Shimla Mall Road, Gaiety Theatre is one of the most historic of all the Shimla tourist places. Also known as the Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex, this 122-year-old Victorian theatre complex contains the oldest Gothic theatre in Asia. An awe-inspiring example of Victorian-era architecture, the theatre complex currently includes an art gallery, museum, multi-purpose hall and amphitheater in addition to the old theatre. The theatre hosts a number of cultural and performing arts programmes in Shimla. People often compare the facade of this theatre with that of London’s Albert Hall.
8. Scandal Point: Another Raj-era Shimla tourist spot, Scandal Point is said to mark the place from where the Maharaja of Patiala eloped with the daughter of British Viceroy, thereby creating a scandal. Located at the meeting point of the Ridge and the Mall, today this spot is marked by the statue of noted Indian freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. Visitors today will remember the spot more for its beautiful view of the mountains.
9. Indira Tourist Park: Amidst snow-capped peaks near the famous Himalayan National Park, Indira Tourist Park (also known as Indira Bungalow) is named after the former Prime Minister of India who visited this place in 1972. The park features a video game parlour where kids can enjoy some fun games. Tourists can also enjoy a wide range of activities like a yak ride, pony ride, etc. in the park. This is a good place to come to if you are in Shimla with children.
10. Chadwick Falls: Chadwick Falls, located at an altitude of 1550m above sea level, is one of the most famous places to visit in Shimla. Located amidst steep misty hills covered with pine and deodar trees, Chadwick Falls are a mesmerizing sight to behold, especially during the monsoons when the cascading waterfall is nothing less than spectacular. Apart from this beautiful waterfall, tourists can also visit numerous shrines located nearby.
Cool things to do in Shimla
Apart from covering the main places to visit in Shimla, you can also add some interesting local experience in your Shimla tour package in addition to your Shimla sightseeing. This will add an extra touch of excitement to your holiday. Here are our suggestions of some fun things to do during your Shimla trip.
1. Take a joyride on the Toy Train
The historic Kalka Shimla Toy Train, a UNESCO World Heritage entity, is one of the most iconic sights of Shimla. A joyride on this famous mountain railway should be on the to-do list of every traveller who picks a Shimla package, especially if travelling with children. You can either do the entire journey from Kalka to Shimla (or vice versa) over a period of roughly 6 hours, or choose to do a shorter joyride between Shimla and Taradevi for 35 minutes during your Shimla sightseeing.
2. Watch the sunset from a viewpoint
Shimla being a hill station has a wealth of vantage viewpoints from where visitors enjoying the pleasant Shimla weather can watch an enchanting sunset. One of these is Scandal Point, where couples on their Shimla honeymoon can be found strolling down to watch the sunset every day. Another popular similar viewpoint in Shimla to enjoy the sunset from, is the Jakhu Hill. This is also popular with photographers.
3. Watch a play at the Gaiety Theatre
Lovers of art and heritage will enjoy visiting the ancient Gaiety Theatre, now restored and part of a larger Theatre Complex. Spend some time reliving history as you watch a performance at the old theatre, or attend an art exhibition at within the theatre complex. You can also see the beautifully restored papier mache panels and Gothic lights of the Old Theatre.
4. Go shopping
Your Shimla holiday package will be incomplete if, apart from visiting the various Shimla tourist places, you don’t spend a few hours shopping for souvenirs in the local markets. Lakkar Bazar is the one of the best places to visit in Shimla for this purpose. Here you will find an array of wooden handicrafts, souvenirs, walking sticks, dry fruits, carpets, wool shawls, etc.
5. Plan a picnic
If you are planning to book a Shimla honeymoon package, a great way to spend some quality time together is by having a picnic lunch together in the Glen. Located on the outskirts of Shimla, the Glen is a popular picnic spot. It is a deep narrow valley surrounded by lush green pine and deodar trees. Further adding to its beauty are rolling hills and glistening streams, making it an ideal destination for photography lovers. Enjoy a leisurely time amidst nature with your partner and enjoy your picnic lunch.
6. Get yourself clicked
A photograph makes a great way to preserve beautiful memories. Preserve your memories of your Shimla honeymoon by getting yourself clicked with your loved one in a personal photoshoot, in a scenic location in one of the top Shimla tourist places. While you walk around enjoying the view and each other’s company, get candid shots taken that you can preserve for a lifetime. This amazing value add experience is a must add for a Shimla honeymoon package.
7. Go for a trek
If you are an adventure lover, then Shimla offers you many opportunities to enjoy nature through local day treks and hikes. You can trek from Shimla to Chadwick waterfall, or to Shailey peak, or even to the top of Jakhu Hill. Trekking in and around Shimla is a fun thing to do with your gang of friends. If you are a couple that enjoys adventure and offbeat experiences, you can even consider adding such an experience to your Shimla honeymoon package.
8. Try ice-skating
Shimla offers visitors the opportunity to venture onto the only natural ice skating rink in India. In fact this is also the only open-air ice skating rink in all of Asia. If you are booking a Shimla package during the months of December to February, this is definitely something you can try. This is a fun thing to do in Shimla for couples as well as families. If you enjoy ice skating or even wish to try this activity for the first time, then the peak of winter is the best season to visit Shimla!