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Shimla, the former British Hill Station


Shimla is one of the best cities where you can still breath the colonial days. At an altitude of 2128 meters, it has a mild climate although winters can be cold and in the surrounding mountains you can easily find snow. The city, in some ways is still very British.

Shimla from my hotel room

Shimla from my hotel room

Shimla was originally called Simla. The city is named after the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali. It is the capital of Himachal Pradesh. In 1864, the hill station was declared the summer capital of the British Raj in India. After the British Raj left, It became a popular tourist destination and a hideaway for people of Delhi (365km south).

The colonial architecture in Shimla The colonial architecture in Shimla
The colonial architecture in Shimla is baffling:
The Vice Regal Lodge or The Rashtrapati Niwas

There are several reasons to visit. There is for example the longest narrow gauge railway routes still operating in India, the Kalka-Shimla Railway. Another attraction is the natural surrounding with pine, rhododendron, and oak trees and possibilities for hours trekking.

The colonial architecture in Shimla

The city is also famous for its buildings styled in tudorbethan and neo-gothic architecture dating from the colonial era. Best place to see this is the The Vice Regal Lodge or The Rashtrapati Niwas.

It is situated on the Observatory Hill and also known as the Rashtrapati Niwas now. The building lies at a distance of just 2 km from the Himachal State Museum. It's built in 1888, this massive edifice stands surrounded by tall pine trees and once served as the residence of Viceroy Lord Dufferin.

Viceregal Lodge is the only building of Shimla that occupies an entire hill by itself. Presently, it is being used by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS).

The Mall in Shimla
Early morning at the Mall

In the city, I loved to hang out at the Mall. Especially at sunset this place becomes alive. Locals come here to relax and chat. This is the place were Shimla comes together. Dominating the Mall is the St. Michael's Catholic Church, build in 1850. The streets here are build following the hill slope so there are few places where the road gets too steep.

Getting there

Shimla is well connected with other destinations. There are daily buses to Delhi and further into Himachal Pradesh. Chandigarh is 115 km away and a long day cycling. In town you either want to walk or use a taxi to slightly further away attractions as The Vice Regal Lodge. Contrary to other Indian cities, there are no auto-rickshaws in town.

The Mall in Shimla Children at the Shimla Mall
The Mall in Shimla

The Kalka-Shimla narrow gauche railway is an attraction too, it's 96 km long with spectacular views. Shimla has an airport, 12 km from the town proper. 

It's almost England, still, this is Shimla
It's almost England, still, this is Shimla

Accommodation

As most of India, you will find here hotels and guesthouses in almost every price range. There are many hotels of around $20-25.

Street life in Shimla

Cheaper is available too, but not all are clean or have basic facilities proper organized. If you are searching for a splurge, Shimla is a good place, especially in winter. Try the Hotel Sansar or Hotel Blue Diamond.

More hotels, hostels and guesthouses:

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