Shades of Shimla, India.
If you like to walk off the beaten path, leave your footprints in Shimla. A magical place within view of the Himalayas.
By Purva Indulkar, K.P.B. Hinduja College, Mumbai
Proudly peeking from the overgrown palm trees of the south-west of the formidable Himalayan ranges is the humble capital of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla. Located at an altitude of 300 to 2200 metres above sea level, the climate in Shimla is always pleasantly cold. With a large number of small hotels and houses built attached to the narrow hill alongside overgrown palm trees, the city looks like a scene from a Disney fairy tale.
To reach Shimla you can either go to Delhi or Chandigarh by air and then go on to Shimla by road. If you are feeling adventurous, you can go to Kalka by train and then go to Shimla by a ‘Toy Train’. Kalka is situated at the foot of Himalayas and Shimla on the peak. The Toy Train takes its time winding its way from the obscure little town of Kalka to Shimla, the summer capital of India. The toy-train takes 5 long hours to reach its destination but gives you plenty of opportunities to click breath-taking pictures of the scenery.
Best places to visit:
The Ridge is on Mall Road which is the ever-crowded market place of Shimla, everything from chunky knitted sweaters made by the locals to original leather jackets by Abercrombie and Fitch are sold here. The quaint church is the main attraction but you can see people from all walks of life enjoying dim-sums and chatting in rapid haryanvi in the open ground in front of it. You can reach Mall Road from Shimla station within one minute and even an entire evening will not be enough to see all the interesting items sold there.
If you are an adventure sports enthusiast constantly searching for your next challenge, skiing at Kufri will be the right activity for you. Although it only snows between mid-December to mid-February, in other times there is not much to see. To get here you will have to get to China House by road and take an hour long horse-ride as Kufri is 11000 metres above sea-level. I would recommend everyone to do this because the scenery at the top is spectacular (and an hour is enough time to bond with a lovely horse).
Visit Taradevi Temple
The government of Shimla has kept all the public places incredibly clean and effectively organized, so if you want a taste of the city visit one of its several beautifully maintained temples. Although there are many options as the people of this city are immensely devoted, the Taradevi Temple has a large area and is a complex of three temples dedicated to different Gods. The Taradevi Temple is the main temple of the Goddess (the Golden Retriver puppies here are very fond of visitors) and the first Shiva temple is one kilometer away. The Taradevi Temple is at the peak of a hill and the second Shiva temple is situated on the foot of it. It is 1.5 kilometres away and the path goes dangerously through wild forest and sharp rocks.
Things you must do:
Found on every nook and corner of the city, this famous chinese delicacy is a favorite of the locals and is eaten often.
Click a photograph with a yak
This undeniably adorable animal is an enormous bull with a staggering layer of fur over his body, these lovely creatures (actually my brother found them gross) are see in most crowded places and are very calm. They are constantly eating (and probably judging) and clicking a dorky picture with them is a must.
A few tips:
- Be careful with your food, there are a lot of hungry monkeys at the railway station.
- Stay in a hotel near the Shimla Railway station as it will dramatically reduce the time that is wasted in the car. (Plus you can go to the Ridge for a stroll every night).
- Hire a local driver as the roads are narrow (very narrow) with some sharp turns which lead straight into an unending abyss of the himalayan valleys. A well-trained local driver will keep you safe (and frankly alive).
- Carry loads (and I mean loads) of warm clothes. I didn’t and I had to buy everything from gloves to vapourizers on reaching the destination. You don’t want to see Shimla lying in your hotel bed with a severe cold.
- It will be difficult to communicate with the locals but the organization in the city is extremely efficient and there are not many chances of you getting in any serious trouble where you are compelled to speak with them.
The people in Shimla have a sense of dignity in their city and their profession, there are never cases of tourists being spammed, luggage being stolen or anyone’s innocence or ignorance being taken advantage of. A weekend is enough to see all the incredible sights Shimla has to offer and take home a memory card full of spellbinding photographs. But more than the pleasant locals and the calming slowness, the city offers an integrity and homelyness rarely found in mainstream tourist places. So if you like to tread on a path not usually followed and leave your footprints, Shimla is a magical place you will enjoy aimlessly wandering in.