The Queen of Hills – Shimla

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 “Queen of 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.

Nidhi Gurnani

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