Shimla City information

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City Guide for Shimla

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Facts & Figures :
Population : 123,000
Languages : Hindi, Himachali, Garhwali, English
Best time to visit : May–July and
STD Code : 0177

Shimla, one of India’s most famous hill stations, derives its name from Goddess Shyamala, an incarnation of Goddess Kali, the deity of power and wrath. However, unlike its name, Shimla is a perfect heaven for the ones in search of tranquility. Nature has blessed this capital city with innumerable gifts and man has used them to make Shimla one of India’s best locales.

Perched at an altitude of 2159 m above sea level, Shimla is located towards the southern parts of the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It is the state capital and is at a distance of 343 km from Delhi, 260 km from Manali, and 119 km from Chandigarh. The temperature range is not very high and the maximum temperature rarely crosses 25°C during summers. Winters are cold due to the chilly winds from the upper Himalayas. Around Christmas, Shimla experiences snowfall. The best season to visit Shimla is between September and November.

The British discovered Shimla in the form of a little village in 1819. Until then, it was a part of the Nepalese kingdom. It was during Lord William Bentinck's time that Shimla was truly acquired by the Government of India. The British persuaded the local Raja to part with the land in 1830, and the settlement became the subcontinent's most fashionable summer resort. In 1864, Shimla was declared the summer capital of India. After the independence of India, Shimla became the capital of Punjab until 1966, when it came under Himachal Pradesh.

The hub of Shimla is the Mall, which runs along the Ridge and is crowded with tourists. It is the city’s most famous shopping center, with shops selling all items, from clothes to junk food. The Ridge is a large open space in the heart of the town and presents excellent views of the mountain ranges. Most of Shimla's landmarks are located here. The Mall further joins the Ridge at the ‘Scandal Point' of Kipling's Shimla, where a statue of the nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai has been erected.

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shimla mountain
The six-storeyed Vice-Regal Lodge or Rashtrapati Niwas, about 4.5 km from Scandal Point, attracts many visitors. It was built in 1888 and was formerly the residence of Lord Dufferin, the British Viceroy. The style of architecture is English Renaissance, the masonry of the walling is light blue limestone and the wrought stonework is done in sandstone in a beautiful light gray tint. It has magnificent lawns and houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Nearby is the Himalayan aviary that has a good collection of birds, including the Monal pheasant, Himachal’s state bird.

About 2.5 km from Scandal Point is the State Museum, which has a good collection of statues, miniatures, coins and photos from in and around Himachal Pradesh. It was built in 1974.

Another of Shimla’s major landmarks is the Christ Church and St. Michael’s Cathedral. It is the second oldest church in Northern India built between 1846 and 1857. It is located just off the Mall, below the District Center and is known for its stained glass windows.

Jhaku temple, dedicated to Hanumanji, the attendant of Lord Rama, is to the east of the town center, near the highest point of the Shimla Ridge. It is at a height of 8048 feet above sea level and offers a panoramic view of the city.

The temple just below the Grand Hotel is the temple dedicated to Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Kali.

Southeast from Jhaku is the long spur of Chotta Shimla, with Barnes Court. Once the residence of the Governor General of Punjab, it is now the official residence of the Governor of Himachal Pradesh.

About 4 km from the Ridge, a sprightly stream flows through the Glen forests at an altitude of 1830 meters. It is a secluded picnic spot.

Beyond the Glen is Annandale, another picnic spot. It is covered with deodar forests and was once the playgrounds of Shimla, where racing, polo and cricket entertained the Britishers.

Elysium Hill, on the road leading through Lakkar Bazaar, houses the famous Auckland House, the former residence of Viceroy Lord Auckland. It is a well-known girls’ school now. Nearby is the Stirling Castle, now an orphanage for the Tibetan children and a center for the Tibetan exiles who have settled locally.

For trekking, one can go from Shimla to Kullu over the Jalori Pass (3300 m) and Bashleo Pass (3250 m) and Sarahan to Sangla. Some other treks are to the Shalipeak, to the Kullu valley, Shimla to Chail, Shimla to Junga and Shimla to Tattapani. Angling for trout can be done on the river Pabbar, near Rohru. Skiing is possible at Narkanda and Kufri (January–mid-March). Naldehra also offers a well-groomed nine-hole golf course.

Being the state capital, handicrafts from all over Himachal Pradesh come here for sale. The Mall has some of the good and big names in the garment and textile industry. The State emporium on the Mall offers many handicrafts and handloom items that are made by the local artisans. The famous Himachali hat comes in different rates and vivid colors. To avoid any fakes it is better to purchase these items from Government-approved emporia. Lakkar Bazaar is famous for items made from wood. Dry fruits and natural herbs, which have many medicinal properties, are easily available in the shops.

In Indian cuisine, Shimla offers South Indian dishes. Western, Chinese, and Thai are other favorites. The Mall is the best site for entertainment. The old Gaiety Theater has a few recitals and other shows in the summers. Bars and coffee houses are common.

The airport at Shimla, 22 km from the main city, has connecting flights to Delhi and Kullu. The nearby Chandigarh airport is, however, more handy.

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