Shimla

Shimla is one of the most famous hill stations of India. Almost everyone you know would have been there and has a story to tell. The capital of Himachal Pradesh, and erstwhile summer capital of British India, is today a subtle mix of old and new five star hotels in old colonial buildings, Raj era memories while you walk down the famous Mall, and most of all Himachal hospitality- these are some of the trademarks of this gateway. The place is sporting a new look as the government has taken stringent steps for preservation of old heritage buildings and the area around the Mall too is spick and span, thanks to the no vehicles rule put into place. So it's mostly walk, walk and more walk in Shimla.

In 1864, Shimla was declared the summer capital of the erstwhile British Raj in India. A popular tourist destination, Shimla is often referred to as the "Queen of Hills" (a term coined by the British). Located in north-west Himalayas at an altitude of 2,130 meters (6,988 ft), the city of Shimla, draped in forests of pine, rhododendron and oak, experiences pleasant summers and cold, snowy winters.

The city is famous for its buildings styled in tudorbethan and neo-gothic Shimla is located in the north-western ranges of the Himalayas. At an average altitude of 2397.59 meters (7866.10 feet) above sea level, the city is spread on a ridge and its seven spurs. The city stretches nearly 9.2 km from east to west. The highest point in Shimla, at 2454 meters (8051 feet), is the Jakhu hill. Shimla is a Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) per the Earthquake hazard zoning of India Weak construction techniques and increasing population pose a serious threat to the already earthquake prone region. There are no bodies of water near the main city and the closest river, Sutlej is about 21 km (13 miles) away. Other rivers that flow through the Shimla district, although further from the city are Giri, and Pabbar (both are tributaries of Yamuna.

The green belt in Shimla planning area is spread over 414 hectares (1023 acres). The main forests in and around the city are that of pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron. Environmental degradation due to the increasing number of tourists every year without the infrastructure to support them has resulted in Shimla losing its popular appeal as an ecotourism spot. Another rising concern in the region is the frequent number of landslides that often take place after heavy rains. Architecture reminiscent of the colonial era. Shimla is connected to the city of Kalka by one of the longest narrow gauge railways routes in India. Shimla is approximately 115 km (71.4 miles) from Chandigarh, the nearest major city, and 365 km (226.8 miles) from New Delhi, the national capital. The city is named after the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali.

Places to see

The Mall : All visitors to Shimla inevitably walk down the Mall, the main promenade that runs along the top of the ridge-a busy shopping area with old colonial buildings, souvenir shops and restaurants. At the top end of the Mall is Scandal Point, a large open square with a view of the town-a favourite rendezvous for visitors and the local people. Overlooking it is the elegant Christ Church with its fine stained glass windows. The labyrinth of Shimla's bazaars spill over the edge of the Mall.

Viceregal lodge : Housed in the Gothic splendour of the Viceregal Lodge is the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, India's premier academy for higher research.

Himachal State Museum : Very close to the Institute, in a colonial building set in spacious lawns, is the museum. It has collections of Pahariminiatures, stone sculpture, local handicrafts, textiles and embroidery.

Jakhoo Hill : Hill, Shiml's highest point, is rewarding for there are superb views of the town and its surroundings. At the top is an old Hanuman temple.(2Km).

Annandale : Hill, Shiml's highest point, is rewarding for there are superb views of the town and its surroundings. At the top is an old Hanuman temple.(2Km).

Glen : A pretty picnic spot beyond Annandale is located in the thickly Wooded Glen , beside a sparkling stream.(4 Km).

Summer Hill : The quiett and lovely suburb of summer Hill has secluded, shady walks and charming views. It was here that Gandhiji stayed on his visits to Shimla, in the elegant Georgian mansion that belonged to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. Summer Hill is located on the Shimla - Kalka railway line.(5 Km).

Chadwick Falls : Just beyond Summer Hill is the 67 m waterfall, cascading into a deep gorge. The Falls are best seen after the monsoon.(7 Km).

Prospect Hill : A 15 minute climb from Boileauganj, Prospect Hill is another favourite walk and vantage point with breath taking views. There is a little temple to Kamna Devi on the top of the hill.(5 Km ).

Sanjauli : A serene location with delightful walks, Sanjauli is ideal for a tranquil weekend. There are fine vistas and the lights of Shimla and Chail can be seen twinkling at night. On the other side, Mashobra and Naldehra are visible. (3 Km)

Temples : Among the little temples dotted around Shimla is the ancient temple of Bihargaon - a splendid example of traditional Himachal architecture.

Just short of Shimla are the temples of Tara Devi and Sankat Mochanb. (8 Km)

Daranghati Sanctuary : This sanctuary located in the upper area of the Shimla district has an undisturbed forest area with plenty of wildlife-monal, tragopan, koklas and khalij pheaseants and musk deer, ghoral and thar. There is a network of bridle paths in the sanctuary. Visitors are advised to seek assistance from the forest staff posted at Dofda and Sarahan. The area is ideal for those who love to trek.

Around Shimla

Mashobra (2,149 m)
Noted for its apple orchards and thick woods of oak and pine. Mashobra is a sylvan retreat with pretty walks and pIcnic spots. A little track leads down to Sipur a grassy glade with a stream wandering through it. Excursions are possible to Shali Peak - the highest point in the area or to Craignano (3 km) with its elegant guest house set in a delightful flower-filled garden. (9.6 km)

Kufri (2,622 m)
Kufri is a noted summer and winter resort with its glorious views of forested slopes and tall ranges iced in a covering of perpetual snow. A fine ski resort, Kufri has a winter season that extends from January to March. A sparkling winter sports festival is held each year in February. (16 km)

Fagu (2,509 m)
Just 6 km from Kufri, Fagu is a vantage point with panoramic views of the ranges and valleys. Picturesquely located amid forests and orchards, Fagu has a rest house and tourist bungalow overlooking the Giri Valley.

Naldehra
The scenic, nine hole golf course with its springly turf and crown of deodar was laid out at the instance of the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. So enamoured was he by the beauty of the spot, that he named his youngest daughter Alexandra Naldera. (23 km)

Tattapani
Tattapani is just 28 km from Naldehra, along a road winding through the scenic country side. The hot sulphur springs here, are hoted for their invigorating and curative powers. (51 km)

Narkanda (2,708 m)
A hill road with superb views links Narkanda with Shimla Narkanda, located amidst fragrant pine forests is a ski resort in winter. It has a choice of slopes ranging from a beginners run and a slalom slope, to sharper descents for the experienced skier. (64 km)

Hattu Peak (3,300 m)
Rising above forests of spruce, the Hattu Peak is a vantage point with spectacular views. (8 km). The pretty orchard country of Thanedar and Kotgarh - beautiful in spring - are not far away. Khadrala and Beghi with their dense forests and Kumarsain with an interesting wooden palace are also within easy reach of Narkanda.

Hatkati (1,100 m)
In the picturesque valley of the River Pabbar, about 104 km from Shimla, is noted for its historic temple dedicated to Durga. Enroute to Hatkoti is the village of Kotkhai, splendidly located among apple orchards - a village with fine traditional architecture. Jabbal, once the capital of a princely state with its impressive palace is also on the way.

Beyond Hatkoti, 11 km away, is Rohru (1,149 m) on the River Pabbar - an excellent spot for angling, with fishing pools teeming with trout. The trout hatchery at Chirgaon, (15 km) upstream, ensures a well stocked river.

Rampur
Rampur was once the capital of the princely state of Bushair and a major centre on the old trade route into Tibet. The annual Lavi Fair, held in the second week of November, is still an important event for the inhabitants of the region. They gather to buy, sell and barter their produce - homespun blankets, shawls, wool and dry fruits - and to celebrate the event with music and dance.

Rampur, on the banks of the Sutlej is on the N.H. 22 - the old Hindustan-Tibet Road that goes from Shimla into Kinnaur. The scenic village of Sarahan with its fascinating Bhimkali Temple is on this road beyound Rampur. (140 km).
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