The Road Trip begins…
We started early in the morning at 6:00 from Delhi by car on our road trip to Shimla on 29th of May 2022. The morning was however colder than expected and we left after having morning tea at home. Within an hour we reached Murthal which is famous for its roadside dhabas/ restaurants serving traditional north Indian breakfast of stuffed parathas served with butter on it. This half an hour breakfast break made our morning wholesome and we hit the road again on our journey of approximately 350 kilometres. We reached in about 7 hours of drive through the state of Haryana and Punjab into Himachal Pradesh.
Though Shimla at this point of season is generally crowded, but we easily manoeuvred to the middle of town and checked into one of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation’s accommodation in Shimla by the name of Holiday Home located near the Lift area. The lift here is important in that if you want to reach the main Mall Road area without walking to the steep road, you can take the lift by paying rupees 10 to reach The Mall Road and the ridge.
A bit of History
Shimla became the summer capital of British India in 1864. The state of Himachal Pradesh is the northern most state and consist of beautiful places consisting mainly of hill stations. Especially Shimla is known since the pre independence times as the summer capital of the then British government and now under the government of India. In those days British Officers used to shift their offices to Shimla as their summer capital to avoid harsh Indian summer.
For all their comforts they created those marvellous buildings and gardens and developed Shimla according to their needs. The Vice Regal Lodge was constructed as their summer headquarters in the year 1888 with Henry Irwin as architect. This was the period of Lord Dufferin who took keen interest in its construction during 1884-88.
Where we stayed | hotels in Shimla
Shimla has lots of options from budget hotels, hostels to high end hotels which can be easily booked online. Airbnb is another good option if you don’t want to compromise on comfort and safety. The most luxurious hotel is The Cecil which is also the oldest hotels in Shimla. Built during the Raj era in 1883.
After checking into the hotel HOLIDAY HOME, we left our vehicle there in the hotel and walked down to the Lift to reach the Mall Road. It was a 5 minute walk passing by the multilevel parking. The Mall Road and The Ridge is the main happening place in Shimla and is frequented by tourists as well as locals for spending leisure time and also for shopping. The presence of all sorts of cafes and eating places makes it a perfect place to spend time with friends and family. Especially in the evenings people visit this place in large numbers and have a good time in cafes and shopping.
Places of interest in Shimla
The Viceregal Lodge: is located at a walking distance of 4.5 kilometers from the scandal point, Mall Road. You can also hire a taxi to reach here. It was earlier the residence of the Viceroy. Today, it houses The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. You can spend a couple of hundred rupees to experience a guided tour of about 1/2 an hour inside the main building. It is actually worth visiting as the construction and interiors are especially the woodwork is adorable
The State Museum: is located 2.5 kilometers from the mall road and can be visited from morning 10 am to evening 5 pm.
The Christ Church: is located right at the ridge area. Built in 1857, It is the second oldest church in the northern India, oldest one is located in Ambala(Haryana).
Jakhu Temple: dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Jakhu temple can be reached by a pleasant hike of an hour in the dense deodar forest area above the ridge.
Shopping in Shimla
Just below the mall Road is the middle bazaar and the lower bazaar and can be reached stepping down from the main mall road via small walking slopes or stairs. These bazaars are perfect place for daily shopping and the small but significant cafes and restaurants. One of them we tried for their special Himachali cuisine, the Mandiyali Dham (from a place called Mandi) and another one is Kangri Dham (from the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh), the traditional food which is prepared and served on special occasions and ceremonies in Himachal, usually served in a Thali (platter).
The restaurant by the name Himachali Rasoi is popular with the locals as well as the tourists like us who are always in search of new places and food.
Where to eat in Shimla
There are whole lot of options to eat on the Mall Road. The old bakeries are famous for the quick bites and the cakes. Most of them serve Ice Cream cones and even momos because of their popularity and high sale.
On the Day 2, we were strolling on the ridge area and found it quite interesting in that loads of tourists were busy enjoying social gatherings and local food. The mall road is full of small bakeries and eateries serving hot momos, patties, cakes and fried snacks.
The Ashiana and Gufa restaurant is owned by HPTDC serves delicious food. It is located right at the ridge near the Christ church The view from the open Verandah and the ambience outside is enjoyable especially in the evenings. We ordered the traditional DHAM, which consisted of traditional Himachali local food and enjoyed the exquisite taste.
The Indian Coffee House is old classic restaurant which serves affordable food since long time. Generally, the south indian food and coffee is popular items ordered here.
Himachali Rasoi in the Middle bazaar serves traditional himachali food at a reasonable price and unique taste.
Places worth visiting near Shimla
If you have enough of Shimla you can head towards the less crowded and more beautiful places like Mashobra, Naldehra and Kufri and Chail. Shimla for us was a bit crowded and we needed a quiet place to enjoy the mountains and the breeze. So we headed next day to nearby Naldehra.
Not far away from bustling town of Shimla, Naldehra is a quiet place 20 kilometres from Shimla. Naldehra has a little bit of history too as it was developed during the British Raj as a golf course which is functional till date. The entry to the golf course is strictly restricted to the members only.
After driving for an hour from Shimla after breakfast we reached Naldehra and checked into the HPTDC Hotel besides the golf course. The hotel was located within the deodar forest near the golf course. We opted to stay in a stand alone wooden hut in the middle of the deodar trees. It was reasonable priced and the restaurant was serving good hygienic food for the tourists.
In the evening we hired the ponies which were available there for tourists for a short ride around the golf course passing through the deodar forest and undulating terrain. It’s a half an hour ride which will take you to the highest point of Naldehra and will drop you back near the entry gate of the golf course.
How to reach Shimla
BY ROAD: One can reach shimla by booking an overnight Volvo Bus from Delhi (Himachal Bhawan, Mandi House), which generally starts at 8 pm in the night and reach Shimla in the wee hours next morning. Whereas if you are driving your own vehicle, it takes around 8 hours to reach Shimla by well connected and well maintained National Highway.
BY TRAIN: Booking through the IRCTC website, one can book train tickets from Delhi to Kalka. The train takes 4-6 hours from Delhi to Kalka and from Kalka one can book ticket for the Kalka Shimla toy train which takes 5-6 hours to reach Shimla.
AIR: The Shimla airport is at a distance of 16 kilometers from main town.
Kalka Shimla toy train
Shimla is also famous for its narrow gauge toy train which runs from Kalka to Shimla covering a distance of 96.60 kilometres of beautiful terrain passing through hundreds of tunnels (102 TO BE PRECISE) on the way. Built between 1898 and 1903, this was built during the British Raj to connect the plains with the summer capital of India at that time. It was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 as part of the MOUNTAIN RAILWAYS OF INDIA.
Best season to visit Shimla
The best season to visit this popular hill station is during the summer months of March to June and then again after the monsoon season from October to December. If you love snow, then it is recommended to visit Shimla in the months of December and January.