Snow clad mountains, lush deodar forests and stunning waterfalls – Shimla has got everything to enthrall your senses. Its timeless beauty has enchanted many a visitor and earned it a prominent place on the tourism map of the world.
Few places on earth can equal the natural beauty of Shimla. Not surprisingly, it is one of the most visited tourist places in India.
You may also want to read about the best hill stations in India.
A little bit of history
Shimla was the summer capital of the British when they ruled India. They absolutely loved the cool climate and beauty of this place and escaped to this magic world whenever the heat in Delhi became unbearable. The influence of the British is still evident in the buildings of Shimla.
When to visit?
Shimla can be visited during any time of the year. Here are the top 11 tourist places in Shimla. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Shimla has numerous attractions and including all of them is beyond the scope of this article.
Jakhoo Hill is only about 2 kilometers from Shimla. It is the highest peak in the region and offers spectacular views of the city and the mountains. Jakhoo Hill lies at an altitude of 8000 feet above sea level. It is also a famous pilgrimage center. Hanuman is the presiding deity of the ancient Jakhoo temple. The temple’s 108 feet tall statue has sensors to keep birds away.
The Shimla Ridge which lies at the center of the town offers brilliant views of the snow-clad Himalayan peaks. The Ridge is a vast open space running from the east side of the city to the west. It is quite popular with tourists looking to enjoy beautiful views of the mountains. The Ridge also has an ancient Christian Church that showcases the beauty of the Neo-Gothic style of architecture. Tudor Library is another popular attraction here.
The Shimla State Museum
Built in 1974, Shimla State Museum (aka Himachal State Museum and Library) aims to preserve and record the rich cultural legacy of Himachal Pradesh. It stands high on Mount Pleasant and attracts a large number of visitors. The architecture of the building is reminiscent of the colonial era. The museum has a stunning collection of rare sculptures, paintings, coins and handicrafts. The lush green lawns surrounding the structure increase its visual appeal. A must visit if you are interested in history.
Summer Hill (aka Potter’s Hill) is one of the seven hills that form Shimla. It stands at a height of 1283 meters above sea level. Potters used to gather clay from here and that is how the hill got its name ‘Potter’s Hill. From Summer Hill, one can get spectacular views of the valley. It is about 5 kilometers from the Ridge.
Daranghati Sanctuary is about 150 kilometers from Shimla. It is a major tourist place in Himachal Pradesh. This used to be a hunting reserve of the Rampur Bushahr royal family. In 1962, Indian government declared the forest as a wildlife sanctuary.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Situated on top of the Observatory Hill, the Viceregal Lodge (Rashtrapati Niwas) is an architectural marvel. It currently houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Built in the 1880’s it was the residence of the Viceroy of India. After independence, the building served as the summer residence of the President of India. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India, transferred it to the Ministry of Education in 1965 for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
Annandale (or Annadale) is a star attraction of Shimla. The flat terrain of the place made it the playground of the British who used to play polo and cricket here. They also indulged in a bit of racing. The race course built by the British has been converted into a golf course and sometimes it is also used as a helipad.
Naldehra and Shaily Peak
Naldehra is a popular hill station near Shimla. It lies at an altitude of about 2044 meters above sea level. Enchanted by the natural beauty of the place, Lord Curzon built a golf course here. Dense deodar forests cover much of the landscape. Naldehra offers stunning views of the Himalayan peaks. Much of the place can be explored on horseback.
Kufri is India’s winter sports capital. The place offers exciting opportunities for indulging in ice skating and skiing. Kufri is located 19 kms away from Shimla. It is a favorite destination of adventure sports enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Chail is famous for its palace and the cricket pitch which is the highest in the world. Dense deodar and pine trees surround the place and add to its charm. Chail lies at a higher altitude than Shimla and offers breathtaking views of Shimla and the Himalayas.
Chadwick Falls is a real treat for the eyes. The water falls from a height of 1586 meters and finds its course down through a rocky tract surrounded by lush deodar and pine trees. The view is simply breathtaking. Chadwick Falls is about 7 kilometers from Shimla. The waterfall can also be accessed from Summer Hill on foot. The 45-minutes walk from Summer Hill to Chadwick Falls gives one an opportunity to enjoy the lush greenery. The Chadwick Fall is the main source of water in the forest areas of Shimla. The Falls look majestic during the monsoon season because of the sheer increase in the amount of water falling down the rocks.
How to reach Shimla
By air: You can board a flight to Shimla from all major cities in India. The nearest airport is the Shimla Airport which is close to major tourist attractions of the place. New Delhi and Chandigarh airports are also nearby.
By Train: A narrow gauge railway connects Shimla to Kalka. Your children will absolutely love this toy train ride through the hills. Kalka is connected to all major cities in India.
By road: Shimla is about 350 kms from New Delhi, and 118 km froms Chandigarh. There are regular bus services between Chandigarh and Shimla. Buses also ply between Delhi and Chandigarh.
Best Time to Visit Shimla
Shimla enjoys pleasant climate throughout the year. The summers aren’t hot; winters aren’t particularly cold either. If you visit in the winter, you will get to see the snowfalls. Monsoons are also a great time to visit Shimla because the hills look their greenest during this time.
October – March: Expect temperatures between 2 and 8 degree Celsius between October and March. Shimla sees heavy snowfall in December and January. Ideal for skiing in Kufri.
April – June: Expect pleasant climate. The temperature tends to hover around 15 degree Celsius during this season. Summer in Shimla is perfect for engaging in adventure sports like trekking, paragliding and camping.
July – September: During the monsoon season, Shimla occasionally experiences landslides and avalanches, but the hills and the valleys look their best during this season.