After a month of stress free traveling in Rajasthan, Delhi tore me down in just 36 hours and stomped on my face. I was exhausted, sick, and unknowingly battling Dengue Fever.
I needed some relaxation!
Enter: Shimla “Queen of the Hillstations”.
Snow capped moutains, fresh Himalayan spring water, bubbling creeks, apple orchards serving up fresh apple juice (the best I’ve ever had), and beautiful green lawns, flowers, and forests together make the beauty of this hill station unbeatable.
don’t like the sign confuse you; like many signs in India this one tricked tourists into paying for nothing with sneaky advertising ;) No Harry Potter here.
After all the chaos in Delhi trying to find tickets, we ended up getting a bus for 250 rs each and took the 10 hour (380 km) winding ascent by bus up 2,000 meters into Himachal Pradesh’s capital city, Shimla.
If you come from the West, you’ll be lucky to take the Kalka toy train up!
Shimla is known as a beautiful place to vacation, ever since the Brits used it as a summer getaway. Because of them, the buildings are a beautiful Victorian/colonial style. Another claim to fame is the Kali Bari temple and the tallest Hanuman statue, which is quite a hike to get up to.
It has a high risk for earthquakes as well being ranked a risk 4/5. It already has poor infrastructure and frequent landslides. The city itself can’t handle the amount of tourists coming- making it lose its charm over time. Just another reason to go sooner rather than later ;)
As a backpacker, Shimla was an escape from all of India’s chaos. No pollution, no cars honking (they weren’t even allowed up)! Fresh air! It was cold finally; I’d spent a month in Rajasthan sweating so much I needed 2 showers a day, sometimes 3! It was like a dream here.
There isn’t a lot you need to see while in Shimla. It’s more about chilling out and enjoying this break. There are just a few places to check out.
To see the Hanuman statue, you have to walk up Jakhu hill (2 km) up to 8,000 feet above sea level. What awaits you are hundreds of little monkeys! We thought they’d be nice and laughed it off when our guesthouse owner told us to take a monkey-hitting stick. Luckily, we never had to hit any, because I don’t think I could even if one was climbing on me, but they were very feisty! The statue is the highest in the world, even higher than Christ Redeemer in Brazil!
This walk was especially hard. Your red blood cells carry oxygen, and with Dengue you’ll have low RBC and platelets, making it easier to get short of breath. Add on high altitude and I was struggling! I just thought I was out of shape at the time.
We stayed at the YMCA, which is just a little trek uphill and the cheapest place in town (photo further down). After making it up the hill, breathing like I’d just run a marathon (not that I’d know what that’s like) we settled into our new room which had a shared bathroom.
As for food, the colonial influence is clear when you try the cakes and bread! It was my first break from traditional Indian food.
Tip: wear layers! While hiking, you’ll end up wanting to be in a tank top!
Reading: The Alchemist
Shimla has a lot to offer if you look for it. Bubbling hot sulfur springs and ice cold lakes to skate on along with carnivals and concerts.
Worth checking out is the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (Viceregal Lodge), built in the 1800’s. It wasn’t the most amazing tour I’ve taken, but the gardens outside had the first bits of grass I’d seen after being in the desert and cities for a month.
I would have laid in it, but they signs told me no.
If you want to do a little souvenir shopping, at the “mall”, the perfect gift from Shimla are wooden boxes and trinkets made from the local Pine and Deodar trees, as well as blankets, rugs, and traditional jewelry. The mall is a cute outdoor strip of shops and restaurants. It’s a small town; you can’t miss it. You can do it all by walking. Cars aren’t allowed in these areas.
I didn’t get to, but there is a railway from Kalka to Shimla, which has in less than (100 km) the highest ascent by train anywhere in the world. I’d love to take this toy train the next time I’m in Shimla. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and takes months to get a reservation.
Overall, it’s a cute little town to relax in before you head further North on the tourist trail. I can’t say that I would go back, but I’m so glad I have spent time there. It’s worth checking out for 1-2 days even if only to get acclimatized to the altitude before you go further north.
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Ahhh those monkeys were a nightmare!! We had one come into our room while we were packing! We took the toy train too, didn’t have a reservation and managed to get in to the cheap compartment just before it left – but we had to sit on the floor the whole way (6hrs!) because the seats were taken, and missed some of the views. Definitely nice to escape the heat for a bit!
Omgsh how wild that they came in! And actually, I didn’t take the toy train, I came up from Delhi. BUt so cool that you did! Shame you had to sit on the floor, but that’s India haha
What a cool place! I need to make it back to India especially for the mountain villages. They look infinitely more relaxing than places like Delhi!!
Oh they really are. I feel like I knew you’d been to India just from your comments, but I wasn’t following your blog while you were there. I think I need to go through your archives! Lol
Shimla seems like a nice place – not sure we’ll make it there as our list of places to go is already ridiculous…maybe on a subsequent visit (or if we just decide to stay and become expats!).
That’s the prob with the planning! So many places on the list. If you are going to the mountains, you might end up in Shimla by default as it’s a hub for buses.
This post has gotten me so excited to get there in a couple of weeks. Really need some cool mountain air and an escape from the traffic!
Oh, you’ll love it! There is this place just as you go up the hill into the city, on your left (i don’t know that name!) sells pastries and is a nice sit-down restaurant. they have good western food. Enjoy!
Shimla is a cool place and a great get-away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi. They have great British styled buildings. Lovely place.
Sounds like an awesome little stopover and those mountain views are lovely. Really enjoying your India coverage!
Thanks Jade, this is a great place to chill a couple days!
Hey, I am planning Shimla from Mumbai and am on a shoe-string budget, I am curious about the bus you’ve mentioned here. Are they regular? Did it require bargaining to arrive at that rate? And from where can that bus be boarded in Delhi?
P.S. thoroughly enjoyed this post.
Yes they are regular to Shimla and no, I didn’t have to negotiate at all! Sorry that I’m not sure where the boarding is in Delhi though.
reading your post I feel like going to Shimla asap….thanks alot! though I am an Indian I never really got time to travel…now that I live alone and can take a break whenever needed I might actually explore this city..thanks and I have to agree most of the points listed by you about India and how some of our people have been disgracing the country by giving people like you such a tough time is quite true! hope you have a good time travelling…take care.. :)
I hope you do get time to go to Shimla- it’s so lovely!
Hi Rachel, you are in my hometown!!! I live in Dayton, Ohio now – for the last 34 years.
What a coincidence!!!
Simla (as Britishers called it) was the summer capital of India during British rule. It used to be so neat and clean and not crowded when I was growing up.
Thanks for visiting. I really love your info on India as it is so authentic and real.
Dayton! Small world :) Yes, shimla is soooo beautiful, I want to make another trip back :)
You can go to Kalka by fast trains from Delhi and then board a bus or “toy” train to Simla.
There is even an air service between Delhi-Simla.