Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, Shimla offers a wide range of outdoor activities and a thriving traditional culture, largely untouched by India’s commercialization. This beautiful mountain city, a former summer playground for British colonists, combines British influence and local charm.
Start in the heart of Shimla with a visit to The Ridge. This large plaza is the center of Shimla’s cultural events, such as the Shimla Summer Festival. In winter, the city center is converted into the open-air Shimla Ice Skating Rink, for which day passes are available. In the evening, stroll down Mall Road and mix with locals as you window shop, before dining at any of the restaurants lining the street. Try stuffed capsicums, which are a local specialty.
Visit the 19th-century Christ Church, the Wildflower Hall hotel and the Rashtrapati Niwas, the former summer home of the British viceroy of India, for a taste of Shimla’s colonial heritage. Shop for souvenirs in town at the lively open-air markets on Mall Road and the Lower Bazaar, or visit the Lakkar Bazaar to pick up one of Shimla’s famous hand-carved wooden souvenirs.
Get out of the city and take advantage of the beautiful surrounding mountains, with hiking trails for all abilities. Excursions into the foothills of the Himalayas begin right in town and often end in cultural destinations. Take a short 1.5 mile (2.5 kilometer) climb to Jakhu Temple, which sits at Shimla’s highest point, located over 8,000 feet (2455 meters) above sea level and offering stunning views. For a longer excursion, walk through the lush protected forests of the Shimla Water Catchment Sanctuary and marvel at rare birds and flowers.
Get to Shimla with a ride on the historic trains of the Kalka Shimla Railway. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the rail line weaves through the foothills of Himalayas. During the 7-hour train ride, sip on tea and take in spectacular views from well-preserved vintage rail cars. If on a tighter schedule, air-conditioned buses offer a more direct connection to large north Indian cities. If flying, take a taxi or a shuttle from the Jubarhati Airport, located 15 miles (22 kilometers) out of town.
Shimla offers many outdoor activities, from hiking to skiing, and unique cultural experiences, making it a great place to visit in summer and winter.