The picturesque hill station of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh is a treasure trove of outdoor activities. The close contact with the pure beauty of nature and the perfectly pleasant weather enables you to have a relaxing and eventful vacation. The white snow-clad peaks in the horizon mingled with the sparkle of dense green vegetation feels like a soothing balm to your nerves. The serene ambience and the people’s hospitality, acts as an instant respite from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan city life.
Shimla is a paradise for outdoor activities and there are a huge number of things to do that are enough to fill up your vacation with fun. Some of things that are a must-do in Shimla are:
1. Hiking & Camping
The best way to come in close contact with the natural wonders of Shimla is to pack your backpack and go on a trek. There are several hiking trails winding through the dense canopy of tall pine and deodar trees. The occasional peek of faraway mountains shining gloriously white in the distance and green valleys, far below with little streams of water snaking through the boulders is sure to take your breath away. Be sure to take a pair of binoculars and a powerful camera as you might spot quite a few species of birds in the dense vegetation. A trek to the Chadwick Falls is a must while you are at it. You will be filled with wonder as you trail down the narrow path through the dense jungle leading down to the spectacular waterfall. Spending a few quiet minutes basking in the glory of the wilderness proves to be a soothing experience.
Caution: Like all forests, this area too is home to quite a few leopards so it is advisable to leave the place way before sunset.
• Best Time to Hike (March to June): Hiking should be done during the summer months of March to June.
• Not-Good Time to Hike: (July to February): Hiking in the months from July to February should be avoided owing to rain and snowfall. The roads get slippery and there is a risk of landslide or avalanche.
The open hills and valleys coupled with the pleasant weather during the summer months make Shimla a haven for camping. There are quite a few places with beautiful landscape and stunning backdrop where you can pitch a tent and build a campfire. The best places to camp out in Shimla are Summer Hill, Fagu and Mashobra that has breath-taking views of the Himalayas. There are many shops and agencies in Shimla who can provide the necessary equipment and information for hiking and camping.
2. Stroll At The Mall
The Mall is the central hub and the busiest part of Shimla. This is the commercial area packed with shops where the Shimla-ites mostly do their shoppingfrom. Being the center point of the city, the Mall is easily accessible from all parts of the city. The Mall road along with the flat open area called ‘the Ridge’ is the favorite hangout place for the locals as well as tourists. Go for an early morning stroll through the Mall Road, right upto The Ridge and admire the panorama in front of your eyes. The sunset with its different shades of orange as the sun slowly goes down is an awesome sight to watch while you are out for an evening stroll. The place takes on a magical look during the winters, when the city experiences heavy snowfall and the entire area is covered in a white blanket of snow. Ensure you are always carrying an umbrella while outside, as Shimla experiences impromptu showers of rain at intervals throughout the year.
If you are in the city during the summer months of April and May, you can witness the famous Summer Festival. The Mall area and the Ridge takes on a carnival-like appearance colorfully decorated with bright lights and banners and come alive with a flurry of cultural activities.
The local people of the various small villages in and around Shimla are famous for their handicrafts. The best place to shop in Shimla is The Mall. There are a large number of antique shops that sell local Shimla products and memorabilia. Beautifully hand-woven woolen clothes, soft blankets in pretty prints and soothing colors and bright colorful shawls at very reasonable prices are favorite shopping items for tourists.
Lakkar Bazaar, accessible from The Ridge, is another popular shopping center in Shimla. This market is a major selling point of various items carved out of wood. These are made by a small community of Sikh immigrants settled in Shimla whoare very skilled in wood carving. Among the beautiful items on sale are intricate souvenirs and show-pieces, wooden toys and walking sticks.
While at the Ridge, be sure to visit the tiny Tibetan market for some unique Tibetan jewellery and carpets and a wide range of bottled jams, pickles and sauces.
Best Shopping Months: From April to August and from December to January are the best times to visit the market when it receives a fresh load of products coming in from different villages.
4. Toy Train Ride
In case you have traveled to Shimla by road and not rail, you have to experience the glory of riding in the toy train at least once while you are there. The quaint and quite Shimla Station is tucked away in an elevated point in the city and has quite a few trains that arrive and leave Shimla throughout the day. Owing to the rugged mountainous terrain, all trains run on narrow-gauge tracks at very less speed. The most popular train is the Shivalik Express that runs from Shimla to Kalka and back. The journey gives you an almost fairy-tale feel as the train passes through 102 tunnels, numerous bridges cut out from the mountains and the occasional waterfalls. The train stops for about 5minutes at the tiny Barog Station where there is a restroom for the passengers to freshen up. The Barog Tunnel is the longest of all the tunnels. Make sure to get off the train and walk around a bit while the train halts there.
Keep your camera ready and poised to capture the sheer brilliance of the scenery that unfolds in front of you as the journey progresses.
Some notable trains worth riding are:
|Shivalik Deluxe Express||4:45 hours||5:30 A.M.||Chair Car – 254|
|Shimla-Kalka Express||5:05 hours||6:00 A.M.||First Class – 290|
|2 Seater – 61|
|Rail Motor||5:40 hours||10:35 A.M.||First Class – 320|
5. Adventure Sports
Like all hill stations, Shimla also offers its fair share of adventure sports. In recent times, the popularity of adventure sports in the hill station has increased manifold and is a hot favorite amongst tourists. During the summer season (from March to June) when there is very little rain and the wind blows favorably, you can try your hands at paragliding, hot air balloon and rock climbing. Mountain biking is very popular in Shimla. If you are in the city during the months of September and October, be sure to catch the famous MTB Himalayas Race. This race is one of the largest mountain biking races in Asia and Shimla is the privileged host for several years now. Find out the dates and watch the professionals in action.
As winter sets inafter November, the cityis covered in a thick blanket of snow and Skiing, Snowboarding and Ice-skating take over as the dominant sports. Shimla is famous for its Ice-skating Carnival that takes place during the month of December. Try your hand at the sport and it will get your adrenaline flowing.
Bright and colorful with its plethora of activities and natural wonders, together with its beautiful landscape and friendly people, Shimla has an uncanny ability to make you ask for more!