Visually, Shimla has changed little from the days when it served as the cool-climate, 19th century seat of the British Raj. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, the streets of this hill station are traffic-free and lined with mock Tudor buildings, a town hall, theatre and post office. Children dressed in crisp English uniforms attend boarding schools and the Elizabethan mansion Viceregal Lodge, once the Raj headquarters, still stands strong. Indian visitors stoop to remove their shoes when visiting the pastel-yellow Christ Church, its grand fresco designed by Rudyard Kipling’s father.
Today, it’s Indian families on vacation and honeymooning couples who flock to Shimla to enjoy pine-scented mountain views and photograph the preserved colonial streets. Many arrive on the Kalka-Shimla railway, a Bollywood music video favourite, which puffs its way in from the hot plains below, navigating over 900 mountain bends. Venture below Shimla’s wealthy ridge with its sweeping piazza, where the streets tumble down the hillside into narrow bazaars crammed with stalls and haphazard housing. Here, you’ll find locals whose ancestors, including exiled Tibetans, hail from all over the Himalayas.
To soak up Shimla’s alpine ambience, talk to our India travel experts about arranging tours with local guides.
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