One of our travelers has shared her journey to Shimla. After reading this, we think it is very helpful for people travelling to this part of the country. This Travel Guide To Shimla will become handy. Here it goes:
“Ok, I am on platform number 21 but I can only see DTC buses here”. I told Shefali on the phone. My intuitions were telling me that something is wrong, Shefali on the other side of the phone also felt the same way. I once more confirmed with her and said “Shefu, It is platform in Anand Vihar ISBT right” and her reply shook my world for few cold-sweating seconds, “I-t i-s I-S-B-T Kashmiri Gate”. The adrenaline rush is hard to explain, for a moment I believed that heart was the only thing that I had in my body. Our bus to Shimla was scheduled at 9.00 PM and when I checked the watch, it was 9:05 PM! And I was standing in a wrong bus station. I didn’t know what to do! Pacing my speed I reached for an auto and asked him to right away take me to Kashmiri Gate ISBT. What a great start of one of the most anticipated trips of my life!
I finally managed to reach the right ISBT at 9.25 PM, where Shefali and Hemant were waiting for me with a new bus tickets in hands. The next bus for Shimla was scheduled to depart at 9.30PM. A sigh of relief crossed the faces of my two friends who were waiting right outside the Volvo bus. Ok the trio was finally ready to hit the road, taste the real adventure and most importantly learn some useful travelling lessons…
Shimla… The Jack of Holidays
Lesson 1: Bookings and Commutation for Shimla
There are many buses that run between Delhi and Shimla, HPTDC and RSTRC are two bus services that are operated by state government of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively. Along with the state-run buses there are many private bus operators also that offer good services between the two destinations. There are two buses in the evening for Shimla from Kashmiri Gate ISBT (I would never forget this piece of information…LOL) operated by HPTDC at 9.00 PM and 9.30 PM. The fare is about Rs 850 (to be precise Rs 824) and it takes about 5.5hrs to 7hrs to reach Shimla (depending upon the weather condition). The tickets are available online on the hptdc site or you can directly go to the ticket counter at Kashmiri Gate bus station to get it in advance.
The best way to reach Shimla by train is to make Delhi your base. There are number of trains that run between Delhi and Kalka like Himalayan Queen (5.45 AM), Kalka Mail (9.25 PM), Kalka Shatabdi (5.15 PM) and Pashchim Experss (11.05 AM). The famed Kalka-Shimla Toy Train takes passengers on an unmatched journey to Shimla. The Himalayan Queen (12.10 PM), Shivalik Deluxe Express (5.30 AM) and the Rail Motor Car (5.10 AM) are the trains that run between Kalka and Shimla every day. The journey between Kalka and Shimla usually takes about 5hrs to 7hrs.
…I don’t know if I should call myself crazy for choosing winters as the time to travel to Shimla and Manali, but deciding to visit without a pre booking of hotel in Shimla that too at the time of New Years can certainly be called madness! The rush was maddening and so were we, how can we not book a hotel in Shimla during New Years in advance! The bus dropped us at Shimla’s Old Bus Station at 5.30 AM; it had snowed a day before we reached Shimla and was raining since last night, the weather was in full Kolaveri Di mood! Obvious as it seems, we didn’t book any hotel, so had to stand under a tin-shed to save ourselves till a shabby looking man offered to carry our luggage and find us a hotel, we agreed and the adventure of finding a hotel in Shimla began. After a 45 minute episode of refusal, negotiation and getting drenched in the rain, we finally found a place (Hotel Dreamland) to call our own! In order to enjoy your holiday in Shimla and Manali, it is better to make all the bookings in advance or else let the tour operators carry all you burden. There are number of good travel agencies in India that offer excellent tour packages for Shimla and Manali.
Lesson 2: Hotel Bookings
Shimla is replete with number of good hotels that range from luxury 5 stars to low budget hotels. But, if you have plans to travel in summer to Shimla or during the New Year (Like Us), it is better book a hotel in advance. Most of the hotels in Shimla are located on the side of the Mall Road and towards the Kali Bari Temple. A three star hotel in Shimla will cost somewhere around Rs 2500 per day, whereas a budget hotel will cost around Rs 900 per day except during summers and New Year, when one experiences an annoying hike in tariffs. Most of the hotels offer sightseeing packages and sometimes even refuses booking if the tourist disagrees on taking the package (we experienced it). It is not a bad idea to opt for the packages offered by the hotel, especially, if it is your first time to visit Shimla. Anyways, a decent bargaining quality can win you a comfortable stay at affordable prices. People are often sweet to tourists and smile gently, even if they say No for an accommodation…LOL.
… None of us could catch a peaceful sleep last night and right after checking in the small hotel that we managed to earn for ourselves at critical time of New Year, we decided to take a nap before heading out in the chilly and breezy weather of Shimla. Although a bit hungry, I decided to suppress the call of the stomach…and soon fell asleep with the thought of heading Mall Road and eating some sumptuous delicacy…
Lesson 3: Eateries and Restaurants in Shimla
I wouldn’t consider Shimla a good place for foodies; however, there are couples of good restaurants that help you stay away from starving. If you enjoy Chinese and Tibetan cuisines then you can visit Aunty Ka Dhaba and China Town, but if you are not sure what should you eat in Shimla, you can try going to multi-cuisine restaurants like the one in Hotel Combermere called Seventh Heaven. The food and the ambiance are fantastic; in fact it is one of the best places to eat in Shimla. If you have a sweet tooth, Honey Hut in the Mall Road is the place for you, as the name suggests, the restaurant offer everything with topped with extra honey. A must try here is the Donut. There is a cluster of restaurants in the market area near Mall Road that only serves vegetarian food. Baljees, Ashiana & Goofa, Silver Oak, Wake and Bake Café, Indian Coffee House, the Restaurant at Holiday Home, Quilla, and Devicos 5 are some popular eateries in Shimla.
…You just cannot underestimate the power of a Nap! The sleep indeed did some good to us. We woke up by 12.00 PM, the room was freezing cold, Shefali looked out of the window and informed that it was raining. Getting up from a cozy bed was the least thing anyone of us wanted to do, but my stomach was knocking from inside continuously reminding of my duty towards it. Like always Shefali was the first one to get out of the bed and finding the source of inspiration I dragged myself out of the cozy bed. We got ready and left for the most famous place in Shimla and the most obvious one too: the Ridge and the Mall Road…
Lesson 4: Attractions and Activities in Shimla
The Ridge and the Mall Road are the most popular Shimla sightseeing places. A flat area with an array of shops and eateries is how I will describe the Mall Road. There are ample of shops that are ideal for shopping of gifts, woolen and wood items. The locally brewed apple, plum, apricot, cider, ginger and grape wine are also sold on the Mall Road. Minchys is a shop that sells locally made squashes and jams (A good bit to take home!). There are many places to buy handicrafts items, but Himachal Emporium on the Mall Road is the best place to purchase handicrafts in Shimla. Situated on the Mall Road is another spectacle called Viceregal Lodge. This colonial style building is worth visiting. The Ridge is a flat area located above the Mall Road; it is one of the most popular places for locals and tourists to hang around at. The centrally located Christ Church is the landmark of the place. Tourists here are mostly seen lingering in the Ridge while munching on sweet corns, momos and popcorns. A view of the distant lofty mountains from here is commendable.
One place that intrigues almost all tourists is the Jakhu Temple. Situated on the highest peak of Shimla, Jakhu Temple is dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman. The 10m long Hanuman marks the identity of the temple. A long uphill climb rewards you with a distinct place that offers a splendid overview of Shimla city. One can also hire a cab to reach the temple but a long nature walk is worth the effort. Other sacred places to visit in Shimla are Kali Bari Temple and the Tara Devi Temple.
Shimla Water Catchment Sanctuary is yet another tourist destination in Shimla. Fringed with Pine and Cedar trees this sanctuary is a good place to watch barking deer, goral, flying squirrel, pine marten, porcupine and leopard. There are also a large number of birds that one can see. Trekking is one of the prime activities that can be enjoyed in Shimla. The local mountain trekking is quiet popular amongst the local and tourists. Annadale, The Glen, Wildflower Hall and Mashobra are the places that one can trek from Shimla city.
Attractions and Activities around Shimla
Prospect Hill and Kamna Devi (6kms), Chadwick Falls (7kms), Mashobra (12kms), Kufri (16kms from Shimla), Chail (45kms), Tattapani (51kms from Shimla), are other few places for the tourists to visit. A visit to the zoo and the amusement park in Kufri (16kms from Shimla) and ice skating in Kufri and Chail are your options for activities in Shimla. Narkanda (65kms) and Tattapani are great places to enjoy skiing and other winter sports. Bihargaon is another good place to visit while you are in Shimla.
The chilly weather was the real challenge, but we the Three Musketeers were ready to take up anything but boredom. The visit to the Mall Road and the Ridge was fun, with the variety of things Shimla offered, we preferred taking back locally made wines in apple, plum and grape flavours with us. Despite the chills, the Ridge was crowded; the reason was obvious as it was 31st of December (New Year’s Eve). We spent the entire evening hanging around the Mall and the Ridge, the crowd started to bustle more at around 11.30 pm and by 12.00 am, the streets were filled with pretty much drunken yet harmless cheerful crowd… The three of us hugged and wished each other, we were glad to be in Shimla and most of all glad to be together, celebrating our friendship and praying for another year of unconditional love for each other. A group of drunken guys approached us and wished in the gentlest of all manners, we smiled back in return. It was a light social ambiance and we were lovin’ it! We reached hotel and soon fell asleep, the next day was scheduled for the most popular travel destination in Himachal Pradesh… Manali!