THE INSIDERS SHIMLA, INDIA
EXPLORE: Situated in the shadow of the great Himalayas in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the town of Shimla exudes old-world charm and is an authentic look-back to the days of the British Raj. As you explore you’ll notice the higher part of the hill station reflects this British connection, comprising mostly Victorian-style buildings, while the lower slopes are occupied with a maze of bazaars and restaurants. Further out of the centre is Jakhoo Hill, the town’s highest point, offering panoramic views of Shimla and its surroundings. The Jakhoo Temple at the top of the hill also offers spectacular outlooks and, according to the epic Ramayana, the monkey god Hanuman rested here during his journey to the Himalayas; hpshimla.nic.in.
REFLECT: Built about 250 years ago, the Tara Devi Temple is named after one of the many forms of the goddess Kali. This well-maintained place of worship in located in lush green surroundings at the top of a steep hill about 11km from the town centre; hpshimla.nic.in/sml_temples.htm.
BUY: The Mall is a prime shopping location – a 7km thoroughfare famous for its Victorian architecture and retaining the town’s charming heritage. To get there, take the lifts from Cart Road, an ingenious system designed to save pedestrians from walking up many flights of steps. Lined with showrooms and shops, The Mall is the perfect spot to pick up Himachali caps, quality pashmina shawls, jewellery and other local handicrafts.
LEARN: Shimla is a wonderful place to learn about the culture and natural beauty of Himachal Pradesh. The Photo Art Gallery on Potters Hill is definitely worth a visit, displaying more than 20,000 photographs of the state; shimlaonline.in.
RELAX: The luxurious Oberoi-run Wildflower Hall and Spa is the perfect place to unwind; it’s in the quiet area of Mashobra, a 30-minute drive from Shimla’s town centre. Sister hotel The Cecil is a heritage property at the less busy end of The Mall. A great spot to enjoy nature is Chadwick Falls; surrounded by dense forest, it’s about 7km from Shimla proper; oberoihotels.com; incredibleindia.org.
Harshil Kamboj is a senior executive of operations at Insight Vacations, India. Insight Vacations offers a fiveday Shimla the Queen of the Hills escorted tour, with departures from August to next April. More: insightvacations.com.
Graham Erbacher Graham.Erbacher@news.com.au