Shimla - A very British Retreat in the Himalayaas
"Ghosts of a British past"
Shimla is well worth a visit primarily to get a sense of Indian History in the times of the Raj. However, it is an excellent base for treks in the surrounding area and a handy stopping off point for those on route further north to areas such as Manali and Leh.
Shimla was the Himalayaan Hill station. Situated in the foothills, in the days of the British Raj this was where the summer capital where the Viceroy and government used to retreat to avoid the heat of the summer on the Indian Plains in the days before independence.
Evidence of that British presence is everywhere in the town particularly on The Mall with its mock Tudor architecture, The Old Gaiety Theatre, large promenande (similar to those found at the British seaside). Some of thisBritish architecture is starting to fall to bits and has a very weather warn look. For me, this added greatly to the character of the place.
Even by Indian standards, the sight of candy floss being sold on the promenade with the Himalayaas as a backdrop is surreal.
Highlights to Shimla include a visit to the atmospheric Viceroys home, short visits to the two main Hindu Temples, excellent sunsets with the Himalayaan foothills as a backdrop, an interesting coffee house, shopping on The Mall and The Ridge, the famous Himalayaan Queen Train journey out of the Himalayaas (I missed out on this) and soime great walks in the local forests.
Shimla today is very much a "live town". The town is the capital of the state of Himanchal Pradesh
For modern India it is still a retreat but more for Hindu honeymooners and Indian tourists who are looking for a taste of the Himalayaas. For this reason in high season (June to September), I understand the town can be very crowded and accomodation is hard to come by. I went in November and it was not that crowded.
Watch out for the monkeys on the Mall. They are interesting to observe but can be mischievious.