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A Shimla City Guide – outdoor adventure at a hill station hideaway high up in Himachal Pradesh

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Shimla will have you out of breath in no time, whether you’re briskly exploring the long, winding lanes of the town centre, taking in Colonial architecture and bustling bazaars, or hiking into pine forests to explore temples and glimpse distant snow-capped mountains. Once the British summertime capital, Shimla’s still a popular mountain retreat from the scorching summer heat of the plains.
Must-see district



Sitting pretty above town, and dotted with Colonial-era buildings including the striking white spires of the Neo-Gothic Christ Church – the Ridge is known as Shimla’s cultural heart and the focal point for the city’s festivals. A wide pedestrianized road, right on the cusp of Scandal Point – Shimla’s central plaza –the Ridge is a favourite place to sit and admire the Himalayan mountain panoramas. Breathe in the refreshing highland air, while groups of neatly-attired schoolchildren huddle together gossiping, honeymooning Indians wander past arm-in-arm, and families on holiday enjoy the novelty of being so high above sea level.


Outdoor exploration



At more than 2,000 metres above sea level, Shimla’s surrounded by mountain scenery – vast snowy peaks jump out from the landscape, pine forests cling to hillsides, fruit tree-filled orchards slope down to streams, and icy waterfalls pour out from rocks. Plenty of trails head out from town, including one to Annandale’s lush meadow - once used for horse racing and now a popular cricket spot. Summer Hill with its pretty tree-covered paths and nearby waterfall of Chadwick Falls – best visited in autumn after the monsoon – is a scenic walk from Scandal Point.


Cultural landmarks



With the Hanuman Temple soaring above the rest of Shimla, Jakhu Hill is a popular 30-minute trek from the Ridge. There’s also the smaller Jakhu Temple – home to a shrine and colourful Hanuman murals. Shimla’s other top cultural attractions include the State Museum – with displays of embroideries, carvings, and weapons – and the Gaiety Theatre. Situated on the Mall, it was built in 1877 and reopened after a major restoration – a proud landmark that plays host to colourful performances to this day.


Travel tips



As one of India’s major tourist destinations, and a popular spot for citied-out families who retreat here from Delhi’s sticky hot streets, Shimla can at times be heaving with visitors. The busiest months are May and June, when the skies are clear, days are warm and nights have a refreshing cool breeze. If you want to avoid the crowds, try visiting Shimla in spring or autumn, when you, too, should have impressively clear views of the Himalayas. July to September bring with them the monsoon, while large amounts of snow falls between December and February.