Shimla, “Queen of the hills”. What a beautiful and tranquil place. It is the summer capital of the northern Indian state Himachal Pradesh with 360 degree views of mountains and hills. It is built up over 7 different hills and the highest point is at 8,051 ft featuring a monkey God at Jakhoo Hill. With a population of approx 172,000 Shimla is one of the least populated cities in India, which is probably why I feel so at peace here.
Here it is a tourist honeypot, though at the moment it is coming towards the end of the tourist high season. Between April and mid June many tourists travel to Shimla as it is a lot cooler here in Summer than in other places. I have found the people here are more patient and chilled, there is less hustle and bustle and overwhelming madness, residents seem to just go at their own pace and take things as they come, which is nice to experience. Really nice.
Unfortunately, we did not have the best start to what was supposed to be a “short trip to Shimla”… We were originally planning to stay in Shimla just one, max two nights on transit to our next destination however we both had horrific experiences with the well-known ‘Delhi belly’, which absolutely sucked. We booked ourselves train tickets from Old Delhi – Kalka – Shimla via a 2A/C sleeper train and the UNESCO World Heritage Site toy train. I’ve only ever taken the trains in sleeper class from my last visit to India so 2A/C was quite a welcoming and unexpected surprise. I was looking forward to our overnight train journey when things took a turn for the worst. A solid 13 hours was spent not looking at all the outstanding views and sights to be seen like I had hoped but instead suffering from ‘Delhi belly’. All symptoms. Non-stop… It was rough! But in all that s**t, I feel like I have learnt alot! Read more here about what I found essential at this time.
The toilets – not everywhere has the best facilities or hygiene so you need to be prepared. Infact, in a few places I wasn’t sure if I was in a train station toilet or in the toilet scene from Trainspotting… But if you are desperate and there’s a toilet/hole of some kind then really you have to just get on with it.
By the time we arrived in Shimla we were exhausted to say the very least and were like walking zombies… We got to our hotel Royal Vista for an early check-in and didn’t leave the room until we had to check-out. We had a lovely cosy little room with a fantastic mountain view! It was on the pricey side for us due to high tourism at RS3600 a night so we hit up trusty booking.com to find accommodation which was a bit cheaper and closer to Mall Road. We realised we would have to take it easy and rest up before continuing on. Situated near the tourist lift and lower bazaar, our room at Amar Villa was our little sanctuary for the next few days.
Shimla has its own weather system, within an hour it can go from being sunny to rain or storm and then sunny again! It is quite mesmerising to watch the sky change so rapidly around the hills. We soon ventured out for some “plain” food and a walk around. The tourist lift is definitely quite handy, especially if you are staying on Mall Road with luggage, it costs RS10 each way and closes at approx 10pm. However, it is super busy… the queue can be very long. We discovered that a short walk from our accommodation took you out onto the lower bazaar where you walk through alleys filled with succulent fruit and veg stalls, the smell of incense and street food. The city itself is so impressive, it is really clean and tidy, there is a strong sense of community and people are just so relaxed.
For the next couple of days we just carried on trying to fully recover from our sickness while watching the naughty monkeys play about on the rooftops and in the wild cannabis growing outside the window. I have basically become a survival expert because I have watched so much Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel. When we felt better we visited JD, a good friend of Zak’s from his last visit here. JD runs Great Escapes in Shimla, he and the team do a fantastic job to run amazing tours. If you want to venture out and explore I would highly recommend getting in touch. They are all such inspiring amazing people who make the experience even more incredible. I will write more about our trip to Spiti and Great Escapes soon. Finally, we are on our way to Spiti Valley!