Although Shimla is a naturally very beautiful place, and you need not visit any attractions for a sucessful trip. Still, there are multiple places of historical, cultural and traditional importance in this town. So, it is always good to know what all options are available to explore so that you can choose the ones based on your taste. This time around when we visited Shimla, we explored many of these. And, at the end, we felt we had a wonderful trip. So, here we list the attractions for you in case you are planning to head to Shimla and wondering what all to see and do.
Jakhu Temple is a very ancient temple, dedicated to Hindu diety , Hanuman. It is situated on Jakhu hill, 2.5 km from the ridge, Shimla. Here, the huge idol of Hanuman (almost 108 feet) is visible from far off. And it is substantially visible from mall road as well. A nice trek uphill through the pine and deodar forests leads to this temple. Although, you will find a lot of monkeys inhibiting the place. So, it’s good to take something for them to eat. At the foothill itself, you will see vendors sitting with small packets of snacks that are for the monkeys. Better to buy a couple of these just in case the monkeys decide to come to you and demand their food 🙂
As I remember from my visit long back. When we arrived at the temple, the monkeys actually approached us and literally checked our pockets for something of their interest!! However, this time around, we couldn’t visit here. But looking at the surroundings it was easy to believe things have not changed much. There’s a legend behind the temple’s coming into existence. The legend goes that Lord Hanuman rested at this very place while he was searching for the sanjeevani booti (a herb) to revive Lakshmana (in the epic Ramayana). That’s how later a temple of Hanuman was constructed at the very same spot.
Mall Road is the main street of Shimla. It is located little below the ridge. This strategic location provides an excellent view of the valleys and the surrounding mountains. Mall Road is lined up with several government buildings, showrooms and shops, restaurants and cafes. Also, the place is lined with benches on the sides to sit and relax in between while you walk through the street. One of my fondest memories is from the time when I visited mall road in childhood. And, it was cold and foggy.
Nevertheless, we bought some ice cream and enjoyed it while we walked through the street. Although, we kept watching the magnificent view of surrounding mountains, valleys, flora and fauna for quiet sometime, we still felt a strong desire not to leave. One side of the mall road leads to the market below. Both the ends of the market are lined up with multiple shops selling local handmade items including crafts, woolen, small wooden items, soveniers, etc.
This is the point where mall road joins the ridge at the western end. The place gets its name due to a scandal that happened during the British era. It being, the then Maharaja (king) of Patiyala and the daughter of British Viceroy eloped from this area. As a result, the Maharaja was banished from entering Shimla. However, the maharaja went ahead and encountered this punishment by setting up a new summer capital for himself – Chail. Now, the most prominent feature of Scandal point is the statue of Lala Lajpat Roy, Indian freedom fighter. Nevertheless, the walk from the Mall Road to the Scandal Point is quiet refreshing with breathtaking views all around.
The ridge is a wide open area at one end of the mall road. Most of the major attractions of Shimla like the mall, jakhu temple, snowdon etc. are accessible through the ridge. It is the shopping and cultural hub of the town. Also, most of the cultural events of Shimla are held here. The ridge road runs east to west alongside mall road. Then, it joins Mall road on the west end at Scandal Point. While, on the east side, it leads to Lakkar Bazar.
Most Prominent landmarks on the Ridge are a neo-Gothic structure of Church from 1844 and a tudorbethan styled library building built in 1910. Also, there are some prominent leader statues located on the ridge. It provides a vast open stretch to admire the natural beauty around. Lots of photographers are present at this location with traditional himachali garments which you can wear and then get a snap clicked. The area is also marked by a number of street food shops that start thriving towards the evening.
Christ Church is the second oldest church in India. It was built in the neo-gothalic style in 1857, it stands out as a prominent and remarkable structure on the ridge. The silhouette of this church can be seen from far off. The Church houses a great collection of books and sculptures. The big clock besides the Church building is another remarkable attraction. The church is beautifully illuminated during the night.
Tara Devi Temple
Tara Devi Temple is located almost 15km from the main town of Shimla. It is located on the Tara Devi Hill, on the Kalka-Shimla National highway. The road that leads uphill to Tara Devi Temple is little steep compared to the main highway. The whole path is lined by dense forests and wild flowers. A fresh aroma of sweet pine forests and green meadows fills in as one traverses this road. On top of the hill, the area is well landscaped with flower beds, tiny temple shops and a few shops offering tea and coffee.
The temple itself has huge premises and beautiful architecture. While we ascended the hill to reach Tara Devi temple, dense clouds surrounded us and cold wind was blowing. It made the visit altogether more pleasant. The whole area was soaked in extra dose of freshness.
It is a market place alongside the ridge in Shimla. It is mainly famous for wooden articles, small carved ones, that are locally made and specifically targeted for tourists to buy. Wooden toys made by a small group of Sikh carpenters who settled here almost a centuary back, are particularly famous here. One must visit once, while in Shimla, and would sure find some small gift for themselves or family and friends to carry back home.
Shimla State museum
The himachal state museum or Shimla state museum is located in an old Victorian mansion. It is perched on a hilltop, en-route to annadale from Shimla. The building where the museum is housed was previously the residence of the military secretary of viceroy during the british era. The museum was opened in 1974. It collects and preserves ancient artistic, historical, archeological, and ethnological human works for the future generation to be able to understand and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of the land.
Indian Institute of Advance Studies (Observatory Hill)
A research institute setup by the ministry of Education in 1964, the magnificent building is located on observatory hall, one of the seven hills on which Shimla is located. One can visit here to marvel the architecture of the building that houses the institute, the serene surroundings amidst the hilltop and the cultural and historical significance of various events that the building has witnessed since its conception in 1800s.
Sankat mochan temple
This temple is located at around 5km from the main town of Shimla. The temple was constructed somewhere in 1950. Apart from Lord Hanuman, the temple has several other dieties in small temples within, which include Lord Rama, Lord Shiva, Nava Graha (9 Zodaics) , and a Ganesha temple displaying the architecture of South India. The temple has huge premise and a big courtyard. One can see far into the surrounding valley and the mountains beyond them through the courtyard. There is also provision to sit and relax. The temple also has a 3 floor building which at times is used as a ‘Langar House’ or ‘Marriage hall’. We didn’t know about this temple the first time we had visited Shimla, the second time around we went here and we liked the temple, the serene environment, the architecture and the atmosphere. We spent quiet some time here in peace and calmness.
Located at a distance of 4km from the ridge, it is historical playground, used to play cricket and polo. The area is completely lush green . The greenery is extremely soothing to the eyes. Annadale is also a beautiful picnic spot where you can relax and have a nice picnic with your group.
Tips for visiting Shimla
- Shimla is cold almost all through the year, so, do carry your woolen cloths.
- Most of these places are to be explored leisurely, so, allocate ample time.
- Eat on the road side dhabas (small restaurants) and cafes, they serve delicious food.
- Club together the places close to each other. For instance, Annadale and Naldehra trek are quiet close to each other. So are ridge, mall and scandal point, as well as Jakhu Temple.
- While on the mall road, take some snaps in the traditional himachali attire , the photographers there will assist you.
- On the mall road, explore the local market, you might get some nice small soveniers to carry back to your home.
- At least allocate 4-5 days on your trip to Shimla to be able to soak into the culture and visit properly.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes as there will be many walking and exploration on the foot to do.