The British Colonial elite seeking relief from the summer heat on the Indian plains turned a remote village in the mountains of Northern India into the crown jewel of British hill stations.
By the middle of the 18th century, the England-like climate and beautiful scenery in Shimla (Simla) had lured thousands of colonial officers and civil servants to the area. Seeking all the comforts of home, the colonials built hundreds of homes and European style structures transforming the alpine landscape into a chalet skiing village filled with Tudor-style homes and neo-gothic architecture. In 1863, Shimla became the summer capital of the British Rule in India, and every year the entire governing body moved state affairs 1,000 miles from Calcutta to the green city in the mountains.
The Viceregal Lodge is easily the most stunning of the structures left behind by the colonials. The massive mansion was built in 1888 as the summer home for the British viceroys of India. The gothic building’s arched porches and manicured lawns are now home to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. A few hundred feet from Viceregal Lodge, the Himalayan Bird Park protects a variety of rare avian species like the Himalayan Monal pheasant.
Jakhu Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman perched atop a hill that’s overflowing with macaque monkeys. The interior of the shrine has a series of murals depicting Hanuman’s exploits, and outside on the temple grounds a 100-feet-tall statue of the monkey deity has been erected as a recent addition.
Best Time to Visit Shimla:
Shimla’s cool climate is what has made the city such a popular summer escape for the last two centuries. October through November the skies are clear, and the evenings chilly. Snow fall is consistent between December and February, which makes for excellent skiing. March through June the temperature steadily rises, but even the hottest days are considerable cooler than the temperatures found on the Indian plains to the south.
How to get to Shimla:
Quaint, beautiful, and cool, Shimla is a wonderful summer retreat. Its proximity to other Northern Indian destination like Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile, make it a great starting point to explore the country’s northern culture.
In the summer months dress for warm weather, but bring along a light jacket as the evenings are often cool. In the winter, cold-weather gear is recommended as the town and surrounding mountains will be consistently snowcapped.