When I first moved to the mountains, I made Shimla my home for a couple of months. My fascination for this touristy town came from the movie ‘Tamasha’, which often died looking atthe influx of the dreary crowds! It was so bad that we would lock ourselves in on weekends, refusing to join the sea of tourists.
But all said and done, Shimla has a character, a charm that no other town in Himachal has. The capital of the state lives up to its name, and is definitely worth a visit. Especially during this time of the year when the town gets snowed in and turns into a winter wonderland.
To get the best out of Shimla,the trick is to experience it like the Himachalis do. Here is how!
Be an early riser
Roads free of tourists and locals lining up to go to work, that’s the Shimla you want to see. Probably the only time during the day that Mall Road would not have people is before 9 am. Enjoy a leisure walk on the street while soaking in views of the British architecture. Don’t forget to notice the lampposts and the clock at the end of the road towards the High Court.
Stroll in Lower Bazaar to get some kickass shots of the wooden houses sans the noise. The lanes are so tiny, you might not be able to see the sky but the vibe will make up for it.
Eat in tiny eateries
They’re safe and clean, don’t worry! Eat cholle-bhature at Lakkad bazaar, Khukrez (a local cutlet) at Trishool Bakers, dhaam at Himachali Rasoi, the only joint that serves this traditional Himachali cuisine in Lower Bazaar and pick up a softy at the Ridge. Cheap joys that cost less and are more authentically tasty to the region!
If you’re looking to chill at a café then Wake & Bake is the cutest café in town. Go right up to the terrace that can probably accommodate only 4 people at a time. Tip: Go after 9pm when it’s just about to shut and indulge in yummy coffee and sinful mushroom toasties that are just ahh, too good!
On the popular Jakhoo temple trail, there are many diversions that open up to scenic views of the city from the top. They’re secluded, good for camping and you can ask the staff of ‘Café Under The Tree’ which is enroute, for directions.
Visit Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) during sunset and just sit in the garden to watch the sky change hues. Don’t opt for the property tour. Instead, stay outside and admire the man-made marvel in complete isolation.
Drive outside the city to catch the best Himalayan views that run as far as the Dhauladhar ranges. Put on some music and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of snowy mountains.
You can also hike up to the Taradevi temple, if you’re seeking both adventure and spirituality.
Some touristy stuff that locals do too
Things that are famous are popular for a reason and even the locals can’t stop talking about them. When in Shimla, a toy train ride is an absolute must! But the most unique way to do it is to walk till the station via the tracks! Be careful while at it but it’s surely an experience that’ll set your trip apart from the rest of the crowds.
Watch a play at Gaiety Theatre that showcases the youth of Himachal trying to revive the arts in all its glory. Yes, a tour is magnificent but the experience of watching a performance in that gorgeous ambience is a once in a lifetime experience.
And if you’re lucky be there when it snows,the entire town turns into a chapter from a storybook.. Even after witnessing knee-deep snow and walking in it for hours to reach the mall road, I can vouch for the experience. Difficulties aside, it’s a magical place to be inespecially when you can pick up some delicious chocolates from Honey Hut.
If you want to shop, Lower Bazaar and Tibetan Market have the cheaper versions of the same stuff available in other areas. Bargain and go home with winter woolens of great, great quality.
Pictures are taken by Abhinav Chandel and Japleen Kaur
Ever experienced snowfall in Himachal? Share your stories in the comments below!
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