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- 04 Dec 2020, 3 nights
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Shimla was once the summer capital of British India. This small yet bustling town is a popular destination for those who want avoid the heat, with comfortable spring temperatures and often snowfall in January. Its picturesque setting on a narrow, 12km-long ridge with steep hills on either side makes it a dream for keen photographers. As well as being the terminus for one of the world's most scenic railway journeys, Shimla is also known for its intricate wooden handicrafts.
Hostels in Shimla show off the best of the region's rural charm. Stay in a place hand-built from wood, a homestay with a local family or canvas-topped huts for a really rustic experience. Some Shimla hostels provide food, with free breakfasts and thali-style dinners of curry, bread and rice. Most have barbecues so you can cook your own meals and outdoor terraces where you can relax with views of the Himalayas.
The main shopping street in Shimla is Mall Road, with wooden buildings painted in a range of pastel colours. This is where you can stock up on hand-knitted woollen clothes as well as sample some local (and international) food. Just above Mall Road is The Ridge, which is the cultural hub of the city and home to statues of famous Indians such as Mahatma Gandhi. This wide, open space is also where you'll find the Christ Church, an Anglican church that dates to the Victorian era, and sits next to Daulat Singh Park, which has lovely views of the valley.
The Lakkar Bazaar is the place to go to buy wooden handicrafts like toys, kitchenware and ornaments. There are also a few shops selling pashminas and a roller skating rink where you can show off your best moves. If you hike up Jakhu Hill, Shimla's highest peak, you'll be rewarded with the dramatic sight of the intricate Jakhu Temple. It's dedicated to the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, so it's no surprise that you'll find lots of local monkeys running around its grounds.
There are a few flights from Delhi into Shimla Airport, which is 22km from the city, but most travellers arrive by train. Try and grab a window seat for the 5-hour trip from Kalka, as this stretch of railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with absolutely incredible views across the valley. The station is just over 1km from the city centre, about half an hour's walk or 5 minutes in a taxi. Once you arrive, the town is easy to walk around.