Capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla sprawls over a ridge deep in the spectacular Himalayan foothills. India’s largest hillstation, the cool climes of Shimla’s location attracted the British, who made it their official summer capital, their legacy found in colonial architecture and a quaint atmosphere. Along the main street, The Mall, there are a number of excellent examples of colonial architecture but there is also plenty more to explore if you're looking for both cultural and natural treasures. The Shimla-Kalka Toy Train is one of the world's greatest railway journeys, and the perfect way to arrive into Shimla. Opened in 1903 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the train departs from Kalka - easily reached by train from Delhi, climbs 7,116 feet into the Himalayan foothills to Shimla, having passed through 107 tunnels and over 864 bridges.
Shimla’s promenade from back in the days when it was a colonial hillstation, the Ridge is an esplanade that runs the full length of the town. This is the place to go for a stroll and is full of locals and tourists alike – on a clear day look out for the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The Ridge is the heart of the town, all the cultural activities, celebrations and events take place here, including the shopping and it is usually a vibrant place to hang out.
The summer residence of the British Viceroys of India, for six months out of the year, the whole of the Indian Subcontinent was ruled from this building. Designed by Henry Irwin in 1888, the house is seriously impressive, dominating its surroundings from the summit of Observatory Hill. Several highly important conferences took place here between British and Indian leaders about the handover of power. You can take a half an hour tour of the building which visits three rooms (the building is now a research centre) or stroll through the perfectly manicured gardens. Opposite the house is the Himalayan Bird Park.
The town is full of colonial architecture including the Gaiety Theatre, Bantony (a red-brick mansion), and the Christ Church from 1846 all worth a look.
Dedicated to the Hindu deity Hanuman, the monkey god, Jakhoo Temple sits on top of its eponymous hill at 2,455 metres above sea level. Reached by a step walk up through a beautiful forest (a cable car is under construction), the views from the top are worth the walk alone. There are some fascinating legends associated with the temple – one tells that Hanuman flew from the sky with such speed to help save the life of a Lakshmana priest that he left a huge footprint, on which the temple is now built. A temple dedicated to the monkey god would not be complete without monkeys, and there are plenty of them – watch out, they are mischievous!
Housed in an old Victorian mansion from the 1860s, once the home of Lord William Beresford, the Military Secretary to the Viceroy, the Himachal State Museum houses a fascinating collection of cultural and artistic treasures from Himachal Pradesh and beyond. This includes traditional costumes and jewellery, carvings and old photographs, along with a large haul of miniatures from various northern Indian states. Set on a quiet hilltop with astonishing views, the museum is a peaceful place to explore.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.