T. P. Gopinath, January 19, 2019.
Shimla is the capital city and the largest city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Known as the Queen of the Hills, Shimla is a beautiful hill station. While the nature has bestowed great beauty to the place itself, it has many spots that is worth visiting for a would-be traveler.
North India Tour with family, article links:
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Toy Train to Shimla – Discover India – North India Tour with family
Arriving in Shimla, “Queen of the Hills”.
After more than five hours of exhilarating travel on the British built UNESCO heritage tagged Kalka Shimla Toy train, we arrived at the former British summer capital city, the famed Shimla hill station. Outside the station, we hired a cab and reached the mall road which was very close by for having a breakfast.
I started to have some conversation with the taxi driver, and he said his name is Bhim. The drivers try to understand the tourists plan. Developing some ties with the tourists will help them in getting some new travel bookings for the period of the tourists stay.
The temperature would have been 20°c and not feeling cold or hot. It was more towards a cool atmosphere. That was a big relief when we were not expecting it to be much cool. In my opinion, the best time to visit hill stations such as Shimla where it could snow in the winter, would be around September to October or February to March. During these months, it was expected to begin the winter and end the winter. However, if you want to witness the snow, best likely time would be December, January months.
Driver Bhim repeatedly offered to play our pilot in the rest of the journey. However, not expecting much more travel on that day, we politely told him that we would get in touch. After reaching a restaurant at one end of the mall road, we let Bhim go after taking his number. Shimla mall road is prohibited from regular vehicular traffic. Mall road has many good restaurants and you can get nice food while you can also shop at the mall road. Once Bhim left, we had to carry our several baggage’s in hand. That was a challenge even for a short distance.
We really struggled to get another taxi as Mall road was closed to vehicles. Finally, after finishing the tasks at the mall road, we went down a bit and found a taxi with great difficulty and went towards the hotel.
At the Beautiful Hotel Alpine Heritage:
The hotel where we stayed was a ten minutes travel by taxi. However, it was worth going a few kilometers away. As it stood among the surrounding Devdar trees in a steep walk down some distance. Look outside the hotel and the Shimla hills in the distance was overwhelming. Trees which are called Devadaru or Himalayan cedar were everywhere and all around. It was beautiful to be in a building in the middle of those trees. Their leaves are needle-like and they have a unique ability to withstand the cold and snow conditions of the mountainous regions of the Himachal Pradesh.
Hotel had excellent staff and decent facilities. The stay was comfortable, and the surrounding Cedar filled areas and distant view of the hills giving it a great charm that you won’t find in a traditional city hotel. We took some rest before moving back to the city, mainly Mall Road of Shimla by the evening.
Shimla – Hotel Alpine Heritage Photo Gallery:
At the Mall Road:
We took a taxi to reach one entrance of the mall road and the driver who took us struck a deal to pick us up to go to Oberois wild flower hall hotel and on to Kufri by 9 AM next day.
Your ability to trust total strangers:
This is an instinctive decision that you must take during lone travels such as ours. In this case, I required to have that instinct as leader of the pack. One of the major issues in especially self-planned and executed travel is trusting people you see on the way. You need to have an uncanny ability to instinctively trust or distrust total strangers to execute such lone travels. This time I had the family with me but even without them I used to need this skill during the past sojourns.
Mall Road – the commercial focal point of Shimla’s tourism.
Mall road is where the main area of Shimla’s tourism commerce is focused. This is where people go to buy the apparels, handicrafts, leather products and all other items most sought by tourists. Especially when you are with family, anticipate some time at such shopping centers.
The pictures I add here below, will give you a picture of what to expect in the mall road. It is a great place to stop. Choose a time of the winter, may not be when it is snowing as it can get messy with traffic snarls and other issues. But choose a time when the cold is setting in or about to rest for the year.
You truly feel elated at the very sight of an excellent destination like Shimla with great climate and green, hilly geographies.
Do not miss an opportunity to travel to the north Indian destination of Shimla and especially choose to travel by the Toy train from Kalka and to choose a winter time to ensure that you feel very cold.
Shimla Mall Road – Photo Gallery:
With the Shopping done, and a simple but nice dinner done at a Dabha in the Mall road which all of us enjoyed, we set out to sit down at the heart of the Mall road by the side of the street where some chairs were available. It was very cold by now and the time to leave for the hotel. Since the vehicular traffic for a quite a distance on the mall road is abolished, you need to head towards one end where the taxis can be hailed.
At about 11 PM, we set out to go back to the hotel Alpine Heritage where we were supposed to spend the night.
This hotel was booked through OYO and they are a bit away from the center of the city, but it is worth considering as it stands in the midst of the Devdaru trees and on a nice slope.
Next Day; Jakhoo Temple Visit:
“Jakhoo Temple is an ancient temple in Shimla, dedicated to the Hindu deity Hanuman. It is situated on Jakhoo Hill, Shimla’s highest peak, 2.5 km (1.6 mi) east of the Ridge at a height of 2,455 m (8,054 ft) above sea level. Each year, a festival is held on Dussehra. According to the Ramayana, Hanuman stopped at the location to rest while searching for the Sanjivni Booti to revive Lakshmana.” – Wikipedia.
Knowing Bhim, the driver we will travel with:
The driver I earlier mentioned who was hired to drop us at Mall road in the evening failed to turn up at 9 AM as promised for today’s travel.
When he was unreachable on phone, I called Bhim, the one who dropped us to the Mall road on the day of our arrival. He promised to reach immediately, and we went on to the Jakhoo temple which was our next destination:
Bhim is a Shimla local and a very decent man. Trusting my intuitions worked perfectly in case of choosing Bhim. He was an extraordinarily decent man and an expert driver.
On the way to the Jakhoo Temple:
It is possible to go close to the Jakhoo temple by a taxi. On the way to the temple be afraid of the monkeys standing on the way as they are likely to snatch things like spectacles that you may hold in hand and retrieving it could be difficult.
There is also a ropeway that started recently from the temple to come down to the ridge in six minutes. It is known to offer breathtaking views of the Shimla hills. Unfortunately, we could not take it due to the time constraints and the waiting taxi for onward journey.
108 feet high idol of Hanuman at the temple looks magnificent. The temple, I would say, is a must visit for all tourists to Shimla. Temple is very neatly kept. Temple also offers a simple food as offering to devotees.
Being a Hanuman temple, monkeys are everywhere in and around the Jakhoo temple. It is a nice temple and we strongly advise you to visit Jakhoo temple. Devadaru trees that are everywhere in Shimla are here, too and they are a real treat to the eyes for those who love nature.
Jakhoo Temple – Photo Gallery:
Jakhoo Temple Visit Videos:
Visiting Kufri, regret of the Wild Flower Hall:
Kufri that’s 22 Km away, one of the highest points around Shimla which also had many Apple plantations was in our plan to visit. However, it had to be dropped because we didn’t have much time left to leave for Chandigarh and from there to Amritsar by Train. Shimla to Chandigarh is about four-hour journey by a car.
We did not exactly reach the main areas of Kufri but saw apples pretty close to Kufri.
Another plan I had, close to my heart was visiting the famed Oberoi Wild Flower hall hotel, the link to which can be seen below.
The affordability was a question as one day’s stay was to cost close to at least 20,000 Indian Rupees. I thought we shall have some lunch there on the way. But we were denied entry since the restaurants were fully occupied due to a conference. Mr. Ankush Mahajan, GM of the hotel was at the entrance and he requested us personally to come for the dinner. However, I explained to him that we could not stay back due to onward travel plans.
But those of you who are reading this, please do not miss this stunning hotel if you have the means and the time to make a stay there. Visiting the below links will prove that the hotel is worth a visit and would remain the memory of a life time.
Oberoi Wildflower Hall Hotel, Shimla in the Himalayas:
Flying to Chandigarh to reach station on time:
After leaving Shimla, we stopped at Kufri, Wild Flower Hall hotel, Green Valley (just to take some snaps) and then for lunch. By then we were very pressed for time and Bhim who became someone very trusted by then and whom we retained to drive us to Chandigarh had to drive the vehicle at great speeds to get us to Chandigrah on time.
Finally, after a grueling car drive, we reached the Chandigarh railway station just on time to catch the train CDG ASR SUP (12241) leaving Chandigarh for Amritsar at 5.10 PM.
Train was at the station and it left just ten minutes after we arrived. It was truly a run against time and Bhim’s expert driving on the most part hilly Shimla Chandigarh highway is what managed to get us there.
During the Shimla, Chandigarh travel, I also talked to Bhim who made a good offer for our Manali trip to come to Chandigarh few days later to take us to Manali.
North India Tour with family, article links:
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Golden Temple, Wagah Border & Jallianwala Bagh – North India Tour with family.