The three and a half hour cab journey to Shimla, full of twists and turns to ascend 2000m, was a dizzying experience.
Shimla is built on a mountain side. Its high street is called Mall Road and is at the top of Shimla. Vehicles aren’t allowed on it. The main access road is 100m below Mall Road. You therefore have the challenge of going up 100m without motorised transport.
Shimla’s solution to this is unique. There are two lifts built into the mountain side! One takes you up half way. You then walk along a 50m suspended walkway. Finally, you take the second lift to Mall Road. Some of the larger hotels have a similar internal lift arrangement. Therefore, there can be a lot of walking to get to your hotel. That explains a comment I saw in a hotel review: “the way to get to the hotel is ridiculous”! But that’s really a reflection of Shimla’s geography.
Since there are no bikes or cars in the centre, it is tranquil despite the crowds. The upshot is that you can enjoy Shimla’s charming tudor/Elizabethan and neo-Gothic architecture, built in the colonial era, without having to dodge the speeding and honking motorbikes.
The central part of Mall Road is filled with shops. However, if you go east or west of the centre, there are beautiful views of the Himalayas.
No wonder the British liked to come here during the Raj. In fact, it’s difficult to believe that, for six months each year, the British would decamp en masse to Shimla, and rule a fifth of the world’s population from here. Shimla secured its place in history when Gandhi and others discussed partition here.
You’ll see in the photos how densely packed the buildings are in the mountain side. Despite that, and the mass tourism, Shimla remains charming and beautiful with its old buildings, tall pine trees, and the Himalayas.