Visit to Shimla, the summer capital of British India
Shimla is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh and was declared the summer capital of British India. The city is 350 km northeast of New Delhi, has an altitude of 2200 meters above sea level and annual temperatures that usually range between -4 ° C and 31 ° C.
It is characterized by its colonial buildings and the natural environment that surrounds it as it is in the middle of the high mountains and dense forests of the Himalayas.
We arrive at Shimla at 7 am after 12 long hours sitting on the bus. They put us in seats glued together for three people where we could barely fit. Luckily, after a while, the back of the bus was empty and one of us could go there. Still, the potholes barely let us sleep. Sometimes we even hit our heads with the roof bars where the backpacks are placed.
At one of the rest stops the driver started the car and started to leave without my two travelling companions who had gone out to get some air. Just when I got up to warn him some hit on one side of the bus. Then, the driver opened the door as if nothing had happened and my friends got on with the bus in motion.
When we arrived at the station we immediately noticed the change of temperature. Towards the typical mountain cold. Just to get off the bus a few Indians offered to help us look for a hotel in exchange for a tip. Since we had no idea where we were or where to go, we were guided by one of them.
Where to stay in Shimla?
In Shimla we can find many hotels of the Indian hotel chain Oyo, the third largest hotel chain in the world. Among them, one of the best known in the area is the OYO 4479 Rock Heaven Hotel, where you can find double rooms for 15 euros a night. If you are looking for a better quality hotel you can take a look at Treebo Trend Maharaja, where the double room costs 25 euros per night.
In our case, we don’t book in advance. After seeing a few hotels that were either too expensive or too crappy, we finally found one that wasn’t bad. We stayed at Hotel Ganga, a hotel located near Mall Road, the city’s main street.
The hotel, although it is in a place with beautiful views of the mountains, was a little expensive despite its simplicity. We paid 2200 rupees (28 euros) for a room for the three of us. It was twice what we had paid in Rishikesh. We weren’t sure if it was more expensive because Shimla is a tourist destination or because we were being ripped off but with the tiredness we carried around we didn’t feel like negotiating or going around.
Once the room was paid for, we gave the man who helped us find the hotel 300 rupees (4 euros). He then offered us the services of a taxi driver to take us around Shimla until nightfall.
As it was only 1000 rupees and we didn’t plan to stay more than one day we decided to take the taxi. The good man, with the tip we had given it, the commission he would charge the hotel for taking us there and the taxi driver had already made the day.
Attractions: What to see in Shimla?
Kufri Natural Park
As we moved away from the city we began to see snow. On the one hand there were mountains of leafy forests and on the other the Himalayan mountain range was lost in the horizonte.
The taxi driver took us to visit Kufri Natural Park, 20 km from Shimla. There is an area where you can ride a horse for 600 rupees plus 200 rupees for renting the boots. We were surprised that they let us ride on our own.
The climb up the mountain was all muddy and snowy. The horses found it difficult to walk and from time to time one of them seemed about to slip.
Sometimes they would approach the cliff and you would see yourself just a few feet away from falling with the horse downhill. We realized the danger, but we couldn’t help but let ourselves be carried away by the situation. Finally we arrived safe and sound at the top of the mountain. We stayed for a while enjoying the scenery and the tranquility of being with our feet on the ground.
After our adventure with the horses we went to visit another place of interest in Shimla: the Kufri Zoo. It’s nearby the top of the mountain and it almost seemed abandoned. Monkeys jumped among the fences, snow accumulated all over the terrain and the animals let themselves be seen in droppings.
We managed to see a Himalayan tar, a black bear and a few species of deer (several muntíacos and a sambar). At the entrance there was an inscription that defined the place very well: “Zoos are a support, not a substitute for nature.
Without realizing it, it became night. We went back to our hotel and went to sleep to recover our strength for our next trip. We would head north, this time towards Dharamsala. Specifically McLeod Ganj, known as “the little Lasha”, the city where the Dalai Lama settled in exile after having to leave Tibet.
To Himalayas you don’t come back. When you have come here for the first time, he stays with you forever.
– Iñaki Ochoa de Olza –