Travel Review

Shimla – Queen of hills

For this summer, we travelled to Shimla – the queen of hills. The first time I had seen Shimla was in the Tamil Film – Anbe Vaa (1966) by M.G.R, the Puthiya Vaanam song captured my imagination like millions of Tamilians who saw it.  I was looking forward to this travel and I was not disappointed.

We reached Chandigarh by flight from Chennai. From there travel by road to Shimla, which takes about 4 hours – the road was good and comfortable. On the way, we stopped in Hotel Haveli, Dharampur which is at the half-way mark in NH-22, and had some divinely Punjabi food – recommended you try this restaurant.

Chandigarh is one of India's planned cities

Chandigarh is one of India’s planned cities

Hotel Haveli in NH-22, Dharampur, Solan - Punjabi Food - Enroute to Simla

Hotel Haveli restaurant in NH-22, Dharampur, Solan – Punjabi Food – Enroute to Simla

Hotel Haveli restaurant

Hotel Haveli restaurant

We stayed in Oberoi’s Wildflower Hall – a lovely property tucked high up in the hills around Kurfi, which is about 10 Kilometers from Shimla downtown, takes about 20 minutes by road. The place is 1000 feet higher up from Shimla, so the evenings are nice and cold at 16′ C. The Hotel was a former residence of Lord Kitchener, surrounded by acres of protected cedar forest it offered panoramic views of the Himalayas.

Wildflower Hall - panoramic views of the Himalayas

Wildflower Hall – panoramic views of the Himalayas

Wildflower Hall - former abode of Lord Kitchener

Wildflower Hall – former abode of Lord Kitchener

Wildflower hall - surrounded by acres of protected cedar forest

Wildflower hall – surrounded by acres of protected cedar forest

Wildflower hall - Evenings from this open-air restaurant have mesmerizing views

Wildflower hall – Evenings from this open-air restaurant have mesmerizing views

Wildflower Hall Restaurant serves - pan-Indian, Asian and continental cuisine

Wildflower Hall Restaurant serves – pan-Indian, Asian and continental cuisine

The hotel had many physical activities to engage yourself.

On the day of our arrival, we tried our hands on Archery, there is a tutor to teach you. Another day we played as a family in the well-equipped Tennis court.

Archery practice

Archery practice

Tennis court in Wildflower Hall, Shimla

Tennis court in Wildflower Hall, Shimla

The next day (Day 2) we booked ourselves for a nature trek called Wild Strawberry trail, helped by a naturalist from the Hotel, it takes you to the forest around the property.  The resort is next to Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary which has woods of pine and cedar. As per our guide, the tall trees in the sanctuary were planted by the Britishers (who were ruling Indian subcontinent from Shimla during the Indian summers) to serve as rain catchment areas. The short trek took us through Shimla Ridgeline at one point. It is interesting to note that the rainwater falling on the ridgeline and flowing down the west side drains into the Arabian Sea through River Sutlej and water which flowing down the east side drains into the Bay of Bengal through River Ganges – what a natural wonder. On returning from the trek, my son got a gift of a bird’s nest.

You could also book for a full day picnic in the sanctuary and be pampered with picnic hampers for a gourmet outdoor experience.

The trail involved a bit of climb at places

The wild strawberry trail involved a bit of climb at places

The ridges of the himalayas

The ridges of the Himalayas

Wild strawberry trail

Wild strawberry trail

Repeater station in the path of the nature trek

Repeater station in the path of the nature trek

The next day (Day 3), we went for rafting on the waters of River Sutlej.  The journey from Kurfi to Chaba takes about 90 minutes, the road is good, but the ride could make you a bit queasy (so better travel on an empty stomach) as it involves coming down from 8000 feet to about 1000 feet sea level.

The one hour trip down the Sutlej canyon started from Chaba Hydro Power Project. The views above from the canyon was breathtaking. When we did the rafting the water current was mild, still, it required a good amount of energy to paddle. This was my first self-paddling, rafting experience and it was fun.

After the ride, Oberoi had organised (as part of the tour) a gourmet picnic lunch, which was served on a makeshift seating specially made for us on the riverbank – being true South Indian’s we ordered Spicy Idlis and Curd Rice for our picnic hamper. After we had our lunch, the staff from Oberoi removed everything, including empty containers and other garbage; they ensured nothing is left behind or polluting the place – impressive work, very professional.

Starting point for the rafting ride

Starting point for the rafting ride

Rafting on banana boat in River Sutlej

Rafting on banana boat in River Sutlej

Rubber boats were assembled and disassembled after every ride

Rubber boats were assembled and disassembled after every ride

Venkatarangan paddling on a banana boat - fully strapped with safety gears

Venkatarangan paddling on a banana boat – fully strapped with safety gears

Chaba Hydro Electric Plant

Chaba Hydro Electric Plant

Bridge near Chaba Hydro Project over River Sutlej

Bridge near Chaba Hydro Project over River Sutlej

Gourmet picnic lunch to be served on a makeshift seating specially made for us on the riverbank

Gourmet picnic lunch to be served on a makeshift seating specially made for us on the riverbank

Oberoi had even organised a portable toilet / change room for our convenience

Oberoi had even organised a portable toilet/change room for our convenience

While rafting you get wet, above picture was after a costume change :-)

While rafting you get wet, above picture was taken after a costume change :-)

On our last day (Day 4) we went for Shimla city tour.

First stop was to Jakhu Temple, famous for its 33-metre tall pink coloured Sri Hanuman Statue overlooking the town below. There are a lot of free roaming monkeys in the region, be careful with your belongings like cell phones, camera and any eatables you may be carrying – better to leave them behind in your vehicle. Our guide told us that the monkeys have learned to snatch items from you and then trade them to you for eatables.

Next was a visit to the majestic Viceregal Lodge, the erstwhile summer residence of British Viceroys to escape from the heat of the plains. It is called Rashtrapati Niwas after independence and is now used for academic studies. Portions of the building are open to the public, but they prohibit photographs to be taken inside – the building designed by Henry Irwin, is covered wall to wall on the inside with rich timber panelings, exquisite workmanship.

Post lunch, we went to Himachal State Museum which had many exhibits of interesting showing the Himachal culture.

Our last stop for the day was a stroll along the long Mall Road and the Ridge (seen in the MGR song), where you will find shops, Government offices and colonial buildings.

Sri Hanuman of Jakhu Temple overlooking the town

Sri Hanuman of Jakhu Temple overlooking the town

Jakhu Temple, Shimla

Jakhu Temple, Shimla

Entrance to Viceregal Lodge, Shimla

Entrance to Viceregal Lodge, Shimla

Front view of Viceregal Lodge, Shimla

Front view of Viceregal Lodge, Shimla

A colonial era Post Box, Viceroy lodge, Shimla

A colonial-era Post Box, Viceroy Lodge, Shimla

Clock to see Shimla time and Madras/Railway Time of the past

Clock to see Shimla time and Madras/Railway Time of the past

Building in the campus of viceroy lodge, shimla

Building on the campus of viceroy lodge, Shimla

Himachal State Museum, Shimla

Himachal State Museum, Shimla

Fabric artwork

Fabric artwork

Books on display

Books on display

jain tirthankar from the 13th century

jain tirthankar from the 13th century

Traditional costumes of Himachal state on display

Traditional costumes of Himachal state on display

Traditional jewellery of Himachal state on display

Traditional jewellery of Himachal state on display

Postal Stamp marking the western tragopan, a brightly coloured bird getting the status of state bird of Himachal in 2007

Postal Stamp marking the western tragopan, a brightly coloured bird getting the status of state bird of Himachal in 2007

Artworks

Artworks

The Ridge, Shimla

The Ridge, Shimla

Venkatarangan with the Ridge in the background

Venkatarangan with the Ridge in the background

Horse rides are a fun way to go around the ridge

Horse rides are a fun way to see the ridge

Municipal Corporation, a 1908 colonial era building

Municipal Corporation, a 1908 colonial era building

Shimla General Post Office, another colonial era building

Shimla General Post Office, another colonial-era building

The mall road has many alleys that lead to the residence and offices below

The mall road has many alleys that lead to the residence and offices below

Colourful houses on the slopes, that look like matchboxes

Colourful houses on the slopes, that look like matchboxes

It's a selfie lovers paradise

It’s a selfie lovers paradise

Shopping district - The Mall Road, Shimla

Shopping district – The Mall Road, Shimla

Slopes are packed with houses

Slopes are packed with houses

Religious Harmony - Look carefully, you will see a Hindu Temple, Mosque and a Church in this photo

Religious Harmony – Look carefully, you will see a Hindu Temple, Mosque and a Church in this photo

Lift to quickly get you across the levels of The Mall Road

Lift to quickly get you easily to higher levels of The Mall Road

Core Mall Road, Shimla is a vehicle free zone

Core Mall Road, Shimla is a vehicle free zone

View of the Loreto Convent, Shimla

View of the Loreto Convent, Shimla

View of Annadale ground, belonging to Indian Army

View of Annadale ground, belonging to Indian Army

Overall, our trip to Shimla was an unforgettable experience. Don’t miss a chance to visit this lovely place.


Also published on Medium.