Shimla is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of India. Situated in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, this town is a picture perfect hill top station. The reason behind its immense beauty is its natural surroundings, composed of lakes, luscious pastures and the snow covered Himalayan range. Shimla retains its colonial ambience by preserving most of the structures built during that period.
There are many attractions to enjoy in Shimla including grand old structures like the Viceregal Lodge and Botanical Gardens. The Mall remains to be a tourist favorite as this huge shopping complex offers a wide variety of shops, eateries, art exhibitions and specialty stores. The hill station also houses important temples and religious buildings such as Christ Church & St. Michael’s Cathedral, Tara Devi, Jakhu Temple, and Sankat Mochan. To get an incredible view of the nearby mountain ranges, join other tourists at the Ridge. This big open space cannot be missed as it sits in the heart of town.
Shimla is equally special at any season of the year. Although it can be visited year long, it is best not to come here during the monsoon season since the place periodically experiences landslides, making the roads more slippery and dangerous. During winter, the hill becomes the ultimate spot for outdoor sports like skiing and ice skating. Summer, when all surrounding trees and flowers are bright and full of life, provides amazing hiking and trekking opportunities. One way of fully exploring Shimla is by going one of the guided walking tours around the town proper and the seven hills that contains old temples, palaces and mansions.
However, if you can only do one activity in the Shimla region then let it be riding a train through the great Kalka-Shimla Railway Line. This railway route is one of the three lines in India that are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. During the ride, you will have complete viewing access to the snow clad Himalayan Mountains and mysterious pine forests. This in itself is worth taking the route.
Extending up to 60 miles (96 kilometers) the railway line starts from the town of Kalka and ends at the Shimla Hill station. This fascinating engineering masterpiece was built during the 19th century by the British colonialists. The Kalka-Shimla Railway line is excitingly narrow. Situated about 4,659 feet above the ground, it passes through a total of 102 tunnels and more than 800 bridges.
There are a couple train services that regularly run this railway route including The Shivalik Deluxe Express and The Rail Motor Car. The Himalayan Queen is the standard train service and is scheduled to make the most number of stops. The other newer services are the Shivalik Palace and The Shivalik Queen Tourist Coaches, which feature refurbished heritage trains. These upscale coaches have a limited number of seats and they offer the most luxurious ambience, facilities and service.
The train services are by no means fast due to steep climbs. However, this presents a perfect opportunity to take your time in capturing the scenic landscapes especially the one from Barog to Shimla. For the best views, be on the right side of the train going to Shimla and on the left side when going back to Kalka.