Shimla (Hindi:शिमला) or Simla is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. It is a very popular holiday retreat during the summer months and is well known for its Victorian architecture, which is reflected in certain areas of the Mall and the Ridge. It is also a famous holiday spot for honeymoon.

There are quite a few theories regarding the origin of the word Shimla. Locals insist that the name originates from Shyamali Devi, a reincarnation of the fearsome Goddess Kali.

Christ Church on The Ridge

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Shimla has a population of around 172,000 (which may increase by another 100,000 with the seasonal influx of voyagers). Most residents are from the Pahadi community (the natives of Himachal Pradesh), but there is also a sizable minority from Punjab and Sindh, who moved to Shimla during the partition. As a result, the languages spoken in Shimla include Hindi, Punjabi, Pahadi and English which serves as a lingua franca.

Sitting majestically above the searing plains, the British designated the town as the summer capital of India. The higher levels of the town reflect this British connection, comprising mostly buildings in the Victorian style, while the lower slopes are occupied with Indian bazaars and restaurants. Traffic is banned from the historic central area, known as the Mall, which means that the atmosphere is calm and the air pristine.

Cart Road runs south of the Mall and is connected to it via the lifts. The Ridge, north of the Mall, is a good place to view the seven majestic hills of Shimla. Further along the same road is Lakkar Bazaar, which is a good place to buy some handicrafts and other souvenirs.

Shimla’s cool climate is the precise reason why it is such a popular summer retreat. Located at an altitude of approximately 2200 m above sea level, the region has a hilly terrain and is covered by dense evergreen forests. A few visitors choose to visit Shimla during spring or autumn, when the place is less crowded and the views are too spectacular for words.

Shimla Season Summary
Season Months Temperature Conditions
Spring March–April 10°C to 20°C Clear skies. Occasional rain and thunderstorms.
Summer May- June 16°C to 28°C Generally clear skies. Air might become smoky due to forest fires.
Monsoon July–September 13°C to 20°C Cool and humid. Continuous rain.
Autumn October–November 10°C to 23°C Skies are clear, chilly evenings.
Winter December–February -7°C to 10°C Generally dull weather. Frequent snowfall.
The Shimla Mountain Train

The nearest broad gauge station is at Kalka, a four-to-seven hour journey from Delhi. After that, take the mountain train from Kalka to Shimla. This railway track was granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The view is stunning, with the line passing through an amazing 102 tunnels. The fastest way to get to Kalka is to catch the Shatabdi Express, which departs early morning from the New Delhi Railway Station, arriving at Kalka four hours later. A detailed list of trains between Delhi, Kalka and Shimla is available here.

You can also choose to get off at Chandigarh (en route to Kalka), and catch a taxi from there.

While the Shivalik Deluxe Express can be reserved 120 days in advance like most Indian trains, most of the other mountain trains can only be reserved 30 days before journey date. Passengers on the Shivalik Deluxe Express are served meals on the train: breakfast on the way to Shimla and dinner on the way down.

Schedule of trains from Kalka to Shimla
Train No. Train Name Kalka Shimla
1KS Passenger Kalka Shimla Passenger 04:00 09:56
241 NG Superfast Shivalik Deluxe Express 05:30 10:15
251 Mail Kalka Shimla Mail 06:00 11:00
255 Express Himalayan Queen Express 12:10 17:20
Schedule of trains from Shimla to Kalka
Train No. Train Name Shimla Kalka
52456 Express Himalayan Queen Express 10:30 16:10
52458 Passenger Shimla Kalka Passenger 14:25 20:15
72452 Rail Motor 16:35 21:35
52452 NG Superfast Shivalik Deluxe Express 17:40 22:25
524524 Express Shimla Kalka Express 18:15 23:20

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