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Perched at an altitude of more than 2,000m in the Himalayan foothills, Shimla comes as a bit of a surprise. Grand Victorian buildings stuck right in the middle of sweeping Indian forests and snow-capped mountains? Oh yes – you’ll see it all here. This hidden gem is where historic British architecture meets one of India’s most beautiful natural settings, creating a refined and fascinating cocktail of cultures. Have fun spotting traditional Indian wooden houses and Himachali street stalls among British-style state buildings and churches.
The contrast is noticeable – while India is a fantastically busy place, Shimla offers a much-needed breather, with stunning natural surroundings that spread as far as the eye can see. With no motorised vehicles allowed in the centre, you can take a walking tour of Shimla and gaze at the views to your heart’s content – without worrying about dodging cars and playing chicken with rickshaws.
The question is not whether to visit Shimla, but at what time of year. It’s glorious in summer – there’s a reason it was the summer capital of British India. The climate is warm, the Annadale racecourse offers cricket, golf and a scenic picnic spot, and the annual summer festival brings the local culture to life.
In the winter, a dusting of snow creates a totally different but equally beautiful scene. And there’s a whole range of things to do: skating on South Asia’s only natural ice rink; skiing at the one of the local resorts; a winter carnival – the choice is yours.
Shimla will be a cultural highlight of your trip, while feeling like a calm retreat from the rest of the bustling cities of India. Take some time out from pavement pounding, breathe in the mountain air, and immerse yourself in the legacy of India’s past.
If the Earth’s the body, then India is the soul - a land of spirituality, contrasts and rich culture.
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