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In our recent wanderings in Northern India, we heard of the lore of Shimla. It is known as the Queen of the Himalayas. This area was in fact it was for years a leisure retirement spot for the British and local high class citizens. Shimla is a fascinating destination where beauty that is difficult to put to words comes to life: where mountains, old pines and extensive views captivated our visit.
Arriving can be a real challenge. There is no airport in Shimla and once we got there we easily understood why not. We flew to Chandigarh from Delhi on Air India, it is a 40 minute flight. Chandigarh is a modern city and quite organized and clean. The JW Marriott is a great place to stay for anyone looking to spend some time in Chandigarh.
There are buses to Shimla, but probably the best call is to hire a local cab. One can negotiate a price for a day trip. We went with a recommendation of a local travel blogger. This proved to be a great decision. The driver was amazingly friendly and ready to stop wherever we wanted. It is awesome to take photos along the way.
The road is very good at the beginning but then it becomes quite hilly and yes, dangerous, but we enjoyed it a lot even when we know some people will be quite scared on this road, even more if one understands that Indians have a very particular mode of driving, even when they are very good drivers.
It takes around three hours to reach Shimla. There are many excellent hotels and restaurants and activities for travelers of any age. We decided to explore the Oberoi Cecil, it is quite an institution. A historic property with an alpine feeling and top notch service. We had lunch in the restaurant and it was not cheap (for Indian standards) but it was delicious.
We walked all along Mall road, this is the heart of Shimla, we did some shopping, took a lot of pictures and enjoyed the panoramic views. The air in Shimla is clean and fresh, it is important to keep in mind that one is dealing with mild high altitude so some people may experience shortness of breath or a headache. One day is not enough to explore everything Shimla has to offer, there are many beautiful hikes, opportunities for adventure sports or just to relax in one of the great spas. We were really surprised to find such alpine beauty in this remote corner of India.