Pine forests and apple orchards, crisp, clean air and breathtaking views - that's Shimla in a nutshell. Sprawled over 12 kms on a crescent shaped ridge, Shimla is the largest hill station and erstwhile summer capital of the British in India. Descending in layers from the top of the ridge, at 2,213 metres, Shimla straddles several hills, including the Jakhu, Prospect Hill, Observatory Hill, Elysium Hill and Summer Hill.
Shimla is a tourist paradise through out the year. The town itself is worth a visit in the off-season when it is less crowded and can be explored to one’s heart's content. In the season, most of the over 1000 hotels in Shimla are filled to capacity and getting a room in a hotel in shimla can be ardous task. To prevent your visit to Shimla from any hiccups, it is advisable to get hotel reservations in advance. In the off-season, most hotels give "off-season discount" which ranges from 20-50% of room rent. People here, like in the rest of Himachal Pradesh are simple, hard working and fond of music and drama. They worship the goddess Shakti and one can see small temples on hillsides, in valleys, on peaks and ridges. These hillsides are known by the name of the goddess/god itself. The interior part of the Shimla district gives one a fine view of how rural or rather real hillside folks live like. The district offers something to any kind of a visitor. The young, the old, the writers, adventurers, nature lovers and peace lovers can all find their bit of heaven here.
The district of Shimla has amazingly beautiful forests of firs, pines, oaks and rhododendron. The beautiful meadows with hyacinth, celandine, asphodel, climb gently up to the deodar forests and further up to rocky and snowy peaks of the Himalayas. A pleasant way to enjoy natural beauty of the region is to travel to Shimla on the 'Kalka -Shimla' train. It runs on the narrow gauge and winds its way through forested hills of fir, pines, walnut, apricots and through terraced hillside fields of paddy, corn and the famous capsicum known as 'Shimla Mirch'. The entire Shimla district has a number of small streams and springs and is a delightful place for nature lovers. One can walk and love to walk some more.
The houses of the locals are made of stone and mud with thatched roofs. The materials used for the roofs are plenty but the style is always similar. The roofs slant down on both sides of the house. This helps the snow to slide down during the winters and not accumulate on top of the houses. The houses built by the British mostly used a lot of timber (oak) and were built in gothic styles. The roofs are generally colored brick red or green.
From the days of the British, when it was the popular retreat of the sahibs, Shimla has now become the hub of major activities in Himachal Pradesh. Being the seat of government and a major tourist attraction in north India, Shimla has grown to bursting point. In peak tourist season, traffic jams and crippling water shortage are common. Nevertheless, the fresh air, magnificent snow peaks and refreshing green all around make Shimla worth a visit.