Shimla Stories and Tips

Shimla's Lift (not Schindler's List)

Heavily laden porter Photo, Shimla, India

Shimla is a wonderful place which is quite literally built clinging to the side of a mountain. Maps of the place are almost useless since any two dimensional representations of an almost vertical city can't hope to give you any kind of accurate idea of how far apart things are – or more importantly how steep the route between them might be.

After a morning in Kufri, we asked our driver to drop us by the 'lift' on Cart Road at the eastern end of the Mall and then arranged that we'd see him again three and a half hours later. Most of the city centre sights are in areas where cars are not allowed so if you want to explore, you need to get dropped off by the road side (or in the car park) and then work your way up to where the action is. If you're feeling really energetic and you have a good sense of direction, you can find a route up the hillside climbing hundreds of steps. Or, if you've only just arrived in the mountains, it's much wiser to take the lazy route before you over-do things and take a nasty hit from the altitude. If that's the case, you need the lift that joins Cart Road to the Mall.

It's worth thinking about access to the city centre if you are booking a hotel in the pedestrian area. There will always be lots of porters, small wiry men and women who can be seen dragging fridges and luggage up steep inclines but many visitors will feel really bad about expecting someone to put themselves through physical torture carrying their bags. If you want to have any chance of taking your own bags, it's best to use the lift and then walk the less-steep roads at the top.

Cart Road runs parallel to the Mall but 100 feet below it. That might not sound like a lot but please take my word for it, it's a tough climb at altitude.

There's a small ticket booth where you can pay 8 rupees (about 10 pence) per person to use the two-part lift system for getting up the mountainside. The lifts themselves are very small and would hold no more than about 8 people at a time. Despite the small capacity, we've always been able to get in the next lift that appeared.

The first lift takes you vertically up and then leaves you at the end of a walkway which joins the two lifts. Don't hang about looking at the view or the second lift might go without you and if the one following you is full there might not be room for everyone to fit in the next lift. The second lift takes you up to the Mall level where you need only to walk a short distance to reach the road. Turn left up the slope and the road will take you past all the shops and restaurants to the historic buildings, Scandal Point and the Ridge.

The price is high enough to deter many of the locals from using it but so cheap that you'd be a fool not to use it at least once or twice. Of course it's tempting to take the lift up and then walk down but if you choose to do that, allow more time for finding your way down and pushing through the crowds. You'll have plenty of opportunity to show how fit and healthy you are just walking around Shimla but I recommend taking the easy route into town and using the lift.

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