Udaipur: The City of Lakes and the Jewel of Rajasthan
Udaipur, Rajasthan’s city of lakes (also known as the Venice of the East), was a real surprise for us. We weren’t expecting to find something just quite so beautiful after a seven-hour drive through a desert-like landscape.
Not many places in India are easy to love at first sight but Udaipur will blow you away instantly. This small city is home to ornate palaces and temples, buzzing markets, picturesque lakes and breathtaking sunsets. It is photogenic, romantic and colourful all at once. Because of its beauty, Udaipur has become a popular wedding destination for Indians. It’s pretty easy to see why couples want to tie the knot there. After the craziness of Delhi and Jaipur, Udaipur was a breath of fresh air (as fresh as the air gets in India!).
Sadly we’d only planned two nights in Udaipur and after leaving Jaipur and stopping off in Chittorgarh Fort along the way, we didn’t arrive until early evening on the first day. This left us with only one full day in Udaipur, which is nowhere near enough to really make the most of it. A couple of extra days to soak up the atmosphere would have been great but we made the most of the little time we had. We managed to see Udaipur’s most important sights, with enough time left over to relax and enjoy the views from our hotel.
Get lost in the old town and visit the ghats
Visit the ghats just after sunrise to see the locals getting on with their daily chores. They wash their clothes and take their morning bath in the lake. Udaipur’s old town is nice to walk around early in the morning before the crowds arrive. Lose the map and get lost in its narrow streets.
Along the way, you’ll come across colourful buildings and some fantastic street art. Although it’s still busy (it is India after all), Udaipur is a lot quieter than Jaipur. As with everywhere else in Rajasthan, you’ll see lots of holy cows hanging around the narrow streets, looking for someone to feed them.
The City Palace
The City Palace is the main sight to see in Udaipur. The entrance is through the imposing Tripoli Gate with its huge wooden doors covered in spikes. Those spikes were designed to stop an enemy’s elephants from forcing their way through (poor elephants!).
The palace was built between the 16th and 20th centuries and is a symbol of the Rajput military architecture and Mughal-style embellishment. Over the years twenty-two different Maharanas have renovated and expanded the palace. It is built in marble and granite and its interior contains some beautiful mirror work, murals and paintings.
The City Palace is divided into four wings. Two of them have been converted into five-star hotels by the current Maharana. Another wing is his residence and the final wing has been converted into the City Palace Museum. You can visit the museum either with a guide or by yourself.
The palace is built on the eastern banks of Lake Pichola and from the upper floor windows, you’ll get spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding city.
Entry fees: For the palace grounds the charge is INR 30. For the museum, the charge is INR 300.
The Jagdish temple is the largest in Udaipur and is devoted to Lord Vishnu. It is constructed in the Indo-Aryan style of architecture and is three stories high. The architecture is just wonderful, with beautifully carved pillars, painted walls and decorated ceilings. It doesn’t take long to see this temple and whether you visit for its religious significance or its architectural splendour, it is highly worth seeing.
Entry fees: None
Take a boat trip on Lake Pichola
The best way to see Lake Pichola is to take a boat trip around it. This gives you fantastic views of the City Palace, the Aravalli hills, the bathing Ghats, and many heritage buildings dotted around the lake. You’ll also get a nice view of the famous Lake Palace hotel located in the middle of the lake.
The boat stops at Jagmandir, a palace that is built on an island. There, you can stroll around the beautiful gardens before returning to your boat. The boat ride starts at Rameshwar Ghat and lasts for about an hour, including the stop at Jagmandir. You can also take a sunset trip which is a bit more expensive.
Cost: 400 rupees per person, more for sunset.
Watch the sunset
Our favourite thing to do in Udaipur was to watch the sunset over the lake. Find yourself a rooftop bar or restaurant, order a cocktail or a Kingfisher beer and enjoy. Totally relaxing!
Where to stay in Jaipur?
The Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel is located right on the river. This hotel has recently been renovated and offers beautifully decorated rooms in an Indian style. Some rooms have windows opening towards the lake, letting you enjoy fresh air and morning views of the lake without leaving your bed! The hotel has a rooftop restaurant and bar serving breakfast, lunch or dinner with a view. The food there is very good and highly recommended. Prices start from AU$85. Find the latest prices here.
If you are after pure luxury, the Oberoi is one of the most opulent hotels in the world. Spread over 50 acres, the Oberoi Udaivilas boasts grand architecture inspired by the palaces of Rajasthan. It is built on the banks of Udaipur’s Lake Pichola, on the 200-year-old hunting grounds of the Maharana of Mewar. Prices start from about AU$700 a night, so it’s not for everyone! Find the latest prices here.
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