One of our favourite cities in Rajasthan, Udaipur seems to encompass all the rich heritage and colours that the state is famous for. For your inspiration, here are a few of our favourite things to do in Udaipur.
“If Jaipur is to be the Pink City, and Rajasthan the Blue, then Udaipur is a city of rose, cream and honeysuckle hues. It’s an impossibly dreamy city, with an easy-going atmosphere. Its sense of romance is unmatched in Rajasthan, and arguably all India. This enchanting Indian city has always charmed visitors, with its glamorous setting, rich history and grand architecture. Udaipur’s glittering lakes are the main attraction, along with its splendid palaces, narrow streets and the prominent ridges of the Aravalli Mountains stretching away in every direction.
This fairy-tale like city was founded in 1559, and is dominated by the majestic City Palace, which overlooks Lake Pichola with its romantic island palaces. Picturesque havelis (intricately carved houses), ghats and temples line the lakefront, with the bustling bazaars of the old walled city stretching behind them. The colourful, crooked streets are bursting with small galleries and bookshops, perfect for browsing during a stroll through the lively markets. There are forts, temples and museums to visit all within easy reach – it’s a lovely place for simply pottering about and recharging your batteries after a journey through north India.” – Madeleine Hann, Co-Founder of Indian Excursions Co.
Here are our top 5 things to do in Udaipur, Rajasthan:
1. Udaipur’s City Palace
Udaipur’s City Palace, stretching along the eastern shore of Lake Pichola, is a fascinating combination of Rajput military architecture and Mughal-style embellishment. Its stern, fortress-like façade, peppered with a profusion of elegant balconies and domes, has been aptly described in the past as a ‘huge plain cake topped with fabulous icing’! It’s the largest palace in Rajasthan and is actually a complex of several palaces which were built or added to by 22 different maharanas between the 16th and 20th centuries. Much of it is now a museum, which is spread out through several palaces and is entered through the imposing Tripolia Gate (where the ruler was weighed on his birthday and his weight in gold distributed among his subjects). We’d also recommend popping into the nearby Crystal Gallery, which houses the palace’s early 19th-century collection of Birmingham crystal, with everything from wine decanters to beds.
2. Explore Udaipur’s old city
Whilst the City Palace dominates the banks of Lake Pichola, just behind it you’ll find a maze of narrow streets and bustling bazaars in what’s known as the old city. These winding and hilly streets are buzzing with shops and makeshift stalls selling all sorts; from jewellery to spices to leather-bound journals. We’d recommend exploring Udaipur’s old city on foot, accompanied by one of our local expert guides to navigate the labyrinthine-like streets, though it’s also perfect for pottering about in on your own. Whilst you’re there, don’t miss the little-known Jal Sanjhi artist whose studio is tucked away here. Amazingly, he creates art by painting on water! Also in the vicinity is the Jagdish Temple, a 17th-century temple just north of the City Palace gates, featuring an enormous and profusely carved black stone image of Vishnu.
3. Jag Mandir
Jag Mandir, built in 1620, is a palace located in the middle of Lake Pichola (not to be confused with the Taj Lake Palace, also located in the lake and now serving as a luxury hotel). The Jag Mandir Palace can be explored on a boat tour of Lake Pichola, which leaves from the banks near the City Palace every fifteen minutes. It boasts lush gardens and marble chambers, exquisitely inlaid with coloured stone, and eight stone elephants stand solemn guard at its entrance. This island palace provided refuge to Prince Khurram (who would later become the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan) while he rebelled against his father. The palace is believed to have inspired many of his ideas for the Taj Mahal.
The charming Saheliyon-ki-Bari is a beautiful 18th-century garden, located in the north of the city. Its name translates to ‘Garden of the Maids of Honour’, as it was built for a queen of Udaipur whose dowry included no less than 48 maids. The garden features ornamental fountains, a lotus pool and a rose garden.
If you’re spending longer than a night or two in Udaipur, then a day-trip to nearby Eklingji is a must-do (14 miles out of the city). Eklingji is a holy complex of 108 temples and shrines, all dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Shiva. The main temples date back to the 16th century and mark the site where the founder of the Mewar dynasty received special blessings from a sage who lived there. It includes a striking pillared hall and four-faced image of Lord Shiva constructed in black marble.
A stone’s throw away is Nagda, which is home to the Saas-Bahu temples (‘Mother and Daughter-in-Law Temples’); two twin structures dedicated to Lord Vishnu, both of which were built in the 11th century. They’re renowned for their extravagant sculptures portraying amorous couples and scenes from the epic Ramayana.
How to get there…
Udaipur is connected to Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur by direct flight, taking only about an hour in the air. For those who’d prefer a road-based itinerary, we’d recommend connecting the dots from Jaipur (or Ranthambhore) with a stop en-route in rural Rajasthan (here are a few of our favourites). Udaipur is also within driving distance of Jodhpur which is about five hours away and nicely broken up with a stop at the beautiful Jain temple in Ranakpur en-route.
… and where to rest your head
Udaipur is home to some of not only Rajasthan’s finest hotels but the world’s. Three of our favourites include:
Price Guide: $$$$
The Leela Palace promises a luxurious stay. Its spectacular position on the banks of Lake Pichola ensures that each room has views over the tranquil lake. The palace took 14 years in total to complete, which is reflected in the incredible detail that has gone into the artwork throughout the hotel, and the intricate murals in the courtyards. The Sheesh Mahal restaurant offers some of the finest Indian cuisines in the region.
Price Guide: $$$$
Designed in the style of a traditional palace and blending perfectly with its royal surroundings on the banks of Lake Pichola, the Oberoi Udaivilas ensures a lavish stay. It’s the perfect haven to relax after a journey through Rajasthan, and makes the ideal base from which to explore Udaipur, if you can tear yourself away!
Price Guide: $$$$
The Taj Lake Palace has a unique location; on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Pichola. It is perhaps one of the most photographed hotels in the world, and the views of the City Palace which lies directly opposite are magnificent and uninterrupted.
It can be difficult to choose between these three fabulous hotels in Udaipur. To help you decide, we’ve broken things down by comparing the Oberoi Udaivilas vs. Taj Lake Palace vs. Leela Palace and asked which is better, here. – Madeleine Hann, Co-Founder of Indian Excursions Co.
If you’d like to experience Udaipur on your upcoming trip to Rajasthan, please do get in touch. We’d love to assist with your arrangements, and as experts in private, luxury tailor-made tours of this region would be an ideal match. For inspiration on the possibilities, we’d recommend taking a look at our sample itineraries – our Luxury Rajasthan Tour with Oberoi, Leela and Taj hotels would be a great starting point, as would our Ultimate Luxury Rajasthan Tour. But remember, all our tours are tailor-made to our guest’s individual tastes and requirements – every aspect is flexible and will be designed around your every preference.0