Udaipur is my favourite place in India so far. We spent two days there during our whirlwind tour of Rajasthan, and I was instantly charmed by the place. It really felt different to the other cities that I’ve been to in India.
It’s a very popular tourist destination thanks to its Rajput-era palaces, history, culture and scenic beauty. Ah, so romantic!
Many of the old palaces have been converted into luxury hotels such as the Lake Palace, which has an interesting story behind it. A prince from the House of Mewar used to indulge in moonlight picnics with the ladies of the Zenana on the neighbouring lake island palace of Jag Mandir. He enjoyed quite the time until his father found out and put an end to it – parents, eh?
And what would any self-entitled prince looking for a bit of debauchery do? Build another pleasure palace, of course! Jag Nawas was therefore also built on Lake Pichola, and now houses the luxurious Lake Palace Hotel.
I just love stories like this!
Udaipur really has a distinctive character that made it stand out from the other places that we’ve been to during our month here. The aforementioned Lake Pichola is central to the main palaces, and at night it’s so beautiful – all the palaces, including the ones floating in the water, are lit up. It’s incredibly atmospheric.
Here are just some of the reasons why we loved Udaipur so much and why you should definitely add it to your Rajasthan itinerary.
Truth is, India isn’t the cleanest of countries, however, Udaipur is the cleanest city I’ve visited here thus far. There was little sign of the usual combination of trash and cow dung that makes walking around a bit unpleasant at times. I was really surprised at just how clean it was, so I looked into it a little further. Turns out, the authorities there have implemented a strict ‘Clean Udaipur’ initiative in order to keep the streets gleaming.
It’s certainly working. The difference is noticeable, and it is believed that the cleanliness is one of the factors that led to Udaipur being voted as the world’s best city in a 2009 poll by Travel and Leisure magazine.
Lake Pichola is immensely beautiful
The shimmering Lake Pichola that acts as the old town of Udaipur’s centrepiece is the main reason why the city is known as the ‘Venice of the East.’ The City Palace, which is the city’s main attraction, and old havelis graciously line the lake, and the atmosphere is really something.
There are many ways to enjoy the lake while you’re in Udaipur. One of the best is to make a reservation at one of the city’s many rooftop restaurants and enjoy the view while you chomp on delicious Indian food. A friend of ours recommended Upré at the somewhat originally named Lake Pichola Hotel and it didn’t disappoint. Definitely check it out if you’re in town – the food there is divine and it has a really lovely atmosphere. The staff cannot do enough for you.
Another way to enjoy the lake is to take a boat ride. We booked one at the City Palace ticket office and while it’s nothing fancy, it’s a really nice way to admire the view and take some good pictures.
It’s charming and romantic
One of the great things about the old town area of Udaipur is that you can easily walk around and take in the street culture. Near the Jagdish Temple, which is a great attraction within its own right, you’ll find all the touristy shops selling souvenirs. If you venture a little further out, though, you’ll find more local shopping areas such as Bada Bazaar, where you can enjoy the buzz of the crowds and take some ultra colourful pictures of all the goods being sold and women wearing beautiful saris – with their consent, of course!
There are murals everywhere
Udaipur really is pretty and its prettiness is partly owed to the beautiful murals that you find at every turn in the old town. These colourful paintings are done in traditional style and allude to a bygone era of opulence and extravagance.
They really add to the character of the city and I loved discovering new ones everywhere we went. I’m in love with this style of painting, and even bought a couple of small pieces of art to take home to my mum and grandma for Christmas.
The cultural traditions
Rajasthani culture is renowned throughout India. This rich culture is reflected in folk music and dances – both of which we had the opportunity to experience while we were there.
A highlight of our whole trip was seeing the Dharohar dance show, which takes place every evening at 8pm at the Bagore-ki-Haveli. The women were dressed in the most beautiful and colourful traditional clothes, and the dances were just phenomenal. One dance entailed a woman doing all kinds of moves with eight massive clay pots resting on her head. In Cyprus we break plates – here they manage to dance with them without having to smash them into smithereens!
There’s loads to shop
Udaipur is the city in which I finally broke my shopping hiatus. When you have nothing more than a backpack to your name, you simply cannot shop for random things, which is both a blessing and a curse all at once. The shops in Udaipur were just too good to resist, though, and I finally threw caution to the wind. I bought way too many things, including some peacock motif shoes, bangles (I LOVE Indian bangles), brightly coloured shawls, and my first (ill-advised?) pair of hippie trousers.
There are just so many shops waiting to be explored. It’s a good place to buy cheap leather goods, if that’s your sort of thing. You’ll also find lovely handicrafts, cheap and colourful shawls, amazing art pieces for reasonable prices and much more. As always, it’s best you tear yourself away from the touristy areas and head to the local markets, such as Bapu Bazaar.
Best time of year to visit is from October – February.
While you’re there, you must visit the City Palace, Jagdish Temple, Lake Pichola, Bagore-ki-Haveli and Kumbhalgarh Fort.
Avoid a place called Millets of Mewar restaurant. Most appalling customer service we’ve ever encountered.
We stayed at Kotra Haveli, which offered decent accommodation and was central.