The capital of the erstwhile Mewar kingdom, Udaipur attracts hordes of tourists every year. One day spent exploring the shimmering lakes, fairy-tale palaces, and sloping lanes of this medieval city, and the effusion, is only scratching the surface. After the spirited bustle of Rajasthan’s metropolises, Udaipur is an oasis of tranquillity. The lush hills, serene ghats, and magnificent sunsets offer plenty of opportunity for soul-searching and a chance to recharge your spirit.
Need To Know
Winter, from October to February, is the ideal time to visit Udaipur; days are sunny and pleasant, while nights are cool. Summer is scorching with daytime temperatures often soaring above 40º C. Sporadic rainfall between July and September is accompanied by dust and thunderstorms.
Udaipur’s narrow alleys and charming ghats are best explored on foot, but auto-rickshaws are also available. They don’t run by the meter, so agree on the fare beforehand. Radio taxis are convenient for travelling to the airport and to attractions on the outskirts of the city.
Traditional Rajasthani fare is rich and flavourful, and popular dishes include dal baati churma and gatte ki subji. Since Udaipur is a tourist haven, the city is dotted with restaurants serving all sorts of local and international cuisines.
Did You Know?
The James Bond movie Octopussy starring Roger Moore and Kabir Bedi was shot in various locations around Udaipur, most notably at City Palace and Lake Palace. Several rooftop restaurants still hold a screening of the film every evening.
Things To Do
For Architecture Enthusiasts
Maharana Udai Singh II began construction of the City Palace (Tel: 0294 241 9021) in the 16th century, but successive rulers kept adding to his vision by sourcing influences and components from all over the world. The final result is an imposing citadel with a seamless blend of Rajasthani, Mughal, European, and Oriental architecture. A magnificent maze of royal rooms, courtyards, corridors, terraces, and gardens, the City Palace also houses a museum with a large collection of Rajput artefacts and paintings.
Bagore-Ki-Haveli (Tel: 0294 242 2567) also has an impressive collection of Mewar paintings and glassworks spread across almost 100 rooms. This 18th century mansion built by the former Prime Minister of Mewar is now a museum and also the venue for traditional dance performances.
For Leisure Seekers
The expansive Lake Pichola, built in the 14th century by a gypsy, is the soul of the city, and a boat ride is the best way to experience its serenity. Boat trips leave from Rameshwar Ghat and include a halt at Jag Mandir, a lavish summer palace on an island. Travellers seeking some quiet often head to Fateh Sager Lake to take a walk along the periphery or watch the sunset from Nehru Park, one of the lake’s three islands.
For Nature Lovers
Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over a few hills on the outskirts of Udaipur, is home to spotted deer, sambhars, jackals, and panthers. All these animals and more, including tigers, leopards, lions, and hyenas, are also kept in enclosures at the Sajjangarh Biological Park (Tel: 0294 245 3686). A trip to the sanctuary can be clubbed with the drive up to Sajjangarh or Monsoon Palace, a dilapidated palace and former astronomical centre offering splendid views of Udaipur and the Aravalli ranges.
What To Eat & Where
From gatte ki subji and dal baati churma to laal maas and piping hot jalebis, Natraj Dining Hall & Restaurant (Tel: 094147 57893) serves delicacies from all corners of Rajasthan in its massive thali. Aapni Dhani (Tel: 093525 06351) is a smaller version of Jaipur’s Chokhi Dhani and also offers a traditional spread in a rural ambience. Locals and tourists flock to Shiv Shakti Chaat (Tel: 077375 76462) for the dahi kachori. The bread pakoda from Kamlesh tea stall, at Fateh Sagar Lake and kulhad coffee from Vinod Fast Food (Tel: 093511 49051) are must haves. Fine dining restaurants such as Ambrai (Tel: 0294 243 1589) and Jaiwana Haveli Rooftop Restaurant (Tel: 0294 252 1252) offer a variety of cuisines and ethereal views of the city by night.
What To Buy
Every market in Udaipur is famous for a specific handicraft or group of items. A walk through Hathi Pol Bazaar will reveal rows of miniature paintings and Pichwai and Phad paintings. The vibrant puppets and jewellery boxes at Chetak Circle make for good gifts. Bada Bazaar is filled with shops specialising in bandhani sarees and handmade juttis. Udaipur’s legendary meenakari and kundan jewellery can be found in shops near the Clock Tower. For travellers who prefer to avoid the hassle of bargaining, the government-run emporium Rajasthali (Tel: 0294 2429 068) sells handicrafts at fixed prices. Ethnic Arts & Crafts (Tel: 0294 309 1572) is known for its exquisite furnishings and home décor items.