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Udaipur- Complete Guide to the City of Lakes

The black and white beauty of the City Palace of Udaipur

Udaipur-the lake city of India, a place, which is famous for its Rajput-era palaces and scenic locations, a place which is on the bucket list of so many tourists, a place where many plan their dream destination weddings, a place that carries a wide history and culture with it and is known by the names the City of Lakes, Venice of the East, and the Kashmir of Rajasthan. It’s everything: VIBRANT, cultural, but most importantly, it’s the most relaxed place in India AND is still quite touristy. Romantic and whimsical, Udaipur will make you fall in love at first sight. The city of lakes is home to Rajputana forts, ornate palaces, resplendent temples, busy markets, stunning architecture, serene lakes, and most romantic sunsets.  The city has become a very popular destination for marriages, thanks to all Bollywood and Hollywood films that have been shot here.

Udaipur is a lakeside paradise of shimmering marble, oozing romance, and a European feel you just can’t find anywhere else in India. With the old part of the city tightly wrapped around the crystal clear Lake Pichola, the Venice comparisons flow deeper than just leisurely boat trips. The author Rudyard Kipling was one of the first to coin the phrase when discussing Udaipur in his 1899 work Letters of Marque. “If the Venetian owned the Pichola, he might say with justice, ‘see it and die’,” he wrote. That’s a slightly crude way of saying the place is impossible not to fell in love with.

The breath-taking sunset at lake Pichola with Jag Mandir in the background

Winding streets crammed with Mediterranean-inspired cafes, music shops, and local craft stores give way to stunning lakeside views. The backdrop of the City Palace’s soft meringue-like roofs against the green hills was the perfect decadent setting for James Bond’s Octopussy. Several scenes of the 1983 blockbuster were filmed at the ‘floating’ Lake Palace – the very definition of a luxury hotel. It’s exclusively accessible by boat, so non-guests are only able to admire from afar.

The lake was actually artificially made and was first created for transport reasons, not pleasure. That said, it was constructed in the year 1362 AD – making it older than most cities in North America, so it seems pretty natural by now. Later generations fell in love with its unrivaled beauty, constructing what is now known as the Old Town and City Palace.

The beautiful view of Udaipur City from the City Palace

The food scene in Udaipur combines the best of East and West in its many restaurants and cafes. If you’re chasing romance, look no further than Ambrai – which is located right on the banks of Lake Pichola with prime views of the stunning Taj Udaipur and lit-up City Palace. It’s all-white linen and silver service, but nowhere close to the same prices you’d fork out for a similar spot in Venice.

There’s a small but bustling marketplace in the center of town.  You’ll find hand-painted elephants or deities on fresh silk and small-carved ornaments. Not to mention the usual explosion of color in scarves and textiles that can be found on sale all over India.

The royal view of the Udaipur palace

Experiencing Udaipur is all about reliving royalty and appreciating the city’s man-made beauty. Udaipur is rightly named as ‘Venice of the East’  because it is around the azure lake, hemmed in by the lush hills of the Aravallis, a vision in white drenched in romance and beauty. One of India’s most romantic cities, Udaipur is full of dreamy vistas and experiences. Whether navigating ancient, winding streets, bargaining in bazaars, or taking a sunset boat ride on pretty Lake Pichola, Udaipur is a tough city to get bored in. Read on for everything you need to know about visiting.

  1. City Palace:  Symbolising the awesome architecture, the city palace will be your first stop in Udaipur. The palace symbolizes the Rajput military architecture and Mughal-style embellishment built by 22 different differentMaharanas 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 Tripoli Gate. It is worth buying one of the catalogs that detail each room. If visiting take the following things into account.
The majestic City palace as seen from the Lake Pichola

Visiting hours: 9 AM to 5:30 PM. Last tickets sold at 4:30 PM. ( note that irrespective of day, the ticket lines are huge. Add one hour of waiting time to get the tickets.)

Ticket Prices: Audio Tour available in French, Spanish, English, and German @250 Rs. . If you plan to see a light and sound show, you will have to buy a separate ticket.

2. Lake Pichola: Clearly the lifeline of Udaipur, you cannot miss visiting lake Pichola. Pichola Lake is one of the most beautiful and picturesque lakes of Rajasthan. Located in the heart of the city, Pichola Lake is the oldest and one of the largest lakes of Udaipur (3 miles in length and 2 miles in width with up to 30 feet deep at places). Pichola Lake is enveloped with lofty palaces, kothis, bathing ghats, temples, and hills on all sides. How to best enjoy this lake? Take a sunset tour, and you will undoubtedly fall in love with this city.

The mesmerizing view of sunset at lake Pichola is a sight to behold.

Visiting Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM

Ticket Prices: Regular boat ride ranges between INR200-INR300. If you plan to take a sunset cruise, it starts from INR500

3. Jag Mandir:  Located majestically on an island on Lake Pichola, the only way to reach Jag Mandir is by a boat ride. This 17th Century architectural marvel is very famous for destination weddings and is a very popular spot for film shootings. . The striking feature of this architectural marvel is the spacious courtyard with black and white marble tiles and gardens on the east side filled with flowers.  As you enter Jag Mandir, you will see eight life-size white marble structures of Elephants placed near the boat ramp on the island. You can definitely enjoy a good meal at the hotel Jag Mandir, needless to say very expensively.

Jag Mandir in between Lake Pichola

4. SaajjanGarh Palace: Also known as Monsoon Palace, the first glimpse that you will get of this fort sitting like a crown on the top of Aravalli hills is from the City Palace. The problem with Udaipur is that the whole city comes to life in the evening. Every nook and corner looks pristine and it is hard to prioritize what to see on a sunset. Sajjangarh is no different than Jag Mandir or Lake Pichola. The best time to visit this place is during sunset. I missed doing that since I was there for 2 days and 1 night, so I got to spend only one evening in Udaipur. Built-in 1884, Sajjangarh Palace, is a hilltop palatial residence in Udaipur overlooking Lake Pichola. It offers a panoramic view of the city’s lakes, palaces, and surrounding countryside. Since the fort is located on the outskirts of Udaipur, you will need a car or taxi/jeep to reach the hilltop. The Fort is also surrounded by the Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary.

The gorgeous SajjanGarh Palace, also known as the Monsoon Palace

Timings: 9 AM to 6 PM

Entry Fee:  – Individual – INR80 , Car- INR20

Fun Fact: This Palace also has a Hollywood connection it was used in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy as the residence of Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince.

5. Lake Fatehsagar: Located towards the north of Lake Pichola, Lake Fatehsagar is a manmade lake. It is surrounded by a number of hills on the three sides and the Pratap Memorial on the north. The best way to enjoy the lake is by boat ride. I will not say that it is a must-do but an early morning or late evening walk around the lake will be more pleasant and save you money as well. A motorboat ride in Lake Fatehsagar costs around INR300.

The view of lake Fatehsagar from the Monsoon Palace

Quick Tips-

  1. It is recommended to stay at least 2 nights in Udaipur.
  2. If you plan to shop in Udaipur, be ready to bargain with vendors.
  3. There are plenty of options for local transport but as I suggested you will have to master the art of bargaining. You will find autos, tuk-tuks, tourist buses, and cabs but for the best rates, refer to your hotels as they will give you a better indication of rates.
  4. The entry fees to most of the palaces are very high. If you are a solo traveler, an audio guide will work just fine. 
  5. For photography lovers, try exploring the city early morning. There are a lot of ghats in the city and it is beautiful to capture the early morning life of locals on these ghats.

Udaipur maintains a sense of peace and has options for chilled out days as well as busy sight-seeing. But the relaxed vibes, great food, and lake views will make you want to stick around longer!

Sheesh Mahal at the City Palace

So here is your quick guide to the City of Lakes- Udaipur

Till then- KEEP TRAVELLING.  KEEP WANDERING.

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