Udaipur - where regal elegance sparkles in white marble palaces amidst an entanglement of glittering artificial lakes. A city in which traditional Rajasthani architecture fuses effortlessly with modern luxury. A place that seems like a mirage with its striking beauty and romantic feel.
Udaipur is in the western state of Rajasthan, known for its lavish royal residences. It's dubbed 'The City of Lakes', and 'The White City' after the sheer amount of marble facades that dominate Udaipur. It's coined as the most romantic city in India and thus, the number one choice for Indian destination weddings. Unlike its neighboring cities in the royal state of Rajasthan, Udaipur encompasses serenity. The infamous honking seemingly subsides, streets beat to a slower rhythm, and the Aravalli hills that nestle within the lush greenery offer solace through its scenic backdrop.
Unravel the city of Udaipur and learn where to stay, what to see, how to get around, and where to eat and drink through this post.
Transportation Within Udaipur
With Udaipur being 37 squared kilometers, the best way to get around is by auto rickshaw. Autos can be flagged down from anywhere. Always negotiate a price before getting in, haggle and get clarity whether the price is per person or not. Autos will allow you to navigate through the smaller streets, where cars and taxis don't have access. In the Old City, most places are walkable. I booked a private driver for the duration of my stay that drove me from Jaipur to Jodhpur, then onto Udaipur. Having a private driver allows you to explore Udaipur's palaces and viewpoints that sit on steep hilltops with ease and flexibility, and makes going to dinner and drinks very convenient. Although a private driver is significantly pricier, I found it was worth it as it saves the feeling of being ripped off and efforts involved in haggling! You can arrange a private driver through your hotel or contact Eagle Tours, whom I booked.
Where To Stay In Udaipur
Udaipur spoils you for choice with so many luxury hotels, resorts, and palaces. Here are my top picks for where to stay in Udaipur.
TAJ LAKE PALACE - €€€€ - Situated in the middle of Lake Pichola is The Taj Lake Palace, famous for being featured in the James Bond movie Octopussy, and undoubtedly the best hotel in Udaipur. Staying at the Taj will make you feel like royalty from even before you reach the hotel, via private boat. From rose petal showers upon arrival to world class hospitality, The Taj Lake Palace is a once in a lifetime experience on royal heritage property.
THE LEELA PALACE - €€€€ - The Leela Palace is a modern hotel, and the epitome of elegance and grandeur. It sits on the banks of Lake Pichola and exemplifies Rajasthani architecture through its gardens, rooms and common areas. The Leela Palace is the definition of Indian luxury resorts at its best.
SHIV NAWAS PALACE - €€€ - Shiv Nawas Palace provides a royal experience with Aravalli Mountain range and Lake Pichola room views, at a moderate price. The rooms are spacious, decorated in true Rajasthani style and the hotel is excellent when it comes to dining.
CHUNDA PALACE - €€€ - Chunda Palace is a boutique hotel offering a royal economical stay, with jaw dropping hand carved and hand painted walls and ceilings. Chunda Palace has amazing amenities with two pools, and breathtaking panoramic views over Udaipur and its rolling hills.
What To Do In Udaipur
Rajasthan's largest and most iconic palace sits gloriously above Udaipur's old town and is the most popular tourist attraction in the city. The City Palace offers panoramic views across Udaipur, and the interior is as beautiful as the polished exterior. Within the rooms and chambers you can immerse yourself into a bygone era through intricate mirror-work, hand carved marble, murals and paintings, silver detailing and in-lay, and stained glasses that embellish the balconies, towers and cupolas of the complex. Don't miss the insta-famous blue interiors of Zenana Mahal.
Jagmandir Isla is an exquisite palace that sits in the middle of Lake Pichola, also known as Lake Garden Palace, due to its alluring courtyards and gardens adorned with rich flora. Head there for a light lunch, and allow the cool breeze of Lake Pichola sooth your senses on a balmy day. Jag Mandir can only be reached by boat from Bansi Ghat and is cheaper (boat charge only) to get to before 3pm.
Jagdish Temple is a Hindu temple in the old city, a stone throw away from the City Palace, dominating the main market. Jagdish Temple is renowned for its marble hand-carved ornate exterior and stands tall on a raised terrace. Outside, women sell flowers that you can take as an offering inside the temple. Within the mandir, check out the idol of Lord Vishnu famously carved from a single piece of black stone, as well as four smaller shrines of Shiva, Ganesh, Surya, and Goddess Shakti. Although entrance is free, you will pay a tip to someone to mind your shoes, which have to be removed upon entering. I visited Udaipur during the Indian festival of Holi and celebrated outside the temple. The day after, I went inside, where you could still see the remnants of Holi.
Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace
Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace is a palatial hilltop residence, built to monitor the monsoons during the 1800's. Although the palace itself isn't so impressive, the palace grounds offer exceptional views of the Aravali Hills and the entire city of Udaipur, making it a top spot for photography, in particular sunset. Beware of the monkeys!
Walk Udaipur's Old City Streets
Really get to know Udaipur and the people that call it home by walking through the myriad of narrow streets and alleys of the old city, experiencing everyday life, outside of monuments and palaces. Discover crumbling temples, peeling paint, fading Rajasthani artwork, school boys playing cricket, sleepy cattle, and even wedding processions at every corner you turn. The streets are so vibrant, chaotic and colorful, each one so unique - a photographer's delight.
Ghat is the Hindi word for the flight of stairs that leads to water. Ambrai Ghat is the waterfront at Lake Pichola where locals hang out awaiting sunset, boys swim in the water, love birds nuzzle, and kids run around with ice cream mustaches. As the night falls, the lights twinkle in the water's reflections, and the view of Udaipur's old city looks nothing short of mesmerizing.
In the narrow alleys near the foot of the Ghanta Ghar (clocktower) immerse into everyday local life and visit the rainbow colored Old Sabji Mandi (vegetable market). I visited here not for a grocery run, but to soak in the local atmosphere and witness the boisterous trade of vegetables. Street vendors arrive to purchase vegetables they will prepare on their carts later in the evening, maids barter for their mistresses, cattle roam free, and vegetables are sprawled across every inch of the ground on flattened sacks and in wicker baskets. The vegetable selection is boundless and atmosphere is buzzing.
Gagaur Ghat is another waterfront hangout at the banks of Lake Pichola. India's stunning sunsets are really something to slow down to and witness - a striking color show through murky skies. Gangaur Ghat is the perfect place to end your day while you watch the sunset. Gangaur Ghat feels like a scene of a movie with so much going on - in my short time there, I saw people bathing, washing clothes, feeding pigeons, fishing for dinner, having wedding shoots, snacking on chaats (street food), and simply lounging out. Grab your friends, family, or partner and end the day on a slower beat.
Udaipur is filled with shops, boutiques and markets for every shopping enthusiast. Whether you are shopping for Indian art, antiques or handicrafts, Udaipur will spoil you with its effervescent markets. The most popular place for shopping is Hathipole Market. Here you will find clothing, fabrics, craftwork and shoes that are typical in Rajasthani style. Other markets to visit are Bapu Bazaar for bags and leather notebooks, Bada Bazaar for jewelry, Mochiwada Bazzar for shoes and sandals, Chetak Circle for souvenirs and nicknacks, and Ghanta Ghar for Rajasthani turbans and tapestries. Udaipur's rich and vibrant art culture is palpable. You will find artists dotted around everywhere in the city from sleek studios to dusty street corners, so definitely explore local artists and pick yourself up something special. I bought two pieces of unique art hand painted on vintage paper and silk, in traditional Rajasthani style from an artist called Lala. Lala can be found in his dimly lit, quirky studio close to the City Palace.
Where To Eat & Drink In Udaipur
Jheel's Ginger Coffee Bar & Bakery - a slick cafe resting on the water's edge, perfect for some down time, and an escape from the city. Jheel's sits within a guesthouse and is a perfect pitstop for an iced coffee or dessert. If you are feeling hungry then head upstairs to the rooftop and order pizza - so good and tastes even better with the beautiful view from up there.
Ambrai Restaurant - Ambrai Restaurant is a must when visiting Udaipur. Set on the banks of Lake Pichola, Ambrai Restaurant overlooks Gangaur Ghat, the majestic City Palace, and The Lake Palace. The combination of the breathtaking views with the seriously delicious food makes the most romantic and memorable experience. Do not miss Ambrai Restaurant. Reservations recommended.
Khamma Ghani Restaurant - Khamma Ghani Restaurant is another one of my favorite restaurants in Udaipur. This open air lakeside restaurant serves traditional Indian food on floor cushions, as draping white curtains billow in the breeze. I highly recommend their paneer shashlik!
Sai Parantha - Sai Parantha has earned a reputation for serving the most delicious stuffed parathas in the city. It's a nondescript cheap roadside eatery with no frills, and has a variety of options to chose from. Each parantha is served with curd, pickles, coriander chutney, dal and a big knob of butter. Tip - cash only.
JMB Restaurant on 90 Bapu Bazar - JMB is a must visit for a light sack at anytime of the day. They serve all sorts of savory snacks like dokla, kachori, and vadas, as well as being a well establish Rajasthani sweet shop. I stopped here and had onion kachori and dokla, roadside - such an awesome experience in the morning watching people grab their breakfasts and head to work.
Jai Bhole Mishthan Bhandar inside Delhi Gate - Jai Bhole Mishtan Bhandar is very similar to JMB in terms of the food they serve - snacks, sweets and savories. However they are best known for their piping hot jalebi. and gulab jaman. This is the perfect spot for an easy and quick breakfast or mid-day snack.
The Egg World - The Egg World is a small roadside eatery that serves the best egg dishes you will ever have! This place is super busy and is famous for their egg bhurji - a mix of boiled eggs with spices and tomatoes, served with white bread. All the dishes are so unique, lip smacking and very cheap. We came for breakfast and ate the egg bhurji in our auto-rickshaw. The Egg World is a must for its unique flavor and experience.
Try Tandoori Chai - Our first stop in Udaipur was to get a much needed cup of chai after our drive from Jodhpur. We stopped to have tandoori chai - a new concept to me. It's made by taking iron tongs and placing an earthen cup in a glowing hot tandoor. When the cup is piping hot, it's taken out and sweet milky chai is poured in it, which violently sizzles and froths over. Then this chai is poured into another earthen clay cup and served. Places that serve tandoori chai are Sigdi Chai and Wapngo, but is quite common throughout the city.
Drinks at Upre, Lake Pichola Hotel Rooftop - For dreamy sunset drinks head to Lake Pichola Hotel's rooftop bar and restaurant, Upre. The subdued lighting and ambience creates the perfect setting for romantic pre-meal drinks, while overlooking the glistening old city.
Udaipur is truly one of my favorite cities in India. The melody of the city is so much sweeter, and Udaipur is truly a city that welcomes you with open arms, especially if its your first time visiting India. Until travel becomes safe, pin this guide for future inspiration!