Udaipur is often labelled as one of the most romantic cities in India. It is situated in the vibrant state of Rajasthan and is easily one of my favourite destinations. Although a desert region, Rajasthan boasts so much colour, history, tradition and culture. The train and bus journeys around the state are usually spent staring out the window, mesmerized by the increase in beautifully embroidered saris, heavy silver jewellery and colourful turbans.
I find Udaipur to be less hassle compared to its neighbouring major cities, and whether you view this as a good or bad thing you can expect to share the place with a number of other tourists! Don’t expect full peace and quiet though with the usual dodging of a cow or two being required and the hectic traffic ruling the winding streets.
~ City centre
I’ve visited Udaipur in both the intense heat of May and on this occasion, the more comfortable and sometimes chilly weather of January. In May Lake Pichola, which forms the centre, was dried up and you could just about walk to the incredible hotel in the middle. The fact that the lake was dried up didn’t hinder the beauty of the place, but my visit in January was even more spectacular.
~ The ‘floating’ Lake Palace Hotel
In and out of Udaipur
The city is connected by Udaipur City train station just southeast of the centre and a number of guesthouses offer pick up. We were coming from Pushkar in Rajasthan, which required a connection at Ajmer. When Heading out of Udaipur down to Mumbai we were limited to services on only Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays, pulling into Bandra Terminus rather than central Mumbai.
There are also a number of government and private overnight buses that serve the city well and there are flights to and from Dabok airport 20km east of the city for Delhi, Mumbai, Jodhpur, and Jaipur.
Things to see and do
~ Despite the general lack of health and safety, you must wear a life jacket!
Take a boat ride around the lake and Palace Hotel
The city surrounds the picturesque Lake Pichola where you can take a boat ride around the famous floating Lake Palace Hotel and marvel at the City Palace grounds, ghats, temples and havelis framing the east side. The Lake Palace hotel is part of the Taj Palace group and one of the most expensive places to stay in India. It’s out of bounds for visitors not staying at the hotel, following the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Even to Adam who tried to secure us a visit using his connection with the hotel through his employer in the UK.
You can hop off at the Jag Mandir palace on the south island scattered with gardens and offering additional views of the idyllic lake. There is a bar where we got our first glimpse at a glass of wine in India, but sadly only that due to the price tag.
Visit the City Palace
Udaipur’s City Palace is the largest royal complex in Rajasthan. I’ve heard many travellers say this is their favourite palace in India and I agree it is definitely worth the visiting. Although we didn’t venture inside the museum, we wandered the outside buildings and the beautiful grounds leading the way to the boat jetty. The museum entrance fee was 100rs and along with a lot of sites in India, there is a charge for each camera you carry. In this case it was 200rs per camera and phone. This is annoying in itself when on a budget but especially when you forget the rules and realise you’re carrying all your electronics!
~ The Palace complex
Catch a screening of the James Bond movie, Octopussy
A lot of the tourist roof top cafes have screenings every evening of Octopussy, which was filmed around the city’s landmarks!
Take part in a cooking class
~ Shashi’s cooking class
One of the highlights of the trip was taking part in Shashi’s cooking class in Udaipur. Indian food has always been a favourite of mine. Whilst a lot of people get sick of curry during their time in India, I couldn’t get enough! I’m still craving Masala Dosas and Rajasthani Thalis! Adam and I knew we wanted to take part in a cooking class, it was just a matter of finding the right one. After some research we found this one stood out as one of the most recommended. And with good reason; it was 750rs definitely well spent.
We were picked up in the centre of the city, taken a short while over the other side of the lake and invited into Shashi and her son’s home. Shashi told us the story of her struggle after the death of her husband. Due to being born into the highest Caste, remarrying or working in small income industries is not permitted. Despite this Shashi managed to provide a little income for her and her sons. It wasn’t until after tasting her wonderful cooking, friends persuaded her to start cooking classes. She was hesitant at first due to language barriers but seven years later she is speaking excellent English and teaching people from all over the world.
~ Potato and onion pakoras with coriander and mango chutney
We got to cook (and eat!) potato and onion pakoras with chutney, chapatti, parantha, aubergine and tomato masala, naan with cheese and tomato, vegetable pilau and sweet parantha. There was so much food between six of us that there was no need to have breakfast and we got to take a bag with us for the train journey that evening.
Wander over the bridge to the West side of the city
There are plenty of great rooftop cafes and restaurants with views over the lake. A walk over the bridge to the west side of the city offers a more relaxed vibe.
~ Enjoying the food at Millets of Mewar over the lake
Top picks for eating and drinking
Millets of Mewar over the bridge is one of my favourites. A great choice for healthy-foodies where you can find vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, salads, juices and shakes.
Lotus, or Hinglish under the same ownership and menu. A popular backpacker hangout with reasonably priced Indian food.
Jheels Ginger Coffee Bar and Bakery – Awesome lakeside café with outside seats arranged over steps meeting the lake. You can grab a coffee, cake, ice-cream or apple pie here. A perfect spot to sit back, read a book or enjoy the view.
~ Jheels Ginger Coffee Bar