Getting down from the bus early morning, first thing we did in Udaipur was to gorge on the street side poha and namkeen. We had no idea that it will become one of our favorite cities soon. We planned to go there as a family vacation to make the most of my 3-week India trip two years ago. It was end of December (peak winter time in north India) and we were just amazed by the weather in Udaipur and rest of our itinerary (Chittorgarh and Mount Abu). The moment we arrived in Udaipur, we were happy we chose it (We had many phone calls from our relatives about how freezing cold Delhi was. We were quite happy enjoying 20 degrees in Rajasthan). We spent about 2 days in Udaipur and I am sure it is prefect for a soothing and culturally-enhanced weekend break.
Udaipur is called city of lakes for all good reasons. This beautiful historical city is situated in the south of Rajasthan and has a total of about 10 lakes in and around Udaipur. Upper lakes: Lake Badi, Chhota Madar & Bada Madar; City Lakes: Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake, Swaroop Sagar, Rang Sagar, Kumharia Talab, Goverdhan Sagar; Downstream Lake: Lake Udai Sagar.
Founded in 1553 by Sisodia clan, Udaipur enjoyed the status of capital of the Mewar kingdom till 1818. Legend says that a hermit guided the then-king Maharana Udai Singh II to build the palace in Udaipur and hence to move the capital from Chittor to Udaipur. Surrounded by Aravalli mountains, it was unsuitable for heavily armored Mughal horses, and hence remained safe from Mughal influence despite much pressure.
Udaipur is a big city and has a lot to offer: Historical tales, religious accounts, artistic handicrafts to mention a few. You can spend a lot of time in Udaipur soaking everything in. The royal palace, handicraft details, impressive sunsets, and plates of tempting Rajasthani cuisine to mention few. But if you are there just for the weekend, you might not want to miss a lot. I have prepared a lit of to-dos so that you don’t miss anything fantastic.
Things to do in Udaipur:
- City palace: a flamboyant palace complex on the east banks of lake Pichola that took about 400 years to be built. The hermit suggested Maharana Udai Singh to build the palace at the exact location. Palace is very picturesque with Aravalli mountains in the backdrop and lake Pichola on the other side. The architecture is a mix of Rajasthani and Mughal styles. Royalty is reflected from all the sections of the grand palace! Although I am not much into palaces, I was really impressed with this one.
If you are interested in palaces, you should also check should also check out Italian palace on the island in the lake Maggiore.
2. Lake Pichola: One of the most beautiful lakes in Udaipur. We made the right decision by first having a boat ride during the day and then witnessing another majestic view of the lake while coming back from the palace at sunset. Cool breeze and the shimmering lake ahead of us convinced us that it was THE place to be! Serenity cannot be described in words often. Both of the visits had their own charm 🙂
3. Fateh sagar lake: Another beautiful lake. You can also have paddle boating and camel rides here. Also, lots of snack joints (always a plus for me!)
4. Jagdish temple: a large Hindu temple and a major monument in middle of Udaipur.
5. Sahelion ki bari (Courtyard of the maidens): a historical garden famous for its lotus ponds, fountains and elephant statues! Initially the garden was laid for a group of forty-eight young women attendants who accompanied a princess to Udaipur as part of her dowry. It was built from 1710 to 1734 by Maharana Sangram Singh (who, according to legends, designed it himself) as a present to his queen and her royal ladies. Talk about old school romance, eh? It was certainly a refresher of the royalty of Udaipur. We went there at night and would certainly recommend it as the colorful lights and fountains are a visual treat.
6. Handicraft shopping: Most of the guides will take you to this big underground handicraft shop. The shop is huge and nice. Did I tell you that my mom bought like 5-6 saris and some blankets and what not :D. Good thing that they offer to deliver it to your home. Salesperson are really good. They can convince you to buy lots of household stuff very easily. Or may be that was just my family :D. Anyways, if you are not in the shopping mood, you might want to skip it.
7. Zoo: If you are traveling with kids, you can check out the zoo close to the lake Pichola. Small and walk-able. The youngest in our group was 23 years old and yes! we still went in 🙂
8. Food: Eat Rajasthani food. And a LOT of it! Amazing flavors. Most of the restaurants offer Rajasthani thali. We tried at a local restaurant suggested by our guide. If you haven’t tried it yet, you have no idea what you are missing!
As I mentioned above, there is a lot you can do in Udaipur. You can easily spend whole weekend and even a few more days if you have time.
The Royalty and the Commonality
As mentioned above, Udaipur had been capital to the mighty Mewar dynasty for a long time. The royal palaces and gardens still emit that grandeur of royalty. You feel it. I cannot imagine a moment more luxurious than sitting in the palace facing the scintillating lake at sunset and sipping wine (or whatever they were sipping back then :D). This magnificence has been the emblem of Rajasthan since early days and still continue to lure tourists from India and around the globe.
The reason Udaipur will always be special to me is not only because of the palaces and the lakes. What enticed me the most were the common people. It is important for me to know that I am safe while traveling. I don’t like worrying about my bags and the people following when I am so absorbed by the scene. We loved Udaipur for its nice and honest people. Our Auto-rickshaw guide told us why: Religion. He explained how people are cautious for doing anything dishonest because of their religious beliefs. They respect karma and believe that if they would cause any harm to anyone, karma will bite back. They pray to righteousness, honesty and virtue. Finally, a religion sentiment I can come on board with :D.
Udaipur has a raw charm. Though immensely touristic, it still has a distinct original character to it. So is everyone convinced to go to Udaipur? Great! Good thing is that it is easily reachable from all the major cities. A weekend is all you need. 🙂 So, before you start packing your bags, just make a note of the following suggestions/tips:
- If you are a student, DO NOT forget to take your student ID card. There are discounted prices for students. For example, the tickets to City palace was cheaper for me and my sister (Yes! I know, even the student card from Germany worked :D)
- Most of the places charge extra tickets for cameras and mobile phones. So, come prepared for that.
- Hiring a local guide generally helps (us and the local economy :)). You can find them easily in Udaipur. Actually most of the auto-rickshaws can be booked for the whole day to travel between sights. They tell you local stories and legends as bonus!
- Most of the guide/auto-rickshaw you hire will take you to this big handicraft market. They get a commission for the sales (may be even for just bringing tourists). We later found out that it was same in Chittorgarh as well. So, keep that in mind.
- As I also said it before: witnessing the sunset at lake Pichola is a must. You cannot miss it!
- Eat at local places. They are authentic and cheaper. And they help the local economy directly.
More tips: How to stay on budget when on holidays?
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Have you been to Udaipur yet? How was your experience? or are you planning to go there soon? Leave your replies in comments below. I would love to hear all about it. 🙂
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