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Udaipur: The City of Lakes (and Palaces)
Home to exquisite palaces, intricate temples, and a multitude of lakes, the city of Udaipur is the quintessential vacation destination in the north-west of India. The capital of the state of Rajasthan, the so-called ‘City of Lakes’ boasts picturesque settings, unforgettable sights, and a romantic ambiance, all of which prove alluring to travellers not only from across India but the world at large.
Reminiscent of a fairy tale setting, the city of Udaipur is home to a treasure trove of remarkable palaces, the oldest of which is City Palace. Originally constructed in the sixteenth century and extended over the next few hundred years, the lakefront palace remains as impressive today as when it was first constructed. Head to Ambrai Ghat to get the perfect photo of this awe-inspiring structure.
Whilst the City Palace sits on the shoreline of Lake Pichola, two other splendid palaces can be found on the lake itself. Jag Mandir, which dates back to 1652, and Lake Palace, built in 1746, are both island palaces that look every bit as majestic as you might expect. Each of the palaces has been converted to a high-end hotel. If you want to stay in the lap of luxury (and can afford to do so), this is the place to stay.
Back on terra firma, the Monsoon Palace (or Sajjan Garh) is also worth a visit. The nineteenth century structure, which has served as an astronomical centre and hunting lodge amongst other things, may not be as well looked after as its counterparts, but remains an impressive sight. There’s also a zoo nearby.
Whilst Udaipur’s palaces will take your breath away, the city’s temples are no slouch in the visual department either. Top of the list of must-see temples is Jagdish Temple. A massive structure in the centre of the city, the Hindu temple dates back to 1651, making it the oldest in the city.
Overlooking Lake Sagar Fateh, Neemach Mata Temple is a little more subdued than the imposing Jagdish Temple. What it lacks in curb appeal though is made up by the views on offer.
Climb the lengthy stairway leading up to the temple and you’ll be treated to magnificent views of the city and lake below. Sunrise and sunset are especially impressive.
If you’ve not quite got your fill of temples within the city limits, a guided tour of some of the other religious sites found near Udaipur may sate your appetite. These include Ek Ling Nath Ji Temple and Ranakpur Temple. In particular, the sprawling Kesariyaji Temple in Rishabhdeo – approximately 40 miles from Udaipur – is well worth the return trip.
Udaipur is home to five individual lakes, a detail that has given rise to the moniker, the ‘Venice of the East’. The main lake, Lake Pichola, is found at the heart of the city. Its shores are dotted with hotels offering rooms with superior views, as well as the previously mentioned island hotels. Undoubtedly, this is the place to stay when you’re in Udaipur. You’ll find several picturesque walking trails around the lake, as well as two islands to visit.
Lake Fateh Sagar also offers a picturesque setting, including some lush greenery. Visitors flock to Nehru Park, located on an island on the lake. The park is home to the Udaipur Solar Observatory, a popular tourist attractions. Boat rides around the lake are also available. Travellers wishing to venture a little further may enjoy a trip to Dhebar Lake. Situated 32 miles from the city centre, the lake features a marble dam and a wildlife sanctuary.
In addition to its impressive historical structures, Udaipur also features a selection of museums that are sure to be a hit with culture vultures and history buffs. The City Palace itself has been converted to a museum, housing an array of lavishly decorated rooms and historic artefacts. A trip to the museum is an effortless way to while away an afternoon. Head to Durbar Hall to see truly impressive chandeliers.
Elsewhere in the city, Bangore-Ki-Haveli is an eighteenth-century mansion that has been intricately restored. There are a total of 138 rooms here, most of which can be explored, while special performances are regularly hosted.
Other museums in the city include the Government Museum, which houses a trove of oddities and historic relics, and Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum, which specialises in folk art. One of the city’s museums that might take you by surprise is the Vintage and Classic Car Collection. Here you’ll discover Cadillacs, Mercedes, Austins, and MGs, as well as a Rolls-Royce Phantom that appeared in the James Bond movie, Octopussy.
Out and About in the City
Venture out of your hotel and on to the city streets and you’ll soon discover that Udaipur is a vibrant city with plenty to keep you occupied. Shopping malls, street markets, and bazaars are plentiful and, quite frankly, can be exciting places to visit. There’s no shortage of restaurants and eateries, making it easy to sample the local cuisine.
Amidst the many hotels, guest houses, and shops, you’ll also discover coffee shops, cinemas and galleries. Meanwhile, the city’s bus and railway stations offer the chance to head out of Udaipur and explore some of the other local towns.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, try out the Mansapurna Karni Ropeway. This cable car system operates between Deen Dayal Park and Machhla Magra Hill. The journey between the two offers the chance to glimpse some of the best scenery in the region.