Based on my personal visit in September 2017
Trip Type – Leisure. Destination Type – Architecture and History
Charming, romantic and rejuvenating Udaipur is a city in the Mewar region of Rajasthan, India. It is situated almost midway between Mumbai and Delhi on the national highway NH-48. Udaipur was founded by Maharana Udai Singh II, a Sisodia Rajput, in CE 1559 when he shifted the capital of his Kingdom of Mewar from Chittorgarh to Udaipur. Being close to Gujarat, Udaipur has proximity to the major ports of Mundra and Kandla. Surrounded by the Aravali hills and set amidst many lakes, Udaipur is picturesque with hues of green and blue. Udaipur is also known as the city of lakes due to its intricately connected lake system. The Fateh Sagar, Pichola, Swaroop Sagar lakes and the Ayad river are interconnected to make a complex system that fulfills Udaipur’s need of water all year round. The old city is situated on the east bank of Lake Pichola on a ridge. Major tourist attractions like the City Palace, Jagdish temple, Gangaur ghat, Lal ghat and Bagore ki Haveli are all in the old city. Other attractions like the Karni Mata temple, Monsoon palace, Moti Magri and Saheliyon ki Bari are also in close vicinity. The locals are simple and cordial, they speak Hindi, Mewari and English. Udaipur has plenty of hotels ranging from backpacker lodges to the swankier 5 star, 7 star and heritage hotels. It is well connected by rail, road and air to all major destinations in India.
How to Reach?
By Rail – From Mumbai, the Bandra Terminus Ajmer Udaipur Express (12995) and the Bandra terminus Udaipur Super Fast Express (22901) are daily direct trains for Udaipur. It takes about 17 to 18 hrs. to reach Udaipur from Mumbai by train. There are many trains available from Ahmedabad to Udaipur if a stop over is acceptable. From Delhi, the Chetak Express (12981) and Mewar Super Fast Express (12963) are daily trains for Udaipur. It’s about 12 hr. journey from Delhi to Udaipur by rail.
By road – Udaipur is about 800 Kms. from Mumbai and about 660 Kms. from Delhi by road. The Mumbai Delhi national highway 48 (NH 48) is a beautiful highway crisscrossing the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It takes about 14 hours to reach Udaipur from Mumbai by road considering minimal halts en route for meals and refreshments. There are many daily private buses available from Mumbai to Udaipur. Udaipur can also be reached in a car just for the pleasure of driving, for a culinary excursion at the roadside dhabas or simply for experiencing the countryside.
By Air – Udaipur has a domestic airport named as Maharana Pratap Airport which is about 25 kms outside the city. All major airlines fly to Udaipur from metros and other cities. Indigo, Air India, Jet Airways, Spicejet have daily flights to Udaipur.
Where to Stay?
Udaipur has a good mix of simple backpacker lodges to the swankier star rated hotels. The diversity of hotels here suits every pocket. The iconic Taj Lake Palace Island Hotel (also know as Jagat Nivas) is the hallmark of luxury in Udaipur, it is set on a tiny island on Lake Pichola. The hotel’s bright white building is a sight to behold. It is visible from almost any high point in Udaipur. Lake Pichola also has another island hotel called as the Jag Mandir Lake Palace Island Hotel. The hotel is a venue for celebrity weddings and gala events, its also a pleasure palace and summer retreat of the royal family. Jag Mandir Palace Island Hotel is featured in the James Bond film Octopussy as one of the main locations. Other swankier hotels include the Shiv Nivas Palace Hotel situated in the City Palace complex. The Oberoi Udaivilas, Lalit Laxmivilas, Trident Udaipur and the Radisson Blu hotel are some other swankier 5-star hotels in Udaipur. Amet Haveli, Udai Kothi, Jaiwana Haveli and Jagat Nivas Hotel are some good 4-star and 3-star hotels in Udaipur that are rated high by travellers on travel websites. There are many 2-star hotels and backpacker lodges all over Udaipur. Prices range from Rs. 40,000/- to Rs. 15,000/- per night for the uber luxe 7 and 5 star hotels. Between Rs. 15,000/- to Rs. 5,000/- per night for the 4 and 3 star hotels and below Rs. 3,000/- per night for 2-star and below hotels. Room rates vary as per season. October to February is the peak season for tourism when hotel rates are the highest whereas July to September is the lean tourism season when rates are lowest.
Best time to visit?
Udaipur has a tropical climate and remains humid most of the year. Winters are pleasant with temperature dipping to less than10 degree celsius in the night. Best time to visit Udaipur is in winter from October to February, the peak season. March to June are hot whereas July to September witnesses moderate rains.
What to see?
Udaipur is a tourists eden. There’s lot to see, do, shop and eat in Udaipur. It takes at least three full days to explore Udaipur, at least the must see tourist attractions in the city limits and some must have cultural and culinary experiences. There are many historical and religious places near Udaipur viz. Kumbhalgarh fort (85 Kms north), Ranakpur Jain temple (92 Kms north west), Jaisamand Lake (52 Kms south east), Eklingji Shiva Temple (23 Kms north), Nathdwara Krishna temple (43 Kms north), Chittorgarh fort (95 Kms east) and the famous hill station of Mount Abu (162 Kms south west). Some of these places can be seen as a day trip from Udaipur during an extended stay.
City Palace Udaipur – is the numero uno sight of Udaipur. It exemplifies the opulent and extravagant lifestyle of the Mewar rulers. The palace is a living monument since past four centuries, Maharana Uday Singh II commenced work in CE 1559 which continues till date. Seventy six generations of Sisodia Rajput Maharana’s who lived in the palace have contributed to the grandeur and glory of this magnificent edifice. The palace is a agglomeration of many structures including eleven small palaces built in the Rajputana and Mughal architectural style. The City Palace overlooks Lake Pichola, the Taj Lake Palace Island Hotel (Jag Nivas) and the Jag Mandir Palace Island Hotel. The main entrances to the city palace complex is from the Badi Pol (big gate) to the east and from the Tripolia Pol (triple arched gate) to the north. The ticket counters are outside the Tripolia gate. The City Palace complex remains open from 9:30 AM till 5:30 PM. The ticket costs Rs. 300/- per adult for the palace including still camera fee and another Rs. 300/- for the crystal gallery. The palace operates boat rides to Jag Mandir Palace Island Hotel from Bansi ghat situated on the banks of Lake Pichola within the palace complex. A round trip of Lake Pichola and Jag Mandir Palace Island Hotel costs Rs. 430/- per individual till 3 PM and Rs. 830/- per individual from 3 PM till 7 PM. The palace complex has a cafeteria and shopping arcade that sells books, apparel and handicrafts.
The City Palace complex has many different monuments and gates (colloquially called as Pol). The road from Badi Pol to the palace is lined with shops and kiosks of artisans. Between the Badi Pol and Tripolia Pol there are eight torans (arched gates) erected. It is said that the Maharana’s were weighed here with gold and silver, which was then distributed among the local people. The Badi Mahal, Amar Vilas, Mor Chowk, Chini chitrashala (Chinese pottery), Manak Mahal, Choti chitrashala (miniature paintings), Krishna Mahal, Durbar Hall, Fateh Prakash Palace (residence of the royal family), Crystal Gallery and Shiv Nivas Palace (5-Star hotel) are some important edifices in the City Palace complex. It takes about four hours to see the City Palace complex in good detail.
Bagore Ki Haveli – is a palatial house built by Amarchand Badva, the erstwhile prime minister of Mewar Kingdom. It is situated on the waterfront at Gangaur ghat. There are about 138 rooms in the palatial house which also has long corridors, balconies, terraces and courtyards. The interiors of the Haveli are embellished with intricate and fine mirror work. There are private quarters of the royal ladies, their bath rooms, dressing rooms, bed rooms, living rooms, worship rooms and recreation rooms all decorated with fine frescoes and glass mosaics. The palatial house truly represents the aristocratic lifestyle of the Prime Minister.
Dharohar Cultural Show – is a daily cultural show organised by Dharohar folk dance from 7 PM to 8 PM at the Neem courtyard of Bagore ki Haveli. Tickets cost Rs. 90/- per Indian adult and Rs. 130/- per still camera. Tickets can be bought at the counter near the main entrance. The one hour cultural show displays splendid Rajasthani folk dance forms like the Gavri, Chari, Teerah Taal, Bhavai and the Ghoomar performed by local artists. The show concludes with a spectacular performance of puppets. Dharohar folk dance show is truly an cultural and visual extravaganza due to the energetic music, colourful costumes and vibrant performances that leave the audience spellbound.
Gangaur Ghat – is a popular ghat situated on the waterfront of Lake Pichola. Processions called Ram Revdis are brought to Gangaur ghat from different parts of Udaipur on the eleventh day after the waxing moon (Shukla Paksha) i.e. Ekadashi. A palanquin with an idol of Lord Krishna forms a part of the procession which ends at Gangaur ghat with a symbolic immersion of the idol in Lake Pichola. The ghat is a happening place due to many small cafes, book shops, souvenir shops and restaurants dotting the street where foreign tourists flock to sip coffee and for photography.
Shri Jagdish Temple – is an ancient and largest temple in Udaipur. It was built in CE 1651 by Maharana Jagat Singh at an estimated cost of Rs. 1.5 million. The temple has remained in continuous worship since then. The sanctum sanctorum has an idol of Lord Jagannath carved out of a single black stone, resplendent with four arms, flowers and finery. Lord Jagannath is the avatar of Lord Vishnu also worshipped as Lord Krishna. The temple is built on a high plinth just about 200 meters away from the north gate (Tripolia gate) of the City Palace. The sanctum sanctorum can be reached by climbing thirty two steep marble steps from the main entrance on the eastern side. There’s an exit from the northern side which is used as entrance to avoid climbing the steep marble steps. The temple has sculptures consisting of three stories of hand carved stone, with the Kalash (steeple) nearly 79 feet high.
Monsoon Palace – also known as the Sajjangarh palace became popular due to the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’. Some portion of the film was shot here. Sajjangarh palace is situated about 5 Kms from the city centre atop a hill about two thousand feet high. It is named Sajjangarh after Maharana Sajjan Singh (CE 1874–1884) of the Mewar Dynasty, who built it in CE 1884. The palace offers a panoramic view of the city’s lakes, palaces and surrounding countryside. It was built primarily to watch the monsoon clouds hence it is aptly named and popularly known as Monsoon Palace. Entry fee to Sajjangarh is Rs. 60/- per Indian adult plus Rs. 90/- per Indian adult for a shuttle to the hilltop and back.
Sajjangarh Biological Park – is at the foothills of Sajjangarh spread over an area of 38 hectares. It has a diversity of fauna like the black buck, sambhar, chital, striped hyena, chinkara, crocodile, tiger and sloth bear. In total there are 60 animals across 21 species in the park. Entry fee to the park is Rs. 30/- per adult Indian. Camera fee is Rs. 80/- per still camera and Rs. 200/- per video camera. The park is open from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. It remains closed on Tuesday.
Fateh Sagar Lake – The Fateh Sagar is an artificial lake to the north of Lake Pichola. The lake has a catchment area of 52 km2. There are three small islands within the confines of Fateh Sagar Lake, the largest of these is the Nehru Park (4 km2 area) which is a popular tourist attraction, the second island (0.06 km2 area) houses a public park with an impressive water-jet fountain, and the third island (1.2 km2 area) has the Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO). The Nehru park is accessible to public by speed boats. The entire circumference of the lake could be traversed through a winding road (on the east shore that passes by Moti Magri, boating pier and chowpatty) to get a picturesque view of the lake and the Aravali Hills surrounding it. Tongas (horse carts), auto-rickshaws and taxis can be hired to reach the lake as well. The chowpatty has many shops selling chaat, corn, candy floss and cold drinks.
Saheliyon ki Bari – literally meaning ‘garden of maidens’ is a beautifully landscaped garden on the northern bank of Fateh Sagar Lake. The garden has a lotus pond, fountains and a small museum. It was built during CE 1710 to 1734 by Maharana Sangram Singh as a gift to his queen who was accompanied by 48 maidens during their marriage. The queen used to be at leisure with her maidens in the garden, hence the name. Entry fee to the garden is Rs. 10/- per adult Indian. Cameras are allowed free of cost.
Moti Magari – is a memorial of Maharana Pratap atop a hillock besides Fateh Sagar Lake. The memorial has a statue of Maharana Pratap on the horseback of his famed Chetak horse. The memorial is truly resplendent with sparkling clean precincts and offers a panoramic view of the Fateh Sagar Lake. The MPSS museum on the way to the memorial is worth the time spent to learn about the lineage of the Mewar Kings. The museum is a two storey building with a gallery showcasing the paintings of the gallant Sisodia Rajput rulers on the upper floor. The lower floor has huge models of Kumbhalgarh, Chittorgarh and Haldi Ghati. Entry fee to the memorial is Rs. 60/- per Indian adult plus Rs. 30/- for three or four wheeler parking. The memorial is open from 8 AM to 8 PM daily.
Karni Mata Temple – is situated on a hill besides Lake Pichola, aerially opposite to the Jag Mandir Palace Island Hotel in the lake. The temple can be reached by a stairway starting from Maniklal Verma garden besides Doodh Talai Lake or from a Ropeway about a kilometre south of the stairway. The hill is about 1000 feet high and offers panoramic view of Lake Pichola to the west and the City Palace complex and Udaipur city to the north. The temple enshrines a stone idol of goddess Karni Mata. Entry to the temple is free. Little ahead of the temple is a shrine of Hazrat Gulam Rasool. The place is thus visited by both Hindu and Muslim devotees. Ropeway charges are Rs. 103/- per adult Indian for a round trip.
Kumbhalgarh fort – is a magnificent hill fortress and a UNESCO world heritage site in the Rajasmand district of Rajasthan. It is situated about 82 kms north west of Udaipur and can be seen as a day trip. Kumbhalgarh was built by Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. It is also a birth place of Maharana Pratap, the great warrior and King of Mewar. The hallmark of Kumbhalgarh is the 38 Kms. long fortified wall which is believed to be the second longest wall in the world after the great wall of China. The wall is 15 feet wide, enough for two cars to cross at once. Kumbhalgarh is situated at a height of about 3,300 feet above sea level. Badal Mahal, the highest point on Kumbhalgarh offers a panoramic view deep in to the Aravali mountain range. There is a well laid pathway right up to the top of the fort with facilities like washroom and drinking water. Rana Kumbha’s palace and the birthplace of Maharana Pratap are important monuments in the fort. There are seven fortified gates and about 300 Hindu and Jain temples in Kumbhalgarh. Ram Pol is the main entrance to the fort. The fort is lit up in the evening during the sound and light show which is a sight to behold and a reason to stay put overnight at Kumbhalgarh. There are decent hotels about a kilometer before the fort, good for an overnight stay. Entry fee to the fort is Rs. 15/- per adult Indian. Parking fee of Rs. 20/- is charged per car.
Ranakpur Jain Temple – is an architectural marvel in white marble at the village of Ranakpur in the Pali district of Rajasthan. Ranakpur is tucked away in a valley amidst the western Aravali range. Falna is the nearest railway station to reach Ranakpur which is about 20 Kms away. It can also be easily reached by road from Udaipur. The temple is dedicated to Tirthankara Adinatha, it was built in the 15th century by a Jain businessman named Dharna Shah after a divine vision. The place is named after Rana Kumbha due to his patronage for the temple for which he donated land. The temple has in campus lodging and boarding facilities at reasonable rates. Unlike other Jain temples, it allows devotees from other communities to stay put at a nominal cost. There’s private accommodation available in Ranakpur as well as in neighboring Kelvada village. Entry to the temple is free. Photography is allowed from outside.
The markets in Udaipur offer exquisite variety of handicrafts ranging from toys, puppets, wall hangings, paintings, cloth lanterns, handmade papers, pottery, leather bags, shoes, terracotta to brass ware sculptures. Tie and dye sarees and textiles called as ‘bandhej’ and home furnishings are also widely popular. Precious stones, Kundan and Silver jewelry are the most sought after items. There are many shops on the streets near the City Palace selling miniature paintings. Pichwai paintings are yet another popular form of painting synonymous to the taste of Mewar rulers. These paintings are available on silk, wood, marble, paper and Ivory. They grace the drawing rooms of urban homes. The popular markets for shopping in Udaipur are at Haathi Pol, Bada Bazaar, Bapu Bazar and Shilpgram. It is important to haggle with the shopkeepers to get the best price. Rajasthali and Sadhna are two government emporiums that offer all the products under a single roof at a fixed price. Anokhi and Aashka are two shops at Manak chowk in the City Palace complex having good variety of sarees, dresses and souvenirs. For the best variety in block prints and home furnishings, a visit to Soma is a must, it is situated at Boheda ki Bari on Lake Palace road. The Arts and Crafts museum at Shilpgram has pretty much everything ranging from bandhani, jootis, durries, miniature paintings, home furnishings, brassware, jewellery and souvenirs.
What to eat?
The Rajasthani cuisine is a fine mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies with popular items like Dal Baati Churma, Gatte Ka Saag, Ker Sangri, Kadhi Pakodi, Papad Methi, Aloo Mangodi and Lal Maans to list a few.
Ambrai – is a restaurant of Hotel Amet Haveli on the waterfront of Lake Pichola. It is perhaps the best place to dine in Udaipur not just for the cuisine but for the spectacular views of the City Palace, Lal ghat, Gangaur ghat and the Lake Palace Island Hotel that it offers due to its prime location. The restaurant is set amidst a mango orchard ‘Ambrai’, hence the name. The must try dishes here are the Murg Dhungar (smoked chicken in thick gravy) and Dhungar Maans (smoked mutton in thick gravy) accompanied by Missi Roti or Naan. A full course meal for two costs about Rs. 2,000/-
Cafe Namaste – is a rooftop restaurant of Hotel Gangaur Palace near the Gangaur ghat. It has a French bakery that makes authentic croissants, date and walnut pie, muffins and pancakes. Enjoying the sunset from here with a cup of Cappuccino and Apple crumble is perhaps the best experience to have.
Charcoal by Carlson – is a rooftop restaurant of Hotel Pratap Bhavan at Lal ghat, it is popular for its barbecues and fusion cuisine. The restaurant torches the embers in the evening to serve lip smacking kebabs hot in to the plate from the skewers. A candlelight dinner with Kebabs, Laal Maans, Mexican Chicken or Mutton chipotle tikka with a glass of vodka is an experience in itself. They also serve the best Mexican Tacos in Udaipur. A meal for two costs Rs. 1,500/- The steep steps of Hotel Pratap Bhavan leading to the restaurant do the appetite whetting.
Lala Misthan Bhandar – is a sweet mart in the clock tower area. Their Gulab Jamun, Malpua and a savoury called ‘gathiya’ is simply fabulous. Even more exciting are their prices for quality stuff. The cost of 250 gms. Gulab Jamun and 250 gms. Gathiya is just Rs. 100/-.
Arora Sweets – near Jagdish temple on the clock tower road is famous for a fasting snack called as pakoda made from tapioca. They also have the regular sweetmeats on their menu.
Natraj Dining Hall – is a multi-storey restaurant near Udaipur railway station hyped for its Rajasthani thaali which isn’t authentic. The thaali section is on the first floor whereas the A’la carte section is on the second floor. There’s no difference between the Rajasthani and Gujarati thaali. The only differentiator being the Kadhi as told by the hotel staff. The taste is just average. An unlimited thaali costs Rs. 220/-.
Jagdish Misthan Bhandar – popularly known as JMB is situated at Chetak circle. There’s another JMB – Jayesh Misthan Bhandar belonging to the same family and one more JMB by the name of Jodhpur Misthan Bhandar. The original one being Jagdish Misthan Bhandar is popular for its sweets and savouries. Pyaz Kachori, Mirchi Bada, Imrati, Kaju Patisa (rich cousin of sonpapdi), Milk Cake, Gajar Halwa, Kalakand, Makhan Vade, Anjeer Doda, assortment of namkeens, Laddoos and the unique Malai Ghevar are some specialities of Jagdish Misthan Bhandar. Some exotic sweets endemic to Jagdish Misthan Bhandar are the Horlicks Laddoo, Doodh Laddoo and the Sangam Barfi. The sweets are all prepared in clarified butter (desi ghee). The cost of 5 Kg. Sweets and Savouries is just Rs. 1,750/-. The fabulous Kaju Patisa should be taken back home as a treat to family and friends.
Millets of Mewar – is a Indian fusion restaurant at the waterfront on Hanuman ghat. There are vegan options, gluten-free dishes, fresh salads, fruit juices and herbal teas. Also on the menu are multigrain sandwiches and millet pizzas, plus regular curries, Indian snacks, pasta and pancakes.
Espresso Love Cafe – is a cafe in the Kalaji Goraji area near the Badi Pol (East Gate) of City Palace. The barista here serves a variety of Espresso, Cappuccino, Macchiato and Latte coffee, the menu is complemented by exotic Frappes, Milk Shakes, Cakes, Smoothies and Ice Creams. Coffee for two costs about Rs. 250/-
…. Rajesh Deshpande © 2017