There is an aura about the place. It is almost mystical. Wikipedia, the Bible of the netizens describes this place as the Venice of the East. We are talking about a place that was voted as the world's best city for travellers in 2009 by a travel magazine of repute. It is Udaipur, the lake city of India nestled in a valley surrounded by the Aravalli hills, reflected smooth and white in the clear blue waters of Lake Pichola. This historically alive city houses the most beautiful lakes like Fateh Sagar Lake, Udai Sagar and Swaroop Sagar. The place is simple picture perfect with the lakes embracing huge majestic seventeenth century palaces made of marble and sandstone.
As a rule, in India, the names of places have a history to narrate. The name Udaipur comes from the erstwhile ruler Maharana Udai Singh who founded the city in 1568. The legend has it that the king was advised by a Saint that Udaipur can never be captured by anyone if he builds his palace near the Pichola Lake.
And hence, the City Palace of Udaipur built in 1559 becomes one of the most must visit places when in the city. The balconies of the palace provide a panoramic view of the whole of Udaipur. You would not like to miss the antiques, the paintings and vintage furniture. If you have a budget of around 140-200 USD, you can actually stay in Shiv Niwas Palace and Fateh Prakash Palace, the former guest houses of the City Palace that have been converted into heritage hotels. The Imperial suite of this hotel has s fountain inside, and behold, you can experience the lifestyle of a royal family during your stay there.
Next, let us head towards Lake Pichola that derives its name from a nearby village. The lake is spread over fifteen km and is 25 feet deep. The lake attracts more than two hundred species of migratory birds every year. And the breathtaking palace built in the middle of the lake over a piece of land is simply grandiose. It seems as if the waters of the lake are calm because of the weight of the huge afloat palace. Don’t forget to take a boat ride and visit the palace. Another island in the Lake is known as Jag Mandir. Do visit this garden courtyard to have a look at the place where Shah Jahan (the Mughal emperor who built the famous monument of love, the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World) took refuge while revolting against his father.
This royal city gives enough space to the story of the erstwhile queens in the form of Saheliyon ki Bari’ or the ‘garden of the royal girls’ designed by Maharana Fateh Singh in 1734 for the queen and her maids. The garden sports lotus ponds, cenotaphs of black stone and fountains. And for a very nominal amount, you can experience sprinkling of the water like the queen and her maids used to.
Here, I must mention that the rulers were very prudent. One visit to the Sajjangarh Fort or the Monsoon Palace and you would not disagree with me. This fort built atop a hill overlooks all the lakes of the city and was a perfect way of collecting the rain water that could be used all around the year in the city that forms a part of the desert state of Rajasthan. At every step, after every kilometer, there is a place of historic importance, be it a palace, a temple, a museum, an observatory or statues. The city has something or the other to offer to everyone. Udaipur even has hunting lodges, but yes, beware, hunting is illegal in the place.
So, are you already packing your bags to go there? Let me tell you how to reach there:--
Nearest Airport: The Dabok Airport is connected with major cities such as Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Mumbai. (25 km from the city centre)
Rail: Udaipur is served by direct rail links with Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Jodhpur and Chittor (4 km from the city centre)
Road: The National Highway 8 links Udaipur to Delhi as well as Mumbai.
Where to Stay:--
Luxury Hotels: You can stay at the heritage hotels like Hotel Lake Palace, Udaivilas, Pichola Lake Hotel, Hilltop Palace, Trident Hilton etc
Budget: USD 140-250
Mid-Range: You can stay at Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel, The Tiger, Vishnupriya, Mahendra Prakash, Mountain Ridge etc
Budget: USD 50-80
ECONOMY: Hotel Padmini Palace, Hotel Gangaur Palace, Pleasure Guest House, Anjani Hotel, Hotel Kumbha Palace etc
Budget: USD 20
Where to eat: You can enjoy meals at the royal palaces or for mere USD 0.40 –USD 1, you can enjoy spicy traditional food of Udaipur at the small eateries lining the streets.