One of the most pleasant places to visit (and considered the most romantic) in India is the city of Udaipur (for a map of locations we visited in India click here). The city sits on the shores of Lake Pichola, which adds a peaceful element to the setting.
We enjoyed our breakfast time sitting on the rooftop of our hotel overlooking the calm lake waters and the isolated Lake Palace Hotel. Udaipur (and specifically the Lake Palace Hotel) became a popular tourist destination after its use as a setting in the James Bond film “Octopussy” with Roger Moore. If you’re dying to see the movie again, it plays nightly at a number of restaurants in the old part of town near the shore of Lake Pichola. I think the restaurant owners would go crazy after seeing the film over and over!
Although our hotel (Jaiwana Haveli) was good and in a perfect location, in hindsight, I wish we would have spent one night at the world famous Lake Palace Hotel, even though its room rates are pricey ($300 to $1,400 US/night depending on the season). Having a reservation is the only way you can visit the hotel. It was built in 1754 and was originally a summer royal residence. It became a hotel in the 1960’s. Even though the setting is serene, you’re still in India. The local population uses the lake as a bathing and laundry room. It’s a major contrast – one of the world’s most exclusive hotels within a few hundred yards of people who have few material positions taking care of life’s daily needs.
You can visit Jagmandir Island, just a bit further out in the lake, on which is located another small palace and tower. It’s a lovely setting and the site is used for weddings and receptions. It is worth visiting just for the boat ride to and from the island which provides excellent views of the City Palace, Lake Palace Hotel and surrounding mountains.
City Palace & City Palace Museum. The City Palace dominates the lakefront and is the primary tourist sight in Udaipur. It is a fantastic place with beautiful artwork in mirrors, paintings and tiles. It is Rajasthan’s largest palace and dates from the 16th century.
Next to the City Palace is the Crystal Gallery. It houses a collection of rare crystal furniture, which has an interesting story behind it. Maharana Sajjan Singh ordered the crystal pieces from F&C Osler & Co in England in 1877. The maharana died before it arrived, and all the items stayed forgotten and packed up in boxes for 110 years. Once the crystal was recovered it was put on display here. Officially, I couldn’t take photos in this museum, so the quality is poor, but you can get an idea of the crystal furniture’s beauty.
Jagdish Temple. This Hindu temple sits in the middle of the old town and it’s hard to miss. We got a short tour by a local worshipper during an evening service. The temple was built in 1651. The town has narrow twisting streets and alleyways, a tiny bit reminiscent of Europe.
Udaipur is also a great location to shop for textiles and jewelry. We enjoyed wandering the narrow streets and myriad of shops. There’s a lot to see in the surrounding area as well. I’ll cover those sights in a separate post.