Beside shimmering Lake Pichola, with the ochre and purple ridges of the wooded Aravalli Hills stretching away in every direction, Udaipur has a romance of setting unmatched in Rajasthan and arguably in all India. Fantastical palaces, temples, havelis and countless narrow, crooked, timeless streets add the human counterpoint to the city’s natural charms. For the visitor there’s the tranquillity of boat rides on the lake, the bustle and colour of ancient bazaars, a lively arts scene, the quaint old-world feel of its better hotels, endless tempting shops and some lovely countryside to explore on wheels, feet or horseback.
Udaipur’s tag of ‘the most romantic spot on the continent of India’ was first applied in 1829 by Colonel James Tod, the East India Company’s first political agent in the region. Today the romance is wearing slightly thin as ever-taller hotels compete for the best view and traffic clogs ancient thoroughfares.
Surmounted by balconies, towers and cupolas towering over the lake, the imposing City Palace is Rajasthan’s largest palace, with a facade 244m long and 30.4m high.
City Palace Museum
The main part of the City Palace is open as the City Palace Museum, with rooms extravagantly decorated with mirrors, tiles and paintings, and housing a large and varied collection of artefacts.
Limpid and large, Lake Pichola reflects the grey-blue mountains on its mirror-like surface. It was enlarged by Maharana Udai Singh II, following his foundation of the city.
The restored Durbar Hall (royal reception hall) in the City Palace is one of India’s most impressive, with some of the country’s biggest chandeliers.
Perched on top of a distant hill like a fairy-tale castle, this melancholy, neglected late-19th-century palace was constructed by Maharana Sajjan Singh. Originally an astronomical centre.
The palace on Jagmandir Island, about 800m south of Jagniwas, was built by Maharana Karan Singh II in 1620, added to by his successor Maharana Jagat Singh.
Sajjan Garh Wildlife Sanctuary
On the way to Sajjan Garh, at the foot of the hill you enter the 5-sq-km Sajjan Garh Wildlife Sanctuary.
One kilometre north of Lake Pichola, this lake is ringed by hills and is a popular local hang-out. It was dammed in 1678 by Maharana Jai Singh, but reconstructed by Maharana Fateh Singh.