It is said, “See Venice and die, but see Udaipur and live to see it again and again.”
Popularly known as ‘Venice of the East,’ Udaipur is a great city to escape from the daily routine of life. Situated in the Southern part of Rajasthan, this majestic city was established by Maharana Udai Singh II in the year 1568 and has been a well-known tourist spot in India ever since.
Cold winds and calm waters warmly welcomed me to the ‘City of Lakes.’ A morning walk around the magical Lake Pichola – one of the most famous lakes in Udaipur, was a perfect start to my day. India’s oldest Aravalli Mountains make a flawless backdrop against this enthralling lake.
As you walk around it, panoramic views of the white-marbled Lake Palace Jagniwas are a sight to see. Like most tourists, I also decided to take a boat ride from Rameshwar Ghat. While admiring the gorgeous landscape and the splendid architecture of the City Palace, I couldn’t take my eyes off the Lake Palace that sparkled like a solitaire in water. A boat ride around this beauty, gave me a peek into its mural-decked rooms and ancient artwork.
The boat finally halted at the Jag Mandir Palace, a stunning property that has played host to several celebrity weddings. Since it is located in the middle of the lake, the only way to reach this hotel is by boat. I walked around the palace hotel and admired its maharaja-style setting while sipping on a hot cup of coffee.
Soon after, I took a boat back to proceed to the City Palace, also known to be the biggest palace of Rajasthan. Only a portion of this huge palace is converted into a museum for visitors. If the magnificence of the royal era interests you, don’t miss the City Palace Museum and The Crystal Palace. The former houses a collection of rare exhibits that belonged to Maharana Pratap Singh while the latter showcases mirror embellished interiors that boasts of the grandeur of the Rajput rulers. The palace structure is a beautiful combination of granite and marble that make it one of the most striking palaces in Rajasthan. While the beauty of the boat ride and the City Palace blew me away, on the downside, I was rather disappointed by the fact that they had very poor arrangements for senior citizens and disabled people and also unsatisfactory sanitation facilities for women.
No trip to Rajasthan is complete without a taste of their traditional cuisine. So I stopped by at a local restaurant to sample some lip-smacking Dal Batti Choorma, Gatte ki Sabzi and Mirchi Bada. The food was slightly on the heavier side but was absolutely delicious and filling. In order to digest my food, I then strolled around at Sahelion-Ki-Bari – The Garden of the maids of Honor. It is said that in olden days, women from the royal houses would come to this garden to take a walk or spend some time with each other. It’s fountains, water pools and lotus ponds make it a quiet place to roam around and enjoy cold Udaipur winds. After spending some peaceful time by myself, it was now time for some entertainment.
Witnessing a traditional performance is the best way to get a true feel of the place and its ancient culture. So, my next stop was at Bagore Ki Haveli, an 18th century mansion with over 130 rooms where I witnessed live performances by Rajasthani women clad in different colored ghagras. Some danced to traditional folk music while some others played the balancing act by balancing pots on their heads. A puppet show followed soon after. It was a visual treat to watch these graceful performances. After a long and tiring day out, I finally headed back to the hotel for some rest.
The next day, I visited Manek Chowk and Hathi Pol Bazaar to shop for traditional collectibles. Udaipur is famous for its silver jewelery, handicrafts, pottery, tie and dye fabrics, bandhej (bandini) sarees, embroidered handbags and jootis. The bustling markets were filled with artifacts and other traditional knick-knacks. A myriad number of small local shops and big showrooms offered a large variety of options. As I walked down the streets, I came across an assortment of wooden toys, colorful puppets, artistic wall hangings, ethnic paintings and contemporary artwork. Though I bought many fabrics and a pair of golden-embroidered jootis, my most precious memorabilia was an elegant pair of kundan earrings I purchased from a local jewelery store.
To sum up my experience, Udaipur is an amazing blend that combines real beauty with a historical past. Tranquil lakes, century-old temples, awe-inspiring fortresses, picturesque gardens and plenty of folklore only add to the city’s natural charm. Age-old monuments and palaces silently tell stories of victory and defeat of the bygone era. Its salubrious climate, panoramic landscapes and a number of heritage hotels undoubtedly make it the most desirable tourist destination. I was completely rejuvenated after spending 48 hours in the city. While planning my itinerary, several people told me that my trip to Rajasthan would be incomplete without a trip to Udaipur. I couldn’t agree more with them!