Udaipur Tour Information
Udaipur, the city of lakes, also known as "the Venice of the East", is the second most visited city in Rajasthan, after Jaipur. Its royal past is omni in its every nook and corner. The marble palaces, beautifully laid out gardens and lakes make Udaipur the most beautiful city of northern India.
A number of recommended excursions from Udaipur can either be tackled as roundtrips or as stopovers on your way elsewhere in the state. The first option is the easiest, a half-day excursion (at most) that takes in some of the most important temples in Udaipur. The second option—which you can combine with the first for a rather grueling but very satisfying round-trip—takes you to the awesome Jain temples at Ranakpur through Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, past wonderful pastoral scenes that haven’t changed since medieval times, to view magnificent Kumbhalgarh Fort. From here you can either head northwest for Jodhpur or double back to Udaipur, possibly taking in the temples at Nathdwara, Nagda, and Eklingji. (If you’re pressed for time, leave out Nathdwara—beyond the superb examples of pichhwai paintings, there’s not much to see, as non-Hindus may not enter the temple.) To plan this as a round-trip, you will need to hire a driver familiar with the distances and terrain, and overnight along the way (see the listing for Kumbhalgarh Fort, below). The third option is another long full-day trip, this time with the sole purpose of viewing Chittaurgarh, site of the most legendary Mewar battles. From here you can return to Udaipur or push on east to the little town of Bundi (see earlier in this chapter), and from there proceed to Jaipur or Ranthambhore National Park. For those interested in an off-the-beaten-track experience to the south, the fourth option, relatively undiscovered Dungarpur Palace, is well worth the time, not least for Deco fans who will relish overnighting in the family manse—Udai Bilas Palace, a living Deco museum—before returning to Udaipur or pushing on to Gujarat. If Ranakpur’s temples have whet your appetite for more, a fifth option, an excursion to the west ascending the Aravalli Hills to Mount Abu, the only hill station in Rajasthan and home to the most famous Dilwara Jain temples in India, can also be tackled from Udaipur, though the distances covered here will necessitate an overnight stay. For details on distances and all excursions, see a full description of the five day trips, below. An excursion to an attraction that is not described in detail below, but which may interest birders or those in search of more peace, is Jaisamand Lake, the secondlargest man-made lake in Asia, created in 1691 by Maharana Jai Singh and, thankfully, still containing water. Located a little over an hour away from Udaipur, it has a number of marble pavilions but is more famous for the many aquatic birds that have found a home in what is now Jaisamand Wildlife Sanctuary.
City Palace and Museum
When the waters return to Lake Pichola, the palace’s cream-colored stone walls tower some 30m (100 ft.) above its mirrorlike reflection in the lake, and stretch almost 250m (800 ft.) across its northwestern shore. Udaipur’s 300-year-old City Palace actually comprises 11 palaces (or mahals) built by its successive maharanas, making it by far the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. Purchase the useful guidebook at the entrance (or hire the services of a guide through your hotel) to help you maneuver the sprawling museum, much of it connected by a maze of rather claustrophobic tunnel-like stairways designed to confuse and slow down potential invaders. (This is why it’s essential to get here as soon as the palace doors open—finding yourself trapped between busloads of jeering families who mysteriously come to regular standstills in these airless passages is sheer purgatory.) The entire palace is a delight, but highlights include the large peacock mosaics in the 17thcentury Mor (Peacock) Chowk; mirror-encrusted Moti Mahal; the glass and porcelain figures of Manak (Ruby) Mahal, which has a central garden; the collection of miniatures featuring Krishna legends in Krishna Vilas (dedicated to a 16-year-old princess who committed suicide here); exquisite Zenana Mahal (Palace of the Queens); and the Chinese and Dutch ceramics of Chini Mahal. When the lake levels are normal, the cusped windows provide superb views of the serene waters of Pichola Lake, on which white-marble Lake Palace appears to float. The last two palaces built, both now open to visitors wishing to overnight or dine, are the grand but rather staid Shiv Niwas and gorgeous Fateh Prakash. The latter is worth visiting for high tea to view the Durbar Hall’s royal portrait gallery, with its massive chandeliers and Venetian mirrors, and to see the Crystal Gallery, which has a huge collection of rare cut-crystal furniture and ornaments imported by Maharana Sajjan Singh from England in 1877. (For more on these palaces, see “Where to Stay & Dine,” later in this chapter.) Vintage-car lovers should ask about the tour of the Mewar family’s Classic Car Collection. Set aside 3 hours to do the palace justice. Tip: As you may find it difficult to find postcards of the palace, this is one place it’s worth paying to take in a camera.
Lake Pichola & Lake Palace
Lake Pichola & Lake Palace Hopefully, by the time you visit Udaipur, Lake Pichola will have returned to its former glorious state; in that spirit, we’ve retained a description of this Udaipur favorite. Most beautiful at sunrise and sunset, Lake Pichola reflects what seems to be a picture-perfect inversion of the many whitewashed and cream buildings that rise majestically from its shores and islands, known locally as Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. Jag Niwas island is entirely covered by the Lake Palace, built by the Maharana in 1740 as a summer idyll and today perhaps the most romantic—certainly the most photographed—hotel in India (see “Where to Stay & Dine,” later in this chapter). What you will see if the lake remains parched is a magnificent palace that should be floating on water but instead sits on a vast, dry lake bed. A little farther south is the slightly larger Jag Mandir, upon which domed Gul Mahal stands. Famous as the star location in the movie Octopussy, it has also been a place of refuge: first for the young prince Shah Jahan who—in a typical Mughal ascension— was plotting to overthrow his father, Jahangir (incidentally, Udaipuris believe that Gul Mahal is what later inspired Jahan to build Taj Mahal); and later for European women and children, whom Maharana Swaroop Singh protected during the Mutiny. Usually you can catch a boat to Jag Mandir from the City Palace (Bansi Ghat) jetty, but once you have alighted, there’s not much to do but purchase an overpriced refreshment; the trip around the lake includes a visit to Sunset Terrace (near Dovecoat Wing) or the Lake Palace Hotel. If you haven’t booked a room at the hotel, make sure you come for dinner—the views alone are worth it, and the opulent and elegant setting is sublime
Lake Pichola derives its name from the name of the old Pichola village, which is submerged in the lake. The lake was enlarged by Maharana Udai Singh, and is now 4km long and 3km wide. It encloses the Jag Niwas Island and the Jag Mandir.
The splendidly sculpted temple complex was built in 734, amidst the hills and dedicated of Lord Shiva, the family deity of the Mewar rulers. Within the high walls of the complex are 108 exquisitely carved temples. The main sanctum has a four faced black marble image of Lord Shiva. Facing the main sanctum is a life size idol of Nandi, the bull and Bappa Rawal under a vaulted roof.
The famous battle between Maharana Pratap and Mughal emperor Akbar in 1576 AD was faught here. The site is marked by a cenotaph with delicate white marble columns. It is dedicated to the indomitable hero Maharana Pratap and his loyal charger Chetak.
This first capital of Bappa Rawal, the founder of the Sisodia Dynasty of Mewar is famous for the Sas Bahu ka Mandir dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the Jain temple.
The 17th century temple of Shri Nathji or Lord Krishna is one of the most important Vaishnavite pilgrim centres in the country. The magnificent black marble image of Lord Shri Nathji believed to be over 600 years old and was brought here form Mathura in 1669, to protect form the fanatic hands of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
It is yet another important Hindu pilgrim centre of the region. The temple here is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is popularly called as Dwarkadhish, as it resembles the famous Nathdwara shrine. The beautiful Rajsamand Lake, located nearby was built by Maharana Raj Singh in 1660.
Rishabhdeoji (Kesariyaji) (65km)
The 15th century Jain temple of Rishabdeoji is an important Jain and Hindu pilgrim site. It is located on Udaipur Ahmadabad road.
Jaisamand Lake (48km)
This second largest artificial lake in Asia was built in 17th century by Maharana Jai Singh. It extends to a maximum length of about 14.5 km and width of 10km. Three islands within the waters of the lake are inhabited by tribals. Six marvellous marble cenotaphs and a temple of Narmadeshwar Mahadeo festoon the embankment. The Jaisamand Wildlife Sanctuary near the lake makes an exciting excursion. The Jaisamand Island Resort with 5 star facilities is also worth visiting.
It is popularly called as the ‘Khajuraho or Rajasthan’. The most important attraction is the exquisitely carved 10th century Ambika Mata Temple.
Kumbhalgarh Fort (84km)
It was built by Maharana Kumbha between 1445 - 58 and is regarded as the second most important fort of Rajasthan after Chittaurgarh. The gigantic fort extends over 12km amidst a cluster of thirteen peaks of the Aravali ranges. It is encircled by a 36km long wall and defended by a series of battlements, bastions and soaring watch towers. Within the ramparts of the fort are magnificent palaces, ruins of temples and gardens. The Badal mahal or the ‘Cloud Palace’ is set at th highest point of the fort and affords a scenic view of the surrounding country side. The Kumbhalgarh sanctuary near the fort is inhabited by a rich variety of animal and bird life. It is also well known for its archaeological importance.
The 15th century magnificent shrine is one of the five most sacred sites of the Jains. The temple complex built in faintly glowing amber stone reverberates an aura of peace, spirituality and tranquillity. It is a marvel of architecture and a living testimony to the wonders that abiding faith and relentless pursuit of excellence can create.
The Lake Palace
The Lake Palace is located on the Jag Niwas Island and covers the whole of 1.5 hectare of the island in the middle of the Pichola Lake. Built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1743, it was meant as a royal summer palace. Now, it has been converted into a five-star palace hotel.
This is the other island palace in Lake Pichola, which was constructed by Mharana Karan Singh. The island has some striking carvings including a row of elephants that looks as though they are guarding the island. The exquisitely carved chhatriin grey and blue stone is a delight for any visitor.
Fateh Sagar Lake
Maharana Jai Singh in the northern part of Lake Pichola constructed this delightful lake, bordered by hills and forests. It is an artificial lake, and was dug up in 1678, by Maharana Fateh Singh. A canal links the two lakes, known as Swaroop Sagar and Rang Sagar Lakes.
Sahelion Ki Bari
Maharana Sangram Singh built this garden in the middle of the 18th century. This'garden of the maidens' brings to mind the lifestyle of the ladies of the court. There are four pools with dainty kiosks and flowerbeds, lawns, pools and fountains protected by a series of walls and shady tree in the entire garden. The fountain of the Sahelion ki Bari functions solely by water pressure. No pumps are used. The garden has a lotus pool, a sitting room decorated withpaintigs and glass mosaics.
Bharatiya Lok Kala
Udaipur Folk Museum conserves local folk arts like paintings, dools, masks and musical instruments. This museum can be quite eye an opener on everything from the society is related to talent and creativity.
It is situated about 56km north of Udaipur on the National Highway no.8 at Kankroli with its vast expense of water. The lake was the result of a dam constructed on the Gomati River by Maharana Raj Singh I (1653-1680).
Udaipur’s biggest festivals are the Mewar Festival, held every March or April, and the Holi Festival, held every March. October’s Ashwa Poojan is another celebration worth inquiring about (your hotel should be able to advise you on exact dates and where best to experience the festivities). The Gangaur Festival is celebrated with special zeal by the women of Udaipur (end of Mar to Apr). During this festival, unmarried women pray to the goddess Gauri (manifestation of Parvati, Shiva’s wife) for a good husband, while the married pray for the well-being of their husbands and a happy married life. Women decorate their hands and feet with mehendi (tattoos of henna paste) and carry colorful images of Gauri and terra-cotta lamps on their heads as they dance and sing songs in street processions. At the end of the festival they break these lamp-pots and celebrate with a feast. Festivities last 18 days and include many colorful processions and a fireworks display.