Udaipur may be my favorite city in the world. It also happens to be where my parents grew up. When I was young, we spent most of our time there meeting relatives and family friends. That usually meant eating a lot of food and then eating some more. Once in a while we would go sightseeing. I’d also enjoy stocking up on cheap Archie comics or reading a stack of my cousins’ Harlequin romance novels. (Udaipur was a small town in the 80s and 90s and there wasn’t a lot to do.) But as an adult, I gained a new appreciation for this city. I realized that it was a gem full of some of the most beautiful places on earth. Every time I return, I fall in love with it all over again. Here are some of the most beautiful places to see in Udaipur that I can’t get enough of.
The City Palace, Udaipur
I arrived in Udaipur on Diwali after my illustrious visit to Jaipur. The streets surrounding the City Palace were closed. Surprisingly the walk there was quite nice. There were decorations everywhere, including garlands that created a tent-like shade from the sun. Walking up to the gates of the City Palace brought back memories from the last time I visited with my Dad. Each time I go, I hire a guide to hear the infamous stories of the Maharanas (Kings) of Mehwar, how they fortified the region with these majestic forts and palaces, and left behind a legacy that is revered to this day.
Above is the jharoka (balcony) where the king would listen to matters of the court and his subjects’ requests. Adjacent to it are windows with intricately cut holes from which the women of the palace could look out, but others could not look in. Women of the harem were hidden away from public view.
The blue room on the left is a preserved picture of what mid 20th century residential palace life was like. The palace also holds an exhibit of a wheelchair of one of the last kings to live there as well as his commode and elevator. On the right is one of the colorful gates within the palace.
On your visit, look for the window displayed above on the right. From here you can see a clear view of the Lake Palace Hotel, possibly the most famous of places to see in Udaipur.
Above and below show the zenana, the women’s quarters in the palace. These structures surround a beautiful courtyard used for entertaining. Today, it’s a popular spot to hold some of the most lavish weddings in India.
Below, is the exterior view of the City Palace on the shores of Lake Pichola. At night, when it’s lit up, the building takes on a golden hue giving it an arresting aura.
Taj Lake Palace Hotel
This is known as one of the most romantic places to see in Udaipur, maybe even on earth. The king used it as a retreat from the City Palace in the summer. During the Sepoy mutiny, the king gave several British families refuge there. He also destroyed the town’s boats so rebels could not reach the palace to attack.
Known today as the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, it is a popular tourist destination often sought out by the elite for honeymoons and wedding celebrations. Although the Maharajah still owns it, he licenses out the palace (amongst other properties) to the Taj group and makes a pretty penny every year from the royalties.
Locals love to sit on the shores of Lake Pichola with family and lovers to enjoy the view. The sunsets here are spectacular. Imagine a view of a clear blue lake with palaces on every side of the shore as well as on the water. A gondola goes by and as you look out across the Aravalli mountains, you can see the sun start to tuck away between the slopes of the hills. Slowly the yellow turns to orange, then pink into lavender, and eventually the night sky emerges. The lights of the city brighten and you can see the City Palace and Lake Palace twinkle golden and gleaming white in the distance.
I highly recommend getting dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants for an unforgettable meal. First watch the sunset at Ambrai Ghat, where you can get a full view of all the palaces. Then eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the water including Ambrai, Upre, or Sheesh Mahal. It’s truly a luxurious experience and a necessity when making a list of things to do and places to see in Udaipur. Where else in the world can you eat amazing food, feel like a royal, and get such a breathtaking view?
The Monsoon Palace, Sajjangarh
This hilltop palace provides a panoramic view of the city’s palaces, lakes, and countryside. The palace was built to watch the monsoon clouds. It’s now a popular place for locals to hang out with friends and enjoy the view.
The Monsoon Palace is locally known as Sajjangarh. Its modern claim to fame is that it was the home to the Bond villain in the 1983 film Octopussy.
There’s a wildlife sanctuary surrounding the palace, which is home to reptiles, tigers, deer, wild boar, hyenas, panthers, jackals, and more. It’s also a great place for bird watching.
Sajjangarh used to be overrun by monkeys. My cousin even told me to keep my belongings, especially food, close as they are known to fearlessly snatch them away. However, on this visit, there was not a monkey in site. Perhaps, this was due to the newly opened outdoor cafe.
The view from the cafe is beautiful and serene. I could sit there all day with a book and a Limca (an Indian soda similar to Sprite) and enjoy the quiet breeze. No monkeys here to bother you either.
When traveling up to Sajjangarh, make sure you’re with a trusted driver. The roads are steep, narrow, and winding. But the road is much safer today than it was years ago. Let’s just say when I was a kid, I think I saw my life flash before my eyes on that drive up. Scary stories aside, it’s definitely worth the trip up, especially for the stunning views.
I only had a few days the city and these sights were at the top of my list. There are plenty of other exciting places to see in Udaipur and in the outlying areas. On my next visit, I hope to experience Kumbhalgarh, Chittaurgarh, and Jaisalmer. Stay tuned for a look at my stay at Raas Devigarh, a stunning resort right outside of Udaipur.