January is the best season to visit Udaipur. Plus, we wanted to travel to avoid the party crowd in Delhi and experience New Year in Udaipur. Hence, we planned ahead and created our unique 3 days itinerary for Udaipur. It was a different side to Rajasthan we saw here and there was just so many things to do in Udaipur that we were totally immersed for 3 days.
Is Udaipur worth visiting?
Starting from the period film Heat and Dust to Hollywood James Bond film Octopussy and then our favourite Guide, and in recent times, Ram Leela and Dhadhak, Udaipur in Rajasthan, India has been the location for many Indian and foreign cinema. Be it royal culture of India or abundance of nature or a backdrop for spinning a fairy tale, Udaipur has attracted creativity not only from India, but all over the world.
The ecosystem of Udaipur is very enchanting. It is very unique from Jaipur, Bikaner, Neemrana or Mount Abu that we have visited. It is a combination of hills and water; of dryness cum humidity. Surrounded by the Aravali Range, it has a host of lakes that are perhaps the prized possession of this city. Udaipur is also known as “City of Lakes” in India. Given the romantic setting, Udaipur is the hotspot for a destination wedding in India.
Given that Udaipur is a much-filmed city, we had been enamoured by its beauty time and again. Any shot of the lakes in Udaipur and we would sigh wistfully. Lakes are certainly a must-do in Udaipur. But when we visited Udaipur, we realised that in addition to the lakes, there was so much more to cover. For instance, there was Nathdwara or Dharohar cultural program and we were hardly aware of that. Hence, it behooved we wrote a guide to Udaipur.
Based on our experience, we say, from whichever part of the world you are, yes! Udaipur is enchanting and indeed worth visiting.
Popular things to do in Udaipur
We visited Udaipur during the New Year. It was pleasantly cold in the city. Given the excellent weather, we covered some popular things to do in Udaipur. We also managed time for some offbeat things to do in Udaipur that tourists miss.
Here is a list of top things to do in Udaipur in a period of 3 days. The list is by no way exhaustive, just enough to motivate you to travel to this beautiful city and make your own list.
Lake Pichola – boat ride
Lake Pichola, one among many adjoining lakes in Udaipur, is a water body dating back to the 1300s. It was named after the nearby village Picholi. The beautiful expanse of water had a calming effect on our system and we could not take our eyes off for some time. Boat rides were available on Lake Pichola at a rather steep charge of Rs. 400 per person.
But we forgot all about the money once we were on board. The boat took us around the lake and we could see an array of majestic palaces, temples, vintage private mansions, embankments or ghats etc. We identified the Lake Palace which is now a heritage hotel and City Palace, the museum. It was a most mesmerizing half hour and set the tone for the trip.
City Palace, Udaipur
The City Palace, Udaipur took our breath away. When we entered the compound, we could see an array of buildings around us in a Rajput – Mughal fusion style with varying heights of domes and spires. A cage for holding tigers was stationed just near the gate. This gave us goosebumps. The City Palace was built over 400 years atop a hill in Udaipur by Maharana Udai Singh II and his successors. The erstwhile state of Mewar was ruled from the City Palace.
Comprising multiple buildings, the City Palace is a museum now open to visitors. There is just so much to see, we spent about half a day. For better understanding, we had hired an authorized guide and he gave us the tour. We loved the miniature paintings and the antique Chinese tiles that had been used on some of the walls. It was like a royal fairytale. More than that, a fine collection of magnificent art objects from all across the globe. If you are in Udaipur, City Palace is a must-do.
Pro-Tip: Tickets are available at the counter outside the City Palace. If possible make a group and then hire a guide. This will be a cost effective solution for everybody in the group.
Jagdish Temple, Udaipur
Jagdish Temple is a beautiful marble monument built in the year 1651. The presiding deity is the Hindu God Vishnu. We walked from the City Palace and reached the temple. A high flight of marble stairs took us to the main shrine and we were greeted by a brass statue of Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s vehicle. The statue of Vishnu in the sanctum sanctorum was made of black marble and looked very artistic. Ornate carvings decorated the walls and high spire of the temple and we could see many serpentine lanes of Udaipur given the elevation of the temple. Jagdish Temple was a fine example of North Indian temple style.
Bagore ki Haveli, Udaipur
Bagore ki Haveli is an 18th century mansion situated beside Lake Pichola. It apparently has a hundred rooms and many of these have been converted to a museum. The mansion has beautiful stained-glass work on the windows. If you are visiting Bagore ki Haveli, the cultural performance they have on the terrace every evening is a must-do. This program, Dharohar (“tradition”) is extremely popular we could not get tickets the first evening. We had to come back a little early the next evening and bought tickets standing in a serpentine queue. It is mostly floor seating with some elevated chairs at the back. The program comprising popular Rajasthani folk songs and dances and kathputli or puppet show was most colourful.
A 70 plus years age performer danced carrying a huge pile of pots on her head. She was the showstopper.
The program was simple entertainment. Honestly nothing out of the world but sitting on the terrace of a 200 years old mansion beside the beautiful Pichola Lake, on a winter evening, the experience was magical.
Ropeway in Udaipur
There is a ropeway service in Udaipur that connected Karni Mata Temple on Machhala Hill Top and with Deendayal Upadhyay Park. Apparently the cable car crosses the lakes and the majestic palaces and one can get a fantastic bird’s eye view of the city. We were most keen to take the ropeway ride and that was one of the first things that we attempted. Once we reached the spot, we saw a long serpentine queue for boarding the ropeway at Deendayal Upadhyay Park. On asking around it appeared that it would take at least 2 hours for the line to move and for us to board the cable-car. This was discouraging and we did not want to spend 2 to 3 hours virtually static in a new city. Hence, with some regret, we let go of this experience and decided to go for the cable car ride in our next trip to Udaipur.
Offbeat Things to do from Udaipur
Udaipur to Nathdwara
Nathdwar was a very old dream that we never expected would ever come true. Hence, when we saw boards indicating Nathdwara, we did not believe this is the iconic Shrinathji Temple. Still, given that Nathdwara was 48 km, less than an hour’s bike ride from Udaipur we decided to give it a shot. The road from Udaipur to Nathdwara took us through the scenic Aravali range.
The deity here is a very romantic idea. The stone relief idol is of a little boy standing with one hand on his waist and the other lifted upwards. Full of childlike attitude, His half-open eyes oozed mischief. More than devotion, the statue evoked filial emotion. We were awestruck as to how dexterously the persona of a little boy had been manifested on a block of stone. You should only see the idol to believe what we say. The shrine was otherwise simple and looked like a sprawling bungalow. We were back in Udaipur in about 3 hours time.
Pro-Tip: Don’t forget to try pudhina chai (min tea) as soon as you exit from Nathdwara. We are teatollars but we haven’t had this variety of tea anywhere else in India. Shooting is not allowed inside and it is advise to keep your mobile phone and cameras in the car because the queue for locker room is generally very long and time consuming.
Udaipur to Kumbhalgarh
Kumbhalgarh or the Kumbhal Fort is 82 km from Udaipur. Built by Rana Kumbha in the 1500s, this is the second largest fort in India. Kumbhalgarh has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We rented a car for visiting Kumbhalgarh and took us about one and half hours to reach. The sandstone fort was very elaborate and involved walk on high altitude roads. The inside was a labyrinth and without a guide, we would have been lost. There were innumerable flights of stairs up and down. We also visited a Ganesh Temple and a Jain Temple inside the premise.
The walls of the fort deserve special mention. 36 km long and extremely broad at many sections, this perimeter boundary wall is also known as “The Great Wall of India“. Argue ably this is the second longest wall in the world after the Great wall of China. History buff or an avid traveller, Kumbhalgarh is a must visit. You might just spend the whole day here without realizing how time flew.
Shopping in Udaipur
Hathi Pol Bazar, Udaipur
If you have been saving money for shopping in Rajasthan, Udaipur is where you attain Nirvana. There are many local markets here full of shops carrying choicest handicrafts. In sync with the general flavour of Rajasthan, all the markets overflow with colour. From experience we can say that the pulse of a place is best felt in the markets. Among the markets that we visited, Hathipol Market was most enchanting. It spread in the lanes and by lanes of Jagdish Mandir and was overflowing with crafts. Miniature paintings, embroidered leather bags, Indian style shoes or jootis, darkened silver ornaments, wood and lacquer toys, wall hangings, mirror worked tunics and dresses, bed spreads and cushions and quirky bags drew our attention. In fact, we landed up picking some hand made goods as souvenirs and gifts for family. Among the items that we bought, a key holder, a leather water bottle bag and a statue of a man with a stick are our favourites. The leather water bottle bag has evoked curiosity of others as well.
Shilgram is a craft village in Udaipur. When we visited this place, a Rajasthan themed fair was on. They had all kinds of Rajasthani handicraft goods. A major focus was winter wear and shawls. We bought a very rustic shawl from here from a villager who had only a few pieces. We also drank a warm salty shake made with chick pea flour. It tasted tangy yet nice, like soup. Shilpgram had a grand gate and many installations inside. A place with great photo opportunities we thought. However, there did not seem to be any permanent stalls so if there is no exhibition on when you visited, this place could disappoint.
How to reach Udaipur from Delhi
We had taken a night train from Delhi and reached Udaipur early the next morning. It was a seamless experience. However, there are buses as well from Delhi. In fact, one can make a road trip from Delhi to Udaipur although drive time each side could be about 12 hours. Udaipur is also catered by Maharana Pratap Airport and if short of time, you can take a flight as well.
The other option would be to combine Udaipur and Mount Abu in a single trip. Mount Abu to Udaipur is about 3 hours drive. One can rent a car from Mount Abu or take a local bus for Udaipur. We however have done separate trips for Udaipur and Mount Abu. That totally made sense since both the places were very different in character.
How do you get around Udaipur?
Udaipur is a bustling city full of canals and romantic bridges on the canals. The streets were full of cars, two wheelers and auto rickshaws. We realised we would need some vehicle if we wanted to make the most of our trip. But it was New Year season and getting transport was not easy.
Opposite to Jagdish Temple, we saw a board about bikes on rent. We followed the arrow and reached one of the many gullies in this area. A head popped out from a small window and when we told the chappie we were there for a bike, he said he could only let us have a Pulsar. We completed the formalities; we had to submit a copy of the driving license and left with the vehicle. We fueled in a few times during the two days we had the bike with us. In hindsight, it was extremely wise that we opted for the bike since without that we could not have done all of the above, so comfortably, at our own pace. Kumbhalgarh was more than 80 km per side and the route was not very clear to us. Plus we were returning to Delhi that evening and checked out with luggage from our homestay in the morning. Hence, we hired a car, again following a car rental board we saw close to our accommodation. This experience was decent till the driver made us have lunch at his restaurant of choice, perhaps for his commission. We were hungry so we agreed. But the driver had given us a wrong estimation of time and unless we checked Google Maps ourselves we would have missed the return train.
How many days are enough for Udaipur?
This question requires deliberation. Udaipur has so much to offer that a very short trip may be unfulfilling. We are fans of slow travel and covered only those sites in Udaipur that were of interest to us and could be done comfortably. This way it was an immersive experience and we enjoyed every moment.
In our opinion, 3 days are optimum for Udaipur. We spent 3 days here and were satisfied. If you can spare more time even better. After all, taking it easy is the key to sustainable travel. However, less than 2 full days would be a waste of time. A day in Udaipur would be extremely touch and go and you would perhaps not get a feel of this enchanting city.
Best time to visit Udaipur
The state of Rajasthan is infamous for extreme weather. Summers are harsh here while winters are bitterly cold. Udaipur is an exception. Located in the Valley of Aravali Mountains, Udaipur enjoys tropical weather. Therefore summers are moderate and winters are pleasant. Summer days may be hot although, given the lakes, summer evenings are pleasant.
We personally are not guided by weather and travel whenever we can get a break from our professional world. We have been in Rajasthan couple of times during May and June and had a gala time. That said, summers can still be hot and not very conducive for long outdoor hours. Therefore, the best months to visit Udaipur would be from October to March. You can make most of the days and the evenings in this period.
Where to stay in Udaipur
By way of accommodation, one is spoilt for choice in Udaipur. Starting from super luxury hotels to budget hotels, there is no dearth of accommodation in Udaipur. Many erstwhile palaces such as Laxmi Vilas Palace, Lake Palace and Jagat Niwas Palace have been converted into heritage hotels with beautiful interiors. These palaces are around the lakes and guests here can enjoy beautiful view along with a luxurious stay. Further, Rajasthan Tourism Department Corporation (RTDC) runs the Hotel Kajri in Udaipur. With clean and spacious rooms, one can expect a comfortable stay here at a lesser price than heritage hotels. At the other end of the spectrum could be the innumerable small hotels and lodges we came across in the market area. These may not be very spacious but looked pocket friendly. Hence, suitable accommodation as per one’s taste and budget should not be a problem here.
We had pre-booked ourselves through a travel portal at a cosy homestay on a hilly area. The place was decorated with Rajasthani wall paintings and puppets and we had a comfortable stay.
What to eat in Udaipur
If you are in Udaipur, do try the Mewari or Rajasthani thali or platter. Given the variety of bread and chutneys, it is a riot of tastes on the palate. Word of caution though, the food can be extremely hot and spicy. You can request for a milder version of the fare if you prefer a lighter taste. We also tried Rajasthan’s favourite Daal Baati Churmaa at Natraj.
We found a host of alluring street food here. The huge mounds of light yellow poha (flat rice), served with sweet and sour chutney, were tasty. We also tried samosa and Kachori and these savouries titillated our taste buds. Mirchi ka Vada aur chilis fried in a chick pea batter also literally looked like a hot favourite.
Udaipur travel tips
- Bikes available on rent are the most convenient way of commute here. Saves time and you can cover more.
- Udaipur gets heavy to moderate tourists throughout the year. So, it is best to book accommodation beforehand.
- Summer is strictly loose cotton clothing time in Udaipur. Winters are however cold and it would be pragmatic to carry a heavy jacket.
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