Udaipur, India :
Udaipur, India: The Ultimate Guide with Kids
Udaipur is known as the "Venice of the East" or "City of Lakes" for the central position occupied by Lake Pichola. The City Palace Udaipur is an imposing structure on the lake and many of the palaces on its banks have been converted into luxury 5-star hotels. Udaipur is considered one of the most beautiful places in India for good reason.
Getting to Udaipur:
Udaipur's Maharana Pratap airport can be reached directly from Mumbai or Delhi. By train, Udaipur is accessible from Delhi, Mumbai and a host of other cities around the country. You can also drive to Udaipur.
Getting Around Udaipur:
Udaipur lives upto its "Venice" name as all transportation around the lake is done by boat. The rest of the city can be accessed by rickshaw, or we recommend a rented car and driver.
Where to Stay in Udaipur:
The UdaiVilas run by the Oberoi group of hotels is heralded to be the most beautiful of the lake hotels. The Lake Palace owned by the Taj is also very popular. We stayed at the Leela Palace which was beautiful and quite extravagant as luxury goes. Since its a newer hotel (only 5 years old), it is fitted with more modern amenities like piped music in the bathroom so you can watch TV in the tub. (We totally did). All three hotels are on the lake and offer gorgeous views of the sunset and City Palace Udaipur. Note: Expect to pay a lot (USD 800 for a room during peak season). Since so much of Udaipur is enjoying the views and its regal atmosphere, we decided to splurge. Here's what the welcome at the Leela looked like:
Things to do in Udaipur:
City Palace Udaipur: The second largest palace in India (the first is Mysore in the south), the city palace is certainly an impressive structure from the outside. The inside is split between the current king’s residence (and closed off to the public), a couple of hotels, and the museum. If you go during peak season, it can be a very daunting experience to visit the open parts of the palace as its narrow pathways inhibit the free flow of people. Hence you may find it claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I would recommend going early in the am, or not at all frankly (The Jodhpur fort is much better maintained and will give you a similar idea of the wealth and lifestyle of the era).
Saheliyon ki Bari (Garden of the Maidens): This garden is supposed to be one of the best sights in Udaipur, a garden built for the Queen and her maidens. In its glory day, the garden's marble fountains and flowers must have been quite a paradise but we found it poorly maintained and a bit shabby. Still it's worth a quick look and is a good place to stretch the kids’ legs. In keeping with the global trend, you can also dress your little ones up in traditional rajasthani garb here and take pictures! Tourist much?
Jag Mandir: I wouldn’t eat here, but it’s worth a quick jaunt in the boat to this boutique hotel and popular wedding venue on an island in the lake. Jag Mandir was used by the Kings as their summer resort. It also has the distinction of being the place were Emperor Shahjahan (of Taj Mahal fame) sought refuge while hiding away from his father Jehangir with whom he was at war.
All in all, we were not particularly impressed with the sights in Udaipur. Simply taking in the landscape and watching the sunset over the lake was enough to keep us fulfilled for the three days we stayed. If you are looking for a guide, call Danveer Singh (+919799272017; firstname.lastname@example.org). We used him and found him helpful. He also speaks french .
Shopping in Udaipur:
In Udaipur you can find a lot of the Rajasthani specialties such as juttis, bandhini, and silver. The standout though is the Mewar style of art, which involves a lot more intricate detail than the Marwar style of Jodhpur and makes for particularly spectacular art. We spent a couple of hours at this artist cooperative, watching the artists at work and learning about the different media: paper, silk and camel bone. They also have exquisite hand-crafted boxes and handicrafts. As always, bargain, but remember that this is a cooperative.
Udaipur is a rewarding place to visit. Definitely do it at some point in your life, ideally when you have the money to stay at one of those top hotels.
Random trivia: Udaipur is mentioned in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book as the birthplace of Bagheera.
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