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Udaipur’s lakeside setting and elaborate palaces and temples have given it the reputation of being Rajasthan’s most romantic setting, and maybe even the most romantic in all of India. Udaipur is a little bit like the Venice of the east and is a must-stop on your Rajasthan itinerary.
The highlight of our time in Udaipur was celebrating the Hindu colour festival Holi, but there are lots of awesome things to do in Udaipur. One of the things we loved doing the most was just relaxing on our guesthouse’s rooftop and taking in the gorgeous setting.
Let’s jump right into what to do in Udaipur. Don’t forget your Lonely Planet guidebook!
Before You Go to Udaipur
- You need a visa to enter India, which must be obtained in advance. The easiest option is the e-visa, a 30 day visa, which must be applied for at least 4 days in advance. Like much of India, the process is overly bureaucratic, but we have been through it twice and it is manageable.
- Make sure you have good travel insurance. We use and recommend World Nomads and you can read our full review here.
- We generally travel independently, but India is a whole different beast and can be frustrating to travel independently. There are some great tour options where the organization is done for you. We recommend Intrepid Travel, who offers general trips as well as specialized trips for families, women, under 29s and more.
Things to Do in Udaipur
It goes without saying that the best way to experience any new destination is to simply wander. Nowhere is that better advice than in India where a simple stroll down the street will greet you with wandering cows, incense wafting out from markets and shops, rickshaws pushing their way through the narrow streets and the overall buzz of everyday life in India.
City Palace and Museum
There are so many architectural wonders of Rajasthan and the Udaipur City Palace is one of the highlights. Set right on Lake Pichola, the majestic compound dates from 1599 and was continuously extended by each maharajah ruler.
As we entered the large courtyard, workers were busily setting up red carpets and white clothed tables for the VIP Holika Dahan ceremonies for that evening (the eve before Holi). Like all of the palaces in Rajasthan, the Udaipur City Palace is stunning with its intricate carvings, majestic towers and blend of architecture styles. If you need another reason to visit, the Palace was featured in the James Bond movie Octopussy.
As you move through the Museum, you can see the once inhabited rooms the royal family including many royal artifacts. One of the things we found most interesting was the ruler Bhupal Singh was paralyzed as a child from polio and you can see primitive wheelchairs and other assistive devices he used.
There are so many stunning areas of the Palace including the peacock themed Mor Chowk, the mirror and glass domed Kanch ki Burj and the blue tiled and mirrored courtyards. From the upper levels of the Palace you get amazing views over the city and the lake. This is where you should begin your Udaipur sightseeing.
Practical Information: The City Palace and Museum is located right in the centre of Udaipur and is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Entrance costs 300 rupees/adult ($5.50 CAD) and 100 rupees/child.
TIP: Hire a guide to get the most out of your visit to the Udaipur City Palace and Museum. It is a great way to support independent guides and learn about the history of the Palace. Guide costs are 400 rupees (less than $8 CAD) for a group.
Udaipur is an incredible city to explore, but it was extra special for us because this is where we celebrated the colour festival Holi. Holi is a Hindu festival celebrating the arrival of Spring with family and making way for new beginnings. In the West, it is best known for its colourful festivities where you throw coloured powder on random strangers, local children shoot you with water guns, and drummers wander the streets.
We were so excited to coincidentally be in India for Holi and although we debated adjusting our itinerary to celebrate Holi in a particular city, we kept our original plans and celebrated in Udaipur. It was absolutely perfect for us because we were able to experience a traditional Holi celebration through our guesthouse and the local neighborhood. We had read some stories about Holi celebrations getting a bit out of control, especially for women, but in Udaipur it was a good mix of locals and foreigners and we felt very safe. Hands down this is one of the top things to do in Udaipur if your timing lines up.
Check out our video below to see how much fun Holi in Udaipur was and read our full post here.
As vegetarians, India was foodie heaven for us and when we heard about a great cooking class in Udaipur, we knew we had to do it. Shashi Cooking Classes are run by a lovely lady, Shashi, and her family.
Shashi’s story is an interesting one. As a Brahman (highest caste in India) when her husband died, it was frowned upon to do menial labour, but she needed to make money to support her young family. She started working in a guesthouse restaurant cooking and cleaning and with the encouragement of some of the guests, she started teaching cooking classes on the side.
This was one of the best activities we did in our whole time in India. Shashi’s hands-on and no-nonsense directions kept us busy for 4 hours and allowed us to learn a variety of India dishes from making masala curry bases from scratch to making proper chai and rolling our own chapattis and naan. She got the kids involved and we left with bellies full and a great recipe book to replicate her creations at home. I cannot recommend Shashi’s Cooking School enough.
Practical Information: The class costs 1500 rupees and are held twice daily at 10:30 and 5:30. Call or email in advance to reserve your space.
Udaipur’s romantic reputation is in large part to its setting on Lake Pichola. One of our favourite things to do in Udaipur was to take in the great views from our guesthouse or a restaurant rooftop. We loved the hospitality at Panorama Guesthouse and had good meals at Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel and Millets of Mewar restaurant.
You can take boat trips on the lake, departing from Rameshwar Ghat, within the City Palace complex or from Lal Ghat. Sunset tours are particularly popular. Tours cost 250-700 rupees/adult and 200-400 rupees/child.
The two most famous islands on Lake Pichola are Jagmandir Island and Jagniwas Island. The only way to visit Jagniwas is by staying at the opulent Taj Lake Hotel, featured in the James Bond movie Octopussy. The above boat tours make a stop at Jagmandir Island, also of Octopussy fame, where you can spend time and use the restaurant and bar.
Jagdish Temple is a Hindu temple in the centre of Udaipur, just 150 m from the City Palace. During Holi, it was one of the central gathering spots.
It is a beautiful temple with intricate carvings, dating from 1651 and is one of the best Udaipur attractions.
India is the birthplace of yoga and attending a class was definitely on my India bucket list. I managed to break away from the family for an hour one morning and attended a yoga session with Seethu at Hanuman ghat temple directly on the lake. It was a beautiful location and so peaceful first thing in the morning. Seethu’s class blended asanas (postures), pranayamas (breath work) and meditation.
Practical Information: Seethu holds 75 minute classes daily at 8:30 am and 5 pm. Visit her website to reserve your space. I paid 500 rupees for one session ($9 CAD).
Where to Stay in Udaipur
Panorama Guest House (Budget) – we loved staying in this local guest house in a quiet, local neighborhood in central Udaipur. It was a 10 minute walk to the City Palace. Our room was decorated beautifully, the staff were really helpful and the rooftop restaurant was wonderful to relax in and served very good food. They even had a giant tortoise that roamed around. Highly recommend. Click here to check the latest prices.
Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel (Mid-range) – this hotel is full of character owing to being converted havelis set right on the Lake. The rooms are quaint and its central location can’t be beat. The rooftop restaurant has great views and good food. Click here to check the latest prices.
Taj Lake Palace (Luxury) – located on Jagniwas Island and only accessible by boat, this historic palace hotel is exquisite. It’s majestic architecture, views of the City Palace, butler service, and spa, all make it an incredible place to stay in Udaipur. Click here to check the latest prices.
Getting to Udaipur
There are four main ways to get to and from Udaipur: air, train, bus and private vehicle.
Air: Udaipur’s airport is 25 km outside of the city with daily service to Delhi, Mumbai and other hubs.
Train: Udaipur has good train service, but some destinations like Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, do not have direct service. We took the overnight train from Jaipur (7 hours), but opted for a private driver to our next stop of Jodhpur. You can check train schedules and book on the IRCT website.
Bus: We avoided the buses in India, but there is service to all major destinations from the main bus stand, on the outskirts of the city.
Private Vehicle: It is very affordable to hire a private driver, especially if you are travelling in a group. Since there were no direct trains to Jodhpur, we hired a driver. The added benefit was that we were able to make a stop at the Raknapur, the impressive Jain temple. We paid 4,000 rupees for that trip.
Udaipur with Kids
There are plenty of Udaipur tourist attractions to keep kids engaged. Our kids loved each of our stops in Rajasthan, but Udaipur was definitely one of their favourites. Taking the cooking class and celebrating Holi were the two things that really stood out for them, but they also enjoyed the City Palace and just relaxing at our guest house’s rooftop restaurant.
Panorama Guesthouse is a great place to stay for families. We had the Panorama Suite, which had plenty of beds for all of us and a window seat where the kids could look out over the courtyard. The kids played with the local kids in the court yard in the evenings and our guest house’s tortoise was fun for them as well.
You can also treat your kids to regular activities like getting a haircut, but India style. Miles got his hair cut by this barber on the side of the road. It may not have been his best hair cut ever, but it sure was interesting!
Travelling in India with kids is more challenging than other parts of the world, but it is worth the extra effort. This was our second trip to India and we have put together our tips for travelling in India with kids that will hopefully be helpful for you.
We spent 4 nights in Udaipur and we very well could have spent longer. It is not hard to see why it’s moniker is, “the Venice of the East”. With its majestic architecture, lakeside setting, and rooftop restaurants, the days will melt away. Udaipur should solidly be on your Rajasthan itinerary and its romantic vibe is perfect for every one, not just couples.
Don’t forget to read more about our trip Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle.
- Guide to Jaipur
- Exploring the Blue City of Jodhpur
- A Camel Safari in Jaisalmer
- The Taj Mahal with Kids
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