I write this article with so much love, excitement and a smile, because of all the fond memories i have of Udaipur. The one statement I have for this picturesque, quiet yet busting with romance city is this… I lost my heart to India, and the place it is being kept safe is Udaipur in the Lakes which burn in the sunset with the golden colours and lights.
The City of Lakes a name given to this stunning city in the centre of Rajasthan. With several lakes, small canals, lakeside buildings and small boats riding across them you can see why this city also has the nickname Venice of the East.
I had the privilege of staying here 3 nights, with a busy itinerary either side it was an ideal place to rest, take in the beauty of the city, but also have enough time to relax. We stayed 20 minute walk outside the main area, but the walk in was full of the hustle and bustle of Indian life, with shops, cows, tuk tuks, and markets.
Not only is this the location for one of the most lavish weddings in the world, but more importantly too me at least it’s the location of the Octopussy James Bodn film staring Roger Moore
The top 16 activities I experienced within 2 full days there are as follows;
1. Pathola Lake
The centre piece of Udaipur is the Pathola Lake. Accessible from several different areas, not only is it mesmerising to look at, but the locals use it as a means of washing clothes, bathing and socialising. You can normally see them sitting along the edges. The lakesides give amazing views of the palace, palace island, elephant island and the beautiful rustic buildings all the way along. It has been preserved so well with no modern buildings taking over the magic character of the of this city.
2. Boat ride at sunset
If you come ot Udaipur and do not step foot on one of the many boat cruises you have failed at travelling, but to really make the most out of the ride, make sure you go for Sunset. The casual and relax ride takes about an hour, you can hire a guide to tell you all about what you are seeing, and even get an option of a Chai tea. I spent the hour just staring at the Water Palace Hotel, famous for being in the Bond film Octopussy. Day dreaming about one day being able to afford a room there (7000 pound a night)… with panoramic views in all directions, of the different lavish hotels, the small lake islands, the Elephant island which has beautifully decorative elepahant statues. As well as the final sunset going behind the foothills. It’s the perfect romantic setting with a friend or loved one.
3. The City Palace
Seen throughout the City from every angle due to its presence on the central city hill, The city palace is a must do, only 300 rupees to enter and a good 2 hours to walk round the cleverly devised route to make sure you don’t miss a thing. The palace started being built in 1553 by the King of Udaipur, but over the next 400 years was built up more and more by the next generations, becoming bigger and more elaborate.
The entrance is huge, and creates a lot of space for everyone visiting to have space to take the gardens and views inside. There are horse stables, painting on the walls, beautifully decorated archways and gates into the lower courtyard before you even head inside. Once inside the several courtyards become more extravagant as you head to the upper floors, to the more private chambers, the more elaborate hallways, the throne rooms, the mirror rooms with ceiling, flooring and walls all covered in eye popping colours of tiles. There is so much going on you forget that someone once lived here.
4. Paint class
One of the famous artistries in Rajasthan is the Paint Artwork. Delicate paintings with extreme detail, sometimes with golden and silver materials merged into them It’s a very therapeutic and meditation like class for 2 hours or even weeks for the avid artists, where you learn how to draw one of the 6 animals of India (peacock, elephants, horse, tiger, camel or cow)… You loose yourself in the brush strokes, and are taught by the masters, some even give you a small extra momento with a finger nail painting, showing just how talented these artists are. The Gothwal Art shop is a legitimate business who have been painting for over 30 years, and is located very close to the Ghats.
5. Sunset Yoga
In the country which was the birth place of Yoga, it would be rude not to wake up the correct and best way with a Sunrise Yoga class. Most hotels have this option so just ask about times, days and costs. Normally around 500 rupees each person. An hour in which you can gradually see the sun rising on one of the many rooftops in the city. Feeling relaxed and ready for a day of exploring, stretching and even taking part in some laughter yoga at the end to bring a positive end to the session.
6. Gangaur Ghat
The first place I would head to really feel the impact and first impression of Udaipur, its found next to the Lake and Canals, normally has musicians playing instruments and even some singing, while the Sun rises or begins to set the buildings become a beautiful shade of oranges and warm tones. With the buildings on the opposite side of the river reflecting in the lake. You can even see people bathing and swimming in the lake at times on those extra hot days. It really provides a romantic, and magical setting.
7. Palm reading
Not one for the sceptics, but a fun and cost effective option for anyone interested in finding out what your hands say about your past, present and future. Mine was 600 rupees (£6 for around 30 miutes), he was professional and such an intriguing past time in the country of Karma, Meditation and Spiritual recognition. It was interesting to hear some of the information he mentioned.
8. Rooftop breakfast along the Canal
We came across a Lakeside café called Ginger Café, which if you walk up 4 stories to the top where there is a roofterrace it has a wonderful view of the bridges and the Lake, not to mention the famous Brownie Sundaes and the Nutella pancakes (always leave room for dessert). It serves coffees, lassis, breakfast, sandwiches but mainly the views speak for themselves. Once you’ve had your food, take loads of pictures and have a look on the ground floor courtyard patio which is directly on the lake water. Its so picturesque I didn’t want to leave
9. Cycle ride for sunrise
The most popular lake I have mentioned isn’t the only Lake in Udaipur (city of lakes gives it away)… there several around the area… the cycle ride gives you the opportunity to see the other beauties of the area. Including a breakfast by the Fateh Saga lake, biking through the villages and also the edge of the city its self. What a way to wake up! It only takes around 2 hours for a 20km bike ride, so even for the less active it’s a good amount of time and distant
10. Jagdish Temple (James bond film location
Close to the City Palace is the Jagdish Temple, a unique temple for Brama, God this is a rarity in India where most temples are for Shiva and Vishnu. Not only can you visit inside as long as you follow the protocol of no shoes. But for any avid movie buffs you will recognise the area as a scene out of the film Octopussy. I squealed when I realised and had to just stand and take it all in. There are streets going off in every direction from where the temple is located with shops, cafes, cows ,and souvenir shops.
11. Exotic Marigold Hotel
Now I have actually had to write a separate blog just on this experience, one of the best I have had in India, not ony due to the famous film (The best exotic marigold hotel), but also due to the beautiful relaxed setting this famous Hotel has. 2 hours from Udaipur but completely worth the journey. With a pool, courtyards to read, world class horses within the stables. We even sat and watched the film before leaving. It was a horses stable which was refurbished during and after the success of the film. It has a really peaceful atmosphere, with a limited number of rooms to keep it a retreat rather than an attraction
12. Cable car to the Karni Mata Temple
A 20 minute ride from the main city area, there are two ways of getting upto the temple, one is hiking? However why would you do that when there are cable cars which will take you there much quicker. The views while heading up are just as stunning as when you arrive at the top. Panaramic views of the palace and the lake will take your breath away. The cost is around 400 rupees (£4).. Watch out for the cheeky monkeys in the temple, they like snackshe
13. Monsoon Palace
The palace which was built basically for the Royal family in the monsoon periods of India. A gorgeous palace, amazing views of the lakes, and easy to get to by Tuk Tuk. Its on the opposite side of the Lake to the main streets and centre
14. Octopussy film on a rooftop (James Bond fans)
Several places do actually do this, it’s a little cheesy, but if it’s a rainy or bad day to be out and about this could be the best idea, especially for a James Bond film lover to recap and remind you of the places they filmed in this beautiful city. I promise its one of the best Bonds 🙂
15. Lunch at the Taj Lake Palace
You must book this in advance, which high security only for guests allowed on the islnd to preserve its security and privacy to anyone staying. You can go for a sneaky peak if its within your budget for a light lunch, you get taken on a boat from the land entrance, which has an elaborate gate and drive way. The food must be epic, the views amazing, and come on who doesn’t want to feel like a Bond girl on the way to the Octopussy Palace (James Bond reference). You can even rent the place out for weddings, ONE DAY!
16. Wander the streets
One of the best things to do is just to get lost, stop, enjoy the views, walk a little further, shop, take in the cultural hub of artworks, crafts and the many temples and palaces. Close your eyes and listen to the music and sounds from this mystical city. I bought artwork here, found beautiful clothes and trinkets. But mainly I immersed myself in just how this city which is so popular with tourists and for good reason still has the charm and magic which made me fall in love with this City. It was firstly the rustic feel to the city, the fact its authentic and hasn’t been built up. Its the creativity of the artwork around the city, on walls, in building design and in the shops on parchments of paper. Its the happiness of the locals, going about their daily routines, washing clothes, family bathing, the kindness of a smile as i walk down the streets. Its the colours in everything from the buildings, the water, the flowers and the people. It really gets your senses working and buzzing from it all.
The more I walked the more i fell in love with the city, a special part of me will always stay here and crave to come back. The city of Lakes, the city of magic!