Udaipur’s idyllic Lake Pichola provides the city’s most memorable views, a beautiful frame for the City Palace buildings, havelis, ghats, temple towers and other structures which crowd its eastern side – best seen from a boat trip around the lake. The lake’s two island palaces are among Udaipur’s most famous features. Jag Niwas, now the Lake Palace hotel, was built in amalgamated Rajput–Mughal style as a summer palace during the reign of Jagat Singh (1628–52), after whom it was named. Unfortunately, as a security measure following the 2008 gun attacks in Mumbai, non-guests can no longer visit the hotel. The Jag Mandir palace, on the island to the south, is arranged around a large garden guarded by stone elephants. The main building here is the Gol Mahal, which has detailed stone inlay work within its domed roof and houses a small exhibition on the history of the island. The young Shah Jahan once stayed here and was apparently so impressed by the building that he used it as one of the models for his own Taj Mahal, though it’s difficult to see the resemblance.
Boat rides around the lake depart from the jetty towards the south end of the City Palace complex, offering unforgettable views of the various palaces. Choose between a quick thirty-minute circuit of the lake or the same trip with an additional stop at the Jag Mandir. Both tours depart hourly on the hour from 10am to 6pm. To make the most of them, sit on the side of the boat facing the palace (they usually run anticlockwise around the lake). You can also hire your own boat (seating up to seven people). Alternatively, on the waterfront betweeen the Jaiwana and Kankarwa havelis, you can rent pedalos (two-seater) or motorboats, or take a sunset jaunt around the lake.