Udaipur, India

Not that the city is perfect: insensitive lakeside development, appalling traffic along the old city’s maze of tightly winding streets and vast hordes of tourists mean that Udaipur is far from unspoilt or undiscovered. Even so, it remains a richly rewarding place to visit, and although it’s possible to take in most of the sights in a few days, many people spend at least a week exploring the city and the various attractions scattered about the surrounding countryside.

The best travel tips for visiting Udaipur

Spreading around the shores of the idyllic Lake Pichola and backdropped by a majestic ring of craggy green hills, Udaipur seems to encapsulate India at its most quintessentially romantic.

This is a city with an intricate sequence of ornately turreted and balconied palaces, whitewashed havelis and bathing ghats clustered around the waters of the lake. Or, in the case of the Lake Palace hotel and Jag Mandir, floating magically upon them.

North of the city are the historic temples of Nagada, Eklingji, Nathdwara and Kankroli. To the northwest, en route to Jodhpur, lie the superb Jain temples of Ranakpur and the rambling fort at Kumbhalgarh. Renting a car or motorcycle saves time, though local buses serve both routes.

Rough Guides tip: Planning a trip to India? Browse our itineraries!

Jag Mandir Palace, Lake Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India © Blue Sky Studio/Shutterstock

Jag Mandir Palace, Lake Pichola, Udaipur © Blue Sky Studio/Shutterstock

Best things to do in Udaipur

Udaipur, often referred to as the 'City of Lakes' and renowned for its timeless beauty, offers a captivating array of experiences that showcase its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture

#1 Take a boat trip around Lake Pichola

Udaipur’s idyllic Lake Pichola provides the city’s most memorable views. It’s 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, and each evening Sunset Point, near Amet Haveli, sees flocks of onlookers keen to snap the sun setting to the west. Boat rides around Lake Pichola depart from the jetty towards the south end of the City Palace complex, offering unforgettable views of the various palaces.

All trips stop at the Jag Mandir. Tours depart hourly on the hour; to make the most of them, sit on the side of the boat facing the palace (they usually run anticlockwise around the lake).

#2 Sail past Jag Niwas Lake Palace, the most romantic hotel in the world

Closed to non-guests 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).

Unfortunately, as a security measure following the 2008 gun attacks in Mumbai, non guests can no longer visit the hotel. That is a shame as what has often been called the most romantic hotel in the world can now only be seen it as part of a boat ride around the lake.

 Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan state, India © Shutterstock

Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan state, India © Shutterstock

#3 Visit the wondrous Jag Mandir

Best visited as part of a boat tour, 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.

Planning a trip to Udaipur? Browse our itineraries!

#4 Learn more about Udaipur at the City Palace Museum

Begin your circuit of the museum by wandering past propitious statues of Ganesh and Lakshmi, and winding upstairs to reach the first of the palace’s myriad courtyards, the Rajya Angan.

A room off to one side is devoted to the exploits of Pratap Singh, one of Udaipur’s most famous military leaders.

From here, steps lead up to the pleasantly sylvan Badi Mahal (Garden Palace; also known as Amar Vilas after its creator, Amar Singh II, who reigned 1695–1755).

Its main courtyard is embellished with finely carved pillars and a marble pool, and dotted with trees that flourish despite being built some 30m above ground level.

From the Badi Mahal, twisting steps lead down to the Dilkushal Mahal, whose rooms house a superb selection of paintings depicting festive events in the life of the Udaipur court.

City Palace and tourist boat on lake Pichola. Udaipur, Rajasthan, India © Sean Hsu/Shutterstock

City Palace and tourist boat on lake Pichola. Udaipur, Rajasthan, India © Sean Hsu/Shutterstock

#5 See artworks in black marble at the Government Museum

The small Government Museum, opposite the entrance to the City Palace Museum, is of interest for its impressive sculpture gallery of pieces from Kumbhalgarh. Look for some outstanding works in black marble.

#6 Delve into the kitsch world of the Durbar Hall Crystal Gallery

More interesting than the Government Museum in many ways – and certainly far more atmospheric – is the vast Durbar Hall in the Fateh Prakash Palace. This huge, wonderfully time-warped Edwardian-era ballroom with huge chandeliers, creaky old furniture and fusty portraits was built to host state banquets, royal functions and remains full of period character.

In a gallery overlooking the hall is the eccentric Crystal Gallery, housing an array of fine British crystal ordered by Sajjan Singh in the 1880s. It also features some outlandishly kitsch items including crystal chairs, tables and lamps – there’s even a crystal hookah and a crystal bed.

The extortionate entrance charge is a bit of a turn-off, though it does include an audioguide and non-alcoholic refreshments at the hotel’s Surya Dharshan Bar.

#7 Witness the Mewar sound-and-light show

Every evening, fifteen years of history is revived at the palace, as special effects and commentary recount stories from the Kingdom of Mewar in a show called The Legacy of Honour (Yash ki Dharohar in Hindi).

The Mewar sound-and-light show is held in Manek Chowk, and commentary is in English between September and April, and in Hindi for the rest of the year.

#8 Visit Udaipur’s most popular shrine at Jagdish Temple City

Just north of the City Palace, Jagdish Temple is one of Udaipur’s most popular and vibrant shrines. Built in 1652 and dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an aspect of Vishnu, its outer walls and towering shikhara are heavily carved with figures of Vishnu, scenes from the life of Krishna and dancing apsaras (nymphs).

The circular mandapa leads to the sanctuary where a black stone image of Jagannath sits shrouded in flowers, while a small raised shrine in front of the temple protects a bronze Garuda. Subsidiary shrines to Shiva, Ganesh, Surya and Durga stand at each corner of the main temple.

Jagdish Temple, Udaipur, India © Shutterstock

Jagdish Temple, Udaipur, India © Shutterstock

#9 Explore the Bagore-ki-Haveli museum

North of Jagdish Temple, a lane leads to Gangaur Ghat and the Bagore-ki-Haveli, a 138-room lakeside haveli dating from 1751. A section of the building has been converted into a worthwhile museum, arranged on two floors around one of the rambling haveli’s several courtyards.

The upper floors has several immaculately restored rooms with original furnishings and artworks, plus some fine murals. The lower floor has rooms full of puppets, women’s clothes, musical instruments, kitchen equipment and – the undisputed highlight – what is claimed to be the world’s largest turban. Traditional music and dance shows are staged here each evening.

#10 See a puppet show at the Folklore Museum

Just north of Chetak Circle in the new city, the hoary old Folklore Museum is home to a mildly interesting collection of exhibits. They cover the folk traditions of Rajasthan and India, with dusty displays of colourful masks, puppets and musical instruments.

Short, amusing puppet shows (tip expected) are staged throughout the day on demand. Well, the performers will probably hunt you down and drag you into the theatre shortly after your arrival. There are also two hour-long shows daily, with music, dancing and more puppets.

#11 Find Udaipur’s most striking fountain at Sahelion-ki-Bari

The “garden of the maids of honour”, Sahelion-ki-Bari was laid out by Sangram Singh (1710–34) as a summer retreat for the diversion and entertainment of the ladies of the royal household. However, the fountains weren’t installed until the reign of Fateh Singh (1884–1930).

The walled gardens, attractive and formal, are centred on a peaceful courtyard enclosing a large pool. Behind this, four elephant statues surround Udaipur’s most striking fountain, a fanciful tiered creation that looks a bit like a huge, multicoloured cake stand.

Saheliyon-ki-Bari or Saheliyon ki Bari or Garden of the Maidens is a major garden in Udaipur in Rajasthan state of India © Shutterstock

Saheliyon-ki-Bari or Saheliyon ki Bari or Garden of the Maidens is a major garden in Udaipur in Rajasthan state of India © Shutterstock

#12 Ride the cable cars up to the summit of Machlan Magra

Just south of the old city, opposite Deen Dayal Park, ruby-red cable cars float up to the summit of Machlan Magra hill on the Ropeway. The panoramic views from its summit are stunning, taking in sights such as Lake Pichola, Jag Mandir and the Monsoon Palace – a particularly nice place to be at sunset.

East of the Dutch Tala Lake, a winding pathway provides an alternative ascent route used by pilgrims visiting the small hilltop Karni Mata temple; it’s a fairly gentle walk through pleasant scenery.

#13 Enjoy the rural arts and crafts centre of Shilpgram

The popular rural arts and crafts centre of Shilpgram was set up to promote the traditional architecture, music and crafts of the tribal people of western India. It has displays dedicated to the diverse lifestyles and customs of the region’s rural population.

Around thirty replica houses and huts in traditional style are arranged in a village-like compound, with examples of buildings from various states. Musicians, puppeteers and dancers – hijras (eunuchs) among them – hang out around the houses and strike up on the approach of visitors (tip expected). You may also see people weaving, potting and embroidering as they would in their original homes – though most of the actual handicrafts on sale are fifth-rate, if that.

#14 Seek out the Monsoon Palace of Sajjangarh

Some 5 km west of the city, inside the Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary, the so-called “Monsoon Palace”, Sajjangarh, was begun in 1883 by Maharana Sajjan Singh to serve as a summer retreat. It comes complete with a nine-storey observatory from which the royal family proposed to watch the monsoon clouds travelling across the countryside below.

Unfortunately, the maharana’s untimely death the following year put paid to the planned observatory. Although the palace itself was finished by Singh’s successor, Maharana Fateh Singh, it was found to be impossible to pump water up to it, and the whole place was abandoned shortly afterwards.

The large though rather plain building is now a somewhat melancholy sight, but the views over Udaipur, more than 300m below, are unrivalled. The journey up to the palace takes a good fifteen minutes by taxi; really, the climb is too steep to tackle by bicycle, although some people try.

Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace Fort, Udaipur © Shutterstock

Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace Fort, Udaipur © Shutterstock

Best areas to stay in Udaipur

The best areas to stay in Udaipur will have lakeside views. Here’s where to look for accomodation.

Most accommodation is found on the east side of Lake Pichola in the weaving alleyways that dot back from the water. Lake views costs more but many hotels further back do have rooftop restaurants.

There are a growing number of excellent places on the far more peaceful northwestern side of the lake, just across the bridge by Chand Pol.

Read more about best places to stay in India.

Best restaurants and bars

The best places to eat are the lakeside restaurants, however there are plenty of decent rooftop bars and restaurants to pick from as well. A few of the rooftop places around the lake are licensed – good news, particularly around sunset.

For other entertainment, Bagore-ki-Haveli has nightly dance performances, while Shilpgram often hosts out-of-town performers.

There are plenty of good places to eat near the majestic City Palace which are usually a cut above the rest. Situated near the renowned Jagdish Temple, is a vibrant hub of cafes and restaurants offering splendid views of Lake Pichola.

There are some great street food stalls serving local cuisine around Chandpol.

Pottery workshop in Shilpagram, Udaipur © Shutterstock

Pottery workshop in Shilpagram, Udaipur © Shutterstock

How to get around

From auto rickshaws to walking, it is easy to get around Udaipur. Here’s how to do it.

Udaipur's city centre is pedestrian-friendly, allowing visitors to explore many attractions on foot. Quick cheap and easy auto-rickshaws are to be found all across the city and are a good way of getting around the lake.

Taxi-hailing apps like Ola and Uber work in Udaipur with prices similar to those of auto-rickshaws. Metered taxis are slightly more expensive but more reliable too should you need them.

What is the best time to visit Udaipur?

The best time to visit Udaipur is during the winter months, from October to March, when the weather is pleasant and ideal for boating on the lake. The city experiences moderate temperatures with sunny days and slightly cool evenings.

This period also coincides with Udaipur's festival season, including the Mewar Festival and Shilpgram Crafts Fair, adding to the city's vibrancy. But be warned: Udaipur can get crowded with tourists during peak season

How many days do you need in Udaipur?

Allocate at least 2 to 3 days for your Udaipur visit. This duration allows you to explore the iconic City Palace, take a boat ride on Lake Pichola and visit the stunning Jag Mandir.

With a couple of days, you can cover the major highlights and get a good sense of Udaipur's charm by wandering its backstreets and catching a dance performance in the evening.

Planning a trip to Udaipur? Browse our itineraries!

How to get here

Maharana Pratap Airport is located a full 20 km east of Udaipur. It welcomes flights from:

Trains pull in at Udaipur City station, southeast of the city centre. Services from Udaipur are surprisingly limited. Note that there are no direct services to Jodhpur; you’ll have to change at Kota (or take a bus).

Government buses leave from the main State Bus Stand at Udai Pol. Private buses depart from across City Station Rd, and are a better option for longer and (especially) overnight journeys.

Rough Guides tip: It’s easiest to book tickets for private buses through one of the many travel agents in town or, for ease, through your hotel/guesthouse.

Find out the best ways to get to India.

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Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 02.07.2023

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