No1 budget backpackers guide to Udaipur
As one of Indias most iconic destinations, it is very likely to be on your itinerary and for an excellent reason. Udaipur boasts outstanding beauty and elegance. Even in a country with so many incredible things to see this town still stands out in the crowd, and that’s saying something here. This vibrant city is bursting with colour and a place where I have found myself entranced by all its splendour for days on end.
I have passed through this town more times than I can count and in my No1 budget backpackers guide to Udaipur, I will be discussing all the best things I have found to do over the years. I want my readers to get the most out of there time in this magical place so I am writing this so you too can experience these things for yourselves. So read on and see what appeals to you and do let me know what you think of my recommendations.
Rajasthan’s desert city of lakes.
Known to be the romantic city and I would undoubtedly agree, Udaipur is centred around lake Pichola and hemmed in by the Aravalli mountain range. It could not possibly be a more idyllic spot to kick back and relax. The narrow streets seem to branch off in every direction, and beautiful Havelis dot the city. It is an excellent place to do your souvenir shopping with artists selling Rajasthan unique form of artwork on every street. There is almost too much to choose from so shop around for the very best deals.
You will need to budget a good three days to take it all in as there is so much to take your interest. To be honest, just strolling around the lake is a delight in itself and just sitting there watching lake Pichola in all its glory can keep your attention for hours. I will now give a brief rundown of all my top things to do one by one, that I have found in Rajasthan’s desert city of lakes.
The many highlights of Udaipur.
Pretty much all of the towns main attractions are focused around Lake Pichola, and there is one sight that you won’t fail to miss. The large yet elegant city palace announces its presence where ever you look as it glistens in the desert sun. There are many Ghats (sacred stairways) that are sporadically placed around the lake, and these are lovely places just to come and absorb the local culture. There is something for everyone here. It is a place to savour the very essence of India as you have dreamed it to be. I wouldn’t imagine any tourist would walk away from this iconic gem of a destination disappointed.
The city palace is a must for any visitor to Udaipur. Built-in 1559 this magnificent sight has been beautifully restored. There are masses of artwork to feast your eyes on, and the building itself is exquisite. It also offers fantastic views of Lake Pichola from its battlements. It is 300 rupees to get in and 100 rupees for a still camera.
The famous monsoon palace or Sajjan Garh is also visible from just about everywhere in the whole city. It sits high up in the Aravalli mountains overlooking the city below. Built-in 1884 by Sajjan Singh. It was meant to be a five-story observatory and a place to watch the oncoming monsoon. It offers breathtaking views of the city and is best seen at sunset.
The entry cost is only 80 rupees, but you will have to negotiate the price of a rickshaw and waiting time. I can’t really put a cost on that as it greatly depends on your bargaining skills. Some places offer shared rickshaws, and this may work out cheaper.
The Mansapurna Karni Mata Temple, built by Maharana Karan Singh, sits on a mountain adjacent to the city palace. It is was a tough walk up until recently in 2008 a ropeway was put in. Hindu devotees come from far and wide to seek blessings from the god Karni but, for the casual traveller, it affords some of the best views of the whole city and the perfect place to watch the sunset go down around the back of the Jag Mandir Palace.
There is a smaller park at the bottom of the hill locals use for space to court and relax. This manicured space is also a perfectly lovely spot to watch the sunset, and if you don’t want to pay for the chair lift these place will do just fine. Its only 5 rupees to get in for foreigners and in the monsoon, thousands of Indian flying foxes darken the sky at night. The little park is my favourite place to watch them fly out into the night to find food. The Mansapurna Karni Mata Temple is a little too high to appreciate the spectacle.
Another charming little corner of Udaipur is Bagore Ki Haveli, built in the eighteenth century on the waterfront of Lake Pichola. With over a hundred rooms, the palace boasts mirror work, paintings, the worlds largest turban and interior palace art. The Haveli also hosts cultural dances in the evenings for tourists. Its is located just before you reach Lal Ghat and, it is only 100 rupees for entrance and 50 rupees for your camera.
I have not included the lake palace as a destination in itself as it is converted into a hotel these days. It costs far outside the price bracket of many of my readers who are likely to be coming for a more extended stay. The cheapest room I found online was 52,000 rupees!
For all the history buffs out there I have added links to the Wikipedia pages so you can get an insight on how they all come to be. There is quite obviously a fascinating history behind the elegant and luxurious architecture you see around you here. I did not write about it all myself as this post would have to be super long, and I don’t want anyone falling asleep as fascinating as I find it all not everyone else does.
Getting a nights rest.
There are thousands of places to sleep in Udaipur, but my favourite is dream heaven guest house across the footbridge at hanuman ghat. The rooms are quirky, and the rooftop restaurant has some of the most beautiful views in the city as you can see from the cover photo. On a warm sunny evening, a candlelit dinner up here is incredibly romantic. The food is just your standard-issue tourist food, only in a magical setting.
The rates of the rooms are again all down to your bargaining skills, time of the year, duration of your stay and the room you choose. The best room by miles sits above the restaurant, and there is a balcony to sit and watch the world go by. If this place sounds like somewhere you would be interested in staying chack out the link provided.
Getting a bite to eat.
Good Indian food around the lake is quite hard to come by; in fact, I have never found any. If you do know of something, please let me know in the comments section. My favourite place to eat is Savage Garden near Lal Ghat, the food is pretty damn good actually and is a cut above the rest. The main restaurant does not open till the evening, but the coffee shop will whip up a mean latte and a slice of cake.
Another excellent option is just at the footbridge over the lake on the Lal Ghat side. You will see Paps juice and what a find that is. It serves up seasonal fruit juices and an excellent selection of muesli if you are looking for a healthy start to the day. Its a little costly but the ingredients are very fresh and what do you expect given your location. It is just a street-side shack effectively, but, it is clearly signposted, and you won’t miss it. It is a must-try for the Health-conscious among us.
Getting there and away.
Getting away from Udaipur is straight forward. It is possible to get the train to Dehli and surrounding cities. There is a tourist window at the train station, but after you take away the cost of a rickshaw each way from the lake, you might as well book with an agent. The government bus station is well connected to surrounding towns such as Bundi, and Jodhpur via Ranakpur.
For long haul bus journeys, you can book with an agent, and they leave far from the lake in the evening and, that means you will have to pay half-day at most hotels. Well unless of cause you are happy to sit around for hours on end somewhere with your luggage but, in all reality, you will probably find you spend more on food and drink to keep you entertained.
For more ideas on how best to use the extensive Indian transport system to your advantage, check out my post on getting around this vast subcontinent. It is packed with my personal tricks and tips I have accumulated over the years on how best to travel both efficiently and cost-effectively.
In summary of my No1 Budget backpackers guide to Udaipur.
This city will be on most tourists itineraries who are heading to this area as over the years it has got a whole lot of well-deserved publicity as a goto destination. There is a lot of justification for that as I think you can see why, right? It could be the lonely planet, word of mouth, documentaries or even James Bonds Octopussy. Whatever the case may be, most people will pass through here.
Just take note there is a lot to do, and if you want to see it all in a short space of time, it will cost you quite a bit. Better to take your time and spread the costs out. What’s more, don’t rush off! This place is just as charming a destination as you could hope for. It is so much fun getting lost in the tiny maze of alleyways and discover new places to savour the cities raw charm.
No matter what you are looking for from your Rajasthan experience, this place has you covered. It could be the stunning beauty of the lake area or shopping for your exotic gifts to your self. Maybe you want to a little bit of wildlife or even to do nothing at all. There are few places in the country better to do all that in than Udaipur.
So that about wraps my post a No1 budget backpackers guide to Udaipur, and that means if you can think of anything I have missed or want to know more about then don’t hesitate to ask as I am always here to answer any questions you might have. So until the next time my fellow intrepid travellers, happy trails.
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