Last updated: 24th October 2021
Out of everywhere we visited on our grand tour of India – Udaipur was easily our favourite city. We loved the peacefulness of Udaipur unlike the noise and chaos of other Indian cities like Delhi. It looks beautiful surrounded by the dramatic Aravalli mountains and feels romantic with its tranquil setting on Lake Pichola. In this 2 day Udaipur itinerary and travel guide we’ll show you the best things to see in Udaipur like the impressive forts and palaces. Plus what to do in Udaipur and where to eat and drink in Udaipur. If you’re staying for a couple of nights like we did – we’ve got you covered! lots of ideas worth adding to your Udaipur itinerary.
Table of Contents
About Udaipur – Rajasthan’s Romantic City
Udaipur is the small lakeside city in India’s Royal state of Rajasthan. Famous for its scenic location, Rajput-era Royal palaces, old havelis (merchant houses) and luxury hotels. Udaipur is Rajasthan’s romantic white city located on Lake Pichola. The lake is actually man-made built in 1362 to accommodate Udaipur’s water needs. In a very dry season, it can be completely empty.
Udaipur is small enough to explore on foot, we really liked that. We also loved the relaxed atmosphere and had time to chill rather than running around trying to see lots of sights. Wandering around the town’s narrow streets was a joy, getting lost and browsing leather goods shops in the bazaars and finding colourful doorways, murals and street art. The only downside of Udaipur were people constantly approaching us ‘Where are you from?” or “I like your shirt” or “I like your trainers … come see my shop and make me happy” it gets a bit irritating after a while. But a firm “no thank you” does the trick.
Udaipur Itinerary – Day 1
Our itinerary of Udaipur for day 1 starts early morning at The City Palace, the huge landmark and the must-see sight of Udaipur. Built on a hill to overlook the city it’s one of the largest palaces in Rajasthan built in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II. Kings are called Maharajas in most of India, however in Udaipur they are called Maharanas which is a title for Rajput kings. The City Palace grew in size over another 400 years as 42 successive Maharanas made their mark by adding more palaces (called Mahals). There are 11 separate palaces inside, most are now a series of museums exhibiting paintings and furniture used by the Royal families. Apart from the Shiv Niwas Palace and Fateh Prakash Palace which are two luxury hotels.
The City Palace complex looks like a fort from the outside, the architecture is a mix of Rajput and Mughal-styles and built entirely in marble and granite. Inside there’s lots of courtyards, balconies, corridors and halls to explore. We spent 3 hours and had a registered guide to explain everything. We loved it here looking at the intricate glass-work, wall paintings, details and colours. The palace complex is very well maintained and everything shines as it did 400 years ago.
Garth was in his element photographing, the palace is ridiculously pretty and photogenic. Every window and doorway seems to make beautiful frames for composing photos. Although it’s pretty busy inside the City Palace, just wait a few minutes and you’ll get a clear shot. Lots of Indian tourists were also loving the coloured windows and walls, rocking their best poses, young men and women take it very seriously! Be sure to check out the panoramic views of the sprawling city from the palace windows.
TIP: Our guide told us the City Palace gets packed with people at weekends.
Within walking distance of The City Palace is another building over 400 years old – The Jagdish Temple built in 1651. It’s a famous Hindu temple devoted to Lord Vishnu – Lord of the Universe.
Once you’ve climbed the 32 steep steps, it’s free to enter, but you’ll need to cover up bare skin and take off your shoes. The atmosphere is calm with people chanting and playing instruments. The marble exterior is highly decorative with beautifully carved pillars. The intricate carvings tell the story of the creation of the universe.
The temple sanctum has a striking four-armed statue of Lord Vishnu carved out of a single piece of black stone. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the temple. Outside the main shrine are 4 smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Surya, Goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva.
After you’re done at the Jagdish Temple walk down to the lake and visit the Gangaur Ghat, it’s the most photogenic. Ghats are the steps that lead down to the water. People use them for bathing in the mornings and some ghats are used for washing laundry. India’s most famous ghats are in Varanasi, however, Udaipur has its own fair share to explore.
Wander The Back Streets of Udaipur
Now it’s time to find a spot for a late lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the bazaars, shops and homes around the narrow back streets. We loved just leisurely walking around, getting to know Udaipur, avoiding the holy cows and just watching daily life go by. We especially loved discovering murals that decorate many walls of people’s homes. Garth got pooped on by a bird whilst taking a photo of a mural. A local guy smiled and said “that’s good luck!”
Sunset From A Rooftop Cafe In Udaipur
Day 1 ends relaxing whilst watching a stunning sunset from a rooftop cafe – one of the best places to visit in Udaipur at night. We enjoyed a few cocktails and dinner on the roof terrace of Hotel Udai Garh the views are great because it’s high up and the vegetarian dishes were delicious.
Udaipur Itinerary – Day 2
Morning Boat Trip On Lake Pichola
Jagmandir (Island Palace Hotel)
Day 2 of our Udaipur itinerary starts in the morning at the City Palace complex river bank. We caught a boat to Jagmandir – one of the 4 small islands on Lake Pichola. Jagmandir is home to the famous Jagmandir Water Palace which used to be the Royal family’s summer resort. It’s now a luxurious hotel – Jagmandir Island Palace.
8 huge marble elephant statues welcome you as you arrive – they are happy elephants because their trunks are up. The smell of incense burning as we disembarked was lovely, we felt like we were somewhere very exotic! Musicians were playing bowls with wooden sticks, on what looked like rice bowls filled with water at different levels to produce different notes. ￼ Just off the garden courtyard is a small heritage exhibition explaining the history of the palace which was built in 1620 designed to be self-sufficient and ‘a city within a city’.
We walked around the immaculately maintained gardens. There are some huge frangipani trees decorated with lanterns which must look beautiful at night. Before returning to the boat, we sat with a couple of beers at their bar and enjoyed the view of the City Palace. We thought this was the best bar in Udaipur because the setting on the water is just lovely. You can see and appreciate the scale of the City Palace complex which is enormous.
Jag Niwas (Taj Lake Palace Hotel)
We also passed the striking Jag Niwas, another former Royal palace. Built in 1746 made entirely of white marble, the palace faces East so people could pray to the Sun god at dawn. It’s now The Taj Lake Palace – the best 5 star hotel in Udaipur and you can only see it if you are a resident guest of the hotel. Sadly visitors are not allowed to stop here since the Mumbai bombing in 2008. It looks like an illusion – appearing to magically float on the water. The James Bond film, Octopussy (1983) was filmed here.
Lunch With A Fabulous View
Our favourite moment in Udaipur was our late lunch at the Ambrai Restaurant in the stunning Amet Haveli – a heritage hotel. It has the most amazing panoramic view of the City Palace complex right on the water. It feels high-end, because it is! and is absolutely fabulous!￼
We ate a mouth-watering triple starter of paneer, stuffed potatoes, and spinach paneer. Honestly one of the best meals we had in India. It was lovely and quiet at lunchtime and so relaxing watching the colours of the buildings change from white to orange as the afternoon sun went down. We sat here for a couple of hours just watching life go by on the water, chilling with our beers in hand. If you watched the 3rd season of the BBC tv series ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ (2018) it was filmed here at Ambrai Udaipur. Also worth checking out the Ambrai Ghat next door where we saw a couple of wedding photo shoots going on, brilliant people watching!
Tip: Ask for a table in the corner which has the prime view overlooking the water with a few of the City Palace.
Admire Miniature Paintings in Udaipur
Spend the rest of the afternoon seeking out places that sell and paint miniature paintings. This Rajput art comes from the Maharanas who used to commission paintings. The incredible detail is jaw-dropping, tiny squirrel hair brushes are used to paint delicate brush strokes on silk, paper and wood. We visited the artist’s studio Janak Arts which offered art classes and henna tattoo lessons. It’s based on the ground floor of the Hotel Janak Niwas. We were even treated to some free masala chai and fresh hot vegetable samosas as we admired all the art on sale.
Dinner at Rainbow Restaurant
For our last evening in Udaipur we ate dinner at the Rainbow Restaurant which is a fabulous rooftop restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere and fab views over the lake.
Evening Dharohar Folk Dance Show
Our Udaipur itinerary for 2 days ends with a live cultural dance show. Every evening at 7pm the Bagore Ki Haveli (a museum next to the Gangaur Ghat) put on a music and dance show featuring traditional Rajasthani folk dances, live music and a puppet show. We both loved the one-hour performance because it was much better than we expected it to be. We thought it was going to be some ghastly tourist show, but it’s not at all, it’s professionally done.
The setting is intimate in the haveli’s courtyard. Seating is on the floor and small benches and based on first come, first served, so queue early for a good spot (we got there at 6pm). Lots of young Indian girls were sat on the front row, they knew the dances and were very enthusiastic. It’s a fast-moving show linked by a compere explaining the stories of the dances. The show is dazzling from guys eating hot coals on fire, ladies dancing with bells, fire dancing or balancing clay pots on their heads whilst dancing on broken glass and skilful puppetry. Phil thought the repetitive movements in the bell dances were very hypnotic. The funniest dance is called ‘my camel is better than your camel’
Other Udaipur Attractions
- Ahar Museum – Museum & various cenotaphs mark the Maharanas who were cremated here.
- Gulab Bagh – 100 acres of gardens, the rose garden is a highlight.
- Vintage Car Museum – Displays the cars owned by various Maharanas.
- The Monsoon Palace – A Palace on a hill 6 miles from the centre. Also called Sajjan Garh.
- Ekling Ji Temple – Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, 14 miles from Udaipur.
Practical Information For Visiting Udaipur
Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Udaipur Travel Tips
- Tip #1: Like everywhere in India only drink sealed bottled water.
- Tip #2: Try to book a hotel in the old town, so you can easily walk to all the sights.
- Tip #3: Keep cash for buying food, drink, and shopping. Not everywhere accepts cards.
- Tip #4: Men and women should dress conservatively.
- Tip #5: Get a henna tatoo – they should fade away after 2 weeks.
Udaipur FAQ & Fast Facts
- What is the nearest airport to Udaipur? 13 miles away is Udaipur Airport (airport code UDR).
- How long is the Delhi to Udaipur train? The sleeper train from Delhi to Udaipur typically takes 11 hours 32 minutes.
- What time zone is Udaipur? GMT +5.30 hours. India Standard Time.
- What currency is used in Udaipur? Indian Rupee (Symbol: ₹)
- What language is spoken in Udaipur? English, Hindi & Mewari.
- What is the population of Udaipur? 569,000.
- What number should I use in an emergency? Call 100 for police, 108 for ambulance and 101 for fire brigade.
- What plug type is used in Udaipur? Plug Types C, D & M. The 3 round pin type is the most common. Voltage is 230V / 50Hz.
- When is the best time to visit Udaipur? October to March. October has India’s biggest festival Diwali.
- When is the worst time to visit Udaipur? July to September is the monsoon season. Whilst April to June is too hot.
- What is Udaipur famous for? Royal palaces, lakes and ancient forts.
- What is the history of Udaipur? Maharana Udai Singh established Udaipur in 1559 as the capital of Mewar Kingdom.
- What are the 5 must-see sights in Udaipur? City Palace, Jagmandir Palace, Jagdish Temple, Gangaur Ghat and Bagore Ki Haveli.
- What is the local dish in Udaipur? Dal Baati – baked unleavened bread served with dal (lentil curry).
- What is the best way to get around Udaipur? It’s small enough to walk around. Grab a tuk-tuk for hotels outside the old town.
- What’s an interesting fact about Udaipur? In medieval times Udaipur was mined for its rich source of copper and zinc.
- What movies have been filmed in Udaipur? James Bond Octopussy (1983) worth watching before you go!
- Where is the best photo spot in Udaipur? Badi Charur Chowk inside the City Palace.
- Where is a hidden gem in Udaipur? The Ahar museum & cenotaphs.
- What is the best souvenir to buy in Udaipur? A miniature painting.
City Map Of Udaipur
- The Dharohar Folk Dance Show costs 150 INR (£1.50) and another 150 INR to use your camera.
- Our upmarket lunch with lots of beers at the Ambrai Restaurant was just 3,350 INR (£35) for the 2 of us.
- The City Palace costs 300 INR (£3) per person.
- Boat ride to Jagmandir island 500 INR (£5) per person or 800 INR (£8) to go at sunset.
How We Did It
- We stayed at the 3 star Hopp-inn Meera for 2 nights. It’s a short tuk-tuk ride from the centre of Udaipur.
- We visited in the middle of January the weather was perfect. Mild and sunny during the day, but cold in the evenings.
- We paid for a small group escorted tour of India with Explore Worldwide.