Built around four lakes and surrounded by hills, the beauty of Udaipur lies in its glorious setting with its palaces and whitewashed havelis reflected in the shimmering water. Capital of the legendary Sisodias of Mewar, Udaipur was established in the 16th century after their previous centre at Chittorgarh was sacked for a third time.
The royal family is believed to be direct descendants of the sun, a symbol you will see everywhere throughout the city. It has always remained fiercely independent and the benevolent maharana is still treated with the utmost respect and devotion by his subjects as you can see when he visits the nearby Eklingi temples on Monday evenings.
The small old town lends itself to pottering about on foot to enjoy views of the lake, pop into temples, amble down lanes to discover artists at work and explore the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. The stunning City Palace is actually comprised of 11 palaces built by successive maharanas lining the bank of Lake Pichola. Linked by courtyards and narrow passages, embellished with finials and balconies and decorated with miniature paintings and crystal it must be the most lavish too.
We recommend visiting other sites nearby including the Saheliyon-ki-Bari gardens, hill top Monsoon Palace and Eklingi temples can be reached by car, or better still by bicycle via one of Udaipur’s lakeside roads. If you prefer to explore on horseback, guided rides from two hours to a full day are a wonderful way to get into the surrounding Aravali Hills along goat paths and dried up river beds on beautiful Marwari horses. Make sure you are back in the city for sunset when a boat ride on Lake Pichola is a perfect end to the day.
100km from Udaipur, Kumbalgarh fort is the second largest in Rajasthan (after Chittorgarh). The snaking 36km long walls enclose the ruins of dozens of temples, gardens and palaces and afford fantastic views over the hills and surrounding countryside. The fort sits on the eastern fringe of the wildlife sanctuary in the Aravalli hills of southern Rajasthan which act as a barrier stopping the spread of Thar Desert. Wildlife spotting in the rugged topography is not easy but species include wolf, leopard, sloth bear, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, sambhar, nilgai, chausingha (the four horned antelope), chinkara and hare. There is abundant bird life. Also in this area is an exquisitely carved Jain temple at Ranakpur.