Recommendation number three for travelling India in August and September, the tail end of monsoon season is enjoying the views from the rooftops of the Lake City in Udaipur, Rajasthan.
Rooftops in Udaipur for a taste of old northern India
Even just stepping out of the airport in Udaipur, our first stop in Rajasthan, everything felt a bit different to the south of India. Straight away we were greeted by the Indian culture that I had imagined. You instantly felt like you were near the desert. Being in the north, the Arabian influence is felt much more strongly here, which is evident in the architecture, local dress and the food. However, with this change in feeling also comes a bit more harassment from pushy rickshaw drivers and unfriendly looks from both men and women who looked disapprovingly at my uncovered ankles. Compared to other cities in Rajasthan however, the old city of Udaipur feels positively calm and relatively clean, which is why it is a great place to spend a few days.
Udaipur feels like a bit of magic in the north. The old city is built right to the banks of a huge old lake and the views from the many rooftop restaurants and hotels are spectacular. Two or three days here is enough to enjoy the old sights and have time leftover to wander through the relatively peaceful (by India standards) winding streets and stop for a drink on the many on rooftops.
Walking through the around the city palace you will come across a lot of artwork painted above doors and on walls leading down narrow alley ways. There are of course cows all over the narrow roads and motorbikes horning you out of the way, but there is also an ancient feel about this city that brings a kind of calmness. We didn’t quite appreciate just how nice this was until we visited other cities in Rajasthan such as Jodphur. Udaipur is full of nice restaurants and cafes – not the case in every Rajasthani city – so finding somewhere to escape the heat and simply just siting in awe of the view is very easy.
We visited Udaipur in late August – early September, still the tail end of the monsoon and the weather did not impact us at all. While the heat was quite oppressive, the abundance of rooftop venues provide a good place to sit and cool down.
While in Udaipur you will certainly visit the following impressive sites. Read my tips on how to best enjoy them.
Undoubtedly the best attraction in Udaipur is the City Palace, which sits atop one of the banks of the Lake. It is a palace built over multiple generations starting in 1599 by Maharana Udai Sing II, Udaipur’s founder. The King of each generation added his own wing to the palace in an architectural style that was fashionable at the time. Hence the palace is an interesting mix of Hindu art, Islamic shapes, Belgium tiles and the unique miniature paintings – famous in Rajasthan.
Tickets to the museum were ₹250 in September 2016. You can get an audio guide or pay for a guide – ₹150 for the guide and ₹250 for the foreign language charge. If it’s in your budget then my suggestion would be to get a guide. Ours included lots of extra facts about Indian culture and religion, which enriched our tour. I cannot vouch for the audio guide, but having someone to talk us through the history and architecture of the palace was very useful. He only tried briefly to take us to a ‘good shop’ to buy artwork and pashmina, but quickly stopped hassling us when we said we had no interest.
By day Bagore-ki-Haveli is an old restored house open to visitors. By night however, it is the venue for an awesome display of Rajasthani dancing. The show runs between 7-8pm and costs ₹100 per person. It is loud and colourful and includes male and female performers of all ages. The highlight for me was the older women who danced at the end. You will no doubt also be in awe of her strength when you see her for yourself. The show is narrated in English and Hindi and provides a journey through Rajasthani history and tradition. After a day looking around the city palace this is a great way to bring your experience of Udaipur’s history and culture to life.
Udaipur accommodation: Mewari Villa
With its large secluded rooftop, clean and comfortable rooms and the friendly owner Samil, Mewari Villa is an ideal place to stay in Udaipur. It is close enough to the main sights that you can walk everywhere, but just far enough that it feels quiet in the evenings. The rooftop is an excellent place to sit and watch the sunset over the beautiful lake and hills in the background. We were going to go up to one of the other hills, but entry to this palace was₹250 each. We found the view from Mewari to be beautiful enough. The rooms at Mewari Villa have a private bathroom and fan and start from ₹650. The owner, Samil, who speaks excellent English is a great source of local knowledge and his family are always around for a little chat. You can order food at any time of the day and enjoy it on the roof.
Read on for my other suggestions for good food.
Food in Udaipur
Tribute: This is definitely the standout of Udaipur, but you do pay for the experience. Set beside the lake this five star restaurant takes no shortcuts in its delivery of outstanding service. There are numerous staff on hand to attend to your needs and orders are taken by at least two waiters at a time. The view over the lake is a beautiful place to enjoy your meal and if you’re ready for a splurge this is the place to go. We enjoyed the tandoori meat platter. The cocktails are good, but just make sure you adjust your expectations.
Chirag Rooftop Restaurant: This is a vegetarian restaurant, but another place with great views over the lake. They sell cheap gin and tonics and the aubergine curry is really tasty. A good, cheap restaurant for any meal of the day.
Candlelight Restaurant: A much quieter restaurant run by a family, but the tandoori chicken is outstanding – definitely the best we had in all of India. It is very reasonably priced and another location with a good water view. The family are lovely.
Jheel’s Ginger Coffee Bar: This is a pleasant café with a great view and reliable wifi. The drinks are on the pricier side, but you pay for the environment, which is very pleasant.
When you compare Udaipur to some other Indian cities it stands out as beautiful, peaceful and very comfortable. Even during the end of tail end of monsoon it proved a great place to spend a few nights and was great for wandering around aimlessly with breaks on rooftops with great views. Stay tuned for my next monsoon recommendation, which is also in Rajasthan. Camel treks in Jaisalmer are an experience of a lifetime.