Northern Indian cities have one thing in common: it seems to be always loud, busy and chaotic. Everything is constantly on the move. Still, there was one city during my trip in India that gave a total different feeling. A city where I could feel relaxed and at ease. This was Udaipur: a valley city closed in by the Aravalli hills and surrounded by glistening lakes. Udaipur is different than Jodhpur or Jaipur in many ways, annd the basis for this is the history. For centuries Udaipur was part of the House of Mewar, the kingdom of the maharanas. Maharanas were proud rulers who considered themselves as the rulers of the state in the name of Shiva. Today, the maharanas are forgotten. Udaipur is now known as the white city of Rajasthan, a misleading name because there are more yellow colored houses than white. Overall, the city is a pleasant stop that I can recommend everyone on a trip through Rajasthan. In this article I will give you my five tips for a relaxed time in Udaipur.
Hit the water: boat ride over the Pichola Lake
Valley city Udaipur has a romantic image in India. This city is often compared to the Italian city Venice. This is because of the three lakes that surround Udaipur. The most well-known lake is the Pichola Lake. The best way to see this lake is by boat. From the Reshawar Ghat a tourist boat leaves every minute or so to go around the lake. The boat also stops at the Jag Mandir Palace. This is one of the two island palaces in Pichola Lake. This building was used as a summer residence and party place for the maharanas. But the palace had also briefly served as a shelter for refugees. Today, there isn’t really anything you can do at the Jag Mandir Palace, apart from a drink at the pricey café and restaurant. Still, a walk around the beautiful gardens is nice. After sunset the Jag Mandir palace is beautifully lit, so don’t forget to enjoy this from a rooftop terrace in the city.
Tasting the Indian cuisine: cooking class with Shashi
When I take a long trip I always try to book a cooking class in the country I visit. In China I went to a cooking class in Yangshuo, in India I joined a cooking class in Udaipur. Beautiful Shashi teaches here her magic. On our second night in Udaipur we walked to Shashi’s cooking studio. At the kitchen table she told us her life story. Shashi married (arranged marriage) when she was nineteen. Luckily it was a nice man and they had two children. In 2001 her husband was murdered by their best friend. Shashi had to grieve on her own: according to the Brahmin a widow cannot leave her house for a year, she’s not allowed to wear bright saris and it was forbidden to marry again. After years of grieving Shashi managed to get work as a cleaner. One night her sons came home with a new friend: an Irish tourist. The tourist joined them for dinner and he was impressed with the food. He advised Shashi to start a cooking school, and she did. Shashi didn’t speak any English at that point, but she managed to learn the English language with her cooking lessons. Today Shashi’s cooking classes are one of the most popular cooking schools in Udaipur.
The cooking class with Shashi was one of my highlights in Udaipur. Not only did it offer so much insight in the Indian way of life, we also learned to prepare several Indian dishes. In the end the table was filled with plates of potatoe and onion pakora, paneer butter masala and several chapatis and parathas. My favorite: sweet paratha with coconut and anise. Delicious!
Sleep as a royalty: go for a haveli
If you are going on a trip in Rajasthan, you should definitely stay at least one night at a haveli. A haveli is an old merchants house with a closed-off courtyard. Most havelis are beautifully decorated with wood carving, traditional details and colorful frescos. In Udaipur I stayed at one of the most beautiful havelis of my trip. It was the Jagat Niwas hotel, a seventeenth century haveli that is now turned into a heritage hote. The location is just perfect: right down at the banks of the Pichola Lake with a view over the Jag Mandir palace (magical at night!). This hotel has a beautiful courtyard, checkmate floor, several layers with little steps and hundreds of plants everywhere. This is really a hotel you almost don’t want to leave to go outside. I promiss you: this is no sponsored content, I’m just a fan!
Time for spirituality: Jagdish temple
Do you love seeing temples in Asia? Then you are in the right place in Udaipur. In the middle of the city you can walk the steps of the seventeenth century Jagdish temple. This is the largest temple of Udaipur. It is three stories high and fully devoted to the Hindu god Vishny. This temple is not only visited by tourists, but also by the locals. The Jagdish temple is an important pilgrim stop for sadhus. These are the followers of Shiva or Vishnu that devoted their life to spiritual liberation. Sadhus are colorful people with saffron colored clothing, long beards and painted heads. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any sadhu at the temple. Maybe it was because I visited the temple early in the morning.
Experience luxurious life at the city palace
Something you cannot miss in Udaipur is the city palace. The walls of this fortress are as impressive as the palaces in Jodhpur and Jaipur. And the location of the Udaipur palace is spectacular: right on a hill top nearby the Pichola Lake. The city palace of Udaipur is one of the largest palaces of Rajasthan. The complex exists out of four grand palaces and several smaller ones. Not only the exterior of the fortress is impressive, also the halls inside are great to see. Wall paintings, gemstones, glass mosaic and even Dutch tiles: it shows the excessive lifestyle of the maharanas. Today, most of the rooms are part of the museum.
Other relaxing tips for Udaipur:
- I also recommend strolling around in the centre of Udaipur. There are less cars than in other cities and the whole centre consists of winding streets and alleys. There are also nice paintings on the walls. A very enjoyable city!
- There is more to do in Udaipur than just cooking class. Go for a yoga session, an art lesson or get your henna on.
- Take a ride with the red cable carts to the mountain temple of Karni Mata. Unfortunately, I had no time for this, but I can imagine how beautiful the views must be.
Would you visit Udaipur?