Udaipur with Kids
The next stop on our itinerary was Udaipur. We flew from Mumbai, and stayed here for 3 nights.
Udaipur is famous for artificial lakes and lavish palaces. The most famous Lake being Lake Pichola – overlooked by the equally famous and imposing City Palace. The spectacular Taj Palace hotel is also located in the middle of this Lake.
We arrived late afternoon, and were picked up at the airport by our hotel. The transfer is around 1.5-2 hours. We arrived at the hotel dock, and were transported by board over the lake, while our luggage was whisked by car round the rest of the lake to the hotel. What a way to arrive – the driver even let the kids have a turn driving the boat.
The Lake Palace
The most iconic building (and certainly the most photographed) in Udaipur is probably the Lake Palace. It was built as a summer palace in the 1700s for the ruling royal family. It was used by subsequent royal families. During the Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1847, many European families sought refuge here and at Jag Mandir.
The asylum was granted by the royal family, and the boats in the town were all destroyed to prevent rebels reaching the island. By the 1950s the palace was showing its age, and had fallen into disrepair. In the 1960s the ruler at the time decided to turn it into a luxury hotel. It was sold to the Taj group in the 1970s. The Lake Palace has been voted the most romantic hotel in India. In reality (from the outside anyway) it photographs better than it looks. We had intended to stay here, but the rooms are eye wateringly expensive, and the hotel complex is really not that large – we opted for the more spacious bur far cheaper Oberoi on the far side of the Lake.
The Lake Palace does not welcome casual visitors – though it is possible to visit for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea if you book ahead. We didn’t have time, and had to content ourselves with views from the outside. The Hotel features briefly in the James Bond movie Octopussy.
The Oberoi Udaivillas
The hotel we stayed at was the Udaivillas (Oberoi) – The hotel is fabulous. We got a great rate £300 for two rooms facing the lake, and for an additional £70 we were upgraded to suites that have “semi private pools” and astonishing views over the lake.
The communal pool is pretty fantastic as well. During the time we were there, other than us we didn’t see a soul using it. That said, the hotel was certainly not lacking in atmosphere, and was full of beautiful public areas to enjoy.
The City Palace
The City Palace is still used as the primary residence of the Udaipur royal family. We rented Tuk Tuks to take us into the town – a 15-20 minute drive. The auto rickshaws were seriously pimped up (well off because they can overcharge gullible tourists like us).
Like real amateurs we were persuaded that we needed two (rather than cramming us all in as we did on subsequently journeys). The kids loved whizzing through the streets on these.
Our tuk tuk driver had a brother (of course he did) who was a guide at the city palace so he was called, and gave us a great tour of the Palace. I would strongly recommend getting a guide, he gave us great insight and pointed out details we would definitely have overlooked.
The City Palace is still used as the primary residence of the Udaipur royal family – half is kept private for them (though their part was used in the Bond film Octopussy), and the rest is available to visit. The family are clearly well liked and respected by their “subjects”. Everyone we spoke to talked with a huge amount of pride about the royal family.
I would definitely allow a couple of hours to look round the palace.
We took the cable car up to one of the hills behind the City Palace. To be honest its so short, we could have walked, but we didn’t realise how short until we arrived at the cable car station….and it was hot and we were keen to hit the pool.
From the top of the cable car station, walk another 5 minutes up to the viewing platform for the best views.
Jag Mandir & Lake Pichola
Another palace built on the lake is Jag Mandir. Still owned by the royal family, and used for their family celebrations (it can also be hired out as a wedding venue). Boats to the island are only available from the city palace. They go hourly, and unfortunately we had just missed one, so had a long wait. Its definitely worth checking the schedule. The boat takes about 20 minutes round the lake before landing on the island. There is a restaurant on site, and the view is great, but the food is pretty average (I’m being generous). There isn’t much to see – some gardens etc, but nice to take a trip on the lake if your accommodation isn’t on the lake, or a place for photos of the City Palace.
Afternoon Tea on the Lake
At the time of booking, the hotel offered us afternoon tea with their compliments. I had kept this as a surprise from the rest of the family, and it wasn’t until we arrived at reception that they realised the tea would be served on one of the boats. It was absolutely magical. All the more so because of the surprise. We went out around 6pm and enjoyed the food, and watching the locals, doing laundry, swimming and hanging out around the lake.
We loved Udaipur, and were sorry to leave, but were excited to be moving on to our next stop Mihir Garh.