No longer in the shadow of the iconic UNESCO World Heritage City of Jaipur, Udaipur has evolved into a heritage hot-spot and top tourist destination in Rajasthan. This isn’t surprising, as the romantic city of lakes and palaces invariably delights visitors with its enchanting setting and evocative regal history. The Mewar royal family has done much to preserve and make accessible the legacy of their ancestors, who founded Udaipur in the 16th century1. In addition to this stately splendor, Udaipur is a laid-back city that offers great value for all types of travelers. The 1983 James Bond movie “Octopussy” was filmed there, too!
Find out all you need to know in this Udaipur guide.
Planning Your Trip
- Best Time to Visit: Udaipur’s location at the southern end of the Aravalli Range separates it from the Thar Desert, producing a semi-arid local steppe climate that’s not too extreme. The cool, dry, and sunny months from October to February are most comfortable and draw the crowds. Nights do get nippy during the middle of winter, but the days are gloriously warm, with temperatures of up to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). If you’d prefer a more peaceful experience, the September shoulder season after the monsoon could be perfect. Only visit Udaipur during April and May if you don’t mind temperatures touching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or more. Read more about the weather and climate in Udaipur and the best time to visit Udaipur.
- Language: Rajasthani (Mewari local dialect), Hindi and English.
- Currency: Indian rupee.
- Time Zone: UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) +5.5 hours, also known as Indian Standard Time. Udaipur does not have daylight saving time.
- Getting Around: Udaipur’s narrow lanes are ideally explored on foot, so do bring comfortable walking shoes. Auto rickshaws are readily available and should cost under 100 rupees ($1.40) to go anywhere within the city. App-based cabs Uber and Ola are the most convenient way of reaching attractions on the city’s outskirts. They’re usually cheaper and less-hassle than auto rickshaws.
- Travel Tip: If hot weather isn’t an issue, the Gangaur festival takes place in April and is the biggest festival of the year in Udaipur. The three-day Mewar festival, dedicated to showcasing the region’s culture, is held alongside it and is a fun experience.
Things to Do
Udaipur has a compact but captivating collection of museums that showcase the region’s culture and heritage. Simply wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere is among the most enjoyable things to do in Udaipur. Those who are feeling energetic can cycle around the city, hike in the hills, or even go horseback riding. Cooking classes are a hit with foreigners. Udaipur is renowned for its unique miniature paintings, and they make great gifts. You can even paint your own. Many tourists love shopping in Udaipur because of the abundance of irresistible handicrafts. Do allow some time for a day trip or two into the surrounding countryside—there are some interesting options, including ancient forts and temples.
- The City Palace Complex, including the City Palace Museum, is Udaipur’s star attraction. More than one million people visit it each year2. It’s the largest palace complex in Rajasthan and provides incredible insight into the life of the royal family.
- A boat ride on Lake Pichola is magical at sunset! (Sit on the right side of the boat for the best vista).
- A heritage walking tour will immerse you in Udaipur’s old city off the tourist trail.
What to Eat and Drink
Distinct from predominantly vegetarian Rajasthani cuisine, the local Mewari cuisine in Udaipur features an assortment of rustic meat dishes, as the royal rulers of the region were avid hunters. Laal Maas (spicy red mutton curry) is the most famous dish. Fresh fish from the region’s lakes is part of the cuisine too. You may even find rabbit on some restaurant menus!
Vegetarians can try regional specialties such as Gatte ki Sabji (steamed chickpea flour dumplings in a tangy tomato and yogurt curry) and Dal Bati Churma. Udaipur is also renowned for its deep-fried snacks such as Mirchi Bada (large green chilies stuffed with spices and potato) and Kachori (pastry discs with spiced lentils or onion fillings). For sweet tooths, there are desserts, including Malpua (pancakes fried and dunked in sugar syrup) and Ghevar (a cake-like dish soaked in sugar syrup and ghee).
The few bars that Udaipur does have close by midnight. So, if you’re looking for nightlife in Udaipur, you’ll be disappointed. Drinks are best enjoyed under the stars at a rooftop with a mesmerizing backdrop of the city and Lake Pichola.
Where to Stay
The majority of Udaipur’s accommodations are situated on Lake Pichola’s east side, in the Lal Ghat, Gangaur Ghat, and Chandpole areas bordering the lake. This is on the same side of the lake as the City Palace and is in the heart of the old part of the city, so you’ll have easy access to the main attractions. There are all kinds of properties, including boutique heritage hotels, guesthouses, and backpacker hostels. Many offer lake views. Read more about the various neighborhoods in Udaipur.
Two authentic palace hotels are set within the City Palace Complex itself—the Taj Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel and Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel (which features in “Octopussy”). The ethereal Taj Lake Palace Hotel, which appears to float right in the middle of Lake Pichola, is the top choice, though.
Across the bridge, the northwest side of Lake Pichola around Hanuman Ghat is quieter, but hotels proliferate. The benefit of staying on this side of the lake is that you’ll be able to see the City Palace across the lake. Luxury five-star hotels such as The Leela and the Oberoi Udaivilas also front this side of the lake, albeit in more isolated spots.
Udaipur’s airport is 30 to 40 minutes east of the city. It’s a small domestic airport that receives flights from Jaipur and major cities in India, including Delhi and Mumbai.
Udaipur is situated about five hours south of Jodhpur, and there are several attractions (such as Kumbhalgarh fort and Ranakpur Jain temple) to check out on the way. Therefore, it makes sense to hire a car and driver to travel between these two cities if you’re exploring Rajasthan. You can also drive from Jaipur to Udaipur, or vice-versa, and spend a night in Bundi to break the journey. (Bundi is about five hours from Udaipur and four hours from Jaipur).
Indian Railways trains stop at Udaipur, although services are quite limited. The railway station, Udaipur City, is only five minutes east of the City Palace area. Its station code is UDZ.
Culture and Customs
Tipping isn’t compulsory in India, although it’s expected if you’re happy with the service. A 10 to 15 percent tip is sufficient at a restaurant, or simply round the bill up on smaller amounts. Flag down the waiter to get your bill. Hotels will commonly have a tip box where you can leave gratuities for the staff. Tour guides can be tipped a couple of hundred rupees per day, and around 400 rupees for drivers.
Being a popular tourist destination, Udaipur has its share of scams to watch out for. Beware of anyone who tells you a royal wedding is about to take place (they’ll lead you to a tailor’s shop to get an overpriced outfit made for the non-existent occasion), or that they’re involved in exhibiting special embroidery or other handicrafts (which they’ll end up trying to sell you).
Dress standards are fairly conservative in Udaipur. It’s respectful to keep your shoulders and legs below the knee covered. Ladies, if it’s hot and you want to wear a sleeveless top or dress, solve the problem by throwing on a shawl when necessary.
- Hotel rates fall by 50 to 75 percent from March until the end of September, during the summer and monsoon season. For some people, this may make luxury hotels affordable. Fantastic deals are guaranteed during this time, no matter where you stay.
- Grab an unlimited Rajasthani thali (platter) for lunch. You’ll be able to eat as much as you can for only a few dollars.
- Haggling is expected at markets and other stores that aren’t fixed-price (such as government emporiums). Here are some tips for bargaining to help with the process.