Udaipur, also known as the City of Lakes, is a located in Rajasthan surrounded by beautiful mountains and numerous temples that offer great viewpoints of the city.
The artificial lakes create an amazing contrast to the lush green mountains and city skyline. Udaipur is one of those cities you could spend a couple weeks in and not get bored with countless activities to do throughout your days and nights.
After a 12 hour bus ride from Jaisalmer to Udaipur for 855 rupiah ($13) we found a tuk tuk to take us for 50 rupiah (80 cents) each to our hostel Backpacker Panda at Lake Pichola. This hostel accommodated us with beds to sleep in prior to checking into our room because it was so incredibly early when we arrived. Backpacker Panda is a quieter hostel, but we had a lovely stay and the staff was very kind.
Udaipur, also known as the Venice of India, has winding streets and alleyways full of shops, all types of markets, and great cafes/restaurants on the waterfront. We wandered around and found ourselves buying 300 rupiah ($5) tickets to visit The City Palace. The Palace was massive and through the windows you could see all different parts of the city. You can also go back in the evening for Sound and Light Show for 200 rupiah ($3.50). I wasn’t all that impressed with the show as I found it quite boring and hard to follow, but if you’re into that sort of thing by all means knock yourself out!
We walked down an alley way and found Chillex, a restaurant on the rooftop of Hotel Janek Niwas, with an unobstructed view of the palace and mountains. We enjoyed some beers and watched the sun go down behind the palace. The owner was very kind and an amazing henna artist who offered a free henna class to us whenever we would like. The food was a bit overpriced for what it was, but the beers were ice cold and the view was lovely!
Udaipur is full of life even into the night. I would start every night on the rooftop of Backpacker Panda and scout out the lights and fireworks that would lead me to the weddings. I crashed one wedding while in Udaipur. The cousin of the bride informed me that their family is part of the highest caste in India and they are Brahman meaning they do not drink, eat meat or believe in sex before marriage. Most of them spoke English which made it much easier for me to enjoy myself and learn as much as possible about the Indian culture and weddings in India. They brought me up on stage to dance in front of 300 people as well as take photos with the bride and groom. An incredible amount of selfies were taken at this wedding, but it was fun to see how excited it made them. I highly recommend walking into a wedding in India if you get a chance!
While traveling it’s hard to find a good place to work out. My friends and I were in need of some good feeling endorphins and found an amazing gym called 4 Sure Fitness. They have a daily drop in rate of 300 rupiah ($5) and the facilities are quite impeccable given it’s India. It felt a lot like home.
The owner of the gym and I became fast friends after he offered to take us home following our first visit to his gym. Diwakar was kind enough to tour me around Udaipur visiting Bari Lake and Fateh Sagar. He introduced me to the most delicious paneer rolls and bought us cold fresh coconuts after one of our workouts. Diwakar continued to entertain us on the way home by spotting the biggest elephant we've ever seen. Last, but certainly not least he took me to one of his friend’s weddings.
Yes, another wedding! This wedding was incredibly large with over a thousand people. There was every type of cuisine you could imagine, big screen TV’s everywhere flipping through photos of the bride and groom, trees wrapped in beautiful lights, espresso stands serving all types of coffee and ice cream floats, colorful tents and gazebos and a wall of stunning white roses as the backdrop of the stage. It was funny to see Diwakar’s reaction to everyone staring and taking pictures of me. He claimed that I was a celebrity and I’m sure it’s the closest I’ll get to feeling like one in my lifetime.
It was interesting to see the various daily traditions of each wedding and hear what the locals valued as important on their wedding day. There is a ton of emphasis on food, lots of dancing, flower necklace exchanges, horse riding, carriage carrying and a whole day dedicated to taking photos with the bride and groom.
One night my friend and I were approached by a lovely local while eating at Yummy Yoga. He asked if we wanted to be extras in a Bollywood film for a day and we figured why not?! We spent the whole next day at a waterfront hotel amongst the actors and actresses experiencing first hand what it’s like behind the scenes of a Bollywood film. Not only did we get paid and fed, but we got to hang out with a handful of awesome people. Dhadak will be released June 2018, look out for the ginger in the background!
While in Udaipur there was an Islamic festival that took place. This was the craziest, busiest, most colorful, and loud festival I have ever experienced. All of the women and men were dressed to the nines in their traditional gear, Pakistani flags everywhere, gun shots, firecrackers, tons of confetti, massive beautiful tents that took over the streets and an unbelievable amount of colors. I couldn’t walk more than ten feet without someone coming up to me for a selfie. I think I took more selfies in an hour at that festival than I have in the past six weeks combined in India.
We visited the Folklore Dance and Cultural Show one night at the museum. It was an hour long show that exemplified all the different dances of India. The costumes and various forms of dance were entrancing to watch. One of the performers was 71 year old and balanced eleven pots on her head while dancing. INCREDIBLE! It was 150 rupiah entry and worth every penny!
The spice and vegetable market in Udaipur is also worth a visit. The hustle and bustle of this market is insane. A random man and his four children wanted me to take a photo of them on their motorbike as they drove by while hundreds of people shopped for their produce sold from piled high carts and newspapers on the ground. Every time I walk through one of these markets I’m blown away by the number of people who sell the exact same thing and sit out in the blazing hot sun all day with zero sanitation anywhere. It’s their normal and it works for them!
Things to do:
- Visit the Lakes! Lake Bari, Lake Fateh Sagar, Lake Pichola
- Monsoon Palace- 300 rupiah ($5) entry. Good viewpoint of Udaipur.
- The City Palace & Sound and Light show- 300 rupiah ($5) entry into the Palace and Museum during the day. 200 rupiah ($3.50) entry for Sound and Light Show starts around 7pm.
- Crash a wedding- You’ll be welcomed with open arms! Enjoy the spicy food and all the dancing.
- Be an extra for a Bollywood Film!
- Shopping- There are a number of markets to shop at including Palace Road, Tibetan Market & Hathi Pol.
- Visit the spice and vegetable market!
- 4 Sure Fitness Gym- 300 rupiah daily drop in rate
- Cooking class- 800 rupiah ($9.50) 3 hour cooking course. Many places offer them including Yummy Yoga.
- Folklore Dance and Cultural Show- 150 rupiah entry ($2.20) @ the Museum by the waterfront just past Jheel’s
- Cable car- 103 rupiah ($1.50) for a lift up to the viewpoint. You can also walk.
- Rent motorbikes and drive around!
Where to eat:
- Yummy Yoga- Delicious curries, pakoda, green salad, never ending muesli and fabulous owners! Huge portions for a good price. They gave me an ice cream scoop with a message on my last day in Udaipur.
- Millets of Mewar- The absolute best muesli with coconut milk.
- Edelweiss German Bakery- Great place to grab a sandwich or baked good.
- Neelam Restaurant- Inexpensive never ending Thali! Very kind owners and delicious local Indian cuisine.
- Balbaalto Restaurant- Delicious Paneer Rolls - 230 rupiah ($4) each
- Chillex Cafe and Restaurant- Rooftop for sunset and beers. Food is good, but more expensive and smaller portions. Beers are 200 rupiah each!
- Chirag Restaurant Rooftop Restaurant- Delicious malai kofta. Great view of the lake!
- Jheel’s Ginger Coffee and Bakery- Amazing espresso and a great view!
- Street Food Circle/ Sukhadiya Circle- A bunch of street food carts for a cheap and delicious meal!
- Satori Cafe- Espresso and vegan dishes.
- Grasswood Cafe- Espresso and vegan dishes.
Where to stay: There are a handful of guesthouses and a few hostels to choose from while in Udaipur. Rates will vary depending on when you visit and can be reduced with a bit of bartering, especially if you are planning to stay a bit longer.
- Bunkyard- I heard this had the best vibe and great social atmosphere. Anywhere from $5-$10 a night
- Moustache- $5-$11 per night
- Backpacker Panda Lake Pichola- $4-$10 per night- Quieter hostel, not a very organized reception, but in a good location and very friendly.
- GoStops- $5-$10 per night
Enjoy Udaipur and all the lovely people that make this city so great!