We stayed two nights in Udaipur, which was a good decision and we could have stayed a day or two more; there’s always something to see and do in the so-called City of Lakes. We stayed at Yellow Heights Hotel, which takes pride in being the cleanest hotel in India, according to the yearly Tripadvisor and Booking.com award certificates that decorate the walls, not one year missing, I have to agree: the place is spotless.
Udaipur is a city of artists. Art, especially miniature painting, is what this place is famous for, and deservedly so. Here, you can buy art, watch how it’s made, discuss art, admire it, and learn the traditional techniques of miniature painting. Sure, the motives are repetitive (mainly camels, peacocks, and elephants), the artistry varies a bit on closer inspection only (I’m not an expert, so that’s just my laywoman’s opinion) and the various canvases used are the same everywhere. However, among the many shops selling and producing paintings, you can find some real gems with unique pieces of art and artists who not necessarily want to sell you anything but who live for and love what they do.
One of Udaipur’s main sights is the city palace, a vast palace next to the lake with some interesting exhibits. It’s impressive and the rooms are beautifully decorated, some painted, others adorned with mirrors or tiles.
Unfortunately, the palace seems a bit rundown and shabby, once white walls are black, and the paintings suffer under the strain of the masses that visit the palace. Again, we went without a guide and, despite the impressive rooms and decorations, were keen on passing through as fast as possible – it was simply too crowded and the majority of visitors were only interested in taking selfies.
Right next to the lake is a pretty square on the waterfront where, if you’re lucky, sits an old man playing a traditional Indian string instrument, very beautiful and peaceful. Before the gate that leads to the square is Bagore ki Haveli, a restored 18th-century haveli. It’s now a museum (which we didn’t visit) and in the evenings, there are traditional dance shows in the courtyard.
The poster outside the entrance to the haveli announces the program. It’s best to get there early (it might even be possible to get the tickets the day before), as the shows are very popular with foreign and Indian tourists alike. Foreign tourists pay more but can also get in front of the line and hence get a better seat. Note that if you want to take pictures, you have to pay extra; there are people checking during the show if you have a “camera permit”. The dance show is amazing, it’s really worth going to see it. Before each dance, a presenter makes a brief introduction in English and Hindi explaining the dance’s meaning and origin. The show is surprising, beautiful, funny and always entertaining. It’s not to be missed!
Besides the obvious attractions, most of them close to the lake, Udaipur has much to discover, not only in terms of art. Venture away from the lake and get lost in the narrow alleys where you will discover charming old buildings adorned with paintings, tiny shops, tailors sewing, kids playing, and a bustling Indian city that seems more ancient than modern but so very fascinating and alive. We kept strolling through the maze of tiny streets until long after sunset and until we just couldn’t stand any more motorcycles and beeping horns.
Udaipur is a place where it’s easy to spend a few days. Apart from sightseeing, getting lost in the old city and admiring or buying paintings, you can take art or cooking classes and stroll along the lake. A narrow bridge crosses the lake (so narrow, that no motorbikes can pass – amazing!) from where you can enjoy the sunset and then have some good naan in the restaurant on the other side of the lake.