BIKANER CITY

No one forget their first sight of the Lake City - UDAIPUR. Spreading around the shores of the idyllic Lake Pichola and back dropped by a majestic ring of craggy green hills, the city seems to summarize everything that’s most characteristically romantic about Rajasthan and India, with its obscure sequence of sumptuously turreted and balconied palaces, whitewashed havelis and bathing ghats huddled around the waters of the lake or in the case of the Lake Palace Hotel and Jag Mandir, floating magically upon them. Not that the city is quite as perfect as the publicity would have you believe. The drought which recently emptied Lake Pichola for several years has fortunately ended, and water levels have now been restored to their original levels, but numb modern lakeside development, appalling traffic and vast hordes of tourists mean that the city is far from unspoilt or undiscovered. Even so, Udaipur remains a richly rewarding place to visit, and although it’s possible to take in most of the sights in a few days, many people spend at least a week exploring the city and the various attractions scattered about the surrounding countryside.

Most accommodation in Udaipur is clustered around the City Palace and Jagdish Temple on the east side of Lake Pichola, where countless guesthouses compete with elegant havelis and royal palaces for views of the water. Aggressive competition has meant perennially low tariffs for punters in most categories, but has also sparked off a destructive building boom as hoteliers scramble to attract customers with better views from ever loftier roof terraces; the result is a mass of hideous concrete that threatens to engulf the very skyline tourists flock here to see. A more appealing option is to head to the enclave of guesthouses and hotels on the west side of Lake Pichola, just across the bridge by Chand Pol.

Many of the places here dwell in prime spots with finest views of the palace complex, and this entire area also has the added benefit of being much more peaceful than the area around the City Palace. There are also a few places dotted around other parts of the city and along Lake Palace Road; these usually have larger rooms and gardens but lack the views.

The original settlement of Udaipur grew up around the grand City Palace, bordering the east shore of Lake Pichola, while right away north is the maze of tightly winding streets that constitute the old city. North of here stretches the second of Udaipur’s two major lakes, Fateh Sagar, surrounded by a cluster of more low-key sights including Moti Magri park and the gardens of Sahelion-ki-Bari. Further afield, most visitors make the trip out (often by bicycle – a pleasant little ride) to the crafts village of Shilpgram, while many also make it up to the so-called “Monsoon Palace”, Sajjangarh – from where there are fantastic views over Udaipur and the surrounding countryside.