A sojourn in Udaipur, with its kaleidoscope of romance, art and architecture, gives a glimpse into the fabled bygone era of Indian royalty. It is, for many, the most magical of all the famous Rajasthani towns – so beautiful it feels like a fairytale – so do not miss it off your itinerary.
Often touted as the Venice of the East, Udaipur has never been short on compliments. Built around the picturesque Lake Pichola, home to haunting marble palaces and surrounded by the Aravalli Hills, it's hard to remember it's actually in the middle of the desert.
If your budget runs to it, the perennial favorite for it's sheer uniqueness and majesty has to be the Taj Lake Palace. As the scene stealing location for Bond's Octopussy, the former Maharajah's Summer Palace is a vision of glazing white marble and mosaic positioned IN Lake Pichola – that's right, not on the banks, but smack bang in the middle! It really is a sight to behold. The Lake Palace is perfect for the romantics, in particular Honeymooners, with it's traditional theme and private dining pontoon it makes lovers swoon again and again with its traditional Indian atmosphere.
The sleek Udaivilas rarely misses the Top Five list of any reliable rating of the world's best hotels. Adorning the shores of Lake Pichola with to-die-for views over the lake, this magnificent but new structure is an amalgamation of regal Rajputana grandeur and modern luxury and is one of the Oberoi Group's signature properties. All the rooms have stunning marble bathrooms, many have private pools and the restaurants and service is ridiculously good.
For some, Udaivilas is the place to stay for its freshness, luxe details and romantic views of the lake and the Taj Lake Palace hotel floating in the middle of it.
The Lake Palace can not match the plushness of Udaivilas but is much more authentically Indian and the decoration is definitely heavier and more traditional. Suites are a swirl of sumptuous silks, myriad vibrant murals and intricately carved furniture. Butlers bustle around to fulfill your every wish including organizing magical supper locations – the Lily Pond, the Mewar Terrace overlooking the lake, the marigold-decked royal barge or a pontoon in the middle of the lake. It's utterly otherworldly. The downside is that this time, the service does not come close to that of Udaivilas, and when your paying upwards of $ 700 a night, that counts.
Although I'm a sucker for a classic, I just can not go past the Oberoi experience, so I vote for Udaivilas for sumptuous spoiling. Now all I have to do is find someone to share all that romantic ambiance.
PS Although this post deals with the upper stratosphere of classic high-end Udaipur, the charms and opulence of Devi Garh and the new Leela Kempinski are not to be overlooked and are also worthy contenders to host your stay. Udai Kothi and Jagat Niwas are also more reasonably priced alternatives with traditional architecture and great locations.