What better way to end your day in Udaipur than enjoying a picturesque boat cruise along Lake Pichola. Watch the lake glimmer during a beautiful sunset as you pass Udaipur’s illuminated skyline dotted with mansions. Admire stately palaces on the lake’s islands and learn about Udaipur’s culture and history from your knowledgeable guide.
Udaipur’s tag of ‘the most romantic spot on the continent of India’ was first applied in 1829 by Colonel James Tod, the East India Company’s first Political Agent in the region. Today the romance is wearing ever so slightly thin as Udaipur strains to exploit it for tourist rupees. In the parts of the city nearest the lake, almost every building is a hotel, shop, restaurant, travel agent – or all four rolled into one. Ever-taller hotels compete for the best view, too many mediocre restaurants serve up near-identical menus, and noisy, dirty traffic clogs some of the streets that were made for people and donkeys.
Limpid and large, Lake Pichola reflects the cool grey-blue mountains on its rippling mirror-like surface. It was enlarged by Maharana Udai Singh II, following his foundation of the city, by flooding Picholi village, which gave the lake its name. The lake is now 4km long and 3km wide, but remains shallow and dries up completely during severe droughts. The City Palace complex, including the gardens at its southern end, extends nearly 1km along the lake’s eastern shore.
Taj Lake Palace, the icon of Udaipur, is a romantic and extra ordinary white-marble palace seemingly floating on the lake, with open-air courtyards, lotus ponds and a small, mango-tree-shaded pool. Rooms are hung with breezy silks and filled with carved furniture. Some of the cheapest overlook the lily pond rather than the lake; the mural-decked suites will make you truly feel like a maharaja. Access is by boat from the hotel’s own jetty in the City Palace gardens.
The palace on Jagmandir Island, about 800m south of Jagniwas, was built by Maharana Karan Singh in 1620, added to by his successor Maharana Jagat Singh, and then changed very little until the last few years when it was partly converted into another (smaller) hotel. When lit up at night it has more romantic sparkle to it than the Lake Palace. With its entrance flanked by a row of enormous stone elephants, the island has an ornate 17th-century tower, the Gol Mahal, carved from bluestone and containing a small exhibit on Jagmandir’s history, plus a garden and lovely views across the lake.
Surmounted by balconies, towers and cupolas towering over the lake, the imposing City Palace is Rajasthan’s largest palace, Construction was begun in 1599 by Maharana Udai Singh II, the city’s founder, and it later became a conglomeration of structures (including 11 separate smaller palaces) built and extended by various maharanas, though it still manages to retain a surprising uniformity of design.
Boat trips leave roughly hourly from Rameshwar Ghat, within the City Palace complex The trips make a stop at Jagmandir Island, where you can stay for as long as you like before taking any boat back. Boat trips on the lake are available, as a cheaper alternative to those offered in the City Palace complex. You can take 30-minute boat rides from Lal Ghat, throughout the day without the need to enter the City Palace complex: it’s worth checking in advance what time the popular sunset departure casts offs.
And..if you are wary of water rides, there is still places to linger along and set your sights from the land shores. Head to the small Sunset Point Park that has dazzling views over Lake Pichola, Jagmandir Island and off toward the Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace). And if you want to be be pleased with aerial view of the lake, opposite the park is the lower station of the Ropeway , a cable car which swings over to Machla Magra hill where the views are even more expansive and a Mata Karni temple to get blessed.