One of my all-time favourite places in India is Udaipur, in southern Rajasthan. Often called India’s most romantic city, it is also known as the ‘Venice of the East’. The ‘City of Lakes’ is surrounded by the rolling Aravali hills, white marble Palaces and a special magic which all combine to give Udaipur a very unique appeal. It is a centre for artists, dancers and musicians and the shopping is superb. Its other claim to fame is as the setting for James Bond’s Octopussy.
Formerly known as Mewar, Udaipur was founded in 1559 when Maharana Udai Singh II took flight from the third and final sacking of Chittorgarh by the Moghal Emperor Akbar. Thanks to the location, surrounded by the mountains, Udaipur was never again attacked, and went on to become the most powerful and important of all the Rajputana Kingdoms (those princely states which now make up Rajasthan – the Land of Kings).
The City Palace is part of the largest palace complex in India, with a total of 4 separate palaces, two of which have been turned into 5 star hotels, and one of those has a portion which is still the private residence of the Maharana and his family.
Udaipur was named the No. 1 tourist destination in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine a couple of years ago, and it’s not hard to understand why.Udaipur is famous for its ‘school’ of miniature painting. You can even visit an artist’s workshop and try your hand at creating a miniature yourself. The Monsoon Palace, high up on a hill overlooking the lakes of Udaipur was featured in Octopussy, and a trip up to the top rewards you with sensational views. Probably however the most famous spot in Udaipur, certainly one of the most photographed locations in India is the floating Lake Palace, once the Royal family’s summer residence, now a 5 star hotel. Covering an island in the middle of Lake Pichola, it is a picture perfect spot in a picture perfect location.