Luxury by the Lake in the ‘Venice of the East’
Built in 1746 as a Pleasure Palace for the young Prince Maharana Jagat Singh II, after he was discovered cavorting at moonlight picnics with ladies of the ‘Zenana’, this heritage hotel captures a beautiful sense of history, which echoes throughout the interiors of the rooms and the structure of the palace. It's fascinating to see India's vast and long-lasting history through the walls of the Lake Palace.
Having been restored to its former opulence, royal and regal as ever, the interior of each room has a distinct sense of style, with no two rooms quite the same. This adds to the unique features of the Lake Palace. There is exclusivity to the hotel as only resident guests staying truly experience it. Dinner is served in Bhairo, one of three restaurants offering contemporary western cuisine, and has astounding views of the beautifully lit City Palace. The views of the surrounding landscape from the Lake Palace, particularly during sunrise and sunset, are truly spectacular, and throughout the day one can hear the trickling of water - the whole experience creates a lasting impression like no other.
Known as the ‘Venice of the East’, the city of Udaipur with its elegant palaces, peaceful lakes, mysterious temples and glorious gardens, has a wonderful amount to offer and provides complete luxury by the lakeside.
The main site in Udaipur is the City Palace. This structure entwines the Rajput military architecture and Mughal-style embellishment and was interestingly built by 22 different Maharanas between the 16th and 20th centuries. Enter through the Tripoli Gate covered in spikes, used to ward off war elephants in the historic days. The City Palace, the largest complex in Rajasthan, has been home to 42 rulers over 400 years which one can see in the eclectic combination of Persian, Rajasthani and European architecture, and combination of arches, domes and towers.
It is truly magical that there is a city within this palace too. Make sure to visit the boutique shop Aashka, founded by the Princess of Udaipur which sells beautiful clothes, fabrics, home ware and silver, and Anokhi, a popular brand which recovers traditional textile skills in a sustainable way and supports local craftspeople. The high-quality affordable garments in Aashka and Anokhi come in all colours and prints, and make for the perfect gifts.
The dreamy Jag Mandir, a 17th century wonder, can only be reached by boat. The palace includes a spacious courtyard with white and black marble tiles, surrounded by eight life size white marble and yellow sandstone elephants, and gardens on the east side complimented with an array of colourful bougainvillea, jasmine, palm trees and roses, giving it the name of ‘Lake garden palace’. The Darikhana terrace has magnificent views and is the perfect spot from which to take photos.
The Leela Palace Udaipur has the finest location on the lake for surrounding views facing the Lake Palace and the City Palace. Dine at Sheesh Mahal an open-air fine dining Indian restaurant. One can dine on authentic Indian flavours whilst soaking up the atmosphere of the restaurant, which effortlessly glitters under a sky full of stars and flutters under the peaceful breeze from the lake.
Located on the north western shores of Lake Pichola is effortlessly elegant Oberoi Udaivilas. The rooms at Udaivilas are expertly and excellently decorated by Bill Bensley, who combines pops of colour with a regal Rajasthani flair, complete with private swimming pools. Here resides true luxury by the lakeside, where peacocks meander amongst the courtyards and through the pristine gardens. The rooms are bedecked with fine Indian textiles and custom designed furniture finishes, and intricate Jali’s combined with the charm of Mewar architecture flow through the corridors. Wander through Kartikeya’s garden, an area dominated by a traditional statue of Kartikeya - the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Wherever I wandered in the ‘Venice of the East’ whether it was Taj Lake Palace, The Leela Palace or The Oberoi Udaivilas, City Palace or Jag Mandir I was taken by surprise with the sheer warmth of the Indian hospitality which is truly one of its kind.
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