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Udaipur

Set beside the blue waters of Pichola Lake and surrounded by the ancient Aravalli Hills, Udaipur has a romance which is unmatched by anything else in Rajasthan, possibly even in India. Even illustrious writer Rudyard Kipling remarked of Udaipur that you would surely "see it and die". This glamorous and easy-going city is a truly dazzling combination of white marble palaces, historic temples, ancient streets and lush landscaped gardens.

One of Udaipur's most iconic landmarks is the majestic Lake Palace, which floats like a glimmering mirage on Lake Pichola. Only accessible by boat, the Palace was built on Jagminder Island as a summer retreat and pleasure palace by Maharana Jagjit Singh II who ruled Jaipur in the 17th century. Now it offers an extraordinary stay of unparalleled luxury. The beautifully ornate lakeside City Palace is another unforgettable Udaipur sight, which draw visitors in from near and far to enjoy its splendour, especially at dusk when the Palace gently glows golden, sending luminous ripples out onto the calm lake. When the city was founded by the Maharaja Udai Singh in 1567, it became a centre for Mughal miniatures, a highly specialised and delicate art form, and a selection of which can be viewed at the City Palace, now in part a museum. Inside the City Palace you will also find the glittering Durbar Hall, which is resplendent with colossal chandeliers – some of the biggest in India.

One of the best ways to experience the allure of Udaipur is to enjoy the tranquillity of a boat ride, taken at sunset. Here visitors to this uniquely romantic city can admire the verdant ridges of the Aravalli Hills rising above from its deep blue waters, whilst taking in sights such as the Eklingarth Fort in the south and lakeside temples with bathing Ghats where local life can be observed and the stately havelis of the nobility.

In the Old City visitors can wander the narrow streets soaking up the atmosphere of the buzzing ancient bazaar. Here, local industry and traditional craft such as shoemaking and metalwork sit side-by-side with souvenir shops and small eateries serving samosas and chai tea. Udaipur's old city also has lively art galleries and quaint bookshops, making it the perfect place for browsing. Evenings see cultural displays come to life; at the beautiful Bagore-ki-Haveli Rajastani traditions are shown through lively dancing, folklore and puppetry.

Outside of Udaipur, there is beautiful surrounding countryside ready for exploring on wheels, feet or horseback. Five kilometres out of Udaipur is Sajjan Garth Palace, or Monsoon Palace (a place to view the monsoon clouds), a crumbling yet stately white marble building which sits on top of a thickly wooded hill, overlooking the magical panorama of Udaipur. Nearby is the Sajjan Garth Wildlife Sanctuary, set within a nature reserve. Here, visitors can spot tigers, hyenas and deer whilst enjoying a perfect escape from the steady bustle of Udaipur.

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