It is our fourth visit to Udaipur. An amazing feat considering we have to scrounge around for every leave, holiday and day off to manage most of our trips. We’ve already explored everything on the “lists” but there is always something that keeps beckoning us back. A road trip means I will be paying more attention to the roads than the journey and my partner beside me. The roads are butter smooth as always. The weather is amazing with a cool breeze keeping us company throughout the journey even as the clock on the dashboard approached the mid-day mark. Even our randomizer playlist seems to echo our mood and belts out one decent song after another. Foodies that we are, refuelling pitstops always means food to us. We are travelling from Ahmedabad and breakfast is always a typical Gujarati fare of fafda (heavenly deep-fried snack made with chickpea flour) and jalebi (Indian sweet shaped as a spiral) with some kanda poha (tossed flattened rice with onions) on the side. However, the descriptions (made by the Masterchef viewer in us) themselves do not do them justice. So, the next time you’re driving through Gujarat, be sure to stop and eat, you will be thanking us later. Frankly speaking, there are plenty of options on the highway and you can hardly go wrong with any option. It usually takes about 4-5 hours to reach Udaipur, however, we had failed to correctly gauge the love we Gujaratis have for food and temples and hence took a great deal longer to reach our destination, despite our best efforts.
The Airbnb we booked this time around, was in the middle of nowhere. It took us more than a few hiccups to locate which was a big pain point for weary (and ever-hungry) travellers like us. However, it was well worth the wait. Like most hotels in Udaipur, the place looked like a mini palace from the outside and had all modern amenities for our convenience on the inside. Give a man wifi and a comfortable washroom and he’s set for life 😛 Network reception was poor as expected of the location but isn’t it the best thing to happen to you on a holiday? Incredibly scenic, the place was surrounded by hills. The nearest “peak” was supposed to be a 10-minute walk and a 20-minute climb for the best sunrise views in the region. All of this sounded fantastic but don’t we all come to Udaipur for the lakes?
Over the years we’ve explored most nooks and crannies of this beautiful city. We’ve also discovered some hidden gems, which are often empty because most tourists simply don’t know about them. Even with ready access to information on the Internet, we’ve found that people seldom research the destination before visiting. This means the popular places are always stretching their capacities while our hidden gems stay free of crowds. For example, there’s a garden right opposite the Karni Mata ropeway entrance at doodh talai, which offers possibly the best sunset views of the lake and the palace. The Municipal Boating centre, also at doodh talai offers lesser wait time and more value than the jetty at the city palace. Talking of lakes, the Fateh Sagar Lake is as beautiful as Lake Pichola with only the Lake Palace missing from the view. If you’re okay with that, it offers better places to sit and enjoy the view without the trademark tourists clamouring for a pic nearby. If you’re still reading, you’ve possibly noticed, everything we’ve talked about had something to do with the lakes. This is because, the entire tourism structure in Udaipur is built around them including the palaces, which are built on their banks. We’ve stayed at the Fateh Sagar Palace previously with a suite offering the best views of Pichola. We were there on a full moon night, and we can sincerely say that the lake looks absolutely divine under the moonlight. We saw many things on that trip but this was a lasting memory we took back with us. There is a reason why Udaipur is called one of the most romantic cities in India after all. That said we’ve always maintained that even though we believe that Udaipur deserves its position on that list it’s possibly not only because of the lakes. We believe the hills also have a part to play.
Read our review of the fantastic Fateh Sagar Palace
The Aravalli range bisects most of Rajasthan and stretches all the way from Delhi to Ahmedabad. The oldest fold mountain ranges in the country, they seemingly date back to the time when the pre-Indian subcontinent collided with the Eurasian continent. If we’re comparing mountains, the Himalayan range is basically a toddler. So yeah, pretty old. Given their presence, they’re an integral part of literature and folklore. One of the striking examples is in Kim by Rudyard Kipling in which the hills are captured beautifully and readers are brought into a world of their own. In reality, as well, every peak of these dusty, dusky hills lining the horizon, has a story to tell. The ruins of temples and forts which line them are now home to overgrown weeds, monkeys, leopards and possibly the odd ghost. It’s a sad truth that while the Himalayan mountains get a flurry of tourists come holiday season, these old hills lie mostly forgotten; both by time and its traveller.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. That said, these green hills and their rocky outcrops are a stark contrast to our idea of Rajasthan. Yellow is the colour most of us associate with this desert state so the lush green cover of these hills is surprising, to say the least. Contrast them further with the colourful attire of the rural folk and you’ve got a Pantone shade book of your own to take back home. Think neon pink and orange sarees of the womenfolk in the fields and the brightly coloured turbans of white dhoti-clad sun-kissed elders sipping on their hookahs. If you’re like us, you will be visiting the local markets to take some of this colourful attire back with you as well.
We digress. The romance of the hills, in our opinion has been taken for granted and receded into the background when it comes to Udaipur, the city of lakes. This is surprising because we tend to forget that the best views of this beautiful city come from the hills that surround it. A short ropeway ride (with a long waiting line) takes you to the top of the Machla Magra hills where the temple dedicated to Karni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Durga, is built. Come evening, it provides arguably the best views of the city, especially with the city palace all lit up. On the other end of the city lies the majestic Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace which provides a different perspective of Udaipur from its similarly high vantage point. Imagine a strong breeze with a hint of chill blowing across your face while you sit on the ledge overlooking the lit-up city of Udaipur in all its glory. You point at the tiny blip in the middle of the lake which is the Lake palace, standing tall surrounded by palaces and palace hotels on all sides. With the other, you lightly caress your partner’s hand, your fingers interlocked, as you both get lost in the beautiful vista from what could be the top of the world for all you care. This was us, and this is why we’ve fallen in love with the hills in Udaipur.
If you’re planning a trip to Rajasthan, also read our Ultimate Rajasthan Itinerary
If you’ve read till here, we leave behind a hidden tip for you. Check our Bahubali (Badi) Hills, a scant 6 Km from Fateh Sagar Lake.