The Indian state of Rajasthan captures the spirit of the country perfectly. While the more populous cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur have the bustling tourist calling cards covered, just over an hour’s flight away from either lies the “City of Lakes”, Udaipur, beckoning a slower pace with its old-world charm dating back to the 16th century. Think rambling streets filled with opulent palaces and havelis (traditional mansions), set amid a group of beautiful – but, if you can believe it, artificial – lakes, and backdropped by the hills of the Aravalli Range in the distance.
The pièce de résistance of Udaipur’s architecture, the City Palace, harks back to the beginning of the city itself and, constructed almost entirely of granite and marble over 400 years, is a must-see for good reason. Once you’ve ticked it off your list, spend your days zigzagging through winding alleys, scoping neighbourhood bazaars and tasting native fare – local favourite Millets Of Mewar adopts a slow-food approach with its vegan and gluten-free dishes, while the more upscale Ambrai is the perfect place to take in the sunset lakeside. Contemporary art spot Bougainvillaea Art Gallery and the more traditional Shilpgram – a sprawling creative hub just a short drive west of the city – will give you your culture fill.
When it comes to five-star digs, Udaipur has its fair share, not least of which is Taj Lake Palace (taj.tajhotels.com), made famous by a cameo in 007 flick Octopussy. But for a less-hyped alternative, try the super-luxe Raas Devigarh (raasdevigarh.com), set in an
18th-century fortress in the Aravalli Range. It’s restrained in its design but with all the trimmings you’d expect – most suites have their own private balconies overlooking the frangipanilaced gardens and surrounding peaks.
A 30-minute drive from the city centre, in the town of Bujra, lies Bujera Fort (bujerafort.com), a rose-coloured boutique hotel opened in 2015 at the hand of a British interior designer and, as such, impeccably furnished with a mix of both locally sourced and modern British wares. Take a bike tour of the surrounding region, or favour a G&T by the intricately tiled pool.
If flying through Jaipur, a stay at Amanbagh (aman.com) – a two-hour drive from the city – is worth the bucket-list price tag, as one of the exclusive Aman Hotels’ only two outposts in India. Also joining the region’s luxury contingent later this year is Six Senses, set to open its doors in a 700year-old fort once owned by the Rajasthani royal family. Talk about geotag goals.
PERFECT MIX: Indian and British touches come together at Bujera Fort (above)
PRIVACY SETTING: The lavish Amanbagh hotel (above) is set within a walled oasis