ELLE (Australia) - - Travel -

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

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