Built around a man-made lake and surrounded by beautiful green hills, Udaipur is a small lakeside city with massive character and amazing scenery. You only have to spend five minutes here to see why it's described as India's most romantic place. After every corner, you're left scrambling for your camera and at times you forget you're in India.
The locals are super friendly and they will go out of their way to help you. Even though you still get hassled by shop owners and tuk tuk drivers, their pleas for business are humorous and good willed. There's a relaxed vibe about Udaipur and it's worlds apart from the chaos of Delhi.
And with plenty to do, the majority of which is all within walking distance, it's a fantastic place to explore.
Six must-visit places in Udaipur
1. Monsoon Palace – also know as Sajjan Garh, this palace is upon the top of a hill and it's easy to see why this used to be a summer retreat for royalty. With spectacular views of Udaipur and hilly green countryside, you can spend hours here just marvelling at the surroundings. The road leading up to the palace is great fun to drive on, as it winds around a nature reserve on tight single track roads. The palace is also lit up at night, often given the illusion that it's floating in the sky.
2. Sunset at Dudh Talai Lake – this area comes alive in the evening with locals congregating around and socialising. There's also a cable car to the top of the hillside, which offers jaw-dropping views of Udaipur City and Lake Pichola, as well as having a small temple to explore.
3. Jagdish Temple – The main place of worship in Udaipur has an impressive entrance with numerous stone stairs and two large elephant statues. This serves as a main meeting point for locals and the steps are often lined with women in colourful saris. The careful stone detailing on the exterior is also extremely impressive and the closer you get, the more you appreciate the craftsmanship. Inside, there's often singing and clapping, which is sure to put a smile on your face.
4. City Palace – an impressive structure built right next to the lake, this palace seems to be a centre point of modern day Udaipur. With a cheap entrance fee and plenty of rooms to explore, the palace is definitely a must see. It also offers great views of the lake and the city, giving even more reason to visit.
5. Spice and Food Markets – with smells attacking your senses, people pushing past and traffic winding through the narrow streets, the markets are certainly an experience. This is all made worthwhile by there being so much to look at. You're always stretching your neck to see the masses of fresh produce, sweet and savoury snacks, overflowing bags of spices, and stalls selling fake branded clothes.
6. Sunset at Ambrai Ghat Park – this is a great place to spend some time with the locals. You can enjoy the sunset whilst seeing handmade fishing gear being thrown hopefully into the water, drinking a non-alcoholic beer, or simply just watching the lake change different shades of blue.
Top places to eat and drink on a budget
1. The Little Prince offers the best tasting and value for money Thali I had in India. For 180 rupees (£2.17) you get three delicious curries, rice, chapattis, popadoms and pickles. The restaurant is right next to the foot bridge crossing the river, offering great views of both the water and the foot traffic (allowing you to people watch whilst waiting).
2. There's plenty of street food stalls at Dudh Talai Lake selling fried delights. I tried potato pakora with fried chilis and at 10 rupees a portion, they make a delicious and budget friendly lunch.
3. Slightly out of town but definitely worth a trip is stuffed paratha breakfast on Maharishi Dyanand Marg road. Although they give you a slab of butter large enough to give you a heart attack, the paratha is delicious and it also comes with curd and a warm curry sauce. All the stalls sell similar food, so just look for the one with all the locals.
4. Arguably the best chai in Udaipur, Jimmy's Masala tea is a no thrills concrete structure with two wooden benches and a rickety old table. You're certainly not expecting much for 10 rupees (£0.12), but it's some seriously good chai. It's definitely a labour of love, as Jimmy winds a handle to blow air into the fire to heat up the milk. Be prepared to wait five minutes as the chai is made fresh every time, but it's definitely worth the wait as soon as you taste it.