Travel to UdaipurUdaipur – Pleasure Palace
Good For: Couples and friends who are looking to chill out after the frenetic pace of a trip through India. With only about half a million people in town, cleaner air (it’s all relative), and a gorgeous lake, Udaipur is an oasis and arguably the most beautiful city in the country.
- Dining alfresco at the Oberoi Udaivilas in the evening, while watching an Indian dance accompanied by traditional music. Hello romance. The atmosphere is matched by the food, which, in a word, is exquisite.
- Experiencing sunrise yoga at the Taj Lake Palace, where the meaning of Om takes on a whole new level of inner peace.
- Boating on Lake Pichola for an afternoon – as long as it’s your private ride and not one of the tourist spectacles.
- Staying in a royal suite at the Taj Lake Palace – this is as close to royal treatment as most of us will get.
What to Know: India is chaotic, and without the right frame of mind, can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned traveler. Udaipur is one of the few places in India that is peaceful, and thus the optimal bookend to a trip. There’s not a lot to do here after the obligatory tour of the City Palace and Jagdish Temple, so kick back and rent a private boat for an afternoon. As for shopping, it’s comparable to the larger markets, but haggling and crowds are a lot less aggressive than in the Jaipur or Delhi bazaars.
While most of us would arrange a tour with the same enthusiasm as taking a sharp stick in the eye, India is where you want the experts to manage your logistics. Yes, expert traveler: Though you'll have lots of say in where you go, if you’re driving between cities, you don’t want to be your own chauffeur. At any given point in time, it’s perfectly normal for an ox, horse, and monkey to be sharing the road with you. And driving on the wrong side of the road? Well, that’s all par for the course.
One of the best travel groups in the “don’t have to take out a second mortgage” price range is Creative Travel. Their drivers and tour guides are pros. While you’ll set your itineraries with Creative’s travel office prior to the trip, the team is flexible for on-the-ground requests. Creative fully staffs up for your trips – from delegates at the hotel to ensure that your check-in and check-out go smoothly to drivers and English-speaking tour guides. It may not be a love connection with every single guide, but some have fascinating personal stories. Request Govind as your driver for your Northern India trip, and Orvind as your tour guide to Udaipur.
Suggested Stay: 1–2 days
The Original Playboy Mansion
Before Hugh Hefner, before James Bond, there was an original playboy with a hedonistic mansion and plenty of ripe maidens. After being banned from his father’s pleasure palace (we can’t imagine what he could have done to deserve that), Prince Maharaj Jagat Singh II built his own – a marble royal residence smack-dab in the middle of Lake Pichola. Today, the palace is the crown jewel of Indian hotels.
As you might expect, Taj Lake Palace is no newbie to luxury. From the moment you arrive, showered with rose petals, every detail reflects a level of service literally fit for a king. Expect lavish silks, intricate frescoes, and stunning lake views at every turn. And keep an eye out for intruders – James Bond swam to this floating fantasyland in “Octopussy.”
People save their entire lives to be able to stay at the Lake Palace, so the staff is committed to an experience of perfection. Breakfast is one of the highlights. Get ready to gorge on uttapams, dosas, and puri, along with a lavish breakfast spread that’s fit for a prince. Prime tables overlook the lake.
You’re on a Boat
It may not be with Adam Sandberg, but the essence of experiencing Udaipur is being on a boat. In Udaipur, that means floating while you spa, while you eat, and more traditionally, en route to dinner. Indulge in an alfresco Jacuzzi soak after an aromatherapy massage on the Jiva Spa Boat at the Taj Lake Palace, or take your dinner on an antique royal dining barge while watching a cooking show on a neighboring pontoon. (Fireworks display optional.)
For daytime excursions on Lake Pichola, charter your own ride. If you work with Creative Travel, they’ll hook you up with a private boat and guide. While you still have to wear the ridiculous life vest required of everyone, private boat is undoubtedly the best option. Your tour will certainly include a stop at Jagmandir Island, with serene gardens and royal courtyards for an afternoon stroll. Don’t fall into the tourist trap of eating at the full-service restaurant on the island, but the café is perfect for a cool-off drink when the weather is hot.
For dining, hands down, the Oberoi Udaivilas is the best in all of Udaipur. With a collection of restaurants, even those not fortunate enough to stay at the hotel can experience the exquisite common areas, from the lobby bar to the lakeside restaurant, which connect the international and Indian options. The international food is excellent, but Indian is the way to go – don’t miss the lobster curry and chicken tiki. The Oberoi hotels set the bar for plush accommodations and perfect service that exceed all international standards. And Udaivailas, even for an Oberoi, just knocks it out of the park. In short, it’s a modern-day pleasure palace, because what playboys want, playboys get.