Things to Do in Rajasthan
Created in 1362, centuries before Udaipur was established, the freshwater Lake Pichola is surrounded by beautiful old palaces, temples, and homes, many dating back hundreds of years. The whitewashed Lake Palace that is situated on an island in the north part of the lake is now a hotel run by the luxury Taj Group.
Situated smack in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, on the road that runs between Jaipur and Amber Fort (Amer Fort), the 18th-century Jal Mahal (Water Palace) is a gorgeous red sandstone palace that’s accessible only by boat. Though currently closed to visitors, the dreamlike structure is still an incredible sight to behold from shore.
On the banks of Lake Pichola, Udaipur City Palace showcases centuries of traditional architecture, starting from when the foundations were laid in the middle of the 16th century. Successive rulers added on to the original, resulting in what today is an enormous complex with 11 palaces connected by mazelike passageways.
Palace of Wind (Hawa Mahal) is easily one of Jaipur’s most iconic attractions. This stunning red and pink sandstone structure in the heart of the Pink City features rows of carved screens and more than 900 lattice-worked windows that allow in just the right amount of breeze to keep the 5-story complex cool.
High on a hilltop, towering majestically over the village of Amber on the outskirts of Jaipur, this 16th-century fort palace is worth visiting for its grand architecture that blends Muslim Mughal and Indian Hindu (Rajput) elements. Here, you’ll find labyrinthine passageways, elegant royal halls, and fabulous views of desert landscape.
A huge, 15th-century fortress overlooking the “blue city” of Jodhpur 410 feet (125 meters) below, Mehrangarh (Mehran Fort) is owned by the Jodhpur royal family to this day. The citadel is enclosed by thick, imposing walls and contains a museum, courthouses, gardens, and several magnificent palaces with vast courtyards and elaborate architecture.
The Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace), was originally constructed in the late 19th century as a reception hall for foreign dignitaries. Today, this part of Jaipur’s City Palace houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which showcases royal family artifacts including weaponry and regal garments.
Dating back to 1726, the Jantar Mantar is an observatory with 19 fixed astronomical instruments. The tools in this UNESCO World Heritage site can be used for everything from tracking astronomical movements to predicting eclipses. It's one of five such north Indian observatories, all of which were built by Jai Singh II.
Built between 1928 and 1943, the sprawling Umaid Bhawan Palace can be seen for miles around. Part of the grand palace is a luxury hotel run by the Taj Group, and the royal family occupy a wing of the structure to this day. It’s also home to the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum, full of palace-related exhibits and artifacts.
Bagore Ki Haveli is an 18th-century mansion (or haveli, with more than 100 rooms situated around pleasant courtyards. It originally served Mewar royalty before being left vacant for 50 years. The building has since been restored to its original architectural style, with rooms set up with period furnishings, and now operates as a museum.
More Things to Do in Rajasthan
Jagdish Temple—in the heart of Udaipur's Old City—is a stone's throw from the City Palace. This 3-story structure dates back to 1651 and its architecture is the main draw. Its intricately sculpted bell roof and columns are stunning but it's also worth sticking around to listen to devotional singing—a regular feature here.
Not far from the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, the white-marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II (the 33rd Rathore ruler of Jodhpur) sits majestically above a small lake. The structure is a fine example of Rajput architecture. It’s built from carved marble sheets which are so thin and polished that they emit a warm glow when the sunlight hits them.
Enclosed within a multi-level garden, the cenotaph has been built in the style of a temple, featuring domes, pillars, and sculptures. It also displays portraits of the rulers and Maharajas of Jodhpur and houses a memorial to a peacock that flew into a funeral pyre. The royal crematorium and three other cenotaphs are located near to the main memorial.
Saheliyon ki Bari means “Garden of the Maidens” in Hindi, and was built in the early 18th century for the women of the royal family. With fountains, lotus ponds, decorative pavilions, and marble elephants, the landscaped gardens are a relaxing place to take a walk. There’s also a small museum on-site with information on Rajasthani and Indian history.
Sajjangarh Palace (known as the Monsoon Palace) is set on a hilltop with fantastic city views. It was originally built as a getaway during the monsoon season and as an astrological center, but the latter project was never finished. The palace has also been used as a royal hunting lodge, and even appeared in the James Bond film Octopussy.
One of the biggest national parks in North India, Ranthambore National Park is particularly popular with travelers hoping to spot an elusive tiger in the wild. Although tigers are the main draw here, the reserve is home to other critters—including sambar deer, wild boars, sloth bears, striped hyenas, and hundreds of bird species—and a 10th-century fort.
This manmade lake in the city of Udaipur is a destination for both locals and travelers looking to escape the energy of busy city streets. Home to three small islands, including Nehru Park, the picturesque blue waters and majestic green mountains serve as a breathtaking backdrop to this quiet respite. Visitors can navigate the calm lake aboard tiny motorboats, which carry travelers to the each of the small islands. Nehru remains the most popular, thanks to a well-kept garden, boat-shaped restaurant and a slightly lackluster zoo. The Udaipur Solar Observatory, ranked top solar observing site in all of Asia, is located on one of the lake’s other islands and draws tourists eager to check out the sky, the sun and the stars.
SItuated on the grounds of Udaipur's Garden Hotel and Restaurant, the Vintage and Classic Car Collection Museum features a small group of vehicles from Mercedes, Rolls Royce, and Cadillac, along with a few other related objects, from rickshaws to an antique Shell gas pump that's still in working condition.
Situated in Rajasthan’s Aravalli Hills, not far from Amber Fort (Amer Fort), Nahargarh is the oldest of three forts built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh (Jai Singh II). Dating to 1734, this majestic fort—aka the Tiger Fort—is largely in a state of ruin, but is still worth a visit for its amazing view of Jaipur city below.
Chand Baori, one of the deepest and largest step wells in the world, is also one of India’s most overlooked and incredible sights. An Escher-like maze of 3,500 symmetrical stone steps descent 100 feet (30 meters) into the ground, culminating in a well where locals once came to draw water. The well is so deep, the temperature at the bottom is often several degrees cooler than on the surface.
The well, along with nearby Harshat Mata Temple, were built between 800 and 900 AD by King Chand Raja, and was believed to be dedicated to Hashat Mata, the Hindu goddess of joy and happiness. Stone sculptures carved into the walls of the well depict scenes from Hindu mythology. A popular filming location, the well featured in scenes from The Dark Knight Rises, The Fall and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
A landscaped garden that combines Mughal and Rajput styles, peaceful Vidyadhar Garden (Vidhyadhar Bagh) has terraced lawns, lakes, fountains, and pavilions. Visitors can admire pavilions decorated with mirror mosaics and murals from Hindu mythology and spot peacocks and monkeys throughout the grounds.
Kumbhalgarh Fort is an enormous citadel situated deep in the desert outside of Udaipur. It was built in the 15th century and took over a decade to complete—unsurprising given that its walls stretch some 22 miles (35.4 kilometers) in total. Second in length only to the Great Wall of China, it is sometimes dubbed the "Great Wall of India."
Considered one of the world’s best examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Albert Hall Museum houses the Government Central Museum (the oldest museum in Rajasthan). Inside this striking building, you’ll find an extensive collection of international art, miniature paintings, and artifacts—there's even an Egyptian mummy.
One of the most important Shaivite sites in Rajasthan, this temple attracts devotees from across the state who come to pay their respects to the gargantuan four-faced idol of the god housed within its interiors. It’s also a popular side-trip from Udaipur, particularly suited to those interested in local spiritual customs.
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