By dint of being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rajasthan and entire India, Udaipur has no dearth of interesting experiences for the traveller. So, when I arrived in Udaipur from Jaipur, there were no fixed plans as to how many days I wanted to stay in the ‘city of lakes.’ As always, my first priority was to walk a lot and see things at my own pace. Apart from the numerous touristy attractions that are well worth it; Udaipur has a dazzling repertoire of offbeat places to see and offbeat experiences on offer.
Over the years, offbeat has become a word that has been used in a variety of ways. Some of the listings below are located very close to the popular tourist attractions of Udaipur; yet very few people explore the same. I shall also try to mention the amounts of money spent on the experiences listed below for the reader to get an idea of the same to plan a potential visit.
Offbeat Experiences in Udaipur
Udaipur Heritage Walk
One of the top activities in Udaipur is slow travelling around the old city and getting to know more about the heritage. One can do the heritage walk on their own or with one of the companies organising walking tours. Among other things on the heritage trail in Udaipur, there’s a beautiful clock tower.
Among other rustic experiences on the heritage walk, we come across old lanes with traditional shops; watch ceremonies at different temples. On the walk, it is also recommended to have a taste of the local delicacies of Udaipur since one will mostly be in the old city. Have a chai at one of the thelas in the old part and you might stumble upon an unknown historical delight from centuries ago!
This one was tricky for me; when you are staying at a relatives’ house it is difficult to go out and dine. One of the days me and my cousin headed out to the most popular place in town. Since now there are two Natraj Restaurants in Udaipur, we headed out to the old one courtesy of the local knowledge.
There was a short waiting time even though it was a weekday. Natraj Restaurant was filled with locals. When the food on the table was presented, we ate like there was no tomorrow. There were a variety of tasty dishes and it was all very tasty. I remember it cost us around 150 Rs. per person (a tad expensive) but the authentic nature of Natraj Restaurant made eating here worth it.
Tip : Go with a full appetite!
Government Museum inside City Palace Complex
While the City Palace Museum is the most visited place in Udaipur, it is this little museum that is mostly ignored by tourists. Entrance gate of the Government museum is close to the entry of the City Palace Museum, and strangely enough – since there are almost zero visitors you can have the entire place to yourself. The extensive collection of ancient statues and old scripts spread over an entire hall is one big reason to visit the Government Museum.
According to factual details : The 1890 Govt. Museum in Udaipur was formerly named as Victoria Hall Museum. It was originally established by Maharana Fateh Singh at Sajjan Niwas and was shifted to Karan Vilas in 1968. Among other interesting objects, it houses stone sculptures, miniature paintings, inscriptions, coins, arms, historical items and art objects belonging to the Mewar region.
Plus the entry charges are only Rs. 20. More reason to check it out.
Offbeat Views in City Palace Complex
Inside the City Palace Complex, a separate 50 Rupee entry fee is required to access a different part of the Palace. When I asked the guards about the views on the other side, I was told that there is nothing in that region and that I should not waste my money!
So, it was only by instinct that I thought lets take the ticket and wander around. And in retrospect, I am so glad I did it! There are two opulent Palaces run as heritage hotels and it is possible to explore these majestic delights on the same ticket.
The fifty rupee ticket gets you access to the region where Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel, Jag Mandir Island, Crystal Gallery & Durbar Hall & The Sunset Terrace Restaurant are located. The Crystal Gallery has one of the most stunning collection of objects made of crystal including crystal chairs but entry is an expensive affair at 500 Rupees and photography isn’t allowed inside. If one is not overtly concerned about the no photo rule, then a visit to the Crystal Gallery and the Durbar Hall can be combined.
Sunset Gazing at Sajjangarh Palace
A top idea is to reach the Monsoon Palace or Sajjangarh Fort at 3 in the afternoon and savouring the views till the sun sets.
Government Museum at Ahar
Located around 3-4 kms from main Udaipur city, Ahar is a small hamlet that seems to exist in its own time warp. There is no whiff of a tourist around the quaint lanes and shops selling musical paraphernalia line the streets of Ahar. The village is known to have been an ancient settlement of the royal family and ancient ruins are scattered in all corners of Ahar.
The Government Museum at Ahar comes as a glorious surprise. It is an unassuming building and one may be led to believe that it is closed due to the lack of activity around the building. Once you enter inside, the rich history of Udaipur and the surrounding regions is on display. It is a sizeable building and has a priceless collection of artefacts.
A few notable facts about the museum :
- The Ahar culture was characterised by the diverse pottery, houses, copper objects, microliths, terracotta figurines, beads of clay, and rocks like agate and steatite.
- The Ahar culture is believed to be second only in town planning to the Harappans
- Aharians cultivated crops like wheat, barley, rice, millet and also grew green gram and black gram.
- Ahar culture is approx. 2000-3500 years old.
- The Ahar Museum has a rich collection of stone idols from the 7th to 15th Century AD.
Entry charges are only Rs. 10.
Ahar Cenotaphs are a big collection of chatris (cenotaphs) of the rulers. It is located on the left side of the road when you are in Ahar village just before the Government Museum. There are more than 300 cenotaphs in the huge complex. I was really surprised to see no entrance to walk inside the Ahar Cenotaphs complex even after walking around the periphery of the boundary wall.
And then on my way back, I saw that the door was open and quietly slipped in only to be asked for money by the caretaker if I wanted to click any photographs. Since I had already taken the photographs, I told him that I just wanted to see the complex. The cenotaphs are built in white and present a pretty picture with the evening colours.
Vintage & Classic Car Collection Museum
Even though the entry fee for the Vintage & Classic Car Collection Museum was quite steep (Rs. 300), visiting this place is worthwhile for a peek into India’s erstwhile grandeur and sense of luxury. There are 18-20 vintage cars enclosed in different garages with full descriptions of their make, year and engine specifications on an adjacent signboard.
On one side there are also luxurious looking horse carriages from earlier times. Among other vintage cars not to miss here are the Rolls Royce Phantom featured in Octopussy, and the Cadillac Convertible that was used by Queen Elizabeth on her visit to India in 1961. In a separate enclosure, there are also solar powered cycles and other interesting means of transport.
This Museum is located at Garden Hotel, directly on the opposite side of Sajjan Niwas Garden on the Gulab Bagh Road.
Street Art in Udaipur
An interesting feature of almost all tourist destinations is colourful art adorning the streets. Street art has recently become quite popular considering the fact that it beautifies the city and gives a fresh lease of life to the otherwise mundane walls.
I highly recommend covering all parts of the old city on foot if one is keen on exploring the street art scene in Udaipur. There are many hostels to stay for backpackers, and affordable and cheap guest houses that also have superb graffiti and messages. Also, in the instagram generation the colourful street art is a nice photo-op.
Arts & Crafts in Shilpgram
In the other post on Udaipur, I did write about Shilpgram but this place is so huge, there are many other experiences for the curious traveller. When we were walking aimlessly trying to find our way, our eyes stumbled upon a magicians showcasing his skills; it was really a fantastic experience that did not cost anything!
After moving ahead, it was a surreal moment to see ‘nail paint’ art created in front of our eyes! A man took a blank piece of paper and created it into a painting using only his nails… If you can’t believe it, see this video.
There are also a few museums in Shilpgram; the Gol Museum and tribal museum are worth seeing. The Gol Museum has an enviable collection of quirky objects and some really old and traditional instruments. In one corner of the complex, there is a small room where informative videos regarding different tribes and cultures of Rajasthan are played.
Photographs showcasing exhibits of local art, a door, and masks at the museum in Shilpgram.
The idyllic and serene man-made Lake Pichola is the highlight of Udaipur for most of its memorable views. It exemplifies the beauty of of the superb City Palace, havelis, ghats, temple towers and numerous other structures on the banks of the lake. One can spend hours enjoying the various colours of sunset at Lake Pichola.
A lesser known fact is that there was a drought which almost emptied Lake Pichola in the recent past. Among other interesting delights, there’s a pretty bridge on Lake Pichola connecting two parts of the old city. When the evening lights came on, the bridge resembled the ones in Venice and is maybe the reason for the sobriquet for Udaipur – ‘The Venice of the East.’