• Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com

Udaipur

Romantic old-world charm, soothing lakes, and fairy-tale palaces are what draw so many visitors to Udaipur, known as the City of Lakes. It was founded in 1567, when, having grown weary of repeated attacks on the old Mewar capital of Chittaur—Chittaur is the historic name of the area, and Chittaurgarh literally means "the fort of Chittaur"—Maharana Udai Singh asked a holy sage to suggest a safe place for his new capital. The man assured Udai Singh that the new base would never be conquered if it was established on the banks of Lake Pichola, and thus was born Singh's namesake, Udaipur.

Despite being one of Rajasthan's largest cities, with a population of less than half a million people, modern Udaipur still feels like a small town. Added perks are the weather, which is balmy year-round except for a spot of summertime heat between April and mid-June, and the fact that the locals are extremely friendly. To enjoy this city’s hospitality, book a stay in a palace or a haveli (the bigger the better). Five main gates lead into Udaipur's Old City: they are Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) to the north; Kishan Pol to the south; Delhi Pol to the northeast; Chand Pol (Moon Gate) to the west; and Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) to the east.

Anchoring Udaipur's Old City are the famed City Palace and Lake Palace—the latter in the middle of Lake Pichola, and now a hotel run by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. The Old City itself is built on tiny hillocks and raised areas, its lanes full of twists and turns, with plenty of charming little niches to be discovered. The major landmarks in the new section are Chetak Circle, Sukhadia Circle, and Sahelion Ki Bari gardens.

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