To make Udaipur's intriguing and valorous history really come alive, consider taking on the services of a qualified guide in the city, which can be requested through your hotel or by contacting one of the recommended local operators.
If your idea of a vacation is lying by a pool with a good book, only visits to the City and Lake palaces need top your list of things to do in Udaipur proper. The city is the ideal base for a number of day trips, however. The most highly recommended is a round-trip through Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Fort, taking in the temples of Ranakpur along the way, and possibly stopping at Eklingji on the way back. The lovely, scenic drive passes picture-postcard rural hamlets and fields of mustard, scattered with boys tending cattle and women clad in bright saris tilling the soil.
For those interested in seeing more of the city, the following day tour -- to be tailored to your needs -- provides an overview of the top sights in and around Udaipur. Start your day by exploring the City Palace, which usually towers over the city's raison d'être, Lake Pichola. Two more palaces can be seen on what would be the islands of Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. Exit through Tripolia Gate to explore the Old City of Udaipur, which sprawls north of the palace. Jagdish Temple, the largest in Udaipur, is its chief attraction. Despite some lovely exterior carvings (including hidden erotic pieces your guide will point out), the temple itself is rather ordinary (if you've seen a number of them elsewhere, that is), but its attraction lies in its massive popularity. The temple has seen a constant stream of people who come to worship Lord Jagannath, an aspect of Vishnu (the black stone image enshrined within), since it first opened its doors in 1652. Aarti takes place at around 10am, 7:30pm, and 10pm -- try to time your visit for when the bhajans (prayer-songs) make for a most atmospheric experience. (Remove your shoes before entering, and an attendant will look after them for a small tip; no photography inside.) The bronze half-man, half-bird statue of Garuda outside is the vehicle of Vishnu. From Jagdish Temple you can wander the mazelike streets of old Udaipur, admiring the whitewashed havelis and popping into tiny shops before reaching the clock tower that marks the northern edge. Near the lake edge, at Gangaur Ghat, you can visit the Bagore-ki-Haveli Museum (tel. 0294/242-2567), a restored royal haveli with plenty of idiosyncratic design detail that's now part of a museum and cultural center; it's best visited on evenings for the nightly music and dance performances. If you haven't picked up a bicycle from Heera Cycle Store (86 Gangaur Ghat Rd., near Jagdish Temple), catch a taxi from here (or have your driver waiting) to Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum (Panch Vati Rd.; entry Rs 35, Rs 20/50 camera; daily 9am-6pm), Udaipur's unofficial "Puppet Museum" (Rajasthan being the birthplace of this favored Indian storytelling medium), where you can watch a good show, staged almost hourly throughout the day. The best is held each evening at 6pm (Rs 30 with traditional folk dances added on (though note that most hotels have a puppet show as part of their evening's entertainment including the rooftop at Jagat Niwas). The folk museum also contains models, instruments, and photographs documenting other local traditions and crafts, but for this you're better off visiting Shilpgram (tel. 0294/241-9023; www.shilpgram.org). This extremely faux rural arts-and-crafts "village" is located 3km (2 miles) out of town; follow the road that runs along the north of Fateh Sagar Lake; daily 11am to 7pm, folk dances 11am and 7pm; admission is just Rs 25 but you'll pay for extras such as camel rides and the use of cameras. Created to "promote and preserve the traditional architecture, music, and crafts of the tribal village of western India," Shilpgram has a distinctly artificial feel but interesting cultural performances; you can also ride a camel and browse for tribal knickknacks that the "traditionally" attired craftspeople will be only too delighted to finally off-load. If you're in a particularly touristy mood, you can dress up in a traditional Rajasthani outfit and have your picture taken. Beware that it is very touristy and in season can become extremely crowded. Along the way, stop for a brief wander through Saheliyon-ki-Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honour) north of Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum -- turn left at Sukadia Circle. It's open daily 8am to 7:30pm (small admission fee). Created by Sangram Singh in the 18th century for the ladies of his household (some say to re-create the monsoon climate for his sickly daughter), this is billed as Udaipur's finest garden, but it suffers from neglect, with none of the fountains operating. Still, it's a peaceful place, and the array of established indigenous trees may interest keen botanists. If the monsoon has been good and lake levels in Udaipur have risen, from Saheliyon-ki-Bari make your way to nearby Fateh Sagar Lake, along a scenic winding road, passing Moti Magri on your left, atop which is the statue of Maharana Pratap and his beloved horse, Chetak (largely missable, but the views from here are lovely). Fateh Sagar, the large lake that lies north of Lake Pichola, has a small island garden of its own, the rather neglected Nehru Park. Make sure you stop off for a drink or lunch at Raaj Bagh (tel. 0294/243-1700), a delightful garden restaurant serving regional cuisine overlooking the lake, which serves inexpensive, quality food by efficient staff. It also has a small vintage car collection (note the Corgi scooter) and ice cold drinks.
An excellent place to view the sunset is Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace), built by the Maharana Sajjan Singh as an observatory in the late 19th century. You can enter the palace building by tipping the guard (though it's a restricted security area). Head to one of the alcoves from where views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking. Then rush down to have a sundowner nearby at the new Fateh Garh with its award-winning (Condé Nast Traveler Best Pools July 2009) infinity pool and commanding views towards Lake Pichola and the city. If this sounds like one stop too many after a rather exhausting day, head straight for one of the rooftop or garden restaurants in the city (Ambrai at Amet Haveli, or the rooftop at Jagat Niwas Palace); get a table on the Sunset Terrace (near the Dovecoat lobby of the Fateh Prakash hotel); or sit on the marbled "deck" at the Lake Palace, where you can relax with a drink as the sun sinks behind the distant jagged outline of the Aravalli Hills, and the flautist conjures up the moon.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.