Sadly, there is always the remote possibility that the fabulous Lake Pichola will succumb to climatic pressure and finally dry up. We strongly urge you to call ahead and check on the status of the lake waters to make an informed lodging choice; we'd hate for you to fork out a load of cash for a special lake-facing room, only to end up staring at a parched lake bed. For instance, without a view you can rule out the Fateh Prakash and Lake Palace and consider instead a room at Udaivilas or the new Fateh Garh, or one of the other more reasonably priced options such as Jagat Niwas, then head off to spend a night at Devi Garh, or stay at Fort Seengh Sagar or Shahpura Bagh en route to Jaipur, or Rawla Narlai en route to Jodphur. Assuming that the lake is full of water, then it is definitely worth booking into a hotel or haveli with a view of the lake, which is magical; accommodations on the eastern shore are best for sunsets, but this is also the best time to be on one of the islands: the Lake Palace itself, or on Jag Mandir.
Aside from the top recommendations below, it may be worth looking into the Trident (tel. 1600/11-2122 or 0294/243-2200; www.tridenthotels.com). It's a large, mellow, purpose-built hotel set behind Udaivilas with plenty of amenities and facilities but set some way from the lake among the tranquil Aravalli Hills, about a 25-minute drive from town. Ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 14,000 per double (check online for daily rates and deals), this comfortable, reputable option offers relatively good value (pool-facing rooms, which also have views towards the hills, are best) and will suit the less-adventurous traveler, but it's a bit soulless for our taste, and far from the action. Similarly the new five-star Radisson Plaza Resort and Spa, Udaipur (tel. 294/305-2600 or 1800/1800-333; fax 294/305-2666; www.radisson.com/udaipur; email@example.com), while predictably robust with its service and decor, can also be a bit bland compared to the options below and is also some way from the city and Lake Picola.
Western Shores of Lake Pichola
A real gem, situated in the nearby countryside on a hilltop alongside the otherworldly Monsoon Palace, the regal Fateh Garh (tel. 0294/3290228; www.fatehgarh.in; firstname.lastname@example.org) is the place to stay if you want to be far from the crowds of Udaipur, yet close enough (20 min.) to buzz in and out without compromising on understated luxury. A new property (opened Nov 2008), which has already featured in Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List and Worlds Sexiest Pools (May, Aug 2009), it commands sweeping views east towards Lake Pichola. Constructed with found objects and antique architectural pieces and restored on the principle of Vastu (Indian Feng Shui), and owned and managed by the Jitendra Singh Rathore family (of HRH fame), it cuts a symmetrical, almost roman presence into the countryside but is softened by the use of airy verandah's, local stone and sustainable power. With 48 rooms in total including 10 suites, the ones to go for are the corner suites which are a steal at Rs 20,000 (standard rooms are Rs 14,000, rooms 9 and 10 have their own plunge pool and terrace). If you don't decide to stay the night then the least you should do is come for a sundowner and a swim in the infinity pool, and linger for dinner at one of the two restaurants.
Reviewed here is the famous Devi Garh, which we feel is slipping somewhat from its revered pedestal but hopefully will soon be back on track. It's a short distance from Udaipur (26km/16 miles or 45 min.) along a winding, scenic road with fields of corn, sugarcane and mustard seed, and hotel staff will arrange camel or horse safaris, jeep treks, or chauffeured tours of Udaipur, Eklingji, Nagda, Nathdwara, Kumbhalgarh Fort, and Ranakpur. If it doesn't suit your budget, or if you'd prefer to be within even easier striking distance of the city, you'll be pleased to learn that the owners of popular Udai Kothi have come up with a marvelous little property just 6km (3 3/4 miles) from Lake Pichola. Surrounded by dramatic hilly landscape, Udai Bagh (www.udaibagh.com) is a serene country retreat with a big pool and just seven luxury tents; there are plans in the not-too-distant future for an upmarket destination spa with additional rooms (from Rs 8,500 double), to be designed by Nimesh Patel, who had his hand in Udaivilas. The air-conditioned en-suite tents -- outfitted with clay tile floors, block-print-fabric ceilings, and metal frame beds (reserve no. 1 if you want a double bed) -- have lovely wooden furniture and piles of magazines and books to keep you entertained (there's also a TV, minibar, Wi-Fi, and room service if reading doesn't suffice). Bathrooms have big, smart showers, and there's a little porch with seats out front (it's not very private, but you won't be sharing the property with too many people). Udai Bagh is also just Rs 8,500 double, with breakfast. There's no restaurant, but a butler brings you whatever you want, and there's a free shuttle service to and from Udaipur -- just 10 minutes away.
A must-do romantic experience is to book an early evening treatment on the Lake Palaces floating spa boat, and emerge totally destressed moored in the middle of the lake, to the image of the sun setting over the Aravalli hills and the lights of the palace reflected in the water.
A Special Spot Between Udaipur & Jodhpur
If you are traveling by car from Udaipur, Jodhpur signals the start of the flat, semiarid landscape that leads north-west towards the Thar Desert, and we recommend that you spend a few nights unwinding in the lusher more characterful landscape of the Aravalli Hills, and here there is no better place than Rawla Narlai.
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.