Deep in the Indian state of Rajasthan, lies what I believe to be a gem of a city. Udaipur, the historic capital of the kingdom of Mewar, is a far cry from Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Mumbai, etc. It’s sleepy and comfortable, exotic and refined. It’s like a getaway within a getaway. A place to escape the hustle, bustle, and 1.3b people of India. Though there are many things to do within the city, we found Udaipur to be the perfect place to relax at our hotel and melt into relaxation. There are many amazing hotels to choose from in Udaipur, but none more elegant that the Oberoi Udavilas.
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Location and History
Located on the bank of Lake Pichola, The Oberoi Udaivilas manages to remain unique amongst luxury hotels in Udaipur. Spread over fifty acres that abut the sparkling Lake Pichola, it rests on the 200-year-old hunting grounds of the Maharana of Mewar. Twenty of those acres are protected as a wildlife sanctuary with deer, peacocks, and wild boar.
The Layout, the Prestige
You arrive at the domed palace by private boat and are immediately treated like royalty. Every staff member makes a point of politely recognizing and addressing you (in a sometimes demonstrably deferential way – picture someone dropping what’s in their hands so that they could make a praying sign with their hands while bowing).
The hotel itself has an intricate layout of interconnecting domes and corridors that actually reflects the layout of Udaipur itself; whose seven lakes are linked by canals. The domes and walkways are flooded with natural light, which gentle, cool breezes flowing throughout (Udaipur is almost 2,000 feet above sea level, which means it can be refreshingly cool in the hellish summer months). If that doesn’t sell you, the Oberoi Udaivilas was voted Best Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure in 2014 and 2015.
What to Do
As you’d expect from any hotel, there’s an 18th-century former palace on-site, Bada Mahal, which you can explore at leisure. There’s also many activities available, such as: culinary classes, yoga, camel rides, Henna lessons, art classes, lake cruises, sightseeing tours, and luxury on-site spa treatments. But, basically, you can just walk the grounds and be amazed at the ornateness.
There are a few different types of rooms – two types of suites, two types of premier/standard. Some with a courtyard off the back end; some with a shared pool that wraps around the hotel off the back end; other suites that we didn’t get a chance to view (we’re not actually royalty). We stayed in the middle tier room (the Premier Room with a semi private pool) – and had the shared pool mostly to ourselves.
The Pools, the Pools, the Pools. It’s all About the Pools.
They’re seemingly everywhere. And they’re all amazing.
The Details, the Crazy Attention to Details
Walk into any room and you’ll find class. Each little nook, each cranny filled to the brim with class. How do I define class? Oh, I don’t know…quality textiles, no cheap shortcuts, no real cracks in the foundation (literally and figuratively), and candles, lots and lots of candles.
We basically never left the hotel for our meals. Traditional fare, as well as food that agrees with Western tastes. It was all there.
We did order room service on one very romantic night. We even ordered wine with our meal – which is quite the luxury in this country. Our server remained out on our room’s deck for quite some time with the bottle of wine in hand, lest we need a refill. Being embarrassed of, and unaccustomed to, such over-the-top service, we struck up a long conversation with our server. We had him grab himself a glass and we drank together – staff and guest. It was the first time he had tried wine. He told us that no-one had ever taken the time to talk to him like we had. At the end, he told us it was the greatest moment of his life. I’m not sure if that makes me happy or incredibly sad.