Lake Pichola, India – March 2018
Upon landing at Udaipur’s small but bustling airport, a pristine Range Rover awaits us with a beaming smile and impeccable charm. Elegantly clad in gloves, he whisks our luggage in to the car, ushers us in to much needed air-conditioning and begins to recant tales of Udaipur and it’s history.
Driving through the grand gates of Udaipur’s City palace and making our way through it’s immaculate gardens we come to a stop where open-air boats bop about and wait patiently for our arrival. Before us lies a glimmering palace that is an island unto itself and soon we’re gliding along still waters to our palace home for the next few days.
Situated upon Lake Pichola, Taj Lake Palace was formerly the Maharajah’s pleasure palace and hosted parties full of opulence and mystery. Today it is a luxury hotel that echo’s its royal past with old-world glamour and service. We’ve not taken two steps on to the white palace grounds when rose petals start falling from above and we’re greeted by warm staff. Check in is swift and we stroll through the palace, which is a seemingly never-ending maze of courtyards, nooks to read in and views over the lake.
Suites are all unique, with many retaining original fixtures and murals. You might be swinging on a hanging chair in your living room, sinking in to a deep marble bath or gazing at intricately painted murals of Maharani’s gone by. All rooms do however come with crisp silken linens, luxe furnishings and vistas of Lake Pichola.
Days are spent relaxing by the bougainvillea fringed pool or at the spa where treatments can be carried out on a gleaming white boat on the lake. The hotel directly faces Udaipur’s City Palace and forms part of it’s grounds. Guests can hop on a boat transfer (running every 3-5 minutes) and be exploring the site within 10 minutes.
Nights are spent watching traditional dance by local performers in a mesmerising display of artistry, flowing silk fabrics, anklets jingling to the rhythm and flames of fire being thrown in the air. For those wanting an out-of-this-world experience, book in for a cruise on the house boat which was infamously used in the opening scene of James Bond’s Octopussy film. Grazing on a feast of Indian delicacies such as fish curry, naan, kebabs and indulgent desserts, staff gently paddle the boat around the lake whilst you take in sunset over Rajasthan’s breathtaking mountain range.
Taking breakfast in the courtyard, you’ll wish you booked one more night (or two, or three). Tea, served how you like it, appears without prompting. And your morning curry is served mild, because Taj Lake Palaces remembers you’re not good with spice. Despite all the romance and opulence, the hotel doesn’t rely on it’s beauty - it goes above and beyond to ensure each guest feels like royalty even if your stay is only for a short moment in time. So we spend our last afternoon soaking up views, obstructed only by the bougainvillea swaying in the wind.