The vibe: Palatial retreat with Rajasthani roots on a private island
Location: Udai Sagar Lake, Udaipur, India | View on Google Maps
The AFAR take
Udaipur is known for its serene lakes, royal palaces, ancient forts, and complex cuisine. The Raffles Udaipur shows off many of the historic kingdom’s best assets: It is an opulent getaway with a true sense of place where guests can unwind in a setting with 360-degree lake views.
Grand architecture and interiors await, including large-scale columns, 16-foot-tall hand-painted murals, and manicured gardens that are home to 30 bird species. Spend an afternoon browsing in the 3,500-volume library, or schedule a massage at the lavish spa, which uses hand-crafted local oil blends. Order a cocktail inspired by Udaipur’s sunsets, and if you’re traveling with a child, as I was, the staff may surprise them with a tiny goblet of chocolate milk.
Who’s it for?
The Raffles Udaipur will appeal to travelers with an eye for Rajasthani architecture, and its chandeliered spa will lure sybarites with its Ayurveda-inspired treatments. The guest rooms with private pools and cabanas are perfect for a romantic getaway. The property is also well-suited for multigenerational groups: I traveled with my parents and toddler, all of whom were able to enjoy the large pool, outdoor areas, and personalized service.
The property spans 21 acres on a private island in the middle of Udai Sagar Lake. Guests arrive at the boat dock, are greeted by staff who wish you the Rajasthani greeting “khamma ghani,” and are shown to a zero-emissions electric boat.
Grand architecture and interiors await, including large-scale columns, 16-foot-tall hand-painted murals, and manicured gardens that are home to 30 bird species.
The property’s muted color palette puts the hues of the surrounding lake and mountains front and center—they’re on display from every window. The 101 spacious guest rooms and suites feature black-and-white marble inlay cabinetry, hand-painted murals in the bathrooms, and Rajasthani artwork. Twelve of the guest rooms and six suites offer private plunge pools.
The food and drink
Dining at Raffles Udaipur is an experience on its own. Enjoy a lakeside dinner under the stars at Sawai Kitchen while being treated to live music and Rajasthani dancers. Pay close attention to the menu, where dishes including masaledaar bharwan kachhe tamatar (green tomato in Rajasthani spices) and dhungaar murgh (country chicken cooked with whole spices) are a lesson in regional heirloom recipes. The hotel also offers Rasoi, a 12-seat chef’s table; Harvest, a farm-to-table Indian restaurant showcasing ingredients from the island’s organic farm; and Patisserie, an all-day dining option with freshly baked pastries.
Don’t miss the Writer’s Bar in the property’s library, which hosts an afternoon high tea, or the picturesque Long Bar, which serves custom cocktails, small plates, and cigars. The bartender was particularly eager to tell me about the cocktail garnishes his team makes by upcycling fruit peels and herb stems.
The breakfast buffet offers a culinary tour of India. In addition to traditional Rajasthani breakfast items like pyaaz kachori (onion fried in a spiced batter, served with a curry), guests can sample regional dishes from many parts of the country, including Punjab, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. Sometimes, the meal is accompanied by a live wooden flute player.
Staff and service
Discreet and personalized; every guest has a dedicated butler. Check-in and check-out formalities are done in private spaces. The staff—25 percent of whom hail from Udaipur and surrounding areas—are encouraged to learn about the preferences of guests and are ready to suggest things to do on and off property according to their interests.
The hotel was recently constructed, and that allowed the architects to design the grounds to be entirely wheelchair accessible. One room is fully accessible for guests with disabilities and has emergency call buttons, safety bars, and lowered bathroom fixtures.
In addition to the zero-emissions boat, the island houses a water bottling plant that produces the bottled water on site. The kitchen sources much of its food from the property’s hydroponic garden and from local vendors. The hotel is now working to eliminate single-use plastics from the guest experience. Though many plastics have been banned by the state government since July 2022, reliable alternatives are still slow to materialize.