The vibe: Classic Rajasthani hospitality
Location: Haridasji Ki Magri, Mulla Talai, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India | View on Google Maps
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The AFAR take
Oberoi Udaivilas sits on more than 50 acres on the banks of Udaipur’s famous Lake Pichola. The celebrated retreat opened its doors in 2002 but looks as though it has been there for centuries. The architecture references the traditional Rajasthani palaces of the Mewari kingdom that ruled the area 300 years ago, with details like tiled open-air corridors, stone pavilions, arched entryways, and fountains. Resident peacocks may make an appearance as you stroll through the sprawling gardens, created by Asia-based designer Bill Bensley. From several vantage points, the gardens offer views of some of the city’s notable historic sights.
The hotel is part of the Oberoi Group, which was founded in 1934 and now owns and operates 32 luxury hotels and two river cruise ships in seven countries, including in India, Egypt, and Morocco. As with many of Oberoi’s other properties, Udaivilas makes a grand first impression. It features 37 domes, including one in the lobby painted with 18-carat gold leaf that is one of the largest in Rajasthan. The nearby candle room features a dome covered with 175,000 traditional mirrors in a local style called Thikri. It shines every evening when staff light the dozens of candles on the table below it.
Who’s it for?
Travelers looking for the trappings of classic Rajasthani luxury, from regal architecture to saturated hues to strings of colorful flowers. Couples can request a massage for two, a sunset boat ride, or a private dinner accompanied by a wooden flute player. The hotel is very welcoming to multigenerational groups (I was traveling with my parents and two-year-old).
The hotel is in the center of Udaipur, with direct sightlines to attractions like the historic City Palace, Taj Lake Palace, and Jag Mandir. Guests can take boats, cars, or auto rickshaws to visit some of the city’s most notable sights.
The architecture references the traditional Rajasthani palaces of the Mewari kingdom that ruled the area 300 years ago.
The decor in the 87 guest rooms features handcrafted furniture and subtle arched details that mimic what’s found on the grounds. Fabrics are all natural—cottons, silks, and linens—with tasteful touches of bright Rajasthani colors and patterns.
More than 60 rooms offer a cushioned bay window seat with views of either the garden or pool, as well as a courtyard where guests could request a private dinner if they prefer. From 19 premier rooms, guests can walk out directly into a semi-private pool. My family and I spent a morning taking turns sunbathing on our decks, swimming, and admiring a peacock that landed on a nearby roof. A handful of suites include private infinity pools, fireplaces, and dining tables.
The food and drink
Oberoi Udaivilas features two restaurants: Suryamahal, the main dining room that serves international cuisine, and Udaimahal, the specialty Indian restaurant that serves Rajasthani and North Indian cuisine. Every evening, guests dine to live Rajasthani music and are invited to dance under a midnight blue dome. Head chef Alok Anand specializes in serving Indian cuisine with a modern twist, such as adding pine nuts to a dish that features water chestnuts. The menus felt inventive and highly customizable, to adapt to the wide-ranging international clientele the hotel attracts.
Staff and service
Guest arrivals at the Oberoi Udaivilas are celebrated: Someone sprinkled fragrant red flower petals on us from the roof of the entrance. A few moments later, another staff member gave my Dad a rainbow-colored turban, my Mom and me colorful scarves, and my two-year-old daughter a wooden bunny. We were floored by the old-school Indian hospitality, and we had been on the property for a total of seven minutes.
The staff were notably warm and kind. Every time we were in the lobby, someone would find us and ask where we were going, the type of day we wanted to have, and how they could help. They were committed to ensuring that we enjoyed not only the property but also the City of Lakes more generally.
When we were gearing up for our departure, a staff member was waiting at the door with a plate of kajoo ki barfi, a cashew-based Indian sweetmeat, to bid us a sweet farewell.
Most of the grounds are wheelchair accessible, with ramps built alongside staircases. One room was built with accessible features, including lowered light switches, grab bars, and panic buttons in case of emergencies.
In October 2021, the property introduced a one megawatt solar plant, which powers about 60 percent of the hotel’s electrical requirements—which are lowered through electricity-saving mechanisms like motion sensors and LED lights. The resort treats wastewater, which irrigates the gardens. The property is working to eliminate plastic bottles by the end of 2023.