Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

The Oberoi Udaivilas


An astounding resort, evoking the grandeur of a royal palace, on the banks of Lake Pichola

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The Oberoi Udaivilas


The banks of Lake Pichola

Travel Information

Udaipur's Dabok airport - 45 mins (regular connections to Delhi and Mumbai)

Top Tips

Slow things down with a peaceful shikara (traditional boat) ride, as the sun goes down and the stars come out

5-Star X-Factors

Spectacular views across the gardens and Lake Pichola


Monument to opulence
Memoirs of an architect


Monument to opulence
Memoirs of an architect

Monument to opulence

It was my last day in India and I was thinking of home. Over the course of a week I had survived street food in Delhi, shopped my way through Jaipur, ridden an elephant up a mountain and stalked whole tribes of camels and holy cows. But just as I thought I had India taped, there was the 'white city' of Udaipur in the heart of Rajasthan, with its ancient palaces, 6th century temple and the unforgettable splendour of Oberoi Udaivilas, built on a forest where panthers and tigers once roamed.

I reached Udaivilas in the style of the owl and the pussycat in a beautiful pea-green boat after crossing the still waters of Lake Pichola.

It took 20 years to complete this thoroughly modern monument to opulence, from the first tentative discussions between the Oberoi and the remnants of the Indian Mewar dynasty whose defining emblem of the rising sun is reproduced all over the property. But it was worth every minute of it.

At 30 acres in total, everything at the Udaivilas resort is on a grand scale. From the spa – which occupies two entire floors and offers more than 30 different holistic treatments such as ayurveda and aromatherapy to the Candle Room, a miniature glass palace or 'sheesh mahal' constructed of 175,000 separate mirror pieces, Udailvilas is simply breathtaking.

For Mr Oberoi's teams of craftsmen and women, who spent months studying hundreds of old manuscripts in order to replicate the interior design favoured by the Mewars themselves, the painstaking authenticity has paid off.

From the numerous gold-leafed, silvered chandeliers, murals and frescoes inside the building to the half-hidden courtyards, walkways, sculptures and gently rippling fountains that lead guests to the exquisitely-maintained gardens, the hotel is a palace in grand classic style built to exacting 21st century standards.

The main event

I was to sleep in the Great Moghul Suite, my butler, Vanessa, solemnly informed me, ushering me into a cool living area away from the heat of the late afternoon. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I knew that all my previous hotels grand as they were had been an enticing warm-up before the main event.

The large white marble sitting room, softened by vast handmade rugs, is adorned with exquisite Indian art and murals. It has both a dining table and chaise longue, the latter enticingly festooned with gold, silk cushions.

Next door, the enormous bed, framed in darkest mahogany and flanked by a pair of giant lamps, is raised just far enough off the floor to give it the flavour of a full-blown four-poster, and its softness promises the most relaxing of nights.

Jaw-dropping views

It was still light enough to see a beautiful view of Lake Pichola and nearby, the 16th century City Palace as Vanessa drew open the heavy, muslin curtains. To my astonishment, this also revealed my own private, heated pool, together with fully-canopied, poolside dining area. I was temporarily speechless.

Next, it was time to dress for dinner and meet the charming manager for a three-course dinner on the terrace. We swapped our experiences of Asia against a soothing background of sitar music and sweet-toned Indian bells, while I tucked into lemongrass soup and spring lamb cooked in yoghurt.

Before dinner, I took a dip in the pool overlooking acres of lush gardens and the lake beyond with only the cicadas and a complimentary bottle of vintage champagne for company. The return ticket to Heathrow didn't seem so appealing.

Virginia Matthews

Memoirs of an architect

We have had such a detailed eulogy from one of our discerning members, Katherine a highly respected architect that we felt it wholly apposite to cover The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur again. Katherine has a keen eye for grand designs and had many prerequisites prior to departure, all of which were met with impeccable pulchritude. So moved by the intoxicating beauty, the remarkable attention to detail and the faultless service that, after arriving at Udaivilas she simply emailed to say, "My senses have been knocked for six".

Katherine chose to stay in a superior deluxe room opening out onto a semi-private moated pool overlooking Lake Pichola. She commented that this was one of the most "visual" experiences of her life (and for a five-star luxury globetrotter that is quite something). She also felt that, for a young hotel, it had a very "deep soul", layered in "exotic mystery", with water being the dominant factor instilling tranquility.

A huge marble lily-pond is in a courtyard as you enter, with fountains and pools everywhere to behold. As you sit in the bar sipping iced rose tea, you look up towards a dome handpainted in gold leaf. Katherine remarked how the domes some adorned with mosaics, others with silver leaf were a "balancing" concept that elsewhere may have looked kitsch, but here were inspirational.

Dedicated to slumber

"I would certainly recommend my room, as the pool is such a plus as you float around in there looking onto the lake, the colours of the tiles blend with the sky and there is plenty of space on your terrace," she added. The small courtyard outside each room is "full of fragrant flowers...bowls of petals are everywhere and there are marble urns with flower petal patterns smelling of jasmine and burning incense." All this, and you've only just stepped outside your room!

Her room was spacious, stylish and dedicated to slumber. "The bed is so comfortable with soft pillows, soft bed linen and a lightweight duvet." Oh, how we wish all hotels would get this right! She reported the colours and fabrics were "tactile and vibrant with lots of cushions and a good size window seat, sofa, desk and chair."

She continued: "The bathroom overlooks a small courtyard, and, being made mostly of glass, you feel like you are outside while you shower. The bath is almost Victorian in style but, from a design perspective, it works."

The service in all Oberoi hotels is generally regarded as unimpeachable and Udaivilas is no exception. "The staff is a delight, nothing is too much trouble, nothing! Everything you ask for is dealt with immediately and they do everything they can to please," remarked Katherine.

Sense of calm

It seems that Katherine, who usually dismisses the spa routine, is now a convert. She said it had an extraordinary "sense of calm" and, "although treatments are not my strong point, it has been a pleasure, it really is perfect."

When it comes to food, you eat like a maharana in a dining room with views of the City Palace and Lake Pichola. The chefs have evolved eastern cuisine with delectable results.

Katherine concluded: "I can't find anything wrong. I've looked, I really have. I'm simply in paradise."

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant

Luxury Explorer