Udai Bilas Palace

Dungarpur, Udaipur, India Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
Live like Rajput royalty in this opulent 19th-century palace on the shores of Lake Gaibsagar - perfect for romance
Nestled in the Aravalli Hills near Udaipur and overlooking the picturesque town of Dungarpur - ‘City of Hills’ - is the enchanting Udai Bilas Palace. This idyllic combination of Art Deco and Rajput architecture is the royal family home of your host, and is the stuff honeymoon dreams are made of.

Built over 125 years ago by a Maharajah with an impeccable taste for art and culture, it was enlarged in the mid 20th century and, apart from its modern infinity pool, it remains steeped in 1940s design splendour. Murals and frescoes adorn its walls; sculptured stone pillars and marble arches steal the eye. Inside, there are mirrored floors, sweeping staircases, African hunting trophies, collectible teak furnishings and four-poster beds; outside are extensive gardens with views of the lake - a habitat for over 120 species of bird. The rooms are enormous, but it's the magical setting that really blows you away. This luxurious timewarp is easy to get to, and a couple of hours from Udaipur for day trips, yet remains off the well-worn trail. A perfect retreat from the 21st century and a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Rajasthan.


  • This is a truly authentic heritage hotel: each generation of Maharajah has added a new wing, so the rambling building spans several decades
  • The vast bedrooms are each decorated differently and all have great views of the lake or mountains
  • The stunning dining area features a massive marble table with an illuminated pool in its centre
  • Guests get access to the royal family’s 13th-century Old Palace, the Juna Mahal (a World Monument and one of Rajasthan’s best-kept secrets), and their collection of vintage cars
  • The service is impeccably attentive (occasionally too much so!)


  • Anti-hunters may be taken aback at the 100+ trophies of endangered species on display throughout the palace. Thankfully, the current Maharajah is a conservationist
  • Don’t expect all mod-cons - there are no TVs or phones in the rooms and no internet connection, but you’re only 10 minutes from an internet café
  • The buffet-style dinners can feel repetitive
  • The odd threadbare rug and paint-peeling corner may not to be to everyone’s taste, but they add to the atmosphere

Best time to go

High season stretches from November to February. This is also the best time for bird-watching, as it's when migratory birds congregate on the lake. The monsoon season lasts from July to October, and very keen birdwatchers come here then for the nesting season.

Our top tips

Don't miss the opportunity to take a tour around the grounds and rooms of Udai Bilas - including the majestic marble Ek Thambia Mahal or ‘One Pillared Palace’ in the central courtyard, which dates from 1860. If you're vehemently anti-bloodsports, opt out of the second stage as the Africa Room is framed with hunting trophies (from stags to tiger heads). But if you can stomach it, take a look - it's a fascinating insight into colonial life.

Great for...

  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Luxury Hotel
  • 23
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available


Every room and suite has been magnificently decorated in a uniquely opulent style, and the attention to detail is astonishing. The wallpaper, upholstery, tiling, rugs, bed linen - even the bathroom fittings - have been carefully selected by the royal family to give each room a distinctive feel. Little touches are everywhere: cosy alcoves, heart shapes carved into teak bedheads, cut-glass crystal bowls, even mirrored floors. On occasion, the clashing heritage fabrics can be overwhelming, but remain true to their 1940s origins. The palace has many hidden charms - from a Grand Suite featuring its own pooja (prayer room) to the tiny blue-patterned single room with its own staircase down to the lavish gardens.

The Maharawal Suite was the Maharajah’s private residence and is accordingly regal. With its roof terrace, Art Deco ensuite bathroom, writing room, four-poster bed, exquisite mirrored inlay-work, red velvet daybed, lounge area and fabulous views, romantic couples will want for nothing here.

All rooms are ensuite and the bathrooms are vintage works of art. Claw-foot tubs with showers and imported English fittings complement Moroccan tiles, Art Deco mirrors and herbal toiletries in beautiful cut-glass bottles. Bedroom doors don't have locks, but padlocks are available on demand and security is high throughout.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Extra beds
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Toiletries


Meals are served in Zenana Chowk - the elaborate, open-air banquet hall that incorporates a towering 17th-century temple. Its vast marble table features an illuminated water pool running through its centre - eating here is one of the highlights of Udai Bilas Palace.

Meals are a changeable buffet of predominately Indian food, mildly spiced to suit Western palates. Expect the likes of chicken handi sula (a Rajasthani curry), chicken tikka, akhni pulao (a fragrant rice dish with almonds, pistachios, golden sultanas and fresh spices) and traditional desserts such as gulab jamun. Chinese, vegetarian and continental dishes can also be requested, as can candlelit dinners by the lakeside for a special occasion (at an extra cost). Beware the price of wine with your meal - as elsewhere in India, half-decent wine is extortionate.

Those here for long stays may find the buffet a little repetitive and if there’s a limited number of guests, you feel vastly outnumbered by staff in the grand hall.

Breakfast is a standard affair of breads, fresh orange juice and cooked eggs. Poolside, a simple lunch can be taken in one of the many swing-seats or loungers. The tasty, light fare includes pakoras, sandwiches, toasties, lime juice sodas and cold beers. The hotel can also provide picnics.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service


  • A visit to the family’s Old Palace or Juna Mahal (15 minutes away by jeep, and a World Monument) is a must. The 13th-century building - one of the oldest palaces in the world - has 7 stories, stunning frescoes, turrets and endless narrow passageways. It’s highly likely that you’ll have the place all to yourself, with plenty of time to explore the secrets of this ancient wonder, including the hidden miniatures depicting the kama sutra
  • Motoring enthusiasts can view the family's collection of vintage cars, housed in a huge garage called Dungarpur Mews
  • Swim in the infinity pool, laze in the adjoining Jacuzzi, have a game of tennis on the palace's grass courts or visit the miniature aviary and admire the family peacocks and emus
  • Visit Dungarpur, the stronghold of the Bheels tribe. Borrow a bicycle and pedal through the colourful little hamlets in and around the town, past temples and through the palace’s private reserve forest nearby
  • Take a day trip: choose from the 8th-century temple ruins of Arthuna, the magnificent 12th-century temple of Deo Somnath, the 14th-century temple of Rishabdeo (with its gem studded statues) or the white marble Muslim shrine at Galiakot. Tours can all be booked in-house
  • Take a sunset boat ride on the lake. Bird lovers will be twitching with joy - you'll see egrets, night and pond herons, white-necked and painted storks, coots and winter ducks, as the surrounding wetlands are a mecca for these birds. Binoculars are available
  • Or if you're feeling adventurous, head into the forest with a guide and keep your eyes peeled for grey hornbill, peafowl, paradise catchers, cranes and golden-backed woodpeckers. If you're more into animals, take a Jeep tour to Navlakha Game Reserve to see blue bull nilghai, the biggest antelope in India, as well as jackals and jungle cats
  • Once night falls, gather by the lake for outdoor drinks and a crucible fire

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife


Children are greeted warmly here, as in most of India. Extra beds and baby cots are available and many suites feature adjoining rooms which are perfect for older children. They’re wonderfully designed too - one has pretty rose wallpaper and a matching bedspread.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

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