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38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India to Visit in 2020


sneha

Sneha is a writer in the travel and lifestyle domain. Qualified as an engineer and an MBA, she quit her job to pursue her passion for writing. When she is not writing, she is either teaching kids, reading, cooking, or cuddled in her bed watching Netflix. Blog- writerdame.com

The earth has given shelter to 195 countries. In these 195 countries, whenever UNESCO finds a place of historic, cultural, architectural or scientific significance, it declares it a world heritage site. As per the latest count, there are 1092 UNESCO heritage sites in the world, with 38 of them in India alone. With so many travellers` interested in exploring the UNESCO world heritage sites in India, below is a compilation of all of these places along with the significance attached to them that made them UNESCO heritage sites in the first place.

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

taj mahal mughal architecture
Image by Dave Parkinson from Pixabay

Located on the banks of the river Yamuna in Agra, the Taj Mahal is as much a part of the new seven wonders of the world chosen in 2007, as it was of the old. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz mahal.

A symbol of love, this White Marble Mausoleum was built between 1631 and 1648 by around 20000 workers, all of whose hands were chopped off later so that they could never recreate another marvel as majestic as the Taj Mahal. It was declared a UNESCO heritage site due to its historic significance in the Indian context. It is considered the ‘Jewel of Muslim art in India’.

Timings: 30 min Sunrise to 30 min before Sunset – Closed on Fridays

How to reach: The Taj Mahal is around 165 km from Delhi, 235 km from Jaipur and 125 km from Gwalior and is well connected by road. The railway station and bus stand are around 5 km from the monument and are well connected to major cities.

Agra Fort, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Agra Fort, Rakabganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282003

agra  fort mughal empire
Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

This historic fort is where Shah Jahan, yes the same person who built the Taj Mahal, spent his last days after being imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb. Re-built by Akbar in 1753 in sandstone, this fort in the then Mughal capital city of Agra was the main residence of the Mughal emperors until 1638. Prior to 1753, this fort that originally belonged to the Chauhan Rajputs was made entirely out of bricks and its ownership changed many hands among the emperors of the Mughal and the Sur dynasty. When Shah Jahan took over, he re-built certain sections of the fort in White Marble. The fort has many structures like the Sheesh Mahal, Khas Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Diwan-e-aam, Nagina Masjid, and Moti Masjid. 

It was declared a UNESCO heritage site due to its historic and architectural significance. The Agra Fort won the 2004 Aga Khan award for architecture, and two new postage stamps were issued, featuring the Khas Mahal, or the Private Palace which was part of the re-constructed structures in marble by Shah Jahan.

Timings: 6 AM to 6 PM

How to reach: Agra is well connected to major cities by rail, road, and air. The main railway station is 5km, the airport is 13km and the Idgah bus stand is 4km from the fort.

Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh 283110

fatehpur sikri
Image by Makalu from Pixabay

Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585 and was built in sandstone by Emperor Akbar. An Islamic hermit called Chishti, from the village Sikri, had correctly predicted the birth of Akbar’s son Jehangir as the heir to his Empire. As a result of his gratitude, Akbar had named the city Fatehpur Sikri. The word Fateh, which means victory, was a celebration of his victory over Gujarat’s rulers. The structure of the city was inspired by Timurid architecture.

There are many important structures in this city, like the Buland Darwaza, the famous Jama Masjid, Tomb of Salim Chishti, Diwan-i-Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Birbal’s house, etc. This is where the nine courtiers, the Navratnas graced Akbar’s court. But for some unknown reason, the city was abandoned by the Emperor, and is now a ghost town, except for the tourists. This is one of the most sought-after UNESCO world heritage sites in India.

Timings: 6 AM to 6 PM

How to reach: Fatehpur Sikri is around 36km from Agra and there are regular buses to and from the city. You can also take your own car or hire a private vehicle. Agra is well connected to major cities by rail, road, and air.

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar

Bodh Gaya, Bihar 824231, India

Buddhism originated in India and Bodh Gaya was where Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Gautam Buddha. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex was built by the Buddhist emperor Ashoka and is one of the four pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. It was built completely in brick and was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in India as it is considered a fine piece of Indian brickwork.

The temple consists of various stupas and statues of Lord Buddha, with the gold-painted idol being the most sought after. The tallest tower in this holy place is 55m tall. The temple is frequented by Hindu visitors in addition to Buddhist visitors, as Gautam Buddha was considered to be an ‘avatar’ of the Hindu God Lord Vishnu.

Timings: 5 AM to 9 PM

How to reach: The closest airport and railway station are at Gaya, which is approx 17 km from the temple. It is also connected by road to other cities in Bihar, with daily state-run buses between Gaya and Patna.

Nalanda Mahavihara, Bihar

Nalanda University, Bargaon, Bihar 803111, India

Nalanda Mahavihara, also known as old Nalanda University, was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2016. It was an ancient monastery in the kingdom of Magadha and was an institution of learning for around 800 years, from the 5th century to 1200 AD. It was a centre for higher learning and adopted a merit-based approach. It includes various stupas, shrines, viharas in stone, metal, and stucco. The artefacts and embellishments depict the change in the Buddhist belief system during that period. The architectural planning of the university has been adopted by several institutes across Asia.

Timings: 9 AM to 5 PM

How to reach: While the closest railway station is Rajgir, around 12 km away, there are very few trains with not-so-great frequencies from here. The closest airport and most convenient railway station are at Patna, approx 89 km away, the Gaya railway station is also approx 98 km from the Mahavihara. It is also well-connected by road to other cities in Bihar, like Pawapuri and Bihar Sharif.

Red Fort Complex, New Delhi

Netaji Subhash Marg, Lal Qila, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi

red fort unsesco world heritage site
Image by PDPics from Pixabay

The capital of the Mughal Empire shifted from Agra to Delhi in 1638, and this is when the then Emperor Shah Jahan built the Red Fort in Delhi. It took 9 years to complete, from 16th April 1639 to 16th April 1648. Similar to the Agra fort, this fort was also built in Red sandstone. The Delhi Gate and the Lahore Gate are the two entrances to this UNESCO heritage site, with the main gate being the Lahore gate.

On the historic day of India’s independence, the tri-color was hoisted above the Lahore Gate and every year after that, the Prime Minister of the country hoists the flag and gives a speech here. The fort lies along the Yamuna river and is designed by the same architect who designed the Taj Mahal, Ustad Ahmad Lahori. A picture of the fort is found on the back of the new Rs.500 notes printed by the Government. It is now a major tourist attraction, and every evening witnesses a sound and light show depicting the Mughal history in India.

Timings: 9:30 AM to 4 PM – Closed on Mondays

How to reach: Delhi is the capital of India and is connected internationally to major countries in the world. It is connected to most cities with an airport in India and is well accessible by rail and by road.

Humayun’s tomb, New Delhi

Mathura Road Opposite, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah

This was the inspiration behind the Taj Mahal and is one of the first Mughal architectural works in India. The tomb was built by Humayun’s widowed wife Hamida Banu Begum in 1565,nine years after her beloved husband’s death. The architect of the tomb, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas was of Persian origin and brought the influence of Persian architecture in his design.

The gardens are highly geometrical with two bisecting central water channels, depicting the Islamic concept of paradise of four rivers flowing through ’Jannat’. The monument houses the highest number of tombs of Mughal descendants and was the first garden-tomb in India. In 1947, during India’s partition, it was a major refugee camp for people flocking to Pakistan. This UNESCO world heritage site in India was inscribed in 1993.

Timings: 6 AM to 6 PM

How to reach: Delhi is the capital of India and is connected internationally to major countries in the world. It is connected to most cities with an airport in India and is well accessible by rail and by road.

Qutub Minar and its monuments, New Delhi

Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi 110030, India

qutub minar delhi sultanate
Image by Suanlian Tangpua from Pixabay

Another structure in red sandstone, the Qutub Minar is a tapering structure with a diameter of 2.75m at the top and a diameter of 14.32 at the base. The tower is 72.5m in height. Qutb Ud Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, started work on this monument. Legend has it that the material used for the construction of the Qutub Minar came from 27 Jaina and Hindu temples, with the original images plastered over.

These carvings are now visible over time as the plaster has deteriorated. The history of the construction of the structure by different rulers is inscribed in different sections of the Minar in Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters. This UNESCO heritage site from the inside was accessible to the public prior to 1974, but a lighting failure caused a stampede, killing around 47 people and the tower was closed to the public and there are strict rules for tourists in the tower premises.

Timings: 7 AM to 5 PM

How to reach: Delhi is the capital of India and is connected internationally to major countries in the world. It is connected to most cities with an airport in India and is well accessible by rail and by road.

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Gangori Bazaar, J.D.A. Market, Pink City, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Jantar Mantar means Calculating Instrument. It was built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur in the 18th century. It features the world’s largest Sundial. It is one of the five astronomical observatories in India. It comprises of nineteen astronomical instruments, designed to observe the astronomical positions with the naked eye, all of which are made of stone.

Sawai Jai Singh was always fascinated by the movement of celestial objects, thus eventually building the observatory. It is located close to the city palace and Hawa Mahal. It was included in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in India in 2010.

Timings: 9 AM to 4:30 PM

How to reach: Jaipur has an international airport. It is connected to most cities by air, rail, and road. The observatory is located around 5.2 km from Jaipur railway station.

Jaipur, Rajasthan

Rajasthan,India

jaipur world heritage sites in india
Image by Klaus-Peter Katzbach from Pixabay

The Pink city is one of the latest additions to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. This fortified city was founded by Sawai Jai Singh in 1727. The urban planning of the city has ideas from Hindu, modern Mughal and Western cultures. Jaipur is home to many famous structures like the Amer Fort, City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal.

The city is full of palaces, most of which are now converted to hotels. It is also known for its shopping, with the famous Gota Patti, Bandhej, Jutis, the cotton bedsheets, Silver, and the digestive pills known as ‘Churan’. It is the land of the beloved sweet ‘Ghewar’. The city is always bustling with tourists, except in the summer months when it tends to get too hot for the visitors.

How to reach: Jaipur has an international airport. It is connected to most cities by air, rail, and road. The observatory is located around 5.2 km from Jaipur railway station.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Gujrat,India

India’s first city to be declared as a UNESCO world heritage site, Ahmedabad is a place Hindus, Jains, and Muslims coexist in harmony. The walled city is located on the eastern banks of the Sabarmati river and is home to Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Sabarmati Ashram. Some of the other famous structures here are the Bhadra Fort, Dada Hari Vav, Jhulta Minar, Sarkhej Roza, and Teen Darwaza.

The residential clusters of the medieval period, the Pols, make Ahmedabad exceptional. It is the industrial capital of Gujarat, with a flourishing textile industry. The famous Rathyatra, the Procession of Jagannath Temple is one of the biggest religious highlights of the city. It is recommended to visit Ahmedabad during Navratri to experience the frenzy of the pandals and the costumes and the ‘Garba’ and ‘Dandiya’ dances.

How to reach: Ahmedabad is very well connected to most of the country by rail, and to major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Shirdi, Bhavnagar and Surat by road.

Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan

Agra-Jaipur Highway, Bharatpur, Rajasthan 30200

Also known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, the national park is situated around 190 km from Delhi, and lies between Jaipur and Agra, both of which are of significance with reference to UNESCO world heritage sites in India. It was a royal hunting reserve during the 1850s and a game reserve for the Maharajas and the British.

It is a man-made park and is a grazing ground for the cattle in Bharatpur. You can find over 370 species of birds and mammals such as the Golden Jackal, Hyena, Blackbuck and Wild Boar here. The park offers various treks that can be covered on foot, cycle or by hiring rickshaw pullers. These rickshaw pullers are trained in bird watching and serve as excellent guides.

Timings: Sunrise to Sunset

How to reach: The nearest airports are Delhi and Jaipur which are well connected to the rest of the country as well as internationally. Bharatpur station is just 5 km away and it is well connected with other cities by road. There are regular buses to and from Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, and Alwar.

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

Maharashtra 431117, India

ajanat cave world heritage sites in india
Image by Chandan Pathak from Pixabay

Located in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, the Ajanta caves are 29 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which can be dated back from 2nd Century AD to 480 AD. They appear as a horseshoe around the Wangorah river. They vary 35 to 110 feet in elevation above the river stream.

They were >discovered by British officers of the Madras Army by chance in 1819.There are paintings depicting the past life and re-birth of Gautam Buddha along with pictorial tales of Arya Sura’s Jatakamala. The Indian Art draws its inspiration from this UNESCO world heritage site.

Timings: 8 AM to 5 PM

How to reach: The nearest airport is Aurangabad, around 99 km. The nearest railway station is Jalgaon, around 59 km. The caves are well connected by road to major cities like Mumbai, Jalgaon, Pune, Nashik, Ahmadnagar, Aurangabad, Bijapur, Hyderabad and Indore.

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh 471606, India

This UNESCO site is known for its cluster of Hindu and Jain temples, nagara style architecture and their erotic sculptures. The Khajuraho group of monuments were built during the Chandela dynasty. Legend states that the temples welcomed everyone with two golden date-palm trees at their gate, hence the name Khajuraho, derived from the Sanskrit word for dates, Khajur.

It is one of the four holy sites dedicated to Lord Shiva, the others being Kashi, Kedarnath, and Gaya. The Matangeshvara temple here still remains a site of worship. The temple art in the form of sculptures and carvings make it an artistic marvel.

Timings: 8 AM to 6 PM

How to reach: Khajuraho is well connected by road to Jhansi, Orchha, Chitrakoot, Satna, Katni, Chhatarpur etc, from where trains can be taken. There is a direct train from the Khajuraho railway station to New Delhi.

Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

The Ellora caves are celebrated for their religious tolerance and Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples that were carved from the local cliff rock in 6th to 8th century AD. They are a series of 34 temples are located around 30 km northwest of Aurangabad. There are 12 Buddhist temples that date back from 200 to 600 AD, 17 Hindu temples that date back from 500 to 900 AD, and 5 Jain temples dating back from 800 to 1000 AD.

The largest rock-cut structure in the world, the Kailasa temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the most spectacular feature of the Ellora caves. It carries carvings of scenes from Hindu mythologies of Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as elephants and lions. The Buddhist caves are larger than the Hindu ones. Visitors generally club this UNESCO world heritage site with the Ajanta caves in the same trip, due to their proximity.

Timings: 8 AM to 5:30 PM. Closed on Tuesdays

How to reach:  The nearest airport is Aurangabad, around 35 km. The nearest railway station is Aurangabad station, around 28 km. The caves are well connected by road to major cities like Mumbai, Jalgaon, Pune, Nashik, Ahmadnagar, Aurangabad, Bijapur, Hyderabad and Indore.

Elephants Caves, Maharashtra

Gharapuri, Maharashtra 400094, India

Collection of cave temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, this UNESCO world heritage site is located on Elephanta island, also known as Gharapuri, in the Arabian sea. The evidence of occupation in Elephanta island can be dated back to as early as the 2nd century BC. The caves were constructed around 5th-6th century AD. The name Elephanta was given by the Portuguese due to the presence of a large elephant near the shore, which was later moved by the British.

The Sadashiv temple that is 7m high dominates the entrance to the cave 1 and is the most prominent feature of these caves. A lot of the artwork here is damaged. The carvings narrate stories from Hindu mythologies, with the most celebrated ones being the Nataraja, God of dance, Yogishvara, Lord of Yoga and three-faced Shiva, the 6.1m Trimurti Sadashiva.

Timings: 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Closed on Tuesdays

How to reach:  A ferry from Gateway of India in Mumbai will take you to the island. It usually costs around Rs. 150 for a return journey. After alighting the ferry, you need to walk for a km or take the toy train to the site from where you need to climb 120 steps to reach the entrance of cave 1.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

The world knows Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus as the location of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008. Formerly known as Victoria terminus, it is a blend of Victorian Gothic and Indian architecture. It was built over a period of 10 years and was designed by British architectFrederick William Stevens.

With 3D stone carvings of various animal species, flora and fauna,stone mesh on decorated windows, it is the second most photographed structure in India. It is used by more than 3million commuters on a daily basis. The Indian Railways is responsible for the maintenance for the upkeep of the historic structure, which has been damaged over the years due to traffic and construction work in the area.

Timings: 12 AM to 12 AM

How to reach: This UNESCO world heritage site is connected to all major cities in India. The nearest airport is Mumbai airport, around 19km away.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

Manas Road, Barangabari Gyati Village, Dist Baksa

Established in 1928, Wildlife Sanctuary. is a tiger reserve, elephant reserve and a biosphere reserve, located in the Himalayan foothills. Endangered species such as Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur and pygmy hog are found at this UNESCO site. It used to serve as a hunting ground for the royal family of Cooch Behar.

A tributary of the river Brahmaputra, river Manas flows through the park, which also serves as an international border between India and Bhutan. The park is divided into three ranges-western, central and eastern. The temperature in this area ranges from 15 degree celsius to around 37 degree celsius.

Timings: 12 AM to 12 AM

How to reach: The nearest airport is Guwahati airport, around 176km away. The nearest railway station is Barpeta road, around 44 km away, however Guwahati airport is the most convenient as it is connected to all the major cities in India.

Western Ghats

Kannan Devan Hills, Kerala 685561

The Western Ghats are the Sahyadri mountain ranges, covering an area of 140000 sq. km, across the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They are home to unique varieties of flora and fauna that are found only in India. The area is one of the world’s ten hottest biodiversity spots.

The Indian monsoon pattern is influenced by the Western Ghats. The famous Dudhsagar falls shown in the movie Chennai express is just one of the examples of the splendour of these Ghats. During the monsoon season, Indians love to pack their backs over the weekend and head to this UNESCO world heritage site for re-connecting with nature.

How to reach: The best way to reach Western Ghats is by road, via taxi, private car of bus.

Capitol Complex, Chandigarh, Punjab

Sector 1, Chandigarh, 160001, India

Located in the fifth most liveable city in India, Capitol Complex is a government building designed by architect Le Corbusier. It was built in 1950, after India’s independence when Chandigarh was being developed as the capital of Punjab.

The structures at this UNESCO world heritage site in India include three buildings, the Legislative Assembly, the Secretariat, and the High Court, three monuments and a lake. It was Le Corbusier’s largest project, one where he could test his modernist theories, and this opportunity was given to him by India’s first planned cities of Chandigarh.

Timings: 9 AM to 5 AM, although tourists are allowed in batches at 10AM, 12 AM and 3 PM

How to reach: Chandigarh is well connected to major cities in India by rail, road and air.

Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

Konark, Odisha 752111, India

This 13th century UNESCO world heritage site is one of India’s most famous Brahmin sanctuaries, and situated about 35 km from Puri, one of the 4 ‘dhams’ of the Hindu religion. Built by King Narsimha I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, this temple is dedicated to the Sun God. It is a monumental representation of the God’s chariot, with 24 wheels led 6 horses and is entirely built in three different types of stone, Chlorite, Laterite and Khindalite.

The temple is now in ruins, and the reason for the damage is unknown. Due to the black-ish appearance of the great tower of the temple, the Europeans used to call it ‘Black Pagoda’. The statues and carvings at the temple depict images from the daily life of people, various animals, aquatic life of creatures, birds, and mythological creatures. The temple is also known for its erotic sculptures of maithunas.

Timings: 6 AM to 8 PM

How to reach: The temple is accessible by road from Bhubaneshwar and Puri, both of which are well connected to major cities through rail and air.

Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh 464661, India

The oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence, the Buddhist monuments are located on top of a hill in Sanchi town, about 40km from Bhopal. The stupas, shrines and Buddhist monasteries are an illustration of the Mauryan art. Emperor Ashoka, of the Maurya dynasty, embraced Buddhism after his Kalinga conquest in the 3rd century BC, after he saw unnecessary bloodshed and the death of thousands of people. This is when he constructed the Sanchi stupa.

Since the 14th century, this UNESCO world heritage site in India was forgotten and deserted, until it was rediscovered by General Taylor in 1818. The monolithic Ashoka Pillar, made of finely polished sandstone is one of the most prominent features of this site. It is much damaged and its upper part is preserved in the nearby Sachi museum.

Timings: 9 AM to 5:30 PM

How to reach: The nearest airport and railway station are in Bhopal, which is well connected with the rest of the country. Sanchi is well connected by road and a private car, taxi or bus can be taken to reach here.

Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu

MDR972, Mampatti North, Tamil Nadu 630566, India

 chola temple world heritage sites in india
Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

The Chola temples were built between the 11th and 12th century AD by the kings of the Chola dynasty, the longest ruling dynasty in South India, and include the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur, temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram. The temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram was built by Rajendra I and its 53m sanctum tower has a graceful upward curving movement, as opposed to the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur.

The Airavatesvara temple built by Rajaraja II has a stone image of Lord Shiva and has a 24m high sanctum tower.The temples are the architectural concept of the pure form of Dravidian type of temples, excelling in sculpture, painting and bronze casting.

Timings: Thanjavur – 6 AM to 12:30 PM and 4:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Brihadisvara – 9 AM to 8 PM
Airavatesvara – 6:30 AM to 8:30 PM

How to reach: The nearest airports to this UNESCO world heritage site are at Tiruchirapalli and Pondicherry. Thanjavur is well connected by rail and road to other major cities in the country.

Kaziranga National Park

Kanchanjuri, Assam 784177, India

Located in the Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Nagaon districts of Assam, this UNESCO world heritage site is home to a wide variety of wildlife species. It hosts two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinoceroses. In 1904, when the then Viceroy of India’s wife Mar Curzon visited the renowned rhinoceros park, she couldn’t spot a single one. This is when she urged her husband who then took steps to protect the species and a forest reserve was created.

It came to be known as Kaziranga National Park when hunting was prohibited in 1908. Apart from the various animal species, this is a great place for bird-watching, where species such as pelicans, fishing eagle, jungle fowl, Bengal florican, swamp partridges, etc can be frequently spotted. There are certain observation towers in the park and guided tours by elephant or jeep are available for the visitors.

Timings: Open 24 hours while there are fixed timings for elephant and Jeep safari

How to reach: Airports nearby are Guwahati(217 km) and Jorhat(97 km). The nearest railway station is Furkating at a distance of 75 km from the park.

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

Fisherman Colony, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu 603

 group of monuments mahabalipuram tamil nadu
Image by c2squareinc from Pixabay

FouFounded by the Pallava kings, these sanctuaries are carved out of rock. The rathas, mandapas, temple of Rivage are what these monuments are popular for. There are thousands of scriptures dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are inscription sin various Indian languages and scripts, with narratives from the Mahabharata. 

At around 60km from Chennai, these monuments are on the coast of Coromandel, along the Bay of Bengal. The Descent of the Ganges is one of the largest open air rock reliefs in the world. The construction of the monuments can be dated back to the 7th and 8th century. You can club the visit to this group of UNESCO world heritage sites along with the Mahabalipuram beach, and catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise from this Eastern coast.

Timings: 6 AM to 6 PM

How to reach: Nearest airport is Chennai, around 58 km away, the nearest railway station is Chengalpattu, around 29 km away. There are regular buses from Chennai, Puducherry and Kanchipuram to and from Mahabalipuram.

Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal

Kolkata West Bengal 743370, India

Covering an area of 10,000 sq. km, stretching across India and Bangladesh in the Ganges delta, with a major portion in India, the national park contains the world’s largest mangrove forests. It is also the largest Bengal tiger reserve. Some of these tigers are man-eaters due to their frequent encounter with the local inhabitants.

A variety of birds, reptiles including the salt-water crocodile can be found in the park. The National park was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987. It is a world network of Biosphere reserves. Every corner of the park is accessible by boat due to the interconnected network of waterways.

Timings: 7 AM to 5 PM

How to reach: Kolkata airport, which is well connected domestically and internationally, is the nearest airport. The nearest railway station is Canning. The park is well connected to Kolkata by road. 

Group of Monuments, Pattadakal, Karnataka

State Highway 14, Pattadakal, Bagalkot, Karnataka 

group of monuments at pattadakal karnataka
Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

This is a group of nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary. It is a complex from the 7th and 8th century, and is located on the west bank of river Malaprabha in Bagalkot district. UNESCO describes it as ‘ a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India and an illustration of ‘electric art’ at its height.

They were built under the Chalukya dynasty. The temple of Virupaksha is a prominent feature of this UNESCO world heritage site in India, which was built by queen Lokamahadevi in celebration of her husband’s victory over southern kings.

Timings: Sunrise to Sunset

How to reach: The nearest airport is Belgaum, around 150 km away. Belgaum is well connected with the rest of the country by rail and by air. Belgaum to Pattadakal is accessible by road.

Mountain Railways of India

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka-Shimla Railway are declared as UNESCO heritage sites. These are railway lines built built in the mountains of India. Of these, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was the first one, and is one of the best examples of a hill passenger railway.

The depict engineering expertise and are extremely well maintained. The toy train from Kalka-Shimla is a fun ride, with colorful scenery on the way, leading to the British summer capital of Shimla. Darjeeling is a summer hill station and tea-plantations can be seen enroute the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway connects Ooty, now known as Udagamandalam with Mettupalayam.

Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area, Himachal Pradesh

Forest Office Rd, Shamshi, Himachal Pradesh 17512

Spread over 1171 sq.km at an altitude of between 1500m and 6000m, this is located in the Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh. This site includes the source origins of rivers Jiwa Nal, Sainj, Parvati and Tirthan, which are tributaries of river Beas, which is a tributary of river Indus.

The Great Himalayan National Park was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2014, due to its outstanding significance of biodiversity conservation. There are about 1000 plant species, including many medicinal herbs, 209 bird species including the endangered musk deer and the western horned tragopan, 31 mammal species as well as insects, amphibians and reptiles here.

Timings: Open 24 hours

How to reach: The nearest airport is 60km away in Bhuntar, near Kullu. The nearest railway station is Joginder nagar, near Mandi. There are no motorable roads, but a couple of gravel roads to the park. There are two routes from Kullu, from Ropa to Shangarh in Sainj valley and Gushaini to Ropa in Tirthan valley.

Hampi, Karnataka

Karnataka 583239, India

The last capital of the Hindu kingdom Vijayanagar, Hampi consists of Dravidian temples and palaces. The city was abandoned in 1565 after being robbed for 6 months by the Deccan Muslim confederacy. In 1500 AD, Hampi was the world’s second-largest city after Beijing and the richest city in India at that time. It is situated on the banks of river Tungabhadra. The beautiful carvings on the temples depict animals, deities and people in different poses.

A prominent feature of this site is the Lotus temple, which used to be used by the royal women of the Vijayanagar dynasty. Another prominent feature is the Virupaksha temple, which is still a religious centre for Hindus. In February 2019, a few hooligans were caught vandalising the pillars at this UNESCO heritage site. They were caught by the police eventually and restoration work was undertaken.

Timings: Each monument has its own timings, with most of them being 6 AM to 6 PM

How to reach: The nearest railway station is 13km away at Tungabhadra. The nearest airport is around 160km away in Hubli. The most popular route is getting into Bangalore or Hyderabad and taking a train from there.

Rani ki Vav, Gujarat

Mohan Nagar Socity, Patan, Gujarat 384265, India

 Rani ki Vav Gujarat
Image by BANITA TOUR from Pixabay

Rani ki Vav is a stepwell in the town of Patan in Gujarat, on the banks of river Saraswati. ‘Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resources and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC’.The construction of this stepwell can be attributed to Udyamati, the queen of the Gurjar king Bhimdev I of the Solanki Dynasty.

The steps begin at ground level and go deep into the well below. Enroute, there are seven galleries through which you pass, with 800 elaborate sculptures. The theme of these sculptures is the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, also known as Dasavtaras, including Ram, Krishna and Gautam Buddha. AT water level, there is a carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, in which Vishnu can be seen lying on the thousand hooded serpent Shesha, where he is said to have rested in the infinity between ages.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 7 PM

How to reach: This UNESCO world heritage site is accessible by road from Patan and Ahmedabad. The nearest airport is Ahmedabad at 123km and the nearest railway station is Mehsana at around 55km.

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat

Champaner, Gujarat 389360, India

This archaeological park was built around the city of Champaner which was built by Sultan Mahmud Begada. Starting from the hills of Pavagadh, this site is studded with forts with bastions. The site includes religious buildings like temples and mosques, residential areas, water installations, agricultural structures, tombs and fortifications from the 8th to the 14th centuries.

A prominent feature of the site is the Kalikamata temple, thus promoting religious tourism. Gujarati Islamic architecture can be seen in the mosques constructed here, with Jama Masjid, Nagina Masjid, and Bawaman Mosque being the most popular ones. Some of the Chalcolothic stone-age era sites can be found in this park.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 5 PM

How to reach: The nearest major railway station in Vadodara at around 50km from this UNESCO world heritage site. The park is also accessible by road to Ahmedabad, around 145km, and Ahmedaba d is well connected to major cities by air.

Hill forts of Rajasthan
hilll forts of rajasthan world heritage sites in india
Image by Digant Dalal from Pixabay

The hill forts of Rajasthan comprise of the majestic forts of Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar, Jaipur and Jaisalmer, which boast of the Rajput Empire from 8th to 18th centuries. Chittorgarh fort was the capital of Mewar for  834 years, before completely destroyed in 1568.

The legend of Rani Padmavati, the queen so beautiful, with skin so transparent that you could see water flowing down her throat, was born here. Kumbhalgarh fort is the second largest fort after Chittorgarh and is the birth place of Maharana Pratap. Ranthambore Fort in Sawai Madhopur was built by the Chauhan Dynasty and was captured by the Sultan of Delhi in 1236. Gagron Fort in Jhalawar was built by the Doda Rajputs, and was later captured by the Chauhans and then Aurangzeb, who later granted it to Maharao Bhim Singh.

The Jaipur Fort of Amer was built by Raja Man Singh who was one of Akbar’s Navaratnas. Amer was also the home of Akbar’s Hindu wife, Jodha Bai before her marriage. Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest fortifications in the world and still houses around 400 families. These UNESCO world heritage sites leveraged nature to their advantage by using the hills, rivers, deserts and forests as natural defences. The water harvesting structures are in use till date.

Churches and Convents of Goa

Goa

Churches and Convents of Goa comprise a set of religious monuments located in Old Goa, also known as Goa Velha. This UNESCO world heritage site in India, in the capital of Portuguese India, played a pivotal role in the spreading of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art forms in several parts of Asia.

The most prominent feature of these monuments is the church of Bom Jesus, which houses the tomb of St.Francis Xavier. The oldest structure is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and was built in 1543.The See of Goa was the largest building that the Portuguese built in India. It is around 91m long and extremely wide.

The Chapel of Santa Catarina was built by Afonso de Albuquerque at the door of the Muslim wall of Goa, from where the Portuguese invaded. The ruins of the Church of St.Augustine is a part of the most striking tower that is still standing. Goa is known for its beaches and parties. But when in Goa, do visit these heritage sites. It makes for a different and satisfying experience.

Timings: It is a group of 20 churches and each church has timings of its own

How to reach: Goa is well connected to major cities in India by road, rail and air. It also has an international airport.

Kanchenjunga National Park, Sikkim

Sikkim, India

kanchenjunga national park
Image by Arthur Pazo from Pixabay

Also known as Kanchendzonga Biological Reserve, it was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2016 as a mixed heritage. Its name comes from mountain Kanchenjunga. Legend has it that Buddhist masters hid holy texts across the national park, and is a popular spot for Buddhist followers. Kanchendzonga is worshipped as the guardian deity by the Sikkimese people, and offerings and ceremonies are carried out in his name.

The best time to visit the national park is between April and May, as heavy snowfall during the winter months often cause landslides and blockage of roads. However, if you want to witness the snow clad mountains and experience the chill of the place, September to December is a good option.

Timings: 10 AM to 6:30 PM

How to reach: The park is well connected by road from Siliguri and Gangtok. Siliguri is well connected by air and Gangtok now has an operational airport since 2018.

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

Bhojpur Raisen, Madhya Pradesh 464990, India

district of Madhya Pradesh. There are five clusters of natural rock shelters, within massive sandstone outcrops, above dense forests. Paintings dating back to the Mesolithic and Paleolithic period can be found in these shelters. The earliest paintings in thei UNESCO heritage site are around 10,000 years old, but some geometric figures are as recent as the medieval period..

The significance and true scale of these rock shelters were discovered in the 1970s, and more than 750 rock shelters have been identified. The site contains world’s oldest floors and stone walls. The raw materials were apparently sourced from the nearby village of Barkheda. A significant feature of the site is the Auditorium cave, which is surrounded by quartzite towers and is the largest shelter at this site.

Timings: 7 AM to 6 PM

How to reach: The rock shelters are at around 45 km from Bhopal, which is well connected to major cities in India by rail, road and air.

Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand 246443, India

Valley of Flowers is nestled in the West himalayas and is known for its meadows of alpine flowers and natural beauty. It is home to various endangered species such as the snow leopard, Asiatic black bear, brown bear and blue sheep. Various treks are organized every year in the Valley of flowers to explore the beauty and serenity of the place.

One of the deepest mountains in the world, the Nanda devi mountain peak is at a height of 7800m.The wilderness of the Nanda Devi National Park, along with the landscape of the Valley of Flowers, encompass a unique transition between Zanskar and Himalayas. The ruggedness of the park makes it inaccessible and hence, protected. This UNESCO heritage site is important from the point of view of monitoring the ecological conditions in the Himalayas.

Timings: Valley of Flowers – 6 AM to 6 PM, the last entry time is 3 PM
Nanda Devi National Park – 4 AM to 7 PM

How to reach: The nearest airport from Nandadevi is at Dehradun, around 295 km away, Rishikesh is the nearest railway station at around 276km. One has to trek from Joshimath which is accessible by road. The Park is closed for 6 months in the year and is open only during the summers.

The Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai

Mantralaya, Fort, Mumbai, Maharastra 400032, India

The Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble is a collection of 19th century Victorian Neo Gothic public buildings and Art Deco buildings from the 20th century. These buildings are located in the fort area of Mumbai. They are set around the famous Oval Maidan. Some of the Victorian buildings are the High Court, the Rajabai clock tower, City civil sessions court and Mumbai University.

The famous buildings of the Art Deco are Regal cinemas and Eros cinemas. These buildings are examples of the modernization of Mumbai during the 19th and 20th centuries. The buildings were included in the list of UNESCO heritage site in 2018, and the nomination was endorsed by the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The nomination Dossier was prepared by Abha Narain Lambah who had dedicated 14 years to this project.

How to reach: Mumbai is well connected to the rest of the country as well as internationally by air. Mumbai also trains going to most cities in India and is well connected by road to major cities.

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