UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

UNESCO is an international organization that promotes the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. It designates natural wonders and architectural marvels across the globe as World heritage sites to promote their conservation. Each of these sites is selected carefully after ensuring it is of immense universal importance.

India is home to 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and boasts of having the 6th largest number of them across the globe. These include 32 cultural entities, 7 natural wonders as well as 1 mixed category site which was recently inscribed on UNESCO’s list (as of Dec-2021). These sites have significance across different fields like culture, heritage, architecture, and natural beauty.

Owing to its rich heritage and natural abundance, India is proud to have so many incredible places that are worthy enough to represent the nation globally. These heritage sites are worth exploring during your visit to India as they give you a glimpse of a shining past. Here, we have listed the must-visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

UNESCO Sites Category Wise

Agra FortCultural Site1983
Ajanta Caves Cultural Site 1983
Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar Cultural Site 2016
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi Cultural Site 1989
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park Cultural Site 2004
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) Cultural Site 2004
Churches and Convents of Goa Cultural Site 1986
Dholavira: A Harappan City Cultural Site 2021
Elephanta Caves Cultural Site 1987
Ellora Caves Cultural Site 1983
Fatehpur Sikri Cultural Site 1986
Great Living Chola Temples Cultural Site 1987, 2004
Group of Monuments at Hampi Cultural Site 1986
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram Cultural Site 1984
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal Cultural Site 1987
Hill Forts of Rajasthan Cultural Site 2013
Historic City of Ahmadabad Cultural Site 2017
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi Cultural Site 1993
Jaipur City, Rajasthan Cultural Site 2019
Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple, Telangana Cultural Site 2021
Khajuraho Group of Monuments Cultural Site 1986
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya Cultural Site 2002
Mountain Railways of India Cultural Site 1999, 2005, 2008
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi Cultural Site 1993
Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat Cultural Site 2014
Red Fort Complex Cultural Site 2007
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka Cultural Site 2003
Sun Temple, Konârak Cultural Site 1984
Taj Mahal Cultural Site 1983
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement Cultural Site 2016
The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur Cultural Site 2010
Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai Cultural Site 2018
Great Himalayan National Park Conservation AreaNatural Site2014
Kaziranga National ParkNatural Site1985
Keoladeo National ParkNatural Site1985
Manas Wildlife SanctuaryNatural Site1985
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National ParksNatural Site1988, 2005
Sundarbans National ParkNatural Site1987
Western GhatsNatural Site2012
Khangchendzonga National ParkMixed Site2016

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India UNESCO Heritage Site
Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India UNESCO Heritage Site (courtesy: abhishekkoli)
  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Uttar Pradesh
  • Period: 17th century

Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was built by emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal in 1653. Located on the banks of River Yamuna, this architectural marvel of the Mughal era sits right next to the mighty Agra Fort

The monument comprises five main structures – the Darwaza (main gateway), the Bageecha (garden), the Masjid (mosque), the Naqqar Khana (rest house), and the Rauza (mausoleum/tomb). The striking architectural style was devised by blending Persian, Central Asian, and Islamic architecture.

Costing an estimated 58 billion Indian Rupees today it is also referred to as the “Jewel of Muslim Art In India”. It is built in ivory-white marble that glitters under the full moonlight. Tourists from all over the world visit every year to witness the grandeur of this spectacular structure.

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India UNESCO Heritage Site
Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India UNESCO Heritage Site (courtesy: ctmlondon)
  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Madhya Pradesh
  • Period: 950 AD to 1050 AD

Khajuraho is a famous UNESCO World Heritage site in India renowned for a group of temples depicting erotic sculptures. Spread across an area of 20 square kilometers, the temples were built with Nagara-style symbolism.

It comprised architectural features like curved rows or circles on top of pillars as well as beautiful carvings to tell stories through artistry. The sensuous stone carvings of human and animal forms are very aesthetically portrayed and stand testimony to the rich cultural heritage of India.

Beyond the sexual representation, a majority of sculptures depict the everyday life of the common man in those times. Most of these monuments were built between 950 to 1050 CE under the reign of the Chandela dynasty. It comprised a total of 85 temples out of which only 22 could stand the test of time. The Kandariya temple is the most prominent among the group.

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra, India UNESCO Heritage Site
Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra, India UNESCO Heritage Site (courtesy: siddhesh-mangela)
  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Maharashtra
  • Period: 2nd century BC to the 6th century

One of the first World Heritage sites in India, Ajanta Caves dates back to the 2nd century BCE and consists of 31 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments. Considered beautiful masterpieces by many civilizations, these caves are a representation of life in India during two different periods. The first phase is from the Satavahana Dynasty, which occurred between 230 BCE and 220 CE, while the second displays Vakataka artistry beginning with Emperor Harishena. 

The Ajanta art and architecture have had a revolutionary impact on the way Indian arts have progressed throughout history. It is a prime reason for it being prescribed as a heritage site. Carvings in Ajanta mainly comprise Buddhist figures and traditions of Theravada and Mahayana.

The caves display both Hinayana and Mahayana types of art, architecture, paintings, and scriptures. It can also be said that these are some of India’s first classical sculptures. They mark an era in which artists started using more abstract forms to communicate ideas across cultures. 

Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha, India UNESCO Heritage Site
Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha – UNESCO Heritage Site in India
  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Odisha
  • Period: 13th century

The Sun Temple at Konark in Odisha is a 13th-century temple dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya and one of the famous temples in India. It was built by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty around AD 1250.

The unique Kalinga architecture of the temple comprises a gigantic chariot, led by six horses. Several legends mention that the architecture of the Konark Sun Temple is so accurate and intricate, that the first ray of the sun each day falls on the idol in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Beyond the architectural brilliance of the temple, it is also considered one of the largest brahmin sanctuaries in India. The temple was originally built at the mouth of the river Chandrabhaga but the erosion of the site’s original waterline leaves what remains of the temple to see today.

An architectural reflection into ancient Kalinga Architecture prevalent during that era still reflects its grandeur. It has been listed on UNESCO as the World Heritage Site for its invaluable link to Hindu beliefs and its unique artistic sorcery.

Red Fort Complex, Delhi

Red Fort Complex, Delhi India UNESCO Heritage Site
Red Fort Complex, Delhi – UNESCO Heritage Site in India (courtesy: camelkw)
  • Category: Cultural Site
  • UT: Delhi
  • Period: 1648

The Red Fort is located in Delhi as a symbol of India’s rich history. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan during his time as the Mughal ruler. It marks the transfer of his capital from Agra to Delhi in 1639 AD and it became known colloquially at that point as “Shahjahanabad.” The fort served many purposes over its lifetime including being used for politics amongst other things. The Red Fort is one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

The monument depicts a complex blend of Indo-Islamic, Timurid, and Hindu architecture laid out in red sandstone. The planning of the palace is derived from Islamic prototypes and each pavilion reveals architectural elements in Mughal style.

The Red Fort Complex in Delhi is also one of the oldest surviving government buildings in India. It is known for being one of India’s most important landmarks not only because Independence Day celebrations take place there each year but also as an essential stage for national-level speeches by the Prime Minister.

Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Maharashtra
  • Period: 600 to 1000 AD

Ellora Caves is a UNESCO world heritage site that perfectly exemplifies unity in diversity. Located in the Sahyadri hills, it is 30 kilometers from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Mostly made of volcanic basalt rocks in the 6th and 7th Centuries, the caves are popular as one of the world’s largest rock-cut temple complexes. Ellora is home to 34 caves and temples carved during the reign of the Kalachuri dynasty.

You must witness the beauty of Lord Shiva’s Kailasa Temple, a chariot-shaped monument. It is the world’s largest single monolithic rock-cut structure. There are 12 Buddhist caves, 17 Hindu temples, and 5 Jain temples to explore. You can also see the Dashavatara (Lord Vishnu’s 10 avatars) sculpted elegantly on the walls of the caves.

You must attend the Ellora Festival of Classical Dance and Music conducted at the caves during the third week of March. You can relax and unwind by meditating in the caves or simply stroll soaking in the ambiance.

Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Maharashtra
  • Period: 5th to 8th centuries

Mumbai is a popular tourist destination as it has preserved some of the world’s best heritage sites. One among them is Elephanta Caves on Elephanta Island, which can be reached via an exciting ferry ride from the Gateway of India. It is home to a 7th-century cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located 11 kilometers off the coast of Mumbai, the caves are famous for their rock-cut architecture from Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Jain faiths.

The prominent architectural remains on the island are 2 main cave temples that are carved into solid rock. 5 shrines and 14 columns with elegant carvings of mythical beasts supporting the ceiling slabs make it unique enough to be listed on the UNESCO heritage sites of India.

You can visit the museum near the caves to witness famous sculptures and artifacts excavated from the site. If you visit in February, you can enjoy the amazing annual dance festival and dive deeper into the culture of the region.

Group of Monuments at Hampi

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Karnataka
  • Period: 14th and 16th centuries

The Group of Monuments at Hampi is a UNESCO Heritage Site in India that preserves the culture and heritage of one of the most powerful dynasties from the region. Hampi was the seat of the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar.  The city is dotted with remnants of temples, palaces, and other prominent edifices of the era. UNESCO states that the monuments are the finest representation of the architectural excellence of the Vijayanagar dynasty.  

The Vithala Temple, Virupaksha Temple, and Lotus Palace are prominent structures at Hampi. Monolith structures of the bull Nandi and the big Shivlinga are also major tourist attractions. A bird’s eye view of the ruins can be enjoyed from Matanga Hill. 

Hampi is also known for its striking natural beauty. The Tungabhadra River runs through the city, and the landscape is decorated with hills and boulders. Besides witnessing the astounding beauty of the ruins you can also enjoy activities such as bouldering, hiking, and trekking at Hampi.

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Madhya Pradesh
  • Period: 30,000 years

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka have earned their name under the UNESCO World Heritage Site list because of their artistic carvings and paintings that date back to the Mesolithic period. These naturally carved rocks located amid the dense Bhimbetka forests of Madhya Pradesh are the earliest habitations of humans in the Indian subcontinent. 

There are around 760 rock shelters, out of which around 500 have walls adorned with paintings of humans and animals. Today around 15 caves in the region are open to visitors. Vegetable colors have been used in the paintings made in deep corners or inner walls of the caves. The beautiful paintings have endured through time and narrate stories from different eras including Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Chalcolithic, up to Early and Medieval history. Witnessing the ancient beauty of the caves and their natural surroundings is an exciting activity for history lovers.

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Uttar Pradesh
  • Period: 16th century

Fatehpur Sikri is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located near Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The city was built by Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. It served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585, until it was abandoned due to acute shortage of water. Built in red sandstone, the city exudes elegance through its majestic structures.

The city depicts a unique blend of architectural excellence and spiritualism. Derived from Persian and Hindu designs, the amazing Indo-Islamic architecture of Fatehpur Sikri attracts history lovers from across the globe. Each monument narrates stories of the regal era and takes you back in time as you walk through the undulating corridors.

Today, Fatehpur Sikri is a popular tourist destination with visitors coming to see its impressive architecture and historical significance. There are a number of things to do in Fatehpur Sikri, including visiting the key sites such as the Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid, Panch Mahal, and Tomb of Salim Chisti. 

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • UT: Delhi
  • Period: 1572

The 500-year-old tomb of the famous Mughal Emperor, Humayun is claimed to have served as an architectural model for the 17th-century Taj Mahal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its influence on the architecture of several key monuments.

It was built by his wife Empress Bega Begum and is the first garden-type mausoleum. Red sandstone and black and white marbles were used widely in its construction. Built in red sandstone and white marble, the tomb features a central dome surrounded by four subsidiary ones. You will appreciate the Rajasthani-influence on the architecture depicted through the chhatris, balconies, and brackets.

Set in a large garden complex with charbagh (a traditional Mughal garden layout) featuring water channels and fountains, Humayun’s tomb provides a surreal backdrop for a relaxing picnic. You can even explore the stunning interiors as well as spend time rejuvenating in the gardens. A special light and sound show is also organized at the premises and the illumination adds to the beauty of the monument.

Qutub Minar and its Monuments, Delhi

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • UT: Delhi
  • Period: Late 12th century

Delhi’s iconic monument, the Qutub Minar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Qutub Minar Complex comprises religious monuments and funerary buildings, known for their architectural display of early Islamic achievements in India. The most prominent is the five-story tower with distinct designs on each of its levels. Accompanied by a 379-step spiral staircase, the minaret rises around 73 meters from the ground.

Constructed using red sandstone and marble, the tower symbolizes the victory of the Mughals over Delhi. It is adorned with beautiful carvings and Qur’anic texts. The lotus borders, carvings, garlands, and looping bells were all designed with local sensibilities in mind. 

Inside the complex, you can see the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque (India’s oldest mosque), Alai Darwaza (a masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art) Alai Minar (the incomplete tower), Ala-ud-din’s and Imam Zamin’s Tombs. You can also witness the Iron Pillar that stands tall without rusting for over 2000 years in the complex. 

Delhi Tourism Department also organizes an annual five-day event known as the Qutub Festival. If you happen to visit the site in November or December you can enjoy a thunderous show put together by musicians, artists, and dancers from across the country.

Agra Fort

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Uttar Pradesh
  • Period: 16th century

The Agra Fort is a fascinating example of the art and architecture that were brought together by India’s Mughal rule. The stunning monument is also known as Lal Qila, Fort Rouge, or Qila-i-Akbari. An iconic landmark of Agra, the massive structure is often referred to as a walled city. Built purely out of red sandstone, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is a perfect example of Mughal art and architecture in that era. 

The Agra Fort was originally a brick monument known as Badalgarh, held by Raja Badal Singh. The fort was invaded and occupied by Sikander Lodi, who lived here during his reign. The structure as we see it today was first built during Akbar’s reign. It incorporates Persian elements from the era of the Timurid dynasty and blends them with Indian architectural styles to create a stunning masterpiece. 

Beyond the astounding beauty of the Agra Fort you can also marvel at the elegance of other adjoining structures. You must also explore the exquisiteness of the Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid), Diwan-i I Khas, Diwan-i I Aam, Shish Mahal, Roshanara Mahal, and Jahangiri Mahal.

Hill Forts of Rajasthan

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Rajasthan
  • Period: 7th to 16th centuries

The forts on the Aravalli Mountain Range in Rajasthan are a recent addition to India’s list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The six majestic structures include Amber Fort, Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort, and Jaisalmer Fort. These six forts on Aravalli Mountain Range in Rajasthan are famous because they were built for military purposes and embellished with exquisite elements of Indian architecture.

Hill forts of Rajasthan are a testament to the power and strength of Rajput rulers and narrate stories of their valour. The mighty fortifications these structures sport will make you think twice about any enemies that would have dared to stand against them.

The architectural wonders that exist within these ancient forts are nothing short of astounding. They were miniature cities with magnificent palaces, bustling markets, efficient water harvesting facilities, and pious temples. You must visit the forts to witness the remnants of these structures and marvel at how well-planned they were according to those times.  

Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Madhya Pradesh
  • Period: 3rd and 1st centuries BC to the 12th century AD

The ancient Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh are an example of India’s rich heritage. Commissioned by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, these stupas were built to house relics of Buddha. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its cultural importance and architectural excellence.

The Sanchi stupas are located on a hilltop and offer panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The most famous of these is the Stupa No.1 also known as the Great Stupa. It is among the most important Buddhist monuments in India. Decorated with four ornate gateways (Toranas), it is one of the oldest stone structures at the site. The beautiful carvings on the walls and gateways narrate the age-old Buddhist Jataka tales.

The other key attractions at Sanchi include the Ashoka Pillar, Udayagiri caves, and the Sanchi Museum. You can spend a day at Sanchi enjoying activities like hiking up to the top of the hill, walking around the monuments, and visiting the museum.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Maharashtra
  • Period: 1887–1888

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, formerly known as the Victoria Terminus is an iconic building in Mumbai. All trains headed for central India originate from it as it is the headquarters for Central Railways in Mumbai.

Located in the heart of Mumbai, it was built by Frederick William Stevens with inspiration from Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and traditional Mughal buildings between 1878 – 1888. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus gave Bombay its face of being “the international mercantile port”. It soon became popular among traders owing to its architectural elegance and strategic location.

The terminal has a fine blend of Italian and Victorian elements combined with the sheer elegance of Indian Palaces. Built using sandstone and limestones, the station boasts an interior lined with premium quality Italian marbles. You can visit the bustling terminus to witness the throbbing lifestyle of Mumbai and the astounding architecture of the monument.

Jaipur City, Rajasthan

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Rajasthan
  • Period: November 18, 1727

Jaipur City is a popular tourist destination in India. The capital city of the state of Rajasthan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is also known as ‘Pink City’ for its pink colored palaces, forts and temples. Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and has been laid out according to Vedic architecture using a grid plan.

The beautiful palaces, Havelis, markets, shops, and temples preserve the cultural heritage of those times. Though the city is visited by tourists from across the globe, the charming Rajasthani culture is evident across its streets. You can explore Jaipur City through its popular monuments such as Amer Fort, City Palace, Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal, and Jantar Mantar (Jaipur).  

The city has been home to “Chattis Karkhanas” (36 industries) each with a dedicated street or market of its own. They ranged from crafts like gemstones, stone idols, miniature paintings, lac jewellery, and other handicrafts. Some of these businesses continue to exist at the Bapu Bazar, Masala Chowk, and Johari Bazaar.

Churches and Convents of Goa

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Goa
  • Period: 16th and 18th centuries

An ode to the diverse religious and cultural heritage of India, the Churches and Convents of Goa attract tourists from across the world. The 15th and 16th centuries mark the coming of the Portuguese to India, who established themselves at Goa on a Southwestern coast. They were followed by Christianity’s introduction into this Indian subcontinent via their churches that were built as evangelization tools in order for them to spread their faith. These beautiful architectural forms have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list because they are different yet still very impressive.

These churches were built by Portuguese colonial rulers and occupy a region now known as Old Goa. The prominent attractions from Goa include the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral, Chapel at St. Paul’s College and Convent, Chapel of St. Catherine, and Church of St. Francis of Assisi. You can witness the fine artistic architecture of these churches and the influence of Catholic culture in the religion.

Historic City of Ahmadabad

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Gujarat
  • Period: 15th century

The historic city of Ahmadabad is known for its architecture and extensive city plan. It is the first city of India to be listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The walled city is located on the banks of the Sabarmati River. It is visited by tourists from across the globe to explore the well-preserved heritage of the city.

The former capital city of Gujarat is known for its many mosques, including the Jama Masjid and Siddi Sayed Mosque. Ancient Hindu temples like the Sun Temple, Shri Swaminarayan Temple, and the Akshardham Temple are also among the popular structures of the city.

Ahmadabad is also home to the 28 ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) protected structures. These include the Three gates besides Bhadrakali temple, Ahmed Shah’s Mosque, Panch Kuwa gate, and Kazi Mohmad Chisti’s Masjid. You can visit the city to marvel at its exquisite architecture, relish the delicious local food, and bask in the colourful culture of Gujarat.

Great Living Chola temples

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Tamilnadu
  • Period: 11th and 12th century

Great Living Chola Temples are a Group of 3 large temples built between the 11th to 12th centuries by the kings of the mighty Chola Empire. These buildings are a marvel of South Indian architecture with beautifully sculpted pillars and walls inscribed with history.

The grandeur of the temples shows the brilliant achievements of the Chola dynasty in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting. The temples of Chola showcase the growth of Dravidian architecture from the Chola period to the Maratha period.

The three temples are-

  •  Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur is dedicated to Lord Shiva
  • Gangaikonda Cholapuram (Brihadisvara Temple) is dedicated to Goddess Durga, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Surya.
  • Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The temples are popular among devotees from across the region. Their magnificent architecture is exemplary of the intricate art of the era. You can witness the popular annual festival of Annaabishegam and explore the Tamil culture of temple worship.

Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple, Telangana

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Telangana
  • Period: 1213 CE

Kakatiya Rudreshwara, also known as Ramappa Temple is a Hindu shrine located in Palampet village 200 kms North-East of Hyderabad. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is renowned for its intricate carvings and sculptures. Built during the reign of Rudra Deva, a ruler of the Kakatiya dynasty, the temple has been recently added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its magnificent architecture. The 12th century temple was constructed using red sandstone and took around 40 years to complete.

The impressive walled complex houses a Shiva lingam and has intricately carved walls with scenes from the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The temple’s sculptures of high artistic quality illustrate regional dance customs and the Kakatiyan culture. You can witness the beautifully decorated beams and pillars that are made from carved granite, dolerite stone with a distinctive pyramidal Vimana (horizontally stepped tower).

Ramappa temple has been called “the brightest star in the galaxy of temples” by Marco Polo.

It has a sandbox foundation filled with a mixture of sand-lime, Karakkaya (black myrobalan fruit), and jaggery for binding them. The unique foundation has helped the temple withstand the test of time by acting as a cushion against earthquakes.

Mountain Railways of India

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: West Bengal, Tamilnadu, Himachal Pradesh
  • Period: 19th and early 20th centuries

The Mountain Railways of India takes you into a fascinating world of train travel in India.  The railways wind their way through Shimla, Kalka, Darjeeling and countless other mountainous areas in India. Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, a journey of the mountain railways of India is a must-try for all train enthusiasts. 

These railroads on hill slopes were initially constructed to help people travel between the mountain towns and cities of India. Over years they have attained much cultural and historical importance. You can enjoy the stunning scenic railway journeys at the following mountain railways:

  • The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding example of railway technology being used for connectivity. From bridges over treacherous gorges and tunnels through lush tea plantations, the journey takes you through the natural wonders of the region. 
  • The Nilgiri Mountain Railway operates between Ooty & Mettupalayam which showcase famous tea plantations alongside stunning views that span across several stations. 
  • Kalka-Shimla Railways offers scenic views from their elevated tracks high above lush green forests. 

These engineering marvels were bold and ingenious solutions to the problem of connectivity in India’s rugged mountains.

The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • UT: Chandigarh
  • Period: 20th century

The architectural work of Le Corbusier at The Complexe du Capitole in Chandigarh is among the seventeen sites in seven countries across the globe recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. His work has been recognized as part of an outstanding contribution to the Modern Movement. 

Chandigarh is one of the most beautiful and well-planned cities in India. It was designed by the world-renowned French architect, Le Corbusier. One of the city’s most iconic structures is the Complexe du Capitole or the Capitol Complex.

Chosen from the work of Le Corbusier, The Capitol Complex in Chandigarh is a stunning masterpiece of modern architecture. Set against the mighty Shivalik range, the complex hosts the legislative assembly for both the states of Haryana and Punjab, the High Court and the Secretariat. 

The architecture of the building is a mix of traditional and modern styles. You must also witness the Open Hand monument, the Depth of Consideration, the Geometrical Hill, the Martyrs’ Memorial, and the Tower of Shadows that are located within the complex.

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Tamilnadu
  • Period: 7th and 8th centuries

The group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram was founded by the Pallava kings, who carved it out from rock along Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its Rathas (temples) & mandapas – caves sanctuaries with giant open-air reliefs such as the famous ‘Descent Ganges’ and thousands of sculptures narrating the glory of Lord Shiva.  Today, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu and is also recognized among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

The glorious monuments showcase the excellent craftsmanship of those days. You can visit the following monuments to witness the grandeur of the architecture:

  • Five Rathas- The five monolithic temples resembling chariots, carved out of rock.
  • Arjuna’s Penance- World’s largest bas-relief with over 100 sculptures. 
  • Shore Temples- Shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva constructed by King Rajasimha.
  • Panchapandava Mandapa- The large cave temple with decorated pillars.

Other prominent structures at the site are Mahishamardini Cave, Trimurthi Cave, and

Varaha Cave.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Karnataka
  • Period: 8th century

The temples at Pattadakal are an important example of Hindu architecture and have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The site has 9 Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary built by the Chalukya kings.

The temples in Pattadakal are a stunning display of ancient Indian architecture. The complex houses both Dravidian and Aryan style elements. The main monuments of the location are the Virupaksha Temple having sculpted columns depicting stories from the Puranas, and Mallikarjuna Temple with episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata engraved on its walls. 

Other prominent structures are Sangameswara Temple, Galaganatha Temple, Kashi Visweshwara Temple, Papanatha Temple, and Jambulinga Temple. You can also visit the sculpture gallery maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that displays some amazing pieces from around this area dating back thousands of years. An annual celebration is organised by the state government in February known as the Pattadakal Dance Festival.

The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Rajasthan
  • Period: 1727 and 1734

The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is an astronomical observatory that was created by the Rajput King Sawai Jai Singh of Rajasthan in 1738 CE. There are 5 similar observatories built by the king across India, the one in Jaipur is the largest of them. It consists of 19 large-scale astronomical instruments to calculate celestial coordinates and planetary positions. 

 An outstanding testimony to the scientific and technological advancements of Medieval times, the Jantar Mantar at Jaipur is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. It is home to Vrihat Samrat Yantra, the world’s largest stone Sundial. Other instruments you can look out for are Ram Yantra, Jaya Prakash Yantra, Chakra Yantra, and Digamsa.

Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and its instruments have been of immense significance among astrologers and astronomers. It provided them with a platform to review and discuss their findings. You can enjoy guided tours of the site along with entertaining music and light show after sunset.

Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Bihar
  • Period: 5th to 12th centuries

Nalanda is an important site in Bihar, with ruins of a Buddhist monastery dating from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. The Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda is listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The area is surrounded by hills on three sides, providing it with some protection from floods that used to occur every year. This place lies about 8 kilometres (5 mi) west of the famous Vikramshila University and was established in 427 AD under Gupta Empire. It reached its pinnacle during the 5th and 6th centuries under the patronage of Hindu kings like Harshavardhana and others.

From the 3rd century BCE until the 13th century CE, the Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara in Bihar was a center of scholarship and one of India’s ancient universities. A trip around the campus will take you through the ruins of stupas, shrines, and viharas, as a representation of the era bygone. Built as a seat of monastic and educational traditions, the centre now serves as a centre for study in old Pali writing and the Buddha faith.

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Gujarat
  • Period: Prehistoric and 8th to 14th centuries

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is located in Gujarat, India and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The park is spread over an area of more than 8,000 hectares and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in India. The park is a living testament to the skill and efficiency with which the cities were planned in those times.

This site has 11 distinct kinds of cultural structures, including mosques, temples, tombs, gateways, fortified walls and towers, palaces and pavilions, helical wells, and a customs house, many of which date back to the 16th century. The park also has a number of old Chalcolithic Indian sites that date back to the Stone Age period.

Some of the most famous places to see in Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park include the Nagain Masjid, Kevada Masjid, Palace of Mahmud Beghal, the Jama Masjid, and the Pavagadh Hill Fort. You can enjoy hiking and cycling around the various archaeological sites.

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Bihar
  • Period: 3rd century BC, 5th and 6th century AD and 19th century

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is the primary location of pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world who seek to follow in the footsteps of Lord Buddha. The holy site consists of dozens of structures, statues, and monuments that are all dedicated to Buddhist teachings. It is located at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India. The site of the Mahabodhi Temple provides exceptional records for events associated with Buddha’s life, and following Asoka’s construction efforts to commemorate him in India.

The Mahabodhi Temple is among the earliest brick structures in India. It has significantly influenced Indian architecture throughout the centuries. Another sacred site at the complex is the giant Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa). Alongside the Bodhi Temple is a shrine known as Cankamana that features black stone carvings of Lord Buddha’s feet. You can also witness the tallest statue of Lord Buddha in the country. Installed by the XIV Dalai Lama in 1989, the statue is intricately carved in sandstone and red granite.

Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Gujarat
  • Period: 11th century AD

There are several UNESCO Heritage Sites in India, each with its own unique history and culture. Rani-ki-Vav is one such site, located in the state of Gujarat. This magnificent stepwell was built in the 11th century and is now a popular tourist destination.

Rani-ki-Vav is an impressive sight to behold. The well is over 700 feet long and features intricately carved walls and pillars. It was built as a memorial of Bhimdev I by his wife Queen Udayamati of the Chalukya Dynasty. The well was painstakingly constructed over a period of 20 years and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rani-ki-Vav is a site of religious significance in India. It is cited as one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture. The well reflects typical Maru-Gurjara architectural style with 7 levels that are each adorned with sculptural panels having high artistic quality and more than 500 figures representing Hindu gods.

The Harappan City of Dholavira

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Gujarat
  • Period: 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE

Dholavira is located in the Kutch region of Gujarat and is believed to be the largest and most sophisticated of the Harappan Civilization sites. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it covers an area of around 22 hectares and is divided into two parts: the upper town, which features defensive fortifications and the lower town, which contains the main excavated area.

The city of Dholavira was an important archaeological site and its remains include gateways, water reservoirs, residential units, workshop areas, ceremonial grounds, and cemetery complexes. The excavated area is full of impressive structures, including a Great Bath, an elaborate water system, and a citadel. Dholavira is a very interesting example of early Indian urban planning. The city was laid down in accordance with preconceived plans with multiple layers for defense. The protohistoric Bronze Age city is outstanding in both its planning and building materials. It stands out for having sophisticated water reservoirs alongside efficient drainage systems made from stone depicting the level of advancement in urban planning at that time.

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai

  • Category: Cultural Site
  • State: Maharashtra
  • Period: Late 19th to early 20th century

The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai is a collection of 94 buildings of great cultural importance. They are located in the Fort Area, around Oval Maidan previously known as Esplanade. These 19th-century NeoGothic constructions are designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

The collection includes architectural masterpieces such as Bombay High Court, the Old Secretariat Building and The Fort Campus of the University of Mumbai. It presents a blend of architectural styles such as Gothic Revival, Neo-Classical and Art deco.

The buildings of Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai are well-conserved in terms such as visual appeal, spatial planning, and architecture. The Rajabai Clock Tower serves as a prominent landmark at the center of the Oval Maidan.

Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area

  • Category: Natural Site
  • State: Himachal Pradesh
  • Period: 2014

The Great Himalayan National Park is a world-class natural wonder with an area of 754 square kilometres that lies in India’s Kullu region. It is situated at the junction of the Palearctic and Indomalayan biogeographic realms. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014 as an outstanding example representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes.

The park features the picturesque Beas River valley and has over 805 vascular plant species, 192 varieties of lichens, 25 species of mosses, 12 species of liverworts and many medicinal plants. It is also home to 31 species of mammals, 209 varieties of birds, and a wide variety of reptiles and insects. The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area protects 4 species of globally threatened mammals and 3 species of globally threatened birds.

The Great Himalayan National Park is a paradise for hikers, with pristine forests, rushing rivers and snow-capped peaks. There are plenty of things to do in the park, including hiking, camping, birdwatching and wildlife spotting.

Kaziranga National Park

  • Category: Natural Site
  • State: Assam
  • Period: 20th century

Kaziranga National Park is one of India’s most popular wildlife sites. It is the crowning glory of Assam and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is popular for being home to the world’s largest population of one-horned Rhinoceroses.

Located on the floodplains of the Brahmaputra,  more than 2/3rds of Kaziranga National Park is submerged in water during monsoons and supports luxuriant vegetation through the rest of the year. The Park is an important spot for the conservation of a variety of biological species.

The marshy lagoons and dense tropical forests make it a wonderful place to find an abundance of flora and fauna. It is home to a number of endangered and threatened species including 478 different species of birds. You can enjoy an amazing Jungle Safari to explore the abundance of Kaziranga and the thrill of spotting rare wild animals in their natural habitat. You can choose between a Jeep safari and an Elephant safari, both of which are only available from September to March.

Keoladeo National Park

  • Category: Natural Site
  • State: Rajasthan
  • Period: 1981

Keoladeo National Park, originally known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985 because of its importance to the region’s ecology and wildlife. The park is well known for its birdlife, with over 370 species recorded including rare birds such as the Siberian Crane.

The park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including swamp deer, boars, fishing cats, and Indian skimmers. Keoladeo National Park is also an important stopover point for migratory birds travelling between Africa and Asia. The Keoladeo Park also preserves around 50 species of fish, several species of reptiles and amphibians and a wide variety of other invertebrates.

The sanctuary was a royal hunting ground of the Maharajas and even the British before being declared a natural reserve for rare species of plants and animals. The man-made wetland is evidence of the rich biological heritage of India. You can enjoy guided birdwatching tours and nature walks across the national park.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Category: Natural Site
  • State: Assam
  • Period: 20th century

The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area of pristine forests and rolling hills in India. Its name originated from the River Mansa that flows through it. The biodiversity hotspot is located in Assam and features a stunning landscape.

It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the lush forests are home to diverse vegetation and wildlife. The sanctuary offers a comfortable environment to several endangered species of animals like tigers, rare golden langur and the red panda.

The range of forested hills, alluvial grasslands, and tropical evergreen forests add charm to the spectacular scenery and natural landscape of Manas National Park. It offers an ideal habitat for India’s second-largest tiger population and the greatest water buffalo population. You can explore the diversity of the national park through a jeep safari or an elephant safari. River rafting is another popular activity to enjoy at the site.

Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks

  • Category: Natural Site
  • State: Uttarakhand
  • Period: 1939 and 1982

Nanda Devi National Park is located in the state of Uttarakhand and was established in 1986. It is home to the world’s second-highest mountain peak, Nanda Devi, as well as a variety of flora and fauna. Some of the park’s key sites include the Ralam Valley and Milam Glacier. Valley of Flowers National Park is also located in Uttarakhand and was declared a national park in 1982. The park is known for its beautiful meadows full of wildflowers.

Together, these parks confine a unique transition zone between the Great Himalayas and the mountain ranges of Zanskar. The diversity in flora and fauna found at these parks is unmatched. The biogeographic zone is home to significant populations of globally threatened species.

The Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks are two separate protected areas in India that offer an opportunity for getting up close with wild animals. The parks have been able to preserve their biodiversity. It offers a safe home to incredible creatures such as snow leopards, Himalayan musk deer, Bharal (blue sheep), and numerous plant species.

Sundarbans National Park

  • Category: Natural Site
  • State: West Bengal
  • Period: 1939 and 1982

The Sundarbans National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in India on the delta of the river Ganges. The park contains lush mangrove forests, grasslands, salt marshes, and mudflats. It is home to the most impressive Royal Bengal tigers as well as an abundance of bird species. The park is spread out over approximately 1085 square kilometres of land and water.

The Sundarbans is one of the world’s largest deltas as it spreads west from the Hugli River estuary on India’s Bay of Bengal coast to the vast tidal flats of Bangladesh. Mangroves dominate this fringe between sea and forest where crocodiles lurk among roots and fish swarm around tangled branches underwater.

A boat ride is best to witness the pristine beauty of 102 islands of Sunderbans. Besides the majestic tigers, you can also enjoy spotting the Gangetic dolphin, wild boar, spotted deer, and other mammal and amphibian species.

Western Ghats

  • Category: Natural Site
  • State: Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu

The Western Ghats is the mountain range that stretches along India’s western coast. It is home to a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, rivers, valleys, and plateaus. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Western Ghats is a major biodiversity hotspot.

Considered one of the Eight Natural Wonders of India, the Western Ghats comprises several national parks, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries across the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. The main sites of the Western Ghats include Agumbe, Coonoor, Dandeli, Madikeri, and Mahabaleshwar. These sites are perfect for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and spiritual seekers. They attract tourists and explorers from across the globe.

You can explore the beauty of the Western Ghats on a wildlife safari. For a more enriching experience, you can trek or hike through the hills to enjoy panoramic views from the several viewpoints in the region. Activities like mountain biking and trekking are also popular in the area.

Khangchendzonga National Park

  • Category: Mixed Site
  • State: Sikkim

Khangchendzonga National Park is located in the eastern Himalayas and is considered to be one of the most beautiful national parks in North-East India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled in the heart of the Himalayan Range. Located 1,220 metres above sea level, the Khangchendzonga National Park is the world’s highest biosphere reserve.

The park has rich biodiversity and encompasses the majestic Mt. Khangchendzonga (also called Kanchenjunga) along with 19 other famous peaks. The park also houses the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve. People of Sikkim associate the national park with spirituality and are grateful for its offerings.

You can witness the pristine beauty of the park through the 18 glaciers and a unique aggregation of varied landscapes such as plains, lakes, rivers, valleys, and gorgeous snow-capped mountains. The main places to explore at Khangchendzonga National Park are Khecheopalri Lake, Goechala, and Yuksom Valley.