A total of 32 properties in India have been granted the status of World Heritage Sites (WHS) by UNESCO. These are all unique and splendid in more ways than one. No matter which area in the country you are headed to for your next vacation, you’d almost certainly find one World Heritage Site nearby.
If you love to travel, this list is for you!
Let’s go through the 25 cultural sites first, and follow up with 7 natural sites.
1. Astonishing hand carved caves of Ajanta; step back in time here
About 30 intriguing rock-cut Buddhist cave include paintings and sculptures which date from the 2nd century BC to about 480 or 650 A.D. are in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
2. Outstanding Cave Temples of Ellora; a Symbol of Religious Harmony
There are 34 caves which are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. The 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves are built in proximity. The credit goes to the Rashtrakuta Dynasty.
3. Panoramic White Marble Mausoleum of Taj Mahal
Widely recognized as “The jewel of Muslim Art in India,” it was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
4. The Red Sandstone Fort of Agra
The present-day structure was built by the Mughals, though a fort had stood there since at least the 11th century. Agra Fort was originally a brick fort known as Badalgarh, held by Raja Badal Singh, a Hindu Sikarwar Rajput king. Akbar had it rebuilt with red sandstone from Barauli area in Rajasthan.
5. Monuments at “Land of Seven Pagodas” Mahabalipuram
All these monuments located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal are in the exclusive Dravidian style of architecture, imbibing the art and culture of Tamil Nadu.
6. Konark Sun Temple, Where the Language of Stone surpasses that of men
A magnificent example of Kalinga Architecture, this 13th-century Sun Temple (also known as the Black Pagoda) lies in Konark, Odisha and is dedicated to the Sun God.
7. Churches and Convents of Old Goa
Also called as or Velha Goa, they were built by the Portuguese colonial rulers of Goa between 16th and 18th centuries. The most significant of these monuments is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which enshrines the tomb containing the relics of St. Francis Xavier.
8. Group of Monuments at Hampi, the post popular tourist place of Karnataka
The Group of Monuments at Hampi got their World Heritage Status in 1986 and comprises a sombre but flamboyant Hampi town, on the banks of the River Tungabhadra in Karnataka. Hampi subsumes the ruins of Vijayanagara, which was the former capital of the powerful Vijayanagara Empire.
9. The confluence of erotic and spiritual sculptures of Khajuraho
It is a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh. The temples are famous for their Nagara-Style Architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 AD, during the Chandela dynasty.
10. The “City of Victory”, Fatehpur Sikri
Built during the 16th century by Akbar, it was the capital of the Empire for 14 years. It had to be abandoned due to the twin reasons of lack of water and unrest in north-west India. Akbar decided to construct it in 1571, on the same site where the birth of his son, Jahangir, took place.
11. Group of monuments in Pattadakal
It’s consisting of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary in northern Karnataka. In this group of temples, the Virupaksha Temple, built c. 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi is considered the most outstanding architectural edifice.
12. The sculpted “City of Caves” at Elephanta
There are two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The caves have been dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries and are situated near the Mumbai harbour.
13. Great Living Chola Temples of the South
These were built by kings of the Chola Empire stretched over all of Tamil Nadu. This cultural heritage site includes three great temples of 11th and 12th centuries namely, the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.
14. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
Located in Madhya Pradesh, these are a group of Buddhist monuments dated between 200 BC and 100 BC. The principal monument is Stupa 1 dated to the 2nd century and 1st century BC. These Buddhist sanctuaries were active Buddhist religious monuments, which flourished till the 12th century.
15. Humayun’s Tomb, resting place of the Mughal dynasty
The Humayun’s Tomb was built in 1569–1570 by the second Mughal Emperor Humayun’s widow Biga Begum (Hajji Begum). Its architecture is credited to Mirza Ghiyath and its Mughal architectural style has been acclaimed as the “resting place of the Mughal dynasty” for its double domed elevation provided with Chhatris.
16. Symbol of Victory of Islam in India, Qutub Minar and its Monuments
The Qutub Minar was built to celebrate the victory of Mohammed Ghori over Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192 AD, by his then viceroy, Qutb-ud-din Aibak. The Minar’s floors were added upon by his successor Iltutmish and much later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq.
The complex initially housed twenty-seven ancient Hindu and Jain temples which were destroyed and their material used in the construction of the Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque.
17. Mountain railways of India
The Mountain Railways of India represents a collective listing of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (World Heritage Status in 1999), the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (World Heritage Status in 2005) and the Kalka-Shimla Railway (World Heritage Status in 2008).
These railway lines built in the mountains of India in the 19th and early 20th centuries, during the British Raj, are run even today by the Indian Railways.
18. Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
It is a Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, marking the location where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment.
Next to the temple, on its western side, is the holy Bodhi tree.
19. Mesolithic Period paintings of the Bhimbetka rock shelters
Bhimbetka rock shelters site complex is a magnificent repository of rock paintings within natural rock shelters.” It is located in the foothills of the Vindhya Range of hills in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The unique rock art has been discovered in 400 painted shelters with some of the shelters dated from 100,000 BC to 1000 AD.
20. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park of Gujarat
It is situated in Panchmahal district in Gujarat. This place has prehistoric sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat.
21. Heartbeat of Mumbai, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
CST is a historic railway station in Mumbai; it serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. It is one of the busiest railway stations in India. The station was designed by Frederick William Stevens, a consulting architect in 1887–1888. It took ten years to complete and was named “Victoria Terminus” in honor of the Queen and Empress Victoria; it was opened on the date of her Golden Jubilee in 1887.
22. Red Fort Complex, Lal Qila
It is a palace fort built in the 17th century by Shahjahan as part of his new capital city of Shahjahanabad. It represents the glory of the Mughal rule and is considered the Highpoint of Mughal architectural, artistic aesthetic creativity. The palace complex has been fortified by an enclosure wall built with red sand stone (hence the name Red Fort).
23. The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, Not Delhi
Granted World heritage Status in 2010, it is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja (King) Jai Singh II at his then new capital of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these and has a set of some 20 main fixed instruments built in masonry.
24. The awe-inspiring Hill Forts of Rajasthan
They represent a typology of Rajput military hill architecture, a style characterized by its mountain peak settings. They consist of Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort, Amber Fort, Jaisalmer Fort.
25. Intricately constructed stepwell at Patan Gujrat, Ranni ki Pav
Rani ki vav, or Ran-ki vav (Queen’s step well) was constructed during the rule of the Solanki Dynasty. The stepwell was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s. When it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India, the carvings were found in pristine condition.
Natural World Heritage Sites
1. Kaziranga Wild Life Sanctuary, Assam
The Kaziranga Wild Life Sanctuary, located in the Northeastern state of Assam in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra River’s south bank, was declared a World Heritage Site for its unique natural environment. It was first established as a reserved forest in 1908 to protect the dwindling species of Rhinoceros.
2. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
It is located in the Northeastern state of Assam covers an area of 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) in the plains of the River Manas, in the foot hills of the Himalayas on the border with Bhutan.
3. Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan
It is located in Bharatpur within the Indus-Ganges Monsoon Forest biogeographically Province.
4. Sunderbans National Park
The Sundarbans National Park, the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world is a National Park, Tiger Reserve and also a World Heritage Site declared in 1987.
5. Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks are nestled high in West Himalaya. Valley of Flowers National Park is renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty. It is located in the Garhwal Himalaya of Chamoli District of Uttarakhand. It is no doubt one of the most beautiful places in India.
6. Western Ghats
Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri Mountains, is a mountain range along the western side of India; it is one of the world’s ten “Hottest biodiversity hotspots.”
7. Great Himalayan National Park
Great Himalayan National Park at Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests.