With about 40 UNESCO World Heritage sites in India, the country superciliously stands at the sixth position in the world when it comes to preserving the legacy of remarkable natural and cultural wonders. Boasting some dazzling landscapes as well as culturally significant landmarks, discovering Heritage Sites in India is a delightful and enriching experience.
From the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra to the recently added Harappan City, Dholavira, catch a glimpse of old as well as new UNESCO heritage sites in India that will leave you enthralled.
Here's the list of UNESCO sites in India that hold outstanding universal value!
One of the oldest heritage sites in India, Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, is unequivocally majestic. Comprising 29 intricately carved rock caves, this 2000-year-old Buddhist site in Maharashtra exudes the brilliance of architecture, cave paintings, and sculptures.
Formerly named Victoria Terminus, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture. The prominent landmark of Mumbai, the mammoth-sized Chhatrapati Shivaji’s statue at CST, is a sight to behold. Considered the symbol of progress, numerous reconstruction efforts are carried out every year to preserve this British Era structure which holds the true essence of the city.
Known as the City of Caves, the gorgeous Elephanta caves in Maharashtra were first discovered by the Portuguese colonists. Boasting exquisite carvings and monolithic architecture, this spectacular world heritage site in Maharashtra depicts the cult worship of Lord Shiva. Holding cultural and religious values, Elephanta caves were declared a world heritage site in India in 1987.
Yet another iconic cave, Ellora Caves, is a well-preserved UNESCO-recognised site in the country. Boasting about 100 caves, this monastery temple is one of the biggest intricately carved rock-cut structures in India. A blend of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain cults, Ellora Caves depicts the bygone era's timeless religious harmony and artistic dexterity.
A wide collection of 19th-century Victorian neo-Gothic public buildings and 20th-century Art Deco, these two essential ensembles of Mumbai are a fine example of modernization that happened in the city of dreams during the 19th and 20th centuries. Both the Victorian Gothic buildings on the eastern side and the Art Deco ensembles on the western belt exhibit an exchange of European and Indian values over the centuries. This Oval Maidan is regarded as heritage importance and was recognized by UNESCO in 2018.
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is a gleaming white marble monument located on the banks of river Yamuna in the bustling city of Agra. Commissioned by the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife, this iconic tomb symbolizes the love and the brilliant architecture of the Mughal empire. This shining jewel of Islamic art is a must-visit place in India as a trip to the Taj Mahal is one of the most incredible experiences to gather in India. Taj Mahal is one of the World Heritage Sites in India.
Spread over a sprawling area of 94 acres, Agra Fort is yet another prominent heritage site in India that offers an incredible experience to travelers. Constructed with red sandstone, this marvelous Mughal monument has an influence on Persian and Arabic architecture. Just about 2.5 kilometers from the famous Taj Mahal, Agra Fort was a main residence of the Mughals until they shifted to Delhi.
Also known as the City of Victory, Fatehpur Sikri was the planned city commissioned by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar in 1571. Declared as the heritage site in 1986, the Redstone palace complex houses monuments, residential and religious monuments, administrative courts, living areas for the army and servants, and one of the largest mosques, the Jama Masjid. Marked as the capital city of the Mughals for a decade, a trip to Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best things to do in Agra.
One of the oldest stone structures in India, the great Stupa at Sanchi is believed to house the ashes of Lord Buddha. Comprising monolithic pillars, palaces, temples, and monasteries, this massive complex was a major Buddhist center until the 12th century A.D. Holding universal value, the Stupa at Sanchi was erected by the great Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka after he embraced Buddhism in 250 BC. Exquisitely engraved pillars, walls, and torans on the entrance depict the wonderful craftsmanship of the Mauryan Era which are worth witnessing.
Depicting some of the finest art in the world, the temples of Khajuraho are popular for their architectural brilliance. Built during the Chandela dynasty from 900 CE to 1130 CE, the Khajuraho Group of Monuments are known for their erotic sculptures that reflect female beauty and fertility. The epitome of beauty, this massive temple complex in Madhya Pradesh is one of the gems of Indian Heritage that is also recognised by UNESCO.
Located on the foothills of the Vindhya mountains, the massive sandstone rock shelters of Bhimbetka display paintings from the Mesolithic period. Recognized as one of the prominent UNESCO Heritage sites in India, the natural rock shelters span across a sprawling stretch of 10 km. With about 750 caves spreading over seven hills, the paintings on the walls have a deep resemblance to the cultural traditions of the tribal inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site, which in itself is an example of its cultural value.
Heritage Sites in Delhi
One of the spectacular tombs in Delhi built during the Mughal era, the Humayun's Tomb is a perfect example of gorgeous Persian and Islamic architecture. Known as Maqbara-e-Humayun, there are around 150 tombs in the entire Humayun’s tomb complex that are built with red sandstone, white marble domes. Commissioned by Hamida Banu Begum in 1565 AD, the construction of the tomb was completed by Humayun's son Sayyid Muhammad ibn Mirak Ghiyath Ud Din in 1572 AD.
Built in the 13th century by Qutab-Ud-din Aibak after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom, Qutub Minar stands tall at the soaring height of 73m in the Mehrauli region of the capital city. Also known as the tower of victory, this 5-story minaret signifies the beginning of the Muslim rule in India and is the major highlight of the Qutub complex, which is recognized as a prominent UNESCO Heritage site in India. The complex houses other significant monuments like the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, Alai Darwaza, Alai Minar, and the tomb of Iltutmish, which highlights the rich history of Delhi.
The main residence of the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, the Red Fort complex became the new capital of the Mughals in 1639. The erstwhile Quila-e-Mubarak (Blessed Fort), the Red Fort lying along the banks of the river Yamuna in Old Delhi, got its new name due to its massive red stone fortification. Also known as Shahzanabad, this massive Redstone fort adjacent to the Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546 together, comes under the Red Fort Complex. Due to its geo-cultural impact and architectural brilliance, the Red Fort complex was recognised as one of the world heritage sites in India in 2007.
With a large number of birds, animals, and aquatic species thriving together in the ecological environment of Keoladeo National Park, it has been acknowledged as one of the best national parks in the world. Formerly a popular hunting ground for the royal family of Bharatpur around 250 years ago, the park was declared a sanctuary in 1976. Also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, it became a heritage site in 1985 owing to the antiquity and montage of features.
16. Hill Forts of Rajasthan
The land of Forts and Palaces, Rajasthan, is replete with magnificent forts perched on hills that are an integral part of the rich Indian heritage. The spectacular Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort boasting the second largest wall in the world, Gagron Fort, famous for Sati culture in India, exceptionally beautiful Amer Fort, shimmering golden Jaisalmer Fort, and the ancient fort of Ranthambore together come under Hill Forts of Rajasthan that are recognised as the World UNESCO Heritage Sites. Preserving the legacy of Rajputana culture, these hill forts have an irresistible charm.
The Pink City, Jaipur, was recognized as a UNESCO Heritage site in 2019 for preserving the monuments that boast the architecture influenced by Hindus, Mughals, and the contemporary West. With a deep-rooted impact of cultural heritage, craftsmanship, hospitality, and exceptional culinary legacy, the fortified city of Jaipur, is a perfect place for history buffs and heritage lovers. With many spectacular places to visit in Jaipur, the city offers unique experiences that can be gathered on a trip to India.