Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

India has seen a lot of things throughout its history. All the different dynasties and cultures have left their mark on the land, marks that still stand in all their glory and tell tales of a time long gone. Currently, India is home to 40 such places that are designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. While we recommend you visit them all, here is a list of 8 World Heritage Sites that you should not miss at all. Read up all about them in our guide to exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites For You To Explore In India

  1. Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat
  2. Sun Temple, Konark
  3. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
  4. Mountain Railways Of India
  5. Hampi, Karnataka
  6. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
  7. Taj Mahal, Agra

Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat

Rani Ki Vav translates to ‘The Queen's Stepwell’. A stepwell is a type of well where you need to climb down steps to reach the water. This one, located on the banks of the Saraswati River, was built during the Chalukya Dynasty in 1063 by Rani Udayamati. However, it was buried until the 1890s, when two archeologists by the names Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited the site. Even then, only a few pillars were visible. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the site was restored to its glory by the Archeological Survey of India.

The stairs in Rani Ki Vav go down multiple levels which are decorated with more than 800 sculptures. The art consists mostly of Vishnu avatars and intricate geometric designs. The stepwell itself is in the form of an inverted temple, with the exemplary architecture of the Maru-Gurjara style, similar to the Vimalavasahi Temple in Mount Abu and Sun Temple in Modhera.

Rani Ki Vav

How To Get Here: Rani Ki Vav is located in the town of Patan in Gujarat. It’s about 120 kms away from the nearest airport, which is in Ahmedabad. A convenient 3-hour cab ride lies between the airport and the Vav. You can also reach Ahmedabad by train, or alternatively, board a train to Mehsana Railway Station which is 55 kms away.

Best Time To Visit: Between October to March.

Timings: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Entry Fee: For Indians - INR 15. For foreigners - INR 200.

Also Read: Exploring The Adalaj Stepwell In Gujarat

Sun Temple, Konark

Built in the 13th century, the Konark Temple is a symbol of Eastern India’s heritage and culture. It was built by King Narasimhadeva I, a great ruler of the Ganga dynasty and an ardent devotee of Lord Surya. King Narasimhadeva I, with the help of 1200 artisans, built the Sun Temple in twelve years.

The etymology of the name Konark can be explained as a combination of two Sanskrit words ‘Kona’ (corner) and ‘Arka’ (The sun). The context for the word ‘Kona’ is not known. However, there are speculations that it signifies the fact that the temple is in the southeastern corner of the temple complex, or in relation to the sun temples on the subcontinent.

Inside the complex, you’ll find that the temple is in the form of a humongous chariot. It is decorated with 24 wheels mounted to the chariot, where each wheel is about ten feet in diameter. This chariot also has 7 horses pulling it. Furthermore, the base of the temple is decorated with images of warriors on horses, animals, and other interesting fixtures. One interesting aspect of the design of this temple is the erotic Kama and Mithuna scenes carved into the walls. All of these decorations, along with the temple itself, are carved out of stone.

This complex included a Vimana (primary sanctuary), which was surmounted by a high tower, or Shikhara. It also had a Natya Mandir (dance hall/theater) in the East, and the Jagamohana (audience hall) a little to the left of the center. When you put all of these humongous structures together, you realize how large the complex really is.

Sun Temple, Konark

How To Get Here: Konark is well connected to the rest of the country by all possible means, that is rail, road, and air. If you’re coming here by road, Konark Bus Stand is only 6 minutes from the temple. You have OSRTC buses as well as private buses coming in from Puri and Bhubaneswar.

The closest railway station to Konark temple is the Puri Railway Station. It is about 30 kms away from the town and you can easily find a cab or a bus to complete the rest of the journey. Lastly, the closest airport to Konark is Bhubaneswar Airport. It is about 65 kms away and has a horde of taxis to take you to Konark.

Best Time To Visit: Between September and March.

Timings: 6 am to 8 pm.

Entry Fee: For Indians - INR 35. For foreigners - INR 550.

Also Read: Best Places To Visit In Konark

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

Located in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is an ancient city known for its group of historical monuments. Most of the temples in Khajuraho were built by the Chandela dynasty between 885 AD and 1050 AD. According to historical records, this site originally had about 85 temples, out of which only 25 have survived the wear and tear of time.

The etymology of the name Khajuraho, or Kharjuravahaka, as it was known in historical times, is derived from ancient Sanskrit. ‘Kharjura’ translates to Date tree and ‘Vahaka’ translates to ‘bearer’. Local legends tell stories of two golden date trees as their gate, which can be speculated to be the origin of the name.

The temples have a variety of art and sculptures outside and inside the temples. The most famous of these are the ones that depict sexuality and sexual acts. In fact, some historians suggest these to be tantric sexual practices. However, these only cover about 10% of all art in the temples. The vast majority of arts depict various aspects of daily life, mythical stories, and various important values of Hindu traditions.

Every evening, the Khajuraho Temple complex offers a sound and light show. The first one is in English while the second one is in Hindi. Moreover, the temple complex becomes host to Khajuraho Dance Festival every year in February and is highly revered amongst enthusiasts. We do recommend you visit the place and witness the temple in all its glory.

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

How To Get Here: If you’re planning on flying into the city, you can land at Khajuraho Airport. It is well connected to a lot of major cities. Along the same lines, the rail head closest to Khajuraho, Mahoba, is very well connected with the rest of the country. However, it is about 65 kms away from the city. So, you will have to take to the road to complete the rest of the journey.

Speaking of the road, if that’s how you want to get to Khajuraho, you can get on an MPSRTC bus if you’re traveling within the state. However, coming in from other states might be a little more comfortable on private buses.

Best Time To Visit: Between October and February.

Timings: 8 am to 6 pm.

Entry Fee: N/A.

Also Read: Top 7 Things To Do In Madhya Pradesh

Mountain Railways Of India

There are three mountain railways in India that are collectively designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Namely, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka-Shimla Railway. On the other hand, Matheran Hill Railway is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a 88 km long railway line that connects Siliguri and Darjeeling. The work on building this line began in 1879 after a committee appointed by Sir Ashley Eden recommended it. It took almost three years to complete and by 1910, it was transporting roughly 174,000 passengers.

The most significant parts of the railway line include four loops, four zigzags, and spirals on the steeper hills. All of these provide amazing scenes of the landscape and have signage located at vantage points that mark significant locations around the railway lines.

Best Time To Visit: Between November and February.

Timings: The first train leaves Darjeeling at around 9:25 am and the last one starts at 4:30 pm. Each ride takes about two hours.

Entry Fee (Ticket): INR 1,000 onwards.

Nilgiri Mountain Railways

The Nilgiri Mountain Railways is a 46 km long single-line railway that connects Udagamandalam to Mettupalayam. This railway line goes through the state of Tamil Nadu and travels through the Nilgiri Mountains. This railway line has been a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 2005.

Best Time To Visit: Between November and February.

Timings: Different trains have different timings. Please check the schedules to confirm timings.

Entry Fee (Ticket): INR 270 onwards.

Kalka-Shimla Railway Line

The Kalka-Shimla line is a 95 km-long railway line that connects Kalka and the modern capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla. Until this railway line was completely constructed, the only way to get to Shimla was by cartways. The construction of the railway line began in 1898 and ended in 1903. Currently, the entire journey takes you through 103 tunnels and 864 bridges. A lot of the bridges are multi-arched, reminding people of the ancient Roman aqueducts. This railway line became a part of the World Heritage Site list in 2008.

Best Time To Visit: Between November and February.

Timings: The first train departs from Kalka at 5:10 am and takes almost five hours to reach its destination. On the other hand, the last train departs Kalka station at about 5:30 pm.

Entry Fee (Ticket): INR 320 onwards.

We recommend you cover all of the railway lines and experience the immense beauty all the routes hold. However, these are narrow railway lines going over treacherous terrain. So, it is imperative for you to make sure that the railway lines are operational during the time you’re traveling.

Also Read: 9 Best Places To Visit In Darjeeling

Hampi, Karnataka

Hampi, the last capital of the last-known Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar, is home to beautiful and grand Dravidian temples as well as palaces. All of these monuments were built between the 14th and 16th centuries by the princes of the Vijayanagar Empire standing here and won the admiration of many travelers going through the area.

Currently, the site of Hampi holds remnants of the glory that the place once held. There are more than 1600 remains of urban, royal, and sacred systems, and the entire setting sits by the River Tungabhadra, jutting hill ranges, and open plains. After the city was established, it was an integral part of the Vijayanagara Kingdom until it was conquered by the Deccan Muslim Confederacy in 1565. After this, it was plundered for the next six months and later abandoned until the 18th century, only to be discovered by a Britisher named Colin Mackenzie.

When you visit the city, you should check out places like the Pampavathi Temple, Badavi Linga, Vittala Temple Complex, Ganigatti Jain Temple, and the Lotus Mahal. There is also an Archeological Museum in the area. It was established in 1972 by the Archaeological Survey of India and currently has four galleries that house religious items, sculptures, armories, and gold and copper coins.


How To Get Here: The only way to get into Hampi is by road. All the stations and airports are a few kilometers away from the town. To be exact, the closest railhead is at Hospet, which is around 13 kms away, and the closest airport is in Bellary, about 60 kms away. However, it is a domestic airport, the closest international airport is in Bengaluru, about 350 kms away.

Best Time To Visit: Between November and April.

Timings: Different monuments have different timings, between 6 am to 6 pm.

Entry Fee: Different monuments have different fees, all between INR 5 and INR 30 for Indians, while some charge INR 500 for foreigners.

Also Read: Hampi Travel Guide

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Jantar Mantar is a collection of astronomical instruments in Jaipur that were built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II. In fact, this king was the one who established the city of Jaipur. Speaking of the monument, its construction was completed in 1734 and features the largest sundial in the world.

Other than the sundial, you have 18 other instruments in the complex, all of which are used to calculate different aspects of astronomy like measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking locations of the stars, and determining celestial altitudes. The entire collection is built out of stone and marble that were sourced locally. Each instrument also sports an astronomical scale that is marked with a marble inner lining. The finer details of the instruments were added by using bronze tablets, bricks, and mortar.

The best time to visit this monument would be at noon as the sun is directly above you. This allows you to understand and interpret the sun-oriented instruments in Jantar Mantar. You can go here anytime between 9:00 am and 4:30 pm on all seven days of the week. However, there is a light and sound show on-site as well. It happens after the visiting time is over and the exact timings are seasonal. Try to make sure you visit the place at a time when you can enjoy the show as well.

How To Get Here: Thankfully, the city of Jaipur is home to a domestic airport called Sanganer Airport. It is also home to a major railway station that sees trains coming in from almost all major cities in India. Lastly, there are three national highways - NH8, NH 11, and NH 12. So, you don’t have to worry about traveling to Jaipur at all. You’ve got government-run, as well as private, buses along with cabs coming into the city and running around the place as well.

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Best Time To Visit: September to March.

Timings: 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Entry Fee: INR 50 for Indians and INR 200 for foreigners.

Also Read: Exploring The Jantar Mantar In Jaipur

Taj Mahal, Agra

The Taj Mahal is arguably one of the most well-known historical sites in India. The name translates to ‘The Crown of the Palace’ and is an Islamic white marble mausoleum. It was commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 to house the tomb of his 14th wife, Mumtaz Mahal, which happens to be the centerpiece of the main hall of Taj Mahal.

This historic monument is built with traditional Indo-Islamic architecture, with heavy use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is the central focus of the entire complex. It is a large white structure standing on a plinth that has a symmetrical building with an arch-shaped doorway.

The entire complex is spread across 17 hectares and is located on the banks of the River Yamuna. The structure is known as one of the greatest architectural achievements among all monuments built with Indo-Islamic architecture. In fact, the four minarets around the Taj Mahal are placed such that they provide a spatial reference to the monument and give the entire structure a three-dimensional effect.

Taj Mahal, Agra

How To Get Here: Agra is very well connected to the rest of the country. Agra Cantonment is the main railway station in the city and sees trains coming in from cities like Kanpur, Kolkata, Gorakhpur, Patna, Delhi, and Patna. On the other hand, NH 2, NH 11, and NH 3 go through the city and connect it to the central as well as the eastern parts of the country.

Lastly, if you want to come into the city by flight, you only have one option: to land at the Indian Air Force Airport on an Air India flight from Delhi. This is the only airport close to Agra and is located about 12 kms away from the city. Alternatively, you can land at Delhi airport and make your way to Agra by road.

Best Time To Visit: October to March.

Timings: 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Exact times depend on the seasons and timings of the day.

Entry Fee: INR 45 for Indians, INR 1050 for foreigners. Plus extra INR 200 to see the main mausoleum.

Also Read: Exploring The Taj Mahal

Summing Up

There are about 40 World Heritage Sites in India. All of them symbolize the culture and history of the land to their very beginning and shouldn’t be missed at all. However, the ones listed in this blog are a great place to start if you’re trying to experience the amazement for yourself. While these places are accessible most of the time, we do recommend making sure that they are open to visitors when you visit. Cheers!


How Many UNESCO World Heritage Sites Are In India?

There are forty UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. These include 23 cultural sites, 7 natural sites, and 1 mixed-criteria site.

What Are The Seven Natural Heritage Sites In India?

The seven natural Heritage Sites include the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area, Kaziranga National Park, Keoladeo National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Nanda Devi and Valley Of Flowers National Parks, Sundarbans National Park, and Western Ghats.

What Is UNESCO’s Full Form?

The acronym UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

What Is The Entry Fee To Enter The Taj Mahal?

For Indians, the entry fee is INR 50, whereas for foreigners, the entry fee stands at INR 1,100.

Is Alcohol Allowed In Hampi?

Alcohol is not allowed in Hampi nor is it easily available in its shops and restauraunts.

What Is Konark Famous For?

Konark is famous for its Sun Temple that attracts many tourists to its complex architecture and deep history.

What Was Gujarat's Old Name?

History records that some areas of modern Rajasthan and Gujarat were known as Gurjaratra or Gurjarabhumi even before the reign of the Mughal Empire.