Top 20 World Heritage Sites in India 2024


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes World Heritage Sites that hold exceptional universal value in cultural or natural heritage. These sites are nominated by countries that are signatories to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, which was established in 1972.

Cultural heritage encompasses monuments (like architectural works, monumental sculptures, or inscriptions), groups of buildings, and sites (including archaeological sites). Natural heritage is defined by natural features (consisting of physical and biological formations), geological and physiographical formations (including habitats of threatened species of animals and plants), and natural sites that are significant from the perspective of science, conservation, or natural beauty. India ratified the convention on November 14, 1977, making its sites eligible for inclusion on the list.

India is home to 42 such UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each celebrated for its historical, cultural, and natural contributions. This positions India as the country with the sixth highest count of World Heritage Sites globally! The UNESCO recognition extends to 34 cultural, 7 natural, and 1 mixed site within India.


20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India


The following table presents a list of UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites in India. It includes the site’s name, the state it is located in, and the year it was officially recognized by UNESCO.

Cultural World Heritage SiteStateYear of Notification
Sacred Ensembles of the HoysalasKarnataka2023
SantiniketanWest Bengal2023
Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) TempleTelangana2021
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern MovementChandigarh2016
Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of MumbaiMaharashtra2018
Historic City of AhmedabadGujarat2017
Jaipur CityRajasthan2020
Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University)Bihar2016
Hill Forts of RajasthanRajasthan2013
The Jantar MantarRajasthan2010
Red Fort ComplexDelhi2007
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological ParkGujarat2004
Chhatrapati Shivaji TerminusMaharashtra2004
Rock Shelters of BhimbetkaMadhya Pradesh2003
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh GayaBihar2002
Mountain Railways of IndiaTamil Nadu1999
Humayun’s Tomb, DelhiDelhi1993
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, DelhiDelhi1993
Buddhist Monuments at SanchiMadhya Pradesh1989
Elephanta CavesMaharashtra1987
Great Living Chola TemplesTamil Nadu1987
Group of Monuments at PattadakalKarnataka1987
Churches and Convents of GoaGoa1986
Fatehpur SikriUttar Pradesh1986
Group of Monuments at HampiKarnataka1986
Khajuraho Group of MonumentsMadhya Pradesh1986
Group of Monuments at MahabalipuramTamil Nadu1984
Sun Temple, KonarakOrissa1984
Agra FortUttar Pradesh1983
Ajanta CavesMaharashtra1983
Ellora CavesMaharashtra1983
Taj MahalUttar Pradesh1983


Natural World Heritage Sites in India


The table below provides information about the UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites in India. It includes the site’s name, the state where it is located, and the year it was officially recognized by UNESCO.

Natural World Heritage SiteStateYear of Notification
Kaziranga National ParkAssam1985
Keoladeo Ghana National ParkRajasthan1985
Manas Wildlife SanctuaryAssam1985
Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of FlowersUttarakhand1988, 2005
Sundarbans National ParkWest Bengal1987
Western GhatsMaharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala2012
Great Himalayan National ParkHimachal Pradesh2014


1. Taj Mahal, Agra

The Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, is a marvel of white marble Mughal architecture. This iconic monument, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaj Mahal.

agra tourist places

Nestled on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra, it was completed in 1653 at an estimated cost of 32 million Indian rupees, equivalent to 58 billion Indian rupees today. Globally recognized as a masterpiece of Mughal architecture, it is often referred to as the “Jewel of Muslim Art in India”. The Taj Mahal is perhaps the most globally recognized symbol of India’s heritage sites.


2. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

Khajuraho, situated in Madhya Pradesh, is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site in India. This unique heritage site is famous for its group of Hindu and Jain Temples located 175 km southeast of Jhansi. The temples are celebrated for their Nagara-style symbolism and erotic sculptures.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites / India

These exquisite stone carvings of humans and animals in erotic poses beautifully showcase the rich cultural heritage of India. Most of these monuments were erected between 950 to 1050 CE during the reign of the Chandella dynasty. The site comprises a total of 85 temples spread over an area of 20 square kilometers, with the Kandariya temple being the most prominent in the Khajuraho complex.



3. Sun Temple, Konark

Konark Sun Temple

Known as the Black Pagoda and included in the Seven Wonders of India, the Sun Temple at Konark is a significant UNESCO World Heritage site in India. Located not far from the popular beach town of Puri, this 13th-century temple was constructed by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty around AD 1250.

The Sun Temple, designed in the form of a massive chariot led by six intricately carved horses, showcases the grandeur of traditional Kalinga Architecture. It’s also considered one of the largest Brahmin sanctuaries in India. Originally built at the mouth of the Chandrabhaga River, the waterline has since receded.


4. Red Fort Complex, Delhi

The Red Fort Complex, also known as Lal Qila, is a prominent UNESCO World Heritage Site in India. Located in the heart of the historic city of New Delhi, the Red Fort was erected by Emperor Shah Jahan when he relocated his capital from Agra to Delhi, then known as Shahjahanabad.

List of World Heritage Sites in India

The fort became the political center of the Mughals, and under Shah Jahan, Mughal art and architecture flourished, with the Red Fort serving as a prime example.

The fort, constructed from red sandstone, exhibits a blend of Indo-Islamic, Timurid, Hindu, and Persian architectural styles. It houses several smaller buildings, including private pavilions, the Diwan-i-aam, and the Diwan-i-Khas. The Red Fort is managed directly by the Archaeological Survey of India.


5. Qutub Minar, New Delhi

The Qutub Minar, one of the most renowned World Heritage Sites in India, was erected in 1193 by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi from the Mamluk Dynasty, following the fall of Delhi’s last Hindu Kingdom.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

The Qutub Minar is part of a larger complex of structures and stands out due to its impressive height of 73 meters, with a base diameter of 15 meters and a top diameter of 2.5 meters. Aibak constructed it to pay tribute to the esteemed Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki.

Close to the Qutub Minar is the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, built on the ruins of the Lal Kot from the preceding Hindu kingdom. It is recognized as one of the earliest mosques in the country and is notable for its surrounding brick minarets. These structures, collectively known as the Qutub Minar Complex, represent some of the earliest examples of Islamic Architecture in India.


6. Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri, a UNESCO World Heritage site in India, is a city named after Akbar’s victory (Fateh) over Chittor and Ranthambore.

Unesco world best heritage sites in india

The city is home to four main monuments: the Jama Masjid, the Buland Darwaza (considered the most significant door in Asia, made from a specific type of wood imported from Australia that sinks in water), the Panch Mahal or Jada Baai ka Mahal (believed to be the birthplace of the Navaratnas like Birbal and Tansen), and the Diwan-e-Khas and Diwan-e-aam. Inside the Buland Darwaza lies the Tomb of Salim Chishti. All these Mughal structures are notable Indian heritage sites.


7. Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat

Rani Ki Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell) in Patan, Gujarat, is a recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. Constructed in the 3rd millennium BC in memory of the kings, it’s a splendid example of ancient Indian architecture.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

Legend has it that it was built in honor and memory of Bhimdev 1, the son of the dynasty’s founder, by his widowed queen Udayamati.

The stepwell is famous for its stepped corridors, sculptures, and stone carvings. Most of the sculptures are devoted to Lord Vishnu in the form of his ten avatars, symbolizing his return to the world. Besides being a water storage facility, this stepwell also holds spiritual significance. It’s designed as an inverted temple and is divided into seven levels of wells, each with its importance as per the religious and mythological works mentioned in canonical literature.


8. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

World Heritage Sites in India - List by UNESCO 2024

The Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, recognized as a World Heritage site in India, are renowned for their Buddhist rock-cut cave monuments and their richly decorated paintings and frescoes, which bear a resemblance to the Sigiriya Paintings. As one of the earliest World Heritage sites in India, the Ajanta Caves were established between the 2nd century BCE and 650 CE.


They house 31 exquisite rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments, adorned with paintings and sculptures. The caves were constructed in two distinct phases: the first during the Satavahana Period under the patronage of the Satvahana Dynasty (230BCE-220CE), and the second during the Vakataka Period under Emperor Harishena of the Vakataka Dynasty.

The Ajanta style of art and architecture has significantly influenced the evolution of Indian art and architecture over the centuries. With a primary focus on carvings and sculptures depicting the life of Buddha, the Ajanta Caves mark a significant milestone in the inception of Indian Classical Art.


9. Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

The Ellora Caves, located 29 kilometers northwest of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, are a celebrated World Heritage site in India and an archaeological treasure. Known for their Indian rock-cut architecture, the Ellora Caves comprise about 34 rock-cut temples and caves, dating from 600 to 1000 AD.

Must Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

These structures provide crucial insights into the lives of the people from that era. The site, which includes Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain temples and sculptures, reflects the religious tolerance that was prevalent in Ancient Indian History. The excavated site encompasses the Charanandri Hills, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain rock-cut temples, Viharas, and Maths from the 5th and 10th centuries.


10. Hampi, Karnataka

Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in the northern part of Karnataka. It is situated within the ruins of the ancient and prosperous Vijayanagar kingdom. The ruins at Hampi comprise a collection of heritage sites exhibiting the superb Dravidian art and architecture style. The most notable heritage monument at this site is the Virupaksha Temple, which remains a significant religious center for Hindus.

India - UNESCO World Heritage Convention

This heritage site includes several other monuments collectively known as the ‘Group of Monuments at Hampi’. Some of the other well-known ones include the Krishna temple complex, Narasimha, Ganesa, Hemakuta group of temples, Achyutaraya temple complex, Vitthala temple complex, Pattabhirama temple complex, Lotus Mahal complex, several marketplaces surrounding the temple complex, and also living quarters and residential areas.


11. Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

The Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam is a globally recognized UNESCO World Heritage site in India. It is renowned for its significant population of Great One-Horned Rhinoceroses, accounting for two-thirds of their global population. The sanctuary also boasts the highest density of tigers in the world, along with elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer. It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area.

Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

The sanctuary is celebrated for its untouched natural beauty and its population of one-horned rhinoceroses. The initiative to protect these endangered species was reportedly started by Lord Curzon, prompted by his wife’s inability to spot a single rhinoceros in the area. The park, situated on the flood plains of the Brahmaputra River, is characterized by dense grasslands, forests, and numerous streams and lakes.

Kaziranga is home to about 15 endangered Indian faunal species, with the rhino being the most endangered. Other wildlife inhabitants include the capped langur, hoolock gibbon, tiger, leopard, sloth bear, Ganges dolphin, otter, wild boar, water buffalo, gaur, sambar, swamp deer, hog deer, and Indian muntjac.


12. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, Rajasthan

The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, a UNESCO World Heritage site in India, is renowned for its architectural astronomical instruments. This observatory, the largest of its kind, was built in the 18th century by Rajput King Sawai Jai Singh of Rajasthan in 1738 CE. It houses a collection of 19 man-made astronomical instruments, including the world’s largest stone sundial.

World Heritage Sites in India

The observatory features tools used to calculate celestial coordinate systems, the horizon-zenith local network, the equatorial system, and the ecliptic system. As one of India’s best-preserved observatories, this monument stands as a testament to the country’s scientific and cultural heritage.


13. Hill Forts of Rajasthan

The Hill Forts of Rajasthan, a recent addition to India’s World Heritage Sites (2013), are renowned for their distinctive Rajput Military Defense Architecture. This site encompasses six majestic forts: Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort, Amber Fort, and Jaisalmer Fort, all perched on the rugged Aravalli Mountain Range in Rajasthan.

world heritage sites in india 2024

The vastness and grandeur of these forts reflect the power and might of the Rajputana rulers and chieftains. The formidable fortifications of these forts enclose what can be likened to mini-cities, complete with markets, bazaars, palaces, temples, and urban and trading centers, some of which have survived to this day.

These forts also feature unique water storage and harvesting structures that are still in use. Notably, these forts have served as filming locations for the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” and a few films by Satyajit Ray, such as “Shonar Kella”.



14. Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra

Nestled on an island in the Arabian Sea, not far from Mumbai, the Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site in India. Also known as Gharapuri, this site is home to a series of sculpted caves that offer a window into the rich cultural history of Indian civilization.

List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

These caves are celebrated for their rock-cut sculptures and carvings that portray Shiva as both the Creator and the Destroyer of the Universe. The most significant among these caves is Cave 1, where one can witness Sadashiva at the entrance, representing three aspects of Shiva: the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer. Carved into solid basalt rock, these caves are situated 10 kilometers east of Mumbai.

15. Nalanda University, Bihar

The Nalanda Archaeological Site in Bihar was a hub of learning and a Buddhist monastery from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. As you explore the campus, you can see the remnants of stupas, shrines, and viharas, each a testament to a glorious era. Nalanda played a pivotal role in the evolution of Buddhism as a religion and served as a beacon of knowledge for 800 years.

Nalanda mahavihara

Known for its structured Vedic learning, it attracted scholars from as far as Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia, earning the distinction of being the world’s first residential university. As the second UNESCO World Heritage site in Bihar, it holds a prominent place on the Indian Tourism Map.


16. Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

The Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, situated in Madhya Pradesh, are a testament to India’s rich heritage and are the country’s oldest stone structures. Commissioned initially by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, the Sanchi Stupa is nestled 46 kilometers northeast of Bhopal.

Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

Its core, a hemispherical brick structure built over Buddha’s relics, is crowned by the Chatra, symbolizing rank. The stupa underwent vandalism during the 2nd century BCE and was later renovated during the Satavahana Period when the gateways and balustrades were constructed and colored.

The site, apart from the Sanchi Stupa, hosts several other structures like monolithic pillars, temples, palaces, and monasteries. It remained a significant pilgrimage site for Buddhists until the 12th century AD, after which the religion’s popularity declined.


17. Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh

The Agra Fort, located near the Taj Mahal, is a significant monumental structure erected by the Mughal Empire. Established during the reign of Akbar, the Agra Fort represents a blend of Persian art from the Timurid era and traditional Indian architecture. This is attributed to the fort’s original structure, Badalgarh, a brick monument held by Raja Badal Singh, a Hindu Shikarwar Rajput King.

unesco world heritage sites in india 2024

Following an invasion, Sikander Lodi became the first Sultan of Delhi to relocate to Agra and reside in the fort. The Agra Fort encompasses several monuments, including the Khas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Muhamman Burie (an octagonal tower), Diwan-e-Khas, Diwan-e-Am, Moti Masjid, and Nagina Masjid.


18. Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu

The Great Living Chola Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, were constructed in the southern part of the country during the reign of the Chola Empire. The most significant among these temples are the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram, and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.

Great Living Chola Temples

The Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, built under the reign of Rajaraja 1, is a landmark in Chola architecture. The temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram, patronized by Rajendra 1, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Airavatesvara Temple, built during the time of Rajaraja II, stands out for its distinct aesthetics.

These temples bear witness to the architectural grandeur and beauty of Chola art, architecture, and sculpture. As living temples, they continue to observe rituals and festivities that have been held for thousands of years. Thus, these three temples embody the ancient culture and heritage of the Tamil people and form an integral part of their historical legacy.


19. Bodh Gaya, Bihar

Bodh Gaya, situated nearly 96 kilometers from Patna, Bihar, is a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site in India. It holds immense religious significance for Buddhists as the place where Mahatma Buddha achieved enlightenment.

total unesco world heritage sites in india

The sacred Bodhi Tree at this site is where Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha. The renowned Mahabodhi Temple, one of the earliest Buddhist temples, was established during the reign of Ashoka the Great around 250 BCE.

Today, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya includes the 50-meter tall Mahabodhi Temple, the Vajrasana, the sacred Bodhi Tree, and six other sacred sites associated with Buddha’s enlightenment, all surrounded by numerous ancient votive stupas. Given its historical and religious significance, Bodh Gaya is considered the holiest pilgrimage site for Buddhists.


20. Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal

The Sundarbans National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in India, is renowned for being a Biosphere Reserve and the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world. Located in the Indian state of West Bengal, it sits on the Sundarbans Deltas, formed by the Ganges River in the Bay of Bengal. This vast reserve, primarily covered by dense mangrove forests, is home to a diverse range of wildlife.

Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal

It is particularly famous for its population of Royal Bengal Tigers, which is the largest in India. Other inhabitants include the Gangetic dolphin, spotted deer, wild boar, and various other mammal and amphibian species. The park is also known for its rare saltwater crocodiles. Given its ecological significance and rich biodiversity, the Sundarbans National Park is one of the most important heritage sites in India.


India, with its 42 remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Sites, holds a prestigious sixth position globally in terms of the number of heritage sites. Each of these architectural masterpieces and natural spectacles is distinct and offers an unforgettable experience to visitors.

Has our compilation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India sparked your interest to set off on a journey? If so, don’t delay! Plan a feasible itinerary, book your flights and accommodations ahead of time, and get ready to delve into the beauty of these extraordinary cultural and natural sites.


Also Read:

  1. India’s Top National Parks in 2024
  2. Top 20 Tourist Places To Visit In India



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