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42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in India

Learn about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, their nomination process, efforts at preserving them and the importance of responsible tourism

Published: Dec 7, 2023 09:10:42 AM IST
Updated: Dec 7, 2023 05:04:01 PM IST

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in India

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India are exceptional places recognised for their cultural, natural, or mixed significance. They showcase India's contributions to human civilisation and significantly impact tourism, education, and local economies. These sites are crucial in preserving and promoting the identity and heritage of India on the world stage. Notably, India has the sixth largest number of Heritage Sites globally recognised by UNESCO or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Types of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

India boasts a diverse array of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, showcasing its rich cultural heritage and stunning natural landscapes. These Sites include ancient temples, historical cities, intricate stepwells, lush wildlife sanctuaries, and revered mountain ranges, offering a glimpse into India's multifaceted cultural and ecological tapestry.

As of 2023, there are forty-two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Of these, thirty-four are cultural, seven are natural, and one is of mixed heritage.

Let’s go through the list.

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Cultural Heritage Sites in India (Dec 07, 2023)

Cultural Heritage Sites in India are living testimonies of the country's deep-rooted history and diverse cultural tapestry. These places are architectural marvels and artistic treasures, preserving the heritage of India for generations to come.

We have compiled a list of the Cultural Heritage sites in India below, with data sourced from UNESCO.

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Cultural Heritage Sites in India Year of Entry State
#1 Agra Fort 1983 Uttar Pradesh
#2 Ajanta Caves 1983 Maharashtra
#3 Ellora Caves 1983 Maharashtra
#4 Taj Mahal 1983 Uttar Pradesh
#5 Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram 1984 Tamil Nadu
#6 Sun Temple, Konark 1984 Odisha
#7 Churches and Convents of Goa 1984 Goa
#8 Fatehpur Sikri 1986 Uttar Pradesh
#9 Group of Monuments at Hampi 1986 Karnataka
#10 Khajuraho Group of Monuments 1986 Madhya Pradesh
#11 Elephanta Caves 1987 Maharashtra
#12 Great Living Chola Temples 1987 Tamil Nadu
#13 Group of Monuments at Pattadakal 1987 Karnataka
#14 Santiniketan 2023 West Bengal
#15 Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi 1989 Madhya Pradesh
#16 Mountain Railways of India 1999 West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh
#17 Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi 1993 Delhi
#18 Qutub Minar and Monuments, Delhi 1993 Delhi
#19 Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya 2002 Bihar
#20 Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka 2003 Madhya Pradesh
#21 Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park 2004 Gujarat
#22 Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus 2004 Maharashtra
#23 Red Fort Complex 2007 Delhi
#24 Jantar Mantar 2010 Jaipur
#25 Hill Forts of Rajasthan 2013 Rajasthan
#26 Rani Ki Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell) 2014 Gujarat
#27 Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavira at Nalanda 2016 Bihar
#28 The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement 2016 Chandigarh
#29 Historic City of Ahmedabad 2017 Gujarat
#30 Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai 2018 Maharashtra
#31 Jaipur City 2019 Rajasthan
#32 Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple 2021 Telangana
#33 Dholavira, a Harappan City 2021 Gujarat
#34 Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala 2023 Karnataka

Now, time to learn some critical facts about the most popular of these Cultural Heritage Sites in India.

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Taj Mahal - A Symbol of Love

The Taj Mahal, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century, is an ivory-white marble mausoleum in Agra. It is known for its intricate Mughal architecture and beautiful gardens, making it one of India's most visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in IndiaTaj Mahal; Image: Shutterstock

Qutub Minar - Ancient Marvel of Architecture

Located in Delhi, the Qutub Minar complex is home to a 73-metre-high minaret built in the 12th century. It is a magnificent example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Notably, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah launched the 'Mera Gaon Meri Dharohar' (MGMD) project as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav on July 27 at Qutub Minar, which involved a grand projection mapping show. The initiative, led by the Ministry of Culture and in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, aims to culturally map India's 6.5 lakh villages across 29 states and 7 union territories on a virtual platform, connecting people with the diverse cultural heritage of the nation.

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in IndiaQutub Minar; Image: Shutterstock

Jaipur City - A Planned Urban Treasure

The historic walled city of Jaipur, known as the "Pink City," was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. Its nickname originates from the terracotta-pink hue that adorns its historic buildings.

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in IndiaJaipur City; Image: Shutterstock

Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala: Ode to Indian Cultural Heritage

The latest addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, the three temples were constructed back in the 12th and 13th centuries. They represent Dravidian and Bhumija style influences, as well as the Nagara traditions.

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in IndiaSacred Ensembles of the Hoysala; Image: Shutterstock

Natural Heritage Sites in India

Natural Heritage Sites in India, like India's Sundarbans, Western Ghats, and Kaziranga National Park, are vital ecosystems recognised by UNESCO. These sites conserve unique biodiversity, landscapes, and habitats. They are a global asset, contributing to scientific research and environmental balance.

Here's a list of the Natural Heritage sites in India, sourced from UNESCO.

Natural Heritage Site in India Year of Entry
#1 Sundarbans National Park 1987 West Bengal
#2 Western Ghats 2012 Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat
#3 Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks 1988 Uttarakhand
#4 Manas Wildlife Sanctuary 1985 Assam
#5 Great Himalayan National Park 2014 Himachal Pradesh
#6 Keoladeo National Park 1985 Rajasthan
#7 Kaziranga National Park 1985 Assam

Let’s learn key facts about some of these Natural Heritage sites in India next.

Sundarbans - The Largest Mangrove Forest

Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove ecosystem, became a Natural Heritage site in India in 1987 due to its ecological significance. Its unique Royal Bengal Tiger habitat boasts diverse flora and fauna, including saltwater crocodiles and Indian pythons.

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in IndiaSundarbans; Image: Shutterstock

Western Ghats - Biodiversity Hotspot

The Western Ghats are a 1600 km-long mountain range along India's west coast. Known as a biodiversity hotspot, they shelter a rich tapestry of unique plant and animal species.
Kaziranga National Park - Home to the Indian Rhino

Kaziranga National Park is a haven for the Indian rhinoceros. This park in Assam shelters the world's largest population of these magnificent creatures. Beyond rhinos, it's a sanctuary for diverse wildlife, making it a biodiversity hotspot in India.

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in IndiaWestern Ghats; Image: Shutterstock

Mixed Heritage Sites in India

Mixed Heritage Sites in India exhibit both cultural and natural significance. While India is home to one Mixed Heritage Site so far, many other sites are on the tentative list to be considered for nomination. These include the Cold deserts of Ladakh and the Keibul Lamjao conservation area of Manipur.

The one Mixed Heritage Site in India listed by UNESCO:

Mixed Heritage Site in India Year of Entry
#1 Khangchendzonga National Park 2016 Sikkim

Time to learn more about India’s only Mixed Heritage Site.

Khangchendzonga National Park

Khangchendzonga National Park, located in Sikkim, is known for its breathtaking Himalayan landscapes. It encompasses pristine forests, glacial lakes, and the third-highest peak in the world, Mount Khangchendzonga. This park is a sanctuary for rare wildlife, including snow leopards and red pandas.

42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in IndiaKhangchendzonga National Park; Image: Shutterstock

Nomination Process for UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The process of nominating a site for UNESCO World Heritage status involves thorough documentation, evaluation, and international cooperation to ensure that a site meets the criteria set by UNESCO.

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria.

Some of the selection criteria for UNESCO World Heritage Site selection include:

  1. Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
  2. Exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design
  3. Bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared
The exhaustive list can be found here. Each nominated site must demonstrate how it fulfils these criteria to be considered for inclusion.

Preservation and Conservation Efforts

Preserving and conserving UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India is a collective effort.

Here are some ways these Sites are protected for years to come:

  1. Initiatives to Safeguard and Preserve Heritage Sites
  2. Government agencies, local communities, and international organisations work together to protect UNESCO World Heritage Sites through habitat restoration, anti-poaching efforts, and sustainable tourism practices.

Role of Local Communities and Stakeholders

Local communities often play a crucial role in preserving UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. They contribute to safeguarding these sites through education, awareness, and sustainable development projects that benefit both the environment and the people.

The Significance of Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism is essential for preserving UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India and worldwide. It promotes sustainable practices that minimise the environmental and cultural impact of tourism, ensuring that these precious sites can be enjoyed by future generations while safeguarding their integrity and beauty.


1. Which state in India has highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

Currently, Maharashtra has total six heritage sites, out of which five are cultural sites and one is natural heritage site.

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