Lesser known heritage jewels of India

Five little visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India


February 11, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

heritage jewels of India

Though India has 6th largest number of sites in the world, recognised as World Heritage Site by UNESCO, tourists mainly flock to a handful, while a large number of other jewels of Indian heritage remain largely unexplored.

Being recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site signifies a remarkable achievement for not only the site and the city or area where it is located, but indeed it is the entire country that benefits, not only from greater awareness around the world but also due to higher tourist footfall. The UNESCO tag brings along a value of distinction and fame that becomes a prime consideration for discerning travellers and excursionists.

India has a total of 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, sprinkled all over the country. However, just a handful, notably the Taj Mahal in Agra or the Red Fort in Delhi have grabbed the attention of tourists as well tour operators from all over the world and as a result, many of India’s World Heritage sites remain in the shadow of the most popular ones, even though they have their own rich cultural, historical or scientific significance and are incredible in their own way.

Here, we mention five such UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India hiding their own charm.

Rani ki vav, Gujarat

Rani ki vav, a stepwell situated in the town of Patan in India’s western state Gujarat, is a prime illustration of stepwell architecture in India. The stepwell figures on the rear side of the INR 100 (₹100) banknote in lavender colour. Conceived, designed and built as an inverted temple, Rani ki vav measures approximately 65 metres in length, 20 metres in breadth and 28 metres in depth. The stepwell is divided into seven levels of stairs that lead down to a deep circular well that emphasises the sanctity of water. Named India’s ‘Cleanest Iconic Place’ at the 2016 Indian Sanitation Conference, the stepwell’s 212 pillars, seven terraces and multiple beams, columns and brackets are adorned with beautiful carvings of more than 500 major statues of Hindu gods and goddesses and thousands of little ones.

(P) Credits: Sahapedia

It is believed that the stepwell was built in the 11th century by Udayamati in the memory of her husband, King Bhima I, a Chaulukya king under whose reign the Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, from Afghanistan, ransacked the Somnath Temple and many other places in Gujarat.

Centuries of neglect and frequent flooding by the nearby Saraswati River led to silting of the stepwell and it was only in the 1980s that it was restored by the Archaeological Survey of India and it went on to be listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2014.

Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand

This UNESCO World Heritage site is comprised of two core areas, the Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park which are about 20 km apart, plus an encompassing Combined Buffer Zone.

The Nanda Devi National Park, home to India’s third highest mountain at a peak, Nanda Devi at 7,817 metres, is blessed with excellent high-altitude rugged Western Himalayan landscapes. In a sharp contrast, the Valley of Flowers National Park has delicate meadows of endemic alpine flowers and rich biodiversity.

flora and fauna at the National Park

The high mountain wilderness of both these parks shelter impressive populations of globally threatened species including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer, brown bear, blue sheep and numerous plant species. Since the entire area falls under the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA), it also possesses a remarkable amount of Galliformes.


Capitol Complex, Chandigarh

Built against the Shivalik Hills, the complex is famously designed by the Swiss-French architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, generally known as Le Corbusier.

One of the fore-fathers of modern architecture, Le Corbusier, also credited to having designed Notre-Dame du Haut in France; his work in Chandigarh is home to numerous architectural projects of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Matthew Nowicki and Albert Mayer. Architecture students and fans usually sign up for a guided tour of the complex.

The complex also consists of three crucial government buildings, the Secretariat, High Court, and Legislative Assembly and was added to the UNESCO list in 2016.

Mountain Railways of India

The Mountain Railways of India, as the name suggests, are the railway lines that are built in the mountainous regions of India. Three of these railway lines namely, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (between Siliguri and Darjeeling), the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (between Mettupalayam and Udagamandalam) and the Kalka–Shimla Railway (between Kalka and Shimla) collectively got inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995, 2005 and 2008 respectively.

Their UNESCO acknowledgement states them as being “outstanding examples of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain”.

 Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

In the quiet plains of the Manas River, bordering Bhutan in the foothills of the Himalayas, amidst forested hills, alluvial grasslands and tropical evergreen forests lies the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. With an area of about 390 square kilometers, it is a part of the core zone of the Manas Tiger Reserve spanning for 2,837 square kilometers. In 1907, it was declared a reserve forest, a sanctuary in 1928, a tiger reserve in 1973 as part of “Project Tiger” and finally a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1985.

The exquisite Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests lead the region to have one of the richest biodiversities areas in the world. The sanctuary is home to numerous rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. With tigers, greater one-horned rhinos, swamp deers, pygmy hogs, Bengal floricans Asian golden cats, dholes, capped langurs, golden langurs, Assamese macaques and much more animals, the sanctuary is recorded to have 55 species of mammals, 380 species of birds, 50 of reptiles, and three species of amphibians.



  1. Hey, I went to Rani ki vav and got simply amazed by the ancient architecture and design of the place. It is surely a must visit for travelers in India and freign travelers coming to India.

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