From the Taj Mahal to the Ajanta Caves: India’s Top UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Visit

Taj Mahal Agra

As we all know that India is all about history, traditions, and unique cultures. If you are looking for some historical gems to visit, then India has it all. From all those inspiring tales to the jaw-dropping forts, no one can run out of destinations here. With a total of 40 exotic World Heritage Sites, India has become the 6th largest in the UNESCO rankings. The term and convention of UNESCO were established in 1972 to recognize and spread the influence of history and culture all around the world.

Historical monuments, the first thing which comes to our mind is obviating history which we were cramming in our school days. But every history isn’t boring and especially when it comes to those fascinating tales behind every monument. Today, we are here to discuss some of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites in India.

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1. Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh

Taj Mahal UP Tourism

The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, is the most famous monument which represents the romantic side of the Mughal kingdom. This monument made up of white marble was built by the emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife after her death, Mumtaj Begam. The Mahal is located on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra. The Taj Mahal, from the 16th century, was built from the approx 32 million Indian rupees at that time, which is again too much considering the time and era it was. According to our surveys, this is the only location in Indian Heritage sites that receives thousands of foreign tourists every year. We would recommend exploring this monument of love to bathe in sunlight with the glistering water of river Yamuna by the side.

Entry Fees: The fare to enter the Taj Mahal is 40 Rupees for Indians, but on full moon nights, you will be asked for 510 Rupees and 750 Rupees for foreigners.

Visiting Hours: 30 Minutes before Sunrise up to 30 Minutes before Sunset.

2. Ajanta Cave, Maharashtra

Ajanta Cave

The Ajanta Caves, one of the first heritage sites from India was built around the 2nd century BCE to 650 CE. Representing the art and culture of ancient India, this place consists of many monuments, paintings, carvings, and sculptures. There is no doubt about the influence of Ajanta architecture in India and it has been developed throughout the years. This was the beginning state of classical art in the country. The caves were completed in two different time phases. We would recommend exploring Buddhist carvings, especially for art enthusiasts. The visiting hours start from 9 AM to 5 PM, it will take at least 3-4 hours to explore the whole cave.

Entry Fees: The fee to enter the caves is 35 Rupees for Indians and 550 Rupees for Foreigners. We would suggest getting a guide to tell you all the important facts behind the art and carvings of the cave.

Visiting Hours: The caves open at 9:00 in the morning and closes at 5:00 in the evening.

3. Red Fort, New Delhi

Red Fort Delhi

The Red Fort, situated on the western bank of Yamuna, Delhi, is one of the most visited UNESCO world heritage sites in India. Representing the art and architecture, this fort is made of magnificent red sandstones. The fort has an enormous audience hall including the legendary Diwan-e-Khaas, Diwan-e-aam, and Lahore Gate. Once you are inside, you will find many magnificent buildings including the harem which was a living space for all the females for 200 years. The Fort has been through many modifications and updates but the ancient component remains the same. We would recommend you bring only small bags as big bags aren’t allowed inside. The Fort is open to visitors every day except on Mondays.

Entry Fees:  Entry fees differ for Indians and Foreigners. If you are Indian you will have to pay 35 Rupees and if you are a foreigner, you will be asked for 550 Rupees to enter the Fort.

Visiting Hours: The Fort remains open from 9:30 to 4:00 in the evening.

4. Hampi Group of Monuments, Karnataka

Hampi Monuments

If you are planning to explore South India, you can’t go wrong with your choice of visiting Hampi. Located in the northern part of Karnataka, it lies in the ruins of one the most prominent kingdom Vijayanagar. You will be able to witness the excellent Dravidian architecture in the ruins, which are included in the heritage sites collection. We would recommend exploring the Virupaksha Temple, a significant symbol of Hinduism. There are many other monuments to quench your lust for travel and some of them are Narasimha, Ganesa, Lotus Mahal Complex, Krishna temple complex, and many more. They all form a “Group of Monuments at Hampi”.

Extra Tip: It is recommended to give at least 2 days to explore Hampi, but we will recommend giving at least 3 days to visit the town with all its exotic street markets. If you are planning on going to the museum, keep in mind that it is usually closed on Fridays so it is recommended to plan accordingly.

Visiting Hours: 8:30–11:30 in the morning to 1:30–4:30 in the evening.

5. Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves, you must have heard this name with Ajanta Caves. These Caves are very famous for their ancient architecture and they are located in Aurangabad, a city in Maharashtra. The caves represent legendary Indian-rock-cut architecture. The signs and presence of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism in the carvings represent that ancient India was full of different religions and beliefs without any sense of partiality. It was built around 600-1000 AD, again representing the thinking and creativity of people from earlier phases in the country. If you are someone who fancies admiring the history of different religions, this is the place for you.

Entry Fees: The entry fees differ for Indians and foreigners from 35 Rupees to 550 Rupees. Children under 5 years of age can explore the cave without any entry fee.

Visiting Hours: Sunrise to Sunset.

6. Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya Pradesh


Khajuraho is one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. Located in Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India. If you are planning your trip to Khajuraho, you will find several temples mainly representing the significance of Hinduism and Jainism in India. The destination is full of unique cravings and erotic sculptures, making it famous throughout the world. These erotic Nagra-style sculptures represent the aesthetic and rich culture of India during Chandella Dynasty. The Kandariya temple is the most famous among the other 84 temples in Khajuraho. If you are a fan of sculptures and art, then this is the most suitable place for your trip.

Extra Tip: We would recommend giving 2 days to explore the temples thoroughly and don’t forget to wear loose or cotton clothes on your trip as you will have to walk for hours there. If you are not from India, it is advised to take your shoes off before entering the temples.

Visiting Hours: 8:30 AM–6:00 PM

7. Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is a group of four famous monuments, The Jama Masjid, The Buland Darwaja, the Panch Mahal, and the Tomb of Salim Chisti. As you can guess there is a fact behind the name of this city, Fateh which means victory in Islam. Akbar, the most famous king in the history of the Mughals, won over Chittor and Ranthambore and named the city Fatehpur Sikri. You will be able to witness the primary location for all the Navaratnas including Diwan-e-Khas and Diwan-e-aam here. You can explore the place in half a day and if you are thinking of getting a tour guide then it may vary from around 550 Rupees.

Extra Tip: We would recommend visiting this city in the cooler season, from November to March. There is no dress code here, but out of respect, you can cover your head.

Visiting Hours: 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM

8. Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh

Agra Fort

The Agra Fort is one of the most significant and magnificent monuments in India. The place gets several tourists from all around the world and is situated near the Taj Mahal. This monument represents the Hindu-Mughal culture with Persian art in it. When we are talking about the Mughals, who don’t know the Akbar, this fort was built during Akbar’s reign after winning over the Hindu Shikarwar Rajput Singh Raja Badal Singh. The Khas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Moti Masjid, and Nagina Masjid are some of the few monuments you will be able to explore during your Agra Fort trip. We would recommend giving at least 3-4 hours to explore the Fort, as the place is full of exotic architecture.

Entry Fees: The entry fee for Indians is 35 Rupees and for foreigners is 550 Rupees, with no fees for children below 15 years.

Visiting Hours: Sunrise to Sunset for the fort and 8:30 PM to 9:23 PM for the light show.

9. Qutub Minar, New Delhi

Qutub Minar

Have you ever wondered and imagined a tower that can be seen from several kilometers of distance? If you have not, then this is the place you need to explore! The Qutub Minar, a 73-meter tall tower with a 15-meter diameter in base and 2.5 meters on top was built by the first Mughal ruler in Delhi. Qutub-ud-din Aibak of the Mamluk Dynasty, after winning over the last Hindu kingdom, ordered the building of several buildings in the Qutub Complex to spread the influence of his power. There are many other buildings in the whole complex but this minar (tower) is the tallest of them. All those monuments are known and represent the first sign of Mughal and Islamic architecture in India.

Entry Fees: The entry fee for Indians is 35 Rupees and that for foreigners is 550 Rupees. Children under 15 years of age can enter without any entry fees.

Visiting Hours: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM for the monument and 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM for night show.

10. Konark Sun Temple, Odisha

Konark Sun Temple

You must have heard of the famous town of Puri, mainly for its Sun Temple at Konark. It is a well-known temple and of course one of the UNESCO sites, built in the 13th century (it’s too old and represents our culture before the Mughals) situated in Odisha. It was stated that the monument was built in the presence of Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The unique carvings on stone wheels, pillars and walls, and horses made it a unique and magnificent place to visit. If you are someone who likes to admire the history of art, then this is the best place for you to explore. This place reflects the grandeur culture and tradition of Kalinga Architecture. You will be able to explore the temple in 2 hours with the help of a guide.

Entry Fees: INR 40 for natives and INR 600 for foreigners.

Visiting Hours: The temple is open for all days of the week and the timings differ according to seasons. Primarily the temple gets open from 10 AM to 5 PM for visitors.

11. Brihadeeswara Temple, Tamil Nadu

Brihadeeswara Temple

The Brihadeeswara Temple, built around the 11th century in a moat, this temple has been through much damage in history. You will be able to pinpoint that some of the artwork is missing because of the damage. This Hindu temple represents the Chola architecture from ancient India. If you are planning on exploring the southern part of India, this temple situated in the state of Tamil Nadu is the best choice for you to see the cultural art of the country. The historical significance of one of the most prominent Chola Dynasty and King Rajaraja can be seen in this temple.

Entry Fees: There are no entry fees to enter this temple, though you might get asked for INR 5 on Sundays for speedy entry.

Visiting Hours: The temple opens from 6 AM to 12:30 PM and from 4 PM to 8:30 PM. We will recommend taking at least 2 hours to visit the temple.

Table 1- Cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

World Heritage Site Name State/Cities Year of Inscription
Agra Fort Uttar Pradesh 1983
Ajanta Caves Maharashtra 1983
Nalanda Bihar 2016
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi Madhya Pradesh 1989
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park Gujarat 2004
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Maharashtra 2004
Churches and Convents of Goa Goa 1986
Dholavira: a Harappan City Gujarat 2021
Elephanta Caves Maharashtra 1987
Ellora Caves Maharashtra 1983
Fatehpur Sikri Uttar Pradesh 1986
Great Living Chola Temples Tamil Nadu 1987, 2007
Group of Monuments at Hampi Karnataka 1986
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram Tamil Nadu 1984
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal Karnataka 1987
Hill Forts of Rajasthan Rajasthan 2013
Historic City of Ahmadabad Gujarat 2017
Humayun’s Tomb Delhi 1993
Jaipur City Rajasthan 2019
Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple Telangana 2021
Khajuraho Group of Monuments Madhya Pradesh 1986
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya Bihar 2002
Mountain Railways of India Darjeeling, Nilgiri, and Kalka-Shimla 1999, 2005 & 2008
Qutb Minar Delhi 1993
Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) Gujarat 2014
Red Fort Complex Delhi 2007
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka Madhya Pradesh 2003
Sun Temple Konark Odisha 1984
Taj Mahal Uttar Pradesh 1983
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier Chandigarh 2016
The Jantar Mantar Jaipur Rajasthan 2010
Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai Maharashtra 2018

Table 2: Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

World Heritage Site Name State/Cities Year of Inscription
Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area Himachal Pradesh 2014
Kaziranga National Park Assam 1985
Keoladeo National Park Rajasthan 1985
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary Assam 1985
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks Uttarakhand 1988, 2005
Sundarbans National Park West Bengal 1987
Western Ghats 2012
Khangchendzonga National Park Sikkim 2016

As a Travel Guide site, we have explored almost every unique and exhilarating beauty of India. It was impressive how people were very interested in learning more about the history and culture of the country. With this article, we have come up with some of the best UNESCO World Heritage sites in India that will leave you fascinated. However, it is critical to book a tour guide to tell you about all the tales behind every monument. Rent a lenient and flexible travel guide who can make sure that you are not leaving any must-visit destinations on your list. We wish you good luck on this trip!!

Also Read More- About Heritage Tourism in India

Frequently Asked Questions

How many UNESCO world heritage sites are in India?

There are 40 UNESCO world heritages in India.

Which is the first UNESCO world heritage site of India?

Ajanta Caves and Agra Fort were the first UNESCO sites in India.

What are the must-visit UNESCO sites in North India?

Some of the must-visit UNESCO sites in North India include Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, Agra Fort, The Kalka Shimla Railway, and Jantar Mantar.

What are the must-visit UNESCO sites in South India?

According to the tourists, some of the must-visit UNESCO heritage sites in south India include the Temples of Mahabalipuram, Western Ghats, Monuments of Hampi, and Pattadakal.

What are the must-visit UNESCO sites in West India?

Ajanta and Ellora Caves, The Pink City, Forts on hills of Rajasthan.

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