Some destinations show traces of the past, breathe the present, and last forever in their spirit and embodiment. The proud heritage of India, too, stands the test of time with a total of 35 places recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
Places like the Taj Mahal, Ajanta Caves, Khajuraho temples, Hampi and Humayun’s Tomb are visited by tourists from all over the world. But on World Heritage Day today, we recount heritage sites that are equally mesmerising but less explored.
These hidden gems are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and make for the perfect, secluded getaway.
1. Rani-ki-Vav, Patan, Gujarat
Rani-ki-Vav or the Queen’s Stepwell is an intricately decorated stepwell located at the banks of River Saraswati near the town of Patan in Gujarat. It was built by the widowed queen Udayamati in the memory of her late husband Bhima belonging to the Chaulukya dynasty in the 11th century AD. This place is actually the queen of all stepwells in India owing to its beautiful architecture. The detailed designs and carvings speak a lot about the art of the period. Rani-ki-Vav is easily approachable by road and is just 2km away from the main town of Patan. The best time to visit is during the Rani-ki-Vav festival held in the months of December and January, when the site gets decorated for a month-long celebration.
2. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
If you are a curious history monger, this heritage site will blow your mind with its amazing past. The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are cave-like structures holding evidences to life as old as the stone age. The carvings and paintings of this structure are layered from the palaeolithic age to the medieval times. Located around 9km away from the Obedullaganj city of the Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh, the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are easily approachable by road. Avoid the sweltering summer of Madhya Pradesh and visit the caves between October and March.
3. Nalanda Mahavihara, Bihar
The largest Buddhist Monastery and one of the oldest preserved learning centres of India, Nalanda Mahavihara or Nalanda University was added into the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2016. Located close to 95 km southeast of Patna, this site dates back to the ancient kingdom of Magadha. Having flourished under the Gupta and Harsha dynasties, Nalanda Mahavihara was essentially an institution of Vedic learning. A large part of Buddhism owes its legacy to this place. The sheer architecture and the history involved with this structure makes it a must-visit.
4. Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
This park is the first mixed heritage site of India. Spread across 850 square kilometers, it is located high up in the mountainous region of Sikkim and holds some spectacular species of flaura and fauna. You can witness snow leopards, clouded leopards, musk deer and Himalayan tahr if you are lucky while going around this site. One of the most sacred monasteries of Sikkim, Tholung Monastery, is located inside the park. The site is accessible via road. The best time to visit is during the months of April and May, as the winter months cover this area with heavy snow.
5. Mountain Railways of India
Yes, a means of transportation is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Fascinating, right? The Mountain Railways of India comprise three railways, namely, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka Shimla Railway. Their history relates to the advent of British Raj in India who actually built these railways. Today, these railways are known for the scenic beauty they offer to their passengers.
When setting off to traverse such rarely visited sites, one should not wait to catch a breath. Go exploring now!
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