To travel is to push the restart button on your life. That is a truth undeniable. If you are an avid traveler yourself, dear reader, you already know it.
Finding yourself in an unexplored, alien land draws you out of the monotony of routine.
It refreshes your mind, rejuvenates your spirit and brings the elixir of life back in you. And if this new place has some historical, cultural, spiritual significance or emotion attached to it, it widens your knowledge and understanding.
For anyone taking on this journey of discovery, the discovery of the world and of oneself, the first and foremost question is: Where to go?
The number of worth-visiting sites in the world is far too many. Heck, they are far too many in India itself. So how does one go about deciding on destinations? Whose advice to take? A random travel blogger? A tour organizer? Shimla waley uncle?
Well, I think there is no authority greater than UNESCO to determine best travel destinations in the world.
So if you are blank about what destination to choose, then they have been into this since the 1970s. As per tradition, UNESCO scrutinizes nominations from different countries on grounds of natural and cultural significance and decides, from amongst them, sites that are of immense value to our global heritage.
These sites are then granted the status of ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’. Today, there are 1,073 Heritage Sites in the World and 36 of them are in India.
My list of “Top 10 World Heritage Site in India“ that you must not miss comprise of the below places and are top on my mind to be visited ASAP.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Spread across 6 sq. km of an area, the Khajuraho monuments are a conglomerate of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples.
You need to visit Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh to admire their intricate architecture and detailed scriptures. Most of these worship places were built during 950-1050 Ad by Chandela Dynasty.
You probably know about them already unless you have been living under a rock so far. The temples of Khajuraho take center stage in every discussion on the acceptance of sexuality and eroticism in ancient India.
The outer walls of the temples are decorated with intricate erotic sculptures that inspire amazement and wonder.
The Khajuraho group of temples were brought to life all together but dedicated to two different religions, namely Hindusim and Jainism.
Today, they stand as artistic and ancient expressions of acceptance and respect for diverse religious beliefs.
An excellent specimen of the wizards that ancient Indian architects were, Ajanta caves are a collection of 29 Buddhist caves in Maharashtra.
They were cut out of huge rocks and have survived the test of time to tell their tales.
The cave walls are akin to museums of mural paintings, displaying different emotion with a stunning artistry that makes use of gestures, form and poses.
You will find inside the caves large monasteries and worship halls. It is hard to believe that numbers of Buddhist monks lived and prayed and died inside those very walls.
Ajanta Caves feature in multiple medieval writings and are our windows to the bygone era.
Taj Mahal features at the top of the ‘To-Visit’ list of every foreigner who lands in India, including the leaders of different countries.
There is no reason as to why it shouldn’t be on your list too.
A towering mausoleum built of ivory white marble standing against the backdrop of clear blue skies and calmly flowing the Yamuna is an incredible sight.
Many historians hail the Taj Mahal as the best example of Mughal architecture. It was commissioned by the Mughal King, Shah Jahan.
When Taj Mahal was included in the World Heritage Site list in 1983, it was described as ‘the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage’.
It was also the winner of ‘7 Wonders of the World’ initiative in 2000.
It is one of the four most important sites associated with the life of Gautam Buddha. Unsurprisingly then, it is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Somewhere under a Bodhi tree in this part of the Gaya district of Bihar, Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment.
At the site of this historical event, is established the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, commemorating the life and teachings of the Buddha.
The place is located on the banks of the river Niranjana and has a spiritual ambiance to it.
Even if you happen to be not-a-Buddhist, you must visit Bodh Gaya for the history and strength of belied that it represents.
Konark Sun Temple
As disclosed by its name, the monument is a temple dedicated to the Sun god of Hindu mythology standing at Konark,
Odisha. It is a towering structure carved out from stone in around 1250 CE.
The existing complex appears to be a huge chariot with gigantic wheels and horses.
Even though many parts of the temple are lost to the forces of time, a significant block of architectural brilliance still survives to be appreciated and adored.
The intricate artistry and iconography have gained much praise over time.
The Surya Devalaya is another temple where erotic sculptures have found a pace on the high walls.
The site is flocked by Hindu pilgrimages that come to attend the Chandrabhaga Mela in the month of February every year.
Sanchi houses the oldest existing Buddhist sanctuary. It is a collection of old palaces, monasteries, temples and monolithic pillars located in Sanchi town of Raisen district in Madhya Pradesh.
Out of those, the Sanchi Stupa is historically and culturally most important.
The Stupa is one of the most ancient stone structures in the country. It is built as an inverted hemisphere over the relics of Buddha and was commissioned by King Ashoka in the 3rd century.
The Lion Capital, which is the national emblem of India, is taken from one of the pillars standing outside the main gateway.
Sunderbans National Park
Located in 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, the Sunderbans National Park is an amalgamation of geographic and wildlife uniqueness.
It stands over world’s largest delta made by Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.
The forest cover is comprised of Mangrove trees that grow roots visible to the naked eye. In fact, the name of the park is derived from one such tree known as ‘Sundri’. The mangrove forest is spread across 56 islands. Sunderbans is the largest National Park and Tiger Reserve in India.
Since the Park is mostly underwater, Tigers here have developed swimming skills over time. When you take up the boat safari at Sunderbans, chances are you will come across some of them. It is the home of Royal Bengal tigers.
Hampi was included in the list of World Heritage Site for it ‘cultural’ significance. UNESCO describes it as an ‘austere, grandiose site’ standing as footprints of the last Hindu Kingdom in South India – the Vijayanagara Empire.
Hampi was their capital since the 14th century and has been described as a prosperous town by contemporary writers.
What awaits you at Hampi is a large collection of a high rise, magnificent temples coupled with Jain and Islamic monuments.
The Virupaksha temple is most popular of them all and arguably the most beautiful. It draws thousands of visitors every year.
Hampi is 4100 hectares of architectural wizardry. The monuments are artistic, intricate and well preserved. They have stood firm against the decaying forces of time.
The most revered Mughal Emperor Akbar built the town of Fatehpur Sikri in the honor of Sufi Saint Salim Chisti. It became his capital and remained so for a decade.
The town was completed at the dusk of the 16th century and became one of Akbar’s most praised monuments.
Akbar’s Diwan-i-Aam and Diwan-i-Khas draw special attention. Overall, the royal palace is admired for its central planning.
The underlying architectural design exhibits a seamless mingling of Hindu, Persian and Indo-Muslim styles.
The ranch Mahal, Jodha Bai Palace, Anup Talao, Buddhist temples, the abode of Birbal are some other spots worth exploring in the city.
Exemplary cave architecture of India has never failed to amaze the world. Ellora caves are one of those amazements. They were carved out of hillsides over a period of 5 centuries with nothing but chisel and hammer.
The caves consist of 34 temples out of which 12 belong to Mahayana Buddhists, 17 to Hindus and 5 to Jain monks.
The cave number 16 known as ‘Kailasa Temple’ has drawn much fascination worldwide as it appears too brilliant to be real.
Ellora caves silently vouch for India’s rich cultural treasury and are sure to leave you in amazement.