UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India – North India
UNESCO recognises sites worldwide that are significant, preserved, discovered and celebrated by the world at large. These could be an area of architectural importance, a bio-diversity hotspot or a national park. These are recognised by UNESCO as “World Heritage Sites”. India is home to 38 World heritage sites and out of these 14 are in North India.
Delhi – Rajasthan – Uttar Pradesh
Humayun’s Tomb – Qutab Minar – Red Fort
Humayun’s Tomb (dated 1560) is the Tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun in South East Delhi and one of the earliest examples of the use of Red Stone for a heritage monument of this size. Despite many wars and subsequent British colonisation, the tomb has all its ancient architectural elements intact and remains one of the most visited monuments in India after Taj Mahal in Agra.
Qutab Minar is a 73 meter minaret (dated 12th century) in South Delhi that has stood the test of time, many earthquakes and many wars / invasions. The minaret was built on the lines of Afghanistan’s minaret of Jam, representing a mix of Islamic Architecture of eras between 12th and 18th centuries.
Red Fort lies in the heart of Central Delhi or what is known as Old Delhi. It is the erstwhile residence and seat of the Mughal Empire for over 200 years. Red Fort complex is massive, with many courtyards, administrative buildings, residence of the royal family, meeting rooms, prayer room and royal observation decks. Red Fort remains a sought-after visit option in the evenings followed by a Light and Sound Show that depicts the history and heritage of Delhi and Red Fort.
These UNESCO heritage sites are visited collectively as part of a day sightseeing tour of Delhi. Delhi is often the international arrival point and transit point for travellers visiting India. It is also an integral part of the famous Golden Triangle itinerary, popular with heritage travellers combining Delhi with Agra and Jaipur.
Taj Mahal – Agra Fort – Fatehpur Sikri
Taj Mahal in Agra is a white marble mausoleum (dated 1632) built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal today is an eternal symbol of love and is one of the original seven wonders of the world. Taj Mahal also, is the most visited heritage monument in India and has been the principle attraction for international travellers arriving in India.
Agra Fort is the erstwhile residence and seat of Mughal empire (till 1638). The 94 acre Agra Fort complex features many historically important monuments.
Fatehpur Sikri (30 kms from Agra) is the erstwhile seat of the Mughal empire in the 16th century and one that represents some of the most spectacular architecture of the Mughal era, renowned as the “Mughal Architecture”. The complex features tall gates, temples, royal residences, a Friday Mosque and many other administrative buildings with exquisite architectural elements, much of it still intact.
Taj Mahal – Agra Fort – Fatehpur Sikri are best visited during an Agra stay as part of a Golden Triangle itinerary combining Agra with Jaipur and Delhi.
Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur)
Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur (62 kms from Agra) is the premier bird watching destination of India for many decades and one that has a unique combination of woodland, marshland and grassland in a 29 sq km area. The sanctuary has been the breeding ground for 400+ species and where one arrives for a thorough birding experience.
Bharatpur is a popular excursion ex-Agra for international travellers or visited enroute on Agra-Jaipur route. Bird watchers typically stay overnight at Bharatpur.
Walled City, Jaipur
The walled city of Jaipur city was recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in the month of July 2019. The latest addition to the list is a tribute to the brilliance of Indian architects of the former royals of Rajasthan.
According to the Wiki entry–
The fortified city of Jaipur, in India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II. Unlike other cities in the region located in hilly terrain, Jaipur was established on the plain and built according to a grid plan interpreted in the light of Vedic architecture.
The streets feature continuous colonnaded businesses that intersect in the centre, creating large public squares called chaupars. Markets, stalls, residences and temples built along the main streets have uniform facades.
The city’s urban planning shows an exchange of ideas from ancient Hindu and modern Mughal as well as Western cultures. The grid plan is a model that prevails in the West, while the organization of the different districts refers to traditional Hindu concepts.
Designed to be a commercial capital, the city has maintained its local commercial, artisanal and cooperative traditions to this day.
Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Jantar Mantar is a royal observatory (dated 1734) in the heart of Jaipur old city representing a collection of nineteen astronomical instruments, featuring the world’s largest stone sundial.
Jantar Mantar is popularly visited as part of a visit to the Old City during a Jaipur stay and is visited alongwith nearby City Palace and Hawa Mahal.
Hill Forts of Rajasthan
Hill Forts of Rajasthan are a set of forts that represent unique Rajput military hill architecture featuring mountain settings offering superb views of the surrounding countryside. The list comprises forts in Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Ranthambhore, Amber (Jaipur), Jaisalmer and Gagron. While Ranthambhore Fort is in the heart of a tiger sanctuary, Chittorgarh is a fort in ruins and Jaisalmer still has a lot of buzz as it has communities living inside the Fort.
Hill Forts of Rajasthan are an integral part of a Rajasthan itinerary where, based on the routing, you visit one or more of these enroute.
Mountain Railways of India (Shimla)
Kalka-Shimla rail route (dated 1898) is a heritage train journey that takes travellers from the base town of Kalka to the colonial hill station of Shimla (7000 ft asl). The journey takes you back in time through several hundred tunnels and bridges offering stunning views enroute. The railway was a landmark in British rail design and engineering and continues to offer travellers a one of its kind heritage train journey experience.
Kalka-Shimla railway is best experienced as part of a Shimla stay. The morning train from Delhi connects with Kalka-Shimla “Himalayan Queen”, where you can travel directly from Delhi to Shimla by train.
Great Himalayan National Park
Great Himalayan National Park (250 kms from Chandigarh) is a bio-diversity hotspot and one of the least explored Himalayan regions. Great Himalayan National Park is renowned for its trekking routes, rivers, flora / fauna and superb Himalayan views.
Great Himalayan National Park is best explored as part of a trekking route (min 3 days or 1 week to fully explore) either from Kasol (Kullu region) or from Tirthan Valley park entrance.
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
The Nanda Devi range of mountains offer spectacular Himalayan views. The valley on the foothills of the mountain range blooms spectacularly every August, giving it the tag of “Valley of Flowers” and is the most renowned and spectacular trekking route in India.
Valley of Flowers is best visited during August-September as part of a trek ex-Ghangharia. Ghangharia is 13 km trek from Govindghat which is about 270 kms from Rishikesh. Minimum 3 days are required for the trek to fully explore the park.
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier
17 sites of famous architect Le Corbusier in Chandigarh are renowned for their urban architecture and have been recognised by UNESCO as one of the heritage sites.
Chandigarh, India’s first planned city is best visited as part of North India itinerary combining Shimla, Dharamsala, Kangra Valley and Amritsar (Golden Temple).