UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India – West and Central India
UNESCO recognises sites worldwide 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 put by UNESCO under a list known as “World Heritage Sites”. India is home to 36 world heritage sites and out of these, 11 are in West and Central India.
Historic City of Ahmedabad
The Old City of Ahmedabad (dated 15th century) is set on the banks of the Sabarmati river, representing an architectural marvel where 600+ communities have lived together for over 500+ years. The Old City is characterised by narrow streets, heritage homes representing different eras gone by.
A morning guided heritage walk is a perfect way to explore the historic city as you pass by temples, observe daily rituals, walk narrow streets (known as Pols), bird feeders, public wells, etc. At one end of the Old City is the Friday mosque (Jama Masjid), a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. You may also sample some of the local cuisine as part of the “Old City Breakfast” experience at the “Pol ni Khol” restaurant in one of the many heritage hotels here.
Foodies and street food aficionados may return to the old city in the evening for a food walk. Manek Chowk area near Jama Masjid gets transformed completely into a street food paradise offering a wide range of street food items, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
Ahmedabad is a popular access point and heritage destination for travellers to Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat
Champaner, part of the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a complex comprising palaces, arched entrance gates, Masjid (Mosque), tombs and open courtyards with stepwells and ancient tanks, everything dated between the 8th to the 16th centuries. The history of the area is a fascinating story of struggle and war between Hindu era and Mughal era kingdoms leading eventually to colonisation. The heritage area has retained many of its features and some of it is now restored to its formal glory.
Champaner is best visited as part of a day trip from Ahmedabad (150 kms) combined with a visit to Vadodara (Laxmi Vilas Palace).
Rani ki Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell)
Stepwells of Patan are 11th century stepwells that are considered an architectural masterpiece and now considered to be the queen among step wells of India, making them a sought after visit option for all travellers.
Patan Stepwells are best visited as a day visit from Ahmedabad (126 kms) or enroute on the Ahmedabad – Mount Abu Route.
Churches and Convents of Goa
Old Goa area located 10 kms from Panjim (capital of Goa) is renowned for being home to the finest and most significant churches of Goa. Old Goa churches comprise Se Cathedral (the seat of the Archbishop of Goa), the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the Church of St. Caetano and the most renowned Basilica of Bom Jesus (home to the relics of Saint Francis Xavier).
Old Goa is popularly visited as a day excursion from any hotel in South Goa / North Goa / Panjim.
Mumbai and Maharashtra
Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Ajanta Caves (dated 2nd Century BC to 480 BCE – 120 kms from Aurangabad) are the finest examples of Buddhist religious art. The caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of the Buddha and it is fascinating to spend a couple of hours here exploring.
Ellora Caves (40 kms from Aurangabad) are another set of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves, dating from a period similar to that of Ajanta Caves.
Ajanta Caves are best visited as a full day excursion from Aurangabad whereas Ellora is a popular half day excursion from Aurangabad. Both are visited as part of 2 or 3 night Aurangabad trip.
Elephanta Caves (dated 550 CE – located at a short boat ride distance from Mumbai) are a set of ancient caves built in the rock-cut architectural style. The caves went through many invasions and attempts to destroy and were restored in 1970s.
Elephanta Caves today is a heritage site popular for a day excursion (boat excursion from the Gateway of India) for international travellers to South Mumbai.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (earlier Known as Victoria Terminus or VT) is the current headquarters of Central Railway and was built under colonial rule and represents a fine example of Victorian Italian and Gothic Revival architecture.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is popularly visited as part of a guided heritage walk of South Mumbai.
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
Stupas at Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India and was commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The Stupasrepresent the finest Buddhist site in India and therefore, are an integral part of Buddhist heritage itineraries of India. The complex is large and comprises many stupas and viharasand therefore, one can spend at least a couple of hours exploring the Stupas and the excavation site.
Stupas at Sanchi is best visited as a day excursion from Bhopal (46 kms).
Rock Shelters of Bhimbhetka, Madhya Pradesh
Rock Shelters of Bhimbhetka is fine examples of pre-historic cave paintings (dated at least 30,000 years old) and is the oldest rock art found in the entire Indian Subcontinent.
Rock Shelters of Bhimbhetka is best visited as a day excursion from Bhopal (45 kms), combined with a visit to Bhojpur Shiva Temple.
Western Ghats is a highland area adjoining the Western coast of India starting from South Gujarat to the Southern Kerala tip (about 1600 kms in length). Western Ghats are one of the 10 hottest biodiversity hotspots in the world and therefore, recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. 39 areas were designated as part of the world heritage site (20 in Kerala, 10 in Karnataka, 5 in Tamil Nadu and 4 in Maharashtra).
Western Ghats are best explored by visiting plantation highlands areas and hill stations. Here, you may find some exotic birds, walking trails, waterfalls and superb colonial era heritage stays.