5 Lesser-Known UNESCO World Heritage Sites Of India

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India ranks 6th in the world for having the largest count of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. With 29 cultural sites, 7 natural sites and 1 mixed site, India has a total of 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But not all of them are well-recognized, which is why, the Deccan Odyssey takes time to reflect upon the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India in this article. Read on and let us know how many of them have you visited!

“Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind.

Their leaves are telling secrets.

Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks. And their roots give names to all things.

Their language has been lost.

But not the gestures.” ― Vera Nazarian

The same holds true with ancient and timeless monuments built by our ancestors.

5 Lesser-Known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India

lesser known unseco world heritage sites of india

If you want to truly discover the hidden treasures of a land, go to the unsung corners; for only there, you shall find unadulterated history.

And trust me, every second of your time in these unheard places will bring you stories buried in its soil. Here’s our list of the 5 lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India that will leave  a long-lasting effect over you for days to come.. Let’s get to it now, shall we?

1. Rani Ka Vav, Gujarat

Lesser known UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES OF INDIA - Rani Ka Vav, literally translated as the “Queen’s Stepwell”, is also an inverted temple with seven layers of staircases cascading down the well.

Rani Ka Vav, literally translated as the “Queen’s Stepwell”, is also an inverted temple with seven layers of staircases cascading down the well.

Perched on the banks of the Saraswati River in the town of quaint little town of Patan in Gujarat, Rani Ka Vav is the only stepwell listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world. UNESCO recognised this architectural wonder to be an outstanding example of early technological development in utilising ground-water resources and water-management system.

Lesser Known UNESCO World Heritage Site India: Unlike the Taj Mahal, Rani Ka Vav was built by Queen Udayamati in the memory of her late husband, King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty.

Unlike the Taj Mahal, Rani Ka Vav was built by Queen Udayamati in the memory of her late husband, King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty.

But what is most intriguing about this 1063 AD monument is the intricate artwork and sculptures that adorn the walls. Rani Ka Vav is indeed one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India. Walking down the step-well to the water collected at the core, will feel like you are stepping right into the pages of religious scriptures and folklores surrounding the sacred well. Over 1500 mythological and religious sculptures were found during excavation, of which only 800 have withstood the sands of time.

Lesser known UNESCO World Heritage sites of India: You can spend hours at this ancient step-well, and yet you would absolutely run short of time to gaze at its out-of-the-world architecture.

You can spend hours at this ancient step-well, and yet you would absolutely run short of time to gaze at its out-of-the-world architecture.

Interestingly, Rani Ka Vav was also awarded the title of being the cleanest heritage site in the country in 2016. There is also a secret escape-route for the king built at the bottom of stepwell; a tiny gate leading the King and his men into a 30km-long tunnel used during times of war.

Lesser known unesco world heritage sites of india: 100 rupee note - rani ka vav

Rani ka Vav has also been made the primary motif on the new ₹100 note of India after demonetization.

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2. Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh

Lesser known Unesco world heritage sites of india: India, Agra Red Fort

Just a 15-minute ride away from the incredible Taj Mahal, this Mughal fort was once home to the greatest emperors in history, until the capital was moved to Delhi.

The Agra Fort, formerly built in striking red sandstone by King Akbar, was then touched upon with white-marbled palaces, mosques and monuments by his grandson, Emperor Shah Jahan. The fort boasts of beautiful Islamic style architecture and beholds 20 feet-high ramparts across 1.5 miles. The Agra Fort was also home to India’s most famous jewel, the Kohinoor Diamond. The priceless diamond was seated in the peacock-designed throne room called the Diwan-i-Khas. Today, the Kohinoor Diamond which once was an extravagant heritage of India, is now part of the British crown jewels.

Lesser known unesco world heritage sites of Inidia: Agra Fort Palace exterior. Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Emperor Shah Jahan’s liking for white marble architecture lead him to redesigned parts of the Agra Fort with it. But don’t be fooled by its gorgeous facade, for the entire fort has secret tunnels and underground pathways hiding right under its nose (for obvious reasons).

You can visit the room where Shah Jahan lived; a room with nothing but a window overlooking the Taj Mahal. It was the only thing that kept him company until death. A short while after the Taj Mahal was built, this is one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India that served as Shah Jahan’s prison cell. His son Aurangazeb, imprisoned him for 8 agonizing years until Shah Jahan took his final breath. History tells us that Shah Jahan was always looking out the window, thinking about his late wife, Mumtaz, for whom he had built the Taj Mahal.

Lesser known UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES OF INDIA


Shah Jahan spent his final days in the Musamman Burj of the Agra fort that was his own creation. The striking octagonal tower has an open-air pavilion offering an outstanding view of the Taj Mahal.

Recommended Read:

How Many Facts About The Taj Mahal Do You Know?

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3. Group of Monuments, Pattadakkal, Karnataka

Pattadakal, also known as the “City of the Crown Rubies”, was the royal capital of the Chalukya dynasty of medieval India. Located at Bagalkot in Bijapur district of Karnataka, this 8th century Group of monuments was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1987.

This lesser known UNESCO World Heritage site pf India offers visitors a glimpse into religious Hindu scriptures with beautiful stone carved temples dating back to the 7th and 8th century.

A glimpse into the village life of the Chalukyan Empire is not a rare thing to see at this lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage site of India, Pattadakal.

The Group of Monuments at Pattadakal lies on the banks of the River Malaprabha in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka. It encompasses of 10 temples, of which 9 are Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and were built as temples for royals of the Chalukya Dynasty. There is also a beautiful Jain temple. The monuments were built by the Queen in celebration of King Vikramaditya II’s triumph over the Kanchi Pallavas.

Lessser Known Unesco world heritage sites of India: The Pattadakal Group of Monuments boasts of impeccable Dravidian, Indo-Aryan and a unique blend of these two architectural styles. 

The Pattadakal Group of Monuments boasts of impeccable Dravidian, Indo-Aryan and a unique blend of these two architectural styles that is evident at every turn of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Of the 10 temples, Virupaksha temple is the largest temple masterpiece showcasing Dravidian style architecture, while the Sangameswara Temple is the oldest temple in Pattadakal decorated with Gods, Goddesses and mythological figurines adorning its twenty pillars.Visit this ancient temple complex located just 22km away from Badami and 514 km from Bangalore.

Recommended Read:

Timeless UNESCO World Heritage Sites In Karnataka

Karnataka’s World Heritage Sites: Aihole, Pattadakal & Hampi

4. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat

Entering this lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Site of India - the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is like stepping into an old-world kingdom lined with archaeological wonders dating back to the 10th century. The double-storied Jami Masjid (Mosque) took over 125 years to build and offers a blend of both Islamic and Hindu styles of architecture.

Entering the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is like stepping into an old-world kingdom lined with archaeological wonders dating back to the 10th century. The double-storied Jami Masjid (Mosque) took over 125 years to build and offers a blend of both Islamic and Hindu styles of architecture.

Atleast 7 out 10 people do not know about this incredible cluster of ancient art and architecture, making it is one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India that needs to be discovered for many reasons. For one, the group of monuments are a treat for archaeologists and historians across the globe, owing to its brilliant work and is under study even to this day. It has everything you could expect that an old, but well-advanced town to have. Palaces, mosques, temples, water-management systems, forts, cavalries, gardens, bridges, well-planned roads, fortifying walls, lakes, recreation hubs – name it and you have it here at Champaner.

The step-well dating back to 1513 is located at Jami Masjid is one of India's lesser-know UNESCO World Heritage Sites at the Champaner - Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat, India.

The step-well dating back to 1513 is located at the famous Jami Masjid is one of India’s lesser-know UNESCO World Heritage Sites at the Champaner – Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat, India.

Also, recent study has also unearthed exceptional and untouched pre-historic finds at the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India. Experts also say that the water networks and storage facilities present at the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is so advanced that the techniques can easily be replicated to help resolve the world’s water-management problem today. There’s indeed plenty to see and learn at Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park for travellers of every kind.

Champaner-Pavagadh is one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Inida that is well-known by architects for its remarkable water-management system dating back to the 11th century.

Champaner-Pavagadh is one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Inida that is well-known by architects for its remarkable water-management system dating back to the 11th century.

Recommended Read:

Here’s The Incredible Truth Behind The  Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park 

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, A UNESCO Heritage Site

5. The Western Ghats Of India

The Western Ghats of India is home to many species endemic to the reigion, The Amboli toad (Xanthophryne tigerina), one such species that can only be found in this lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Site of India.

The Western Ghats of India is home to many species endemic to the reigion, The Amboli toad (Xanthophryne tigerina), one such species that can only be found in this lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Site of India.

Saving the best for the last, the Western Ghats of India is one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India. Home to over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species, the Western Ghats Of India covers an exceptionally large area of 160,000 sq. km. (which is way more that of the Alps Mountain Ranges in Europe!) and is ranks eight among the Biologically diverse hotspots in the world!

Being older than India’s-own Himalayan Mountain Ranges, this lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Site of India is also the second most-highest mountain range in the country.

Being older than India’s-own Himalayan Mountain Ranges, this is one of the lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India that is also the second most-highest mountain range in the country!

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The Western Ghats originates near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, and runs through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, finally ending at Kanyakumari. Of the many sites in the Western Ghats, 39 haven been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2012. Recent human interference has led to degradation of this natural wonder, so go visit the Western Ghats before it is no more.

lesser-known unesco world heritage sites of india

The ideal is to feel at home anywhere, everywhere. – Geoff Dyer, Paris Trance – which is why Deccan Odyssey takes great pride in letting you know that comfort comes along with you while you traverse the country on our luxury train ride.

Visit these 5 Lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India, among the other famous and much-praised UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India aboard the Deccan Odyssey. The train features the cultural and off-beat glories of India, while offering a taste of the best cuisines and luxuries on your 7-day journey across the different terrains of the country. The Deccan Odyssey has also been awarded the title of ‘Asia’s Leading Luxury Train for the 5th time in a row last year!

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