Generally, World Heritage Sites mean monuments of historical importance, temples, tombs, cultural importance, architectural feats, and places of such ancient as well as contemporary prominence. However, the UNESCO that awards the ‘ World Heritage Sites ’ status is not that biased in reality.
UNESCO recognizes beautiful national parks, places of incredible natural beauties and even railway stations and trains that are highly popular among tourists.
India has several UNESCO awarded World Heritage Sites. However, I am not going to cover all the 30+ world heritage status given sites in India. For a change, I am going to surprise you and make your eyes wide open with the list of places in India that are UNESCO ‘world heritage sites’ but are not temples, tombs, and forts.
World Heritage Sites in India: Kaziranga National Park, Assam
I am sure every one of us is aware of this national park located in the state of Assam in India. It is a large sanctuary for the endangered one-horn rhinoceros.
The perennially flooding Brahmaputra River enriches Assam’s agriculture as well as destroying the agri lands, renders thousands of people homeless when it floods the adjoining forests. However, the flood water is responsible to create vast tracts of grasslands and wetlands that are ideal for a range of wildlife to survive.
If you visit the UNESCO recognized world heritage site in India, the Kaziranga National Park, you can spot the following wild animals and rare birds.
- One-horned Rhinoceros
- Swamp deer
- Wild water buffalo
- Ganges dolphins
- Grey Pelicans
Thanks to the relentless efforts of the Assam Government’s Forest Department, the rhino population in Kaziranga National Park is 2,413 as of March 2018.
World Heritage Sites in India: Victoria Terminus Railway Station, Mumbai
It looks stylish, imposing and big-isn’t it?
Old-timers living in India have very fond memories of this big and busy railway station in Bombay (Mumbai). They called it VT railway station.
Now, that Mumbai railway terminus is named, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT)”.Since the British constructed the beautiful building in 1887, the Gothic architecture styled Victoria Terminus is made the headquarters of the Central Railways of India, one of the several subdivisions of the Indian Railways.
The name Victoria was given to this world heritage site in recognition of the British Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year.
Though, the Victoria Terminus is now renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the senior citizens of India still call it VT, one of the prominent landmarks in Mumbai.
World Heritage Sites in India: Manas National Park, Assam
Another world heritage site in the state of Assam in India, the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary comprises of a huge area covering 950 sq.km!
This large sanctuary is a UNESCO protected area for elephants and tigers. In addition, it is also a biosphere reserve safeguarding the rare vegetation found in the Manas National Park, Assam.
Have you ever heard of the Assam roofed turtle?
It is an endemic but endangered amphibian that is living in Manas National Park. In addition to that, some more endangered wildlife that includes the pygmy hog
and the hispid hare have made the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, their home.
The Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand
The Valley of Flowers is the old name. This is now a ‘national park’ era. Its present name is The Nanda Devi National Park. It is now a protected site of UNESCO and is declared as one of the world heritage sites.
The Valley of Flowers is located on the Western side of the Himalayas. I once visited the holy Badrinath shrine in the Himalayas. On the way to Badrinath, I was pointed out at the way to go to the Valley of Flowers. At that time, the only way to visit the Valley of Flowers is to trek the treacherous Himalayas.
Look at this meadow below. What a treat it is to your senses!
The valley of flowers is not only known for some of the rarest flora including the alpine flowers. Tourists to this world heritage site-the Valley of Flowers can spot the Asiatic black bear, blue sheep
and red fox!
As far the birding is concerned, you can recognize the Himalayan monal pheasant if you are lucky.
This bio-diverse valley is quite large. To put it plainly, by length it stretches to 8 km and by width, it measures up to 2 km. The valley of flowers is situated at a height of 11,800 feet approximately.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, Rajasthan
That is painted Stork that has taken refuge in the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Rajasthan state.
There is a new name given to it and now is called
Keoladeo National Park. Nevertheless, all the bird safari tours still call it as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary only.
The national park is a man-made wetland that is ideal for birds to prey and roost. Hundreds of aquatic birds arrive here from distant lands such as Siberia. The Bharatpur bird sanctuary is one the richest birding grounds in the world.
World Heritage Sites in India: The Pothigai Hills, Tamilnadu.
Can you believe this? The UNESCO has declared the Pothigai Hills as protected under the world heritage status. Located deep inside Tamilnadu, near Tirunelveli town, it birth place of the great Tamil sage Agasthiyar.
The Pothigai hills house numerous medicinal herbs and several waterfalls. The Tamil people proudly call the Pothigai Malai as Dakshin Kailash.
The highest peak of Pothigai Hills is at an elevation of about 6000 feet. One can access the base of Pothigai Hills from Tirunelveli by car. The distance between the two is only 57 km.
There are three more railways in India that are awarded world heritage status. They are:
- The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal.
- The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) that runs between Mettupalayam and Otty in Tamilnadu, India.
- The Kalka to Shimla toy train is another world heritage status infrastructure in India. The train crosses a whopping 800+ bridges during its scenic ride up the Himalayas.
Upcoming World Heritage Sites in India.
A few more places in India that recognized as world heritage sites by UNESCO.
Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Gujarat
Silk road sites starting from Tamilnadu state, Southern India.
Majuli, the biggest river island in Assam
Narcondam, a volcanic island in the Andaman Islands.