India is a country graced with a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With as many as 35 World Heritage Sites (as of May, 2017), - of which 27 are Cultural, seven are natural, and one is mixed - India ranks seventh on the list of the countries with the maximum number of World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO. Only Italy, China, Spain, France, Germany, and Mexico rank above India. Following is a collection of ten of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites found in India:

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Taj Mahal on a clear day
Taj Mahal on a clear day

1. Taj Mahal

The most obvious name to make it to this list is Taj Mahal. Located in Agra, on the southern bank of River Yamuna, it is one of the seven wonders of the world. The magnificent monument was built by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, in the loving memories of one of his wives, Mumtaz Mahal. It is renowned all over the world as a symbol of love.Completed in 1632, it is made of ivory-white marbles. The mausoleum displays the stunning beauty of Mughal Architecture. With millions of people visiting the historical site every year, it is the most visited site in our country.

The best time to visit Taj Mahal is from November to March.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
An Exterior view of Basilica of Bom Jesus at Goa
An Exterior view of Basilica of Bom Jesus at Goa

2. Churches and Convents of Goa

The Churches and Convents of Goa were built by the Portuguese rulers of Goa during the 16th to 18th centuries. With tens of Churches and Convents in old Goa, seven of them were included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Together, they are known as The Rome of the Orient. The monument which is the most notable of them all is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, containing the relics of Saint Francis Xavier. Inscribed in 1986, they showcase the incredible Portuguese architecture.

The best time to visit the monuments is in the month of December.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Konark Sun temple from the front side
Konark Sun temple from the front side

3. Sun Temple

Also referred as Black Pagoda, the Sun Temple is located in Konark, Orissa. Displaying Kalinga architecture, the design of the temple is the epitome of intelligent architectural work. The temple resembles a giant chariot carved out of stone. It was under the guidance of the chief architect, Bisu Maharana, along with a smart deed of selflessness by his 12 year old son, Dharmapada, that the temple and its crowning was completed. The work is so finesse that the first rays of sunrise fall directly on its entrance chamber, every single day.

The best time to visit Sun Temple is from October to March.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Indian Rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park
Indian Rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park

4. Kaziranga National Park

Located in the northeastern state of Assam, Kaziranga National Park is renowned for its unique and vibrant natural environment. Highly rich in flora and fauna, it is home to two-third of the world‘s total population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros. It covers an area of over 1,00,000 acres. With one tiger per five sq.km., it has the highest density of tigers on the planet. It was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, 11 years after becoming a national park.

November to April is the best time to visit Kaziranga National Park.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Mahabodhi Temple Bodh Gaya
Mahabodhi Temple Bodh Gaya

5. Mahabodhi Temple

One of the most sacred places as per Buddhists, Mahabodhi Temple is situated in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. It was here where Siddharth Gautam is said to have attained enlightenment, and went on to become Gautam Buddha. There are seven sacred places inside the premises of the temple, of which, the most sacred place is a Bodhi tree - a direct descendant of the Bodhi tree under which Gautam Buddha sat for days. Considered to be a fine example of brickwork, it is one of the oldest structure built of bricks in that part of the country.

The best time to visit Mahabodhi Temple is from October to February.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Hampi is a proof that even ruins can be beautiful
Hampi is a proof that even ruins can be beautiful

6. Group of Monuments at Hampi

Arguably the most popular tourist site in Karnataka, Hampi was a part of the ancient kingdom of Vijayanagar. The entire village depicts the magnificent Dravidian style of art and architecture. Being the home to a bevy of ruined temples and a palace, the Virupaksha Temple is the most significant monument in this heritage site. Another thing that makes Hampi special is the number of boulders it has in its disposal. It was inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1986.

The best time to visit Hampi is from November to March.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
A panoramic view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
A panoramic view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

7. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Not many people are aware of the fact that Bombay‘s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Possibly the most busy station in the country, the station was built in 1897-98, and was designed by Frederick William Stevens. Initially, it was named ‘Victoria Terminus‘, in the honour of Queen Victoria. The name was later changed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, following the demands made by the ruling party, Shiv Sena. The architectural beauty was built in Gothic style, and it continues to be the most magnificent historical site in The City of Dreams.

The best time to visit Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is early in the morning, any day of the year.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur
Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur

8. Hill Forts of Rajasthan

Comprising of Gagron Fort, Chittorgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Jaisalmer Fort, and Amer Fort, the Hill Forts of Rajasthan are based on the Aravalli mountain range in Rajasthan. Displaying the Rajput military hill architecture, these forts were built to defend the territories from attacks. Inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2013, these forts showcase the rich heritage of the Rajput kingdoms that flourished from the 8th to the 18th century.

The best time to visit the Hill Forts of Rajasthan is between November and February.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Bhimbetka rock shelters
Bhimbetka rock shelters

9. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are nestled in the foothills of Vindhya range of mountains. Located in Madhya Pradesh, it is believed that it was here where the Indian subcontinent‘s earliest human life traces were founded. Discovered as late as in 1957, the rock shelters, the paintings and the carvings on the rocks date back to the Mesolithic Era (Middle Stone Age). It was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2003.

The best time to visit the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka is from August to February.

Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Ruins of Nalanda University in Bihar
Ruins of Nalanda University in Bihar

10. Nalanda Mahavihara

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the state of Bihar is the Nalanda Mahavihara. It is the most ancient university in the Indian subcontinent. Inscribed to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2016, it comprises of the archeological relics of the scholastic and monastic institution which provided knowledge for an uninterrupted period of over 800 years. Scholars from different parts of the continent used to attend the university. It includes shrines, stupas, and viharas.

The best time to visit Nalanda University is between October and February.

Our country has an extremely rich diversity of cultural and natural heritage, and with efforts from the governments as well as the public quarters, we can conserve and protect them.

Photo Credit : manoramaonline.com , UNESCO