Planning on going on a road trip? But don’t wish to go to the usual beach and mountain places? Worry not. We have it all covered. This year plan to visit the architectural marvels of India. Go on a heritage trip.
North to south, east to west, India has some of the most majestic, historic, and gorgeous monuments. We also need to be proud of the fact that India ranks #6 in the list of countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Below are the top 10 must-see sites that you can explore on a heritage trip
1. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in the central part of India, in Madhya Pradesh, the famous Khajuraho complex has a group of Hindu and Jain temples that are admired for their nagara-style architecture. The Chandela Dynasty built most temples and sculptures in Khajuraho, between 950AD and 1050AD. There were almost 85 temples, of which only about 25 are remaining today. The Kandariya temple is the most prominent.
The temples of Khajuraho are also famous for the sensuous stone carvings of human and animal forms in erotic poses. People from all over the world visit to enjoy the intricate details, symbolism, and expressiveness of ancient Indian art.
Situated around 175km from Jhansi, another great city in Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho can be easily reached by road.
2. Hampi, Karnataka
Hampi is also a UNESCO World Heritage site located near Hospet town in the northern part of Karnataka. Due to its proximity to the town, it is called a backpackers delight.
Also known as the Group of Monuments of Hampi, here one can marvel at the beauty of temples, ruins of palaces, remain of aquatic structures, royal pavilions and platforms, treasury buildings, old markets, and religious centers. The most significant heritage monument is the Virupaksha Temple, which continues to be a significant religious center for the Hindus. The construction of these sites depicts the Dravidian form of art and architecture.
3. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra
Founded by chance in 1819 by a Britisher, the Ajanta Caves depict the story of the life of Buddha in the form of art, murals, and wall paintings. Comprising 31 caves, the heritage site collectively amounts to one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world.
The Ajanta Caves are one of the first World Heritage Sites of India and has some of the most beautiful rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments, paintings, and sculptures.
Situated in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, one can travel to Ajanta Caves from multiple places including Fardapur, Jalgaon, Aurangabad, and the farthest being Mumbai.
4. Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Bodh Gaya in Bihar is one of the most significant and sacred religious centers for Buddhists in India. It was here, under the bodhi tree, where Gautam Buddha had attained enlightenment. History defines that Emperor Ashoka built the Mahabodhi Temple in memory of Gautam Buddha here. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple has the form of a pyramid with a stupa on top. Currently, the temple complex comprises of the 50m tall Mahabodhi Temple, the diamond throne or Vajrasana, the sacred Bodhi Tree, and six other sacred sites of Buddha’s enlightenment, surrounded by numerous ancient Votive stupas.
Bodh Gaya has always been a great pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. Situated in the Gaya district, one can easily do a road trip from Patna to explore the beauty of this ancient site.
5. Sun Temple, Konark
Situated along the coastline of the famous beach town of Puri in Odisha is the Konark Sun Temple. King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty had built the temple in the 13th century.
The beauty of the heritage site is its architecture. It has the shape of a gigantic chariot with carved stone wheels, pillars, and walls, and is led by six enormous horses. It reflects the traditional style of Kalinga architecture.
The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built-in honor of the Sun God, it is a major pilgrimage site for Hindus in India.
Planning a heritage road trip to Konark is the best way to explore the area. The village is easily motorable from both Puri and Bhubaneshwar. To plan your road trip, connect with us for all the required details.
6. Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh
We all know about the beautiful memento of love, the Taj Mahal. But very close to it is one of the most important architectural sites, built by the Mughals, called the Agra Fort.
Raja Badal Singh had named the fort Badalgarh. When Sikander Lodi invaded the city, he renamed it to Agra Fort. The monument underwent alterations to match the taste and liking of both the rulers. Therefore, the architecture of the Agra Fort is an amalgamation of the Persian art of the Timurid and Indian form.
The fort has a semi-circular plan. Its chord lies parallel to the river Yamuna, and its walls are seventy feet high. Therefore, it is also called the walled city. There are several monuments within the fort, like the Jahangir’s Hauz, Ghazni Gate, Khas Mahal, the Sheesh Mahal, the Muthamman Burj and Jharokha, the Diwan-e-Khas, the Diwan-e-Am, Moti Masjid, and the Nagina Masjid.
Reaching the Agra Fort by road is easy and convenient due to its proximity to Delhi. So, next time when you plan to visit the Taj Mahal, do explore the Agra Fort.
7. Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi
The Red Fort is an iconic monument in India, situated in India’s capital city New Delhi. Emperor Shah Jahan built the Red Fort or Laal Kila when he shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi. The fort served as the main residence of the Mughals and was also their political hub.
The Red Fort is a classic example of Mughal art and architecture. It represents a medley of Indo-Islamic, Timurid, Hindu, and Persian art forms.
The Red Fort is one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Today the Archaeological Survey of India manages it.
Humayun’s Tomb is another classic heritage site in India. Built by Empress Bega Begum, the first wife of Humayun, between 1565-1572, it is the only monument that has undergone several restoration through the years. The tomb complex consists of several smaller monuments along with the main tomb of Emperor Humayun, which houses the graves of Empress Bega Begum, Hamida Begum, and many other Mughals.
It was the first garden-tomb in the Indian subcontinent and was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a large scale. The architecture represents the Persian form, a welcome change from Mughal designs.
It is a sheer joy to visit these historic sites and easy to cover on a heritage road trip. Please do remember to add them to your bucket list. And, don’t forget to connect with us for more details.
8. Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu
The group of Chola Temples, built in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India, is a marvelous example of stupendous architecture. Built by the Chola Empire, the group consists of10 temples of which Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur or Tanjore, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram, and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram are the prominent ones.
The temples still follow the age-old rituals and festivities. Therefore, people also call them living temples. They are an integral part of the Tamilian heritage and reflect their culture and ethnicity.
The temples are a testimony to the architectural splendor and beauty of Chola art, architecture, and sculpture.
It is easy to reach the three temples. All are well connected by both, road and railways. Anyone planning to visit each on a heritage road trip can easily do that.
9. Hill Forts of Rajasthan
Rajasthan is one of the largest states of India and has many forts and historic monuments. Tourists visit the state throughout the year. Very recently, the UNESCO World Heritage Site added the hill forts of Rajasthan to its list. It includes six majestic forts, namely Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort, Amber Fort, and Jaisalmer Fort.
The beauty of these forts is that they all are located on the rocky Aravalli mountain ranges in Rajasthan. Each fort encompasses a mini-city in itself with residential complexes, several bazaars, temples, palaces, and trade places. A unique feature of these forts is their water storage and harvesting system.
Since Rajasthan is a favorite destination for most people, doing a heritage road trip to explore these hill forts makes an excellent idea. Our Scout can help you plan the trip.
10. Mysore Palace, Karnataka
The Mysore Palace is another architectural marvel of India. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin in 1912, it is one of the largest palaces in India.
The architectural style of the palace reflects Indo-Saracenic styles and blends together Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic art forms. It is a three-storied stone structure, with marble domes, and a 145ft five-storied tower. The palace has a large garden and the facade has expansive arches with tall pillars. Further, above the central arch is an impressive sculpture of Goddess Gajalakshmi with her elephants.
Also known as the Amba Vilas Palace, this is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. The palace has several beautiful rooms all tastefully designed and carved in solid gold and silver, with stained glass ceilings and ornamental frescoes.
The Mysore Palace complex also consists of twelve temples in varied architectural styles. It is a must-visit place, especially at the time of the Dussehra festival. It is a delight to see the illuminated palace.
Mysore is easily explorable by road. Very close to Bangalore, it is an apt destination for a heritage trip.