UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southern India

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
India is a proud owner of 38 UNESCO World Heritage sites and southern India has 6 of the 38! I have been to 4 of the 6, so here's the list of world heritage sites in South India and all about it.

UNESCO Sites in India - Western Ghats

UNESCO Sites in India - Leopards in Western Ghats
Unlike the other 5, this is the only Natural World Heritage Site in south India. Western Ghats Mountains begins in the border of Tamil Nadu & Karnataka and extends all the way upto Maharashtra. I've been on multiple trips to various regions of the Western Ghats right from Silent Valley & Eravikulam of Kerala to Kabini & Nagarhole of Karnataka to Vazhachal forests of Tamil Nadu. Western Ghats biodiversity is so rich that this region is described by UNESCO as one of the top 8 ecological hottest Hotspots of biodiversity! This stretch is one of those places which I could go several more times and still be fascinated everytime. This region is exactly what made the 'parks' & 'safaris' is Europe, super boring for me. The adrenaline that you get here when you spot the western ghats animals like leopard in the wild cannot be explained in words!!! Its very much possible to go on a trail walking in the forests in Europe and its pretty much safe, unlike the Western Ghats where you might be eaten by a tiger or leopord!!!!!!!!! 
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Mahabalipuram Bhagiratha Penance Arjuna Penance

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Mahabalipuram Pancha Ratha

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Mahabalipuram Mahishasura Mardhini Panel
This is one place which I've been to a few tens of times!!! It is one of the typical weekend destinations from Chennai. We just go there, coz, why not??? Its about 2 hrs from Chennai and is extremely well connected by public transport, so why not?!!! This is a group of rock-cut monuments, excavated in 7th-8th C CE under the Pallava rulers. Some of the best include the huge relief panels of Bhagiratha's Penance and the elephants with nagas descending between them! The monuments of Mahishasura Mardhini, Trivikrama and Varaha are just perfection - the exquisite examples of the Pallava beauty - there's no much decoration, but just life-like perfection!!! The Shore temple and Pancha ratha monuments are all-together another pieces of marvel, which were few of the earliest to be built in 600-630 CE. Its one of the major examples of Indian Heritage and top tourist places in India. Just that - if you're going on a weekend or holiday, be prepared for the extreme crowd.

I visited Thanjavur Brahadeeswara Temple, when I was a school girl, along with my parents. So yeah, its high time I go there again. This is fondly called the Big Temple, for its humongous size. There are so many myths shrouded around this temple, including its shadow doesn't fall on the ground and that its crown stone is a single piece and more - well they're myths. But the truth is equally fascinating - the sheer size of the temple and the fact that it was built in 1010 CE, the sculptural marvel, the frescoes inside (the oldest of it is inside the sanctum sanctorum and cannot be seen by the public). I don't really remember my visit to Thanjavur Brahadeeswara Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram or Thirubuvanam (we didn't visit Dharasuram, the 4th of the 4 living Chola temples), except for the photos of that era!!!
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Hampi Yoga Narasimhar

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Hampi Vijayanagara Architecture

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Hampi Frescoes in Virupaksha Temple
I underestimated Hampi initially! I thought I need only 2 days to see Hampi but, boy was I wrong! Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the capital city of Vijayanagara Empire in 1343-1565. It was very rich but now is in complete ruins. Like Mahabalipuram, this too is a group of monuments, and there are several places to visit in Hampi over a vast area, that its not even possible to walk and cover it all in a single day. This is one of the important historical places in India. Hampi to Bangalore is a short distance making it one of the weekend destinations from Bangalore. Hire a bike and explore the beautiful sites. Right from pre-historic rock art to living temples to Vijayanagara ruins to stunning view points - its just spectacular! 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Pattadakkal
Pic Courtesy: Shivajidesai29 - Own work via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0
This is one of the South Indian UNESCO Sites that I haven't been to yet. When I visited Hampi, I though I'll take a day off to visit Pattadakkal, but then Hampi itself was so fascinating, that I spent all my time there! Anyways, Pattadakkal along with Aihole and Badami, form the basis of rock-cut architecture that followed. These monuments belong to 7th-8th C and is an exceptional example of Chalukya architecture. Its considered the epitome of 'Vesara' style architecture - the mix of south Indian 'Dravida' and north Indian 'Nagara' style temples. Along with Aihole and Badami caves, this is considered as a set of the tourist places to see in Karnataka for 2 days.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Mountain Railways
This is the 2nd of the 6 UNESCO Sites of Southern India that I'm yet to experience - The Nilgiri Mountain railways. 3 of India's mountain railways are included in UNESCO Listing - Darjeeling and Kalka-Simla. The only mountain-railway that I've been was the Araku Valley railway and I was so fascinated by that! I really hope to experience the Nilgiri as soon as possible! Its called a 'toy train' and has the historic wooden cabins and runs through absolutely stunning views, tunnels and bridges and more! The destination Udagamandalam or Ooty is one of the best tourist places in India as well as one of the preferred honeymoon destinations in India.

Fingers crossed.... I'm hoping to visit Pattadakkal and experience atleast one of the mountain railways soon!!! Thus seeing all the 6 UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN SOUTHERN INDIA.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South India Pinterest Images UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South India Pinterest Images


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. After long time i am visiting your blog..will go through as this piece is pretty long one

  2. How great to have so many UNESCO sites in your country. And that you have seen 4 of 6 in the southern area. I have found that to really take in all of a UNESCO site, you need more than one day. Good to know that a visit to Hampi might need a few days! I think the mountain railways might be at the top of my list. I did not know that UNESCO had railways on the list. Hope you get to visit the ones you have missed.

  3. I love visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I didn’t realise there were so many in south India. Thanks for sharing some ideas on locations to visit!

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  4. Love that there are so many UNESCO sites! thats so awesome. I always find the temples so fascinating with the amount of details that went into them I would love to be able to visit one day! Not sure how I would feel in that train though! looks a bit scary haha!

  5. You're very lucky to have so many UNESCO places in your country. They all look fascinating but Hampi looks particularly impressive. I'd like to know more about it given that it's one of the most historically significant sites in India. Must go look it up!

  6. Such a nice list of the UNESCO sites in South India. I have been to all of these places except Pattadikal. That was on my list the last time I was in India but for some reason I could not visit it. I will ensure I visit that place the next time I am there. I absolutely love Hampi and the Western Ghats. I am generally in Western Ghats almost every weekend I am in Bangalore.

  7. I can see why you were enamored with Hampi and extended your time here. The ruins look absolutely incredible to explore. I hope you do get to check off all of the world heritage sites in Southern India!

  8. I would love to experience Mahabalipuram. I can’t believe how old these rock cut out are and still how incredible they look today. I can see how this would be a tourist attraction like you had mentioned. I enjoy the art/history of your blog! Thank you for sharing this!

  9. I had no idea that there are a lot of UNESCO world heritage sites in South India and I am happy to know that you have visited the marjority of them. I am deeply fascinated Hampi and would love to visit in the future.

  10. Lovely post with all beautiful sites that are UNESCO listed in southern India. I have visited many of them in Tamil Nadu and Kerala when I was in school. Karnataka ones are left and now I have to visit them too. The sculpture and architecture of Chola temples in southern India are unique in whole world and really it is wonderful to see those constructed during BC era. The Nilgiri Mountain railway track really looks amazing running on height with lovely back drop.


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