UNESCO world heritage sites in Gujarat (updated 2021) - Rani ni Vav, Champaner-Pavagarh, Old Ahmedabad & Dholavira

Gujarat is a state full of wonders - both natural and man-made. I have lived the the state more than any other in the country and love almost everything about it. I have written extensively about Gujarat, and here's another special post about UNESCO World Heritage sites in the state - Rani ni Vav, Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Old Ahmedabad & Dholavira (added in 2021).

But what exactly is a UNESCO World Heritage site?

UNESCO world heritage sites are places with cultural, historical, scientific or some other form of significance, and they are also internationally protected. In fact for a place to be called a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a matter of extreme pride and every year numerous places vie to be included in this list. Spread from North to South, and East to West, currently India has 35 such unique sites, and if you plan to explore the country, this list is a great place to start.

rani ni vav patan gujarat UNESCO heritage site
Rani ni Vav - UNESCO World Heritage Site (Picture Credit: Parth)

Globally Italy leads the pack, but at seven India is also one of the countries which can boast of its position in the top ten. The list is heavily titled towards Europe, but I think it's not the bias but the stringent conditions that a site needs to meet to qualify.

So without much ado, here are the two gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage sites from Gujarat!

1. Rani ni Vav (Queen's step-well)

Located on the banks of the historical and mythical river Saraswati in Patan, Rani ni Vav is the latest addition to the list from Gujarat. Built in the Maru-Gurjara in the 11th Century, the step-well was originally a memorial to the king, and slow took up the name of the queen.

rani ni vav patan gujarat UNESCO heritage site
Rani ni Vav

carvings rani ni vav patan gujarat UNESCO heritage site
Intricate carvings at Rani ni Vav

In the dry lands of Gujarat, step-wells were the lifeline of the people and water was given the highest form of regard. Keeping that in mind, the seven story step-well is actually made like an inverted temple, with three over the ground and four below. However, it's not just the scale of the step-well, but the delicate and intricate work on walls, columns and roofs which is simply outstanding. There are numerous images of Gods and Goddesses, and some of these continue to be worshipped by travellers even today.

Read more: Rani ni Vav - delight to the senses

The step-well fulfils several criteria for making it to the list including Integrity (Rani-ki-Vav is preserved with all its key architectural components and, despite missing pavilion storeys, its original form and design can still be easily recognized.), Authenticity (Rani-ki-Vav has a high level of authenticity in material, substance, design, workmanship and, to a certain extent, atmosphere, location and setting) and fulfilment of Protection and Management requirements.


8am to 6pm

Entry fee:

Indians: Rs. 5/-
Foreigners: 2 USD

To reach Rani ni Vav:

Location: Patan, Gujarat
The best way to reach Rani ni Vav is via Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is well connected by flights, trains as well as excellent road network with the entire country.

There are two ways of reaching Rani ni Vav. The most convenient way is to hire a local cab in Ahmedabad for a day and come here. While in the area it's also worthwhile to visit Modhera Sun temple as it's really close by.

The alternative is to come by bus from Ahmedabad. Take an early morning bus from Ahmedabad to Mehsana (2.5 hours) and then change into another bus there to Motera (about 30 minutes). Once there you can see the temple and then take an auto to Rani ni Vav and Modhera Sun Temple.

2. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

Let me share something that you probably didn't know - in the 16th Century the capital of Gujarat was Champaner, an almost abandoned town of ruins now. Now the entire area, Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit for anyone who loves to explore architecture and history. Though the name is quite drab, let me promise you that the place isn't.

champaner pavagadh heritage ruins UNESCO heritage site
Sehar ki masjid

champaner pavagadh heritage ruins
An old ruin at the Champaner

What's also interesting is that the park is a mix of heritage buildings from different eras, kings and faiths. On one hand it includes the very popular Pavagadh temple on the hill-top, it also includes the now-abandoned Jama Masjid on the foothills.  The archaeological park is also the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city in India.

Read more: Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

Just like Rani ni Vav, Champaner-Pavagadh also fulfil all the criteria for inclusion in the list. But the one which I found particularly interesting was this:

"The structures represent a perfect blend of Hindu-Moslem architecture, mainly in the Great Mosque (Jami Masjid), which was a model for later mosque architecture in India. This special style comes from the significant period of regional sultanates."

You can also do online booking for a trip to Champaner-Pavagadh through the official Gujarat Tourism portal. I do not have any experience on this, but this could be very useful for travellers.


Sunrise to sunset

Entry fee:

Indian Visitors: Total Rs 30/-
Citizen of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries:Total Rs.30/-
Other Foreign Visitors: Total Rs.500/-
Ticket with Facilities: Rs. 750/-

To reach Champaner-Pavagadh 

Location: Champaner-Pavagadh, Gujarat
To reach the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, you can have two different cities as your base - Vadodara (or Baroda) or Ahmedabad. It's actually closer to Baroda and also better connected. Simply take a bus to Pavagarh from the bus-stand and get down at the foothills. The best way to see Pavagarh is after a hike or you can also take gondola to the top. Once done with Pavagadh, take a local auto guy and he will take you around to the ruins.

However, the better way is to do your research well in advance and take a cab from either Baroda or Ahmedabad. The ruins are scattered and far apart, and if you don't know where to go, the driver can skip some of the hidden ones. I went in a cab from Ahmedabad, and it works equally well from Baroda also.

3. Old Ahmedabad

This July old Ahmedabad became the first India city to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage City. The old city primarily comprises of the old and residential residential heart of the city - typically called 'Pol'. Each Pol is typically a gated society where people from one community would live. Back in the days, a Pol would be open through the day, and it's fortified gates would close at sunset, and guarded through the night. Now, many such Pol come together to make a 'Pur'. The city has several such 'Pur' neighbourhoods and each such unit is often self-sufficient.

The city was provided this honour for two key reasons:
  1. Secular co-existence of Islamic, Hindu and Jain communities along with rich wooden architecture of havelis which dates back a few hundred years
  2. Ahmedabad was also the cradle for India's non-violent movement for independence led by Mahatma Gandhi

old ahmedabad unesco world heritage city
Entrance to a home

old ahmedabad unesco world heritage city
Home to feed the birds :)

Read more: Ahmedabad - India's first UNESCO World Heritage City

Entry Fee

There is, of course, no entry fee as it's a city which is given this tag. However, the best way to explore the Pol area of Ahmedabad would be through a heritage walk organised by the Ahmedabad Municipal corporation. Though organised by a government body, it's done very well and you can take my word for it (I have been on it thrice already, and learnt something new every time).

Reaching Ahmedabad

Even though it's not the capital of Gujarat, all the infrastructure here would make you believe that it is. The city has an international airport which is connected to a few international destinations, and a domestic airport which is connected to all major Indian airports with numerous daily flights.

Similarly, the city is well connected with the rest of the country well through railways and busses as well.

4. Dholavira

Dholavira in Kutch is one of the five largest Harappan sites in the world and the biggest in India and recently it was also recognised as UNESCO World Heritage site. The other prominent site in India is Lothal, which is close to Ahmedabad. Its located in the the Kutch region of Gujarat, in a monsoon island called Khadir island. During monsoon, sea comes in and the entire Khadir region is cut off from the rest of the world by surrounding water, as the water flows back it leaves behind a pure white sheet of salt which covers the region around till the next monsoon spell.

The area has seen successive settlements over 1500 years, and the fourteen excavations here over the past few decades have revealed much about the people and their lives here. The most recent has been the discovery of a 5000 years step-well here which is a matter of great pride for us all.

dholavira kutch excavation ruins gujarat travel tourism story road trip
The excavated site

dholavira kutch language undiscovered gujarat travel tourism story road trip
Yet to be deciphered sign board

Reaching Dholavira

The best time to visit Dholavira is during winters for two reasons - the weather is cool (summers are punishing in Kutch) and you can see the white salt desert too. The best way to reach Dholavira is by taking taxi from Bhuj (which can be your base for Kutch explorations). It's easy to reach Bhuj by train or bus from Ahmedabad.

What next?

This was a guide to anyone who is planning to explore the World Heritage Sites in Gujarat. It was a bit disappointing to see that only two sites from the state could make it to the list. I had actually started researching about this because I was planning a visit to Gujarat and visit any remaining World Heritage Sites.

For those of us who have been to these and love them, it's very important to spread the world and bring the world in Gujarat. The two sites, though equally magnificent, are also some of the lesser known and least visited in India, especially by non-Gujaratis. Is there something we can do to put these on the world tourism map? Can we also make sure that visitors to India also include these two in their itinerary, just like Taj Mahal is integral to a visit to India.

Do you also have any recommendations on what else could be added to this list? I actually have a few suggestions, like Palitana Temple complex, Adalaj ni Vav, and the Pol area of Old Ahmedabad.

Share your suggestions in the comments below :)


Note: Special thanks to Parth for contributing his beautiful image from Rani ni Vav. Do check out his Instagram handle - he shares gorgeous pictures from all over Gujarat and beyond.


  1. It is really pretty with such history. I didn't realize how many were in different places. Gives more of a perspective and a must look up for whenever I head to these places.

    1. Absolutely Holly! Some of these sites are not very well known and it's good to specifically look for them when visiting a new place :)

  2. incredible, I honestly didn't know that there are such ancient sites in India. Really amazing!

    1. Well, India is actually filled with ancient sites and 1000 years old sites are fairly abundant across the country :)

  3. I did not realize how many historical sights were here, thanks for enlightening me. The pictures are so beautiful and really portray the places well

  4. Both sites are really beautiful, I would love to visit them. But it's Rani ni Vav that really has impressed me most, the stone carvings are so extensive and so beautifully detailed. Thanks for alerting us to them!

  5. I've never heard of this place in my life and it's so ornate and beautiful! Would love to do a photoshoot among the structures too!

  6. The carvings of Rani ni Vav look incredible. We really hope to visit India in the next couple of years. Gujarat looks and interesting region,

  7. Truly Amazing. Great to read. Thanks for all photos.

  8. I can see why these would be on UNESCO's list. The architecture is simply stunning and so detailed. Wonderful sights Sid!

    Mersad Donko Photography

  9. Thank you for sharing about these incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites! I love India but haven't been to Gujarat yet. Adding the Queen's step well and Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park to our next visit!

  10. Wow! I mean Vav .. I have been to Rani ni Vav but not to the Champaner Archaeological Park which looks very interesting. The best part is both of them are in great condition and well maintained.

  11. I have seen photos of Rani ni Vav shared around the net and every time I saw it, it left me in awe. The intricate carvings are fascinating! It shows so much about the history of the region too!

  12. Your tip on getting a cab to go between the ruins is very helpful! If I was to figure it out on my own I feel like I may miss some very valuable things so this is good advice!

  13. Wow, there are some really intricate details in some of the structures. It's no wonder they're UNESCO listed. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  14. I'm always fascinated when I discover a new UNESCO World Heritage Site in my destination. I hope that I will make it soon to India and have the opportunity to see these places of worshipping with such long history.

  15. I love finding out about new World Heritage sites and these ones look amazing. The ruins look so mysterious and the carvings are really intricate. It makes me wonder how the carvers managed to produce such fine work back in those times.

  16. i just went to a world heritage site and didn't even know it was one until i got there! the skywalk in Hallstatt. Now i have a list of ones I need to visit

  17. Rani ni Vav looks amazing. I do think European countries benefit from the organisational structure to apply for UNESCO listing. I've seen so many wonderful things in India

  18. That looks amazing! I've never been to Gujarat, I think you just convinced me :)

  19. Wow, what an incredible part of the world. The history is amazing. I didn't know Gujarat was so beautiful. Great tips here. Thanks

  20. Wow, these places look stunning. I will make sure to visit them on my next trip to India.

  21. Gujarat is really a nice place to visit,nice historical images.

    India Tourism

  22. visit one of the oldest opal shop from Australia, located at Level 3, 295-301, Pitt Street, New South Wales, Sydney 2000

  23. Beautiful Pics. Honestly, I never considered visiting these places before. But your pics have a compelling effect (especially Rani ni Vav). Thanks for the post.

  24. These heritage sites seem so outstanding and remarkable. I would love to visit these sites soon. Do I need a guided tour for there?

  25. Nice Articles about our Heritage. Keep it up dear. Kindly help me to provide quality backlinks through your Bolg

  26. Great post. Haven't been to Champaner but am sure its gorgeous. I have been to the other two and the only thing about the old city is that I wish it was better maintained. It breaks my heart to see how we treat our heritage.

    1. Thanks Chaitali. Your words resonate with me as well - I really wish we took better care of our heritage...can't understand the apathy towards it...

  27. Rani ni vav is magnificent with its intricate design. There is so much to explore in this country, I am lagging behind. Thanks for the info. They would serve me to plan my future travels.

  28. Great post. Gujarat is famous for its beautiful marble temples, golden sea beaches and so many natural attractions. Gujarat which has a number of beautiful golden beaches and it is one of the ideal destinations for the tourists from all over the world.

  29. Great article. All the relevant details are covered with beautiful images.
    I would like to share my article with all of you.

    Please read and share your views.

  30. I belong to Gujarat and reading about various world heritages sites located in Gujarat feel me proud of being Gujarati.I have not visit all the places given in this blog but I have lots of information of culture and heritage of Gujarat.
    Thank you for posting this information.
    For more beautiful places in India you can visit https://traveldreamindia.blogspot.in/


Post a Comment