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10 Obscure UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southern Asia

Updated on September 26, 2012
Kathmandu Valley in Nepal
Kathmandu Valley in Nepal | Source
Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan
Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan | Source

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO has designated many beautiful sites in Southern Asia as World Heritage Sites.

Many people already know that the Taj Mahal of India is included in the heritage list.

Still many do not know that there are more equally impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southern Asia.

These hidden sites are spread over Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Bhutan, also included in the Southern Asia region, has yet to have a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of writing.

Below is a list of the ten hidden away UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southern Asia.

1. Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan

In Bamiyan District in Afghanistan can be found the Bamiyan Valley, a cultural and archaeological landscape that contains priceless monumental statues of Buddha carved onto cliffs.

The standing Buddha statues, along with other artistic and religious works, date back from the 1st to the 13th centuries.

Other artistic works that can be found here are sanctuaries, edifices, and ensembles.

These works were largely influenced by the Gandhara style of Buddhist arts.

Unfortunately, many of the Buddha icons in Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Reconstruction efforts, however, are underway.

2. Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Pakistan

Considered as artistic masterpieces of the Mughal civilization are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites called Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore, Punjab in Pakistan.

Well-designed and magnificent, these sites contain marble palaces, mosques, waterfalls, ponds, gardens, terraces, lodges, and forts.

The structures are ornamented with traditional mosaics and gilt.

3. Kathmandu Valley in Nepal

A holy place for Buddhists and Hindus is the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, an ancient crossroad of thousands of pilgrims.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site has seven sites considered historically important.

These sites include the Durbar Squares, Patan and Bhaktapur, Swayambhu and Bauddhanath, and Pashupati and Changu Narayan.

4. Somapura Mahavihara in Bangladesh

The Rajshahi District in Bangladesh is the location of the Somapura Mahavihara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has high importance in the history of Mahayana Buddhism.

Somapura Mahavihara was an intellectual hub in the 12th century.

As such, it yields pieces of evidence about the rise of Mahayana Buddhism in Bengal that started in the 7th century.

This site has carvings and structures that reflect religious and artistic excellence of its time.

5. Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka

The 1,300-year-old sacred city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka was hidden away in a lush forest for so many years after it fell to invaders.

Its rediscovery, however, led to an amazing finds of palaces, monasteries and monuments that formed part of this ancient Ceylonese capital.

Anuradhapura was founded from Buddha’s fig tree, considered by pilgrims and religious as the tree of enlightenment, in the 3rd century B.C.

It was founded by Sanghamitta, a leader of a group of Buddhists nuns.

6. Sanchi in India

Madhya Pradesh in India is the location of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that has a valuable collection of Buddhist monuments.

Called Sanchi, the site has palaces, pillars, monasteries, and temples built for Buddha.

These structures and architectures have been dated from the 2nd to the 1st centuries B.C.

Sanchi was an important Buddhist hub in ancient India.

7. Mahabodhi Temple in India

Built entirely on brick, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabodhi stands today as a testament to ancient Buddhist practices in India.

Mahabodhi comprises one of the four holy sites in Buddhism.

Its first temple was built in the 3rd century B.C. by Emperor Asoka.

Succeeding temples were built from the 5th to the 6th centuries.

8. Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan

The Ghur province in Afghanistan is the place where the Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam can be found.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is covered in splendid brick and topped with imposing blue tiles.

It towers at 65 meters.

This 12th-century architecture is located in a striking location in Ghur – a river valley nestled among high mountain peaks.

9. Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

The ancient city of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka was the capital of the kingdom of King Kassapa who became infamous for his parricides.

Sigiriya is located along vertical slopes and a granite peak that stands 370 meters from the ground.

A humongous lion structure greets visitors at the entrance.

From the lion’s mouth spring staircases and galleries – entryways to Sigiriya.

10. Rohtas Fort in Pakistan

Also in Punjab, Pakistan is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rohtas Fort, built in 1541 by Sher Shah Suri after he defeated Humayun.

Rohtas Fort has thick walls that are about four kilometers in length.

The walls are punctured by massive gates and bastions.

Completely intact up to the present time, Rohtas Fort is a fine example of Muslim military architecture.

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

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    • profile image

      Avijit Chakraborty 

      4 years ago

      i love to see beautiful thing and to know about its area and it is a wonderful monument thanks

    • dumindu89 profile image


      7 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Two of them are located in my country; Sri Lanka..


    • BkCreative profile image


      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks for this wonderful information. I've had the pleasure of visiting some world heritage sites and they are all worth knowing and seeing.

      Rated way up!


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