South Asia is home to many beautiful and culturally significant sites. From the manmade Taj Mahal in India to the natural wonder of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, there are a plethora of places to see when visiting South Asia. Below are links to of some of the most famous World Heritage Sites (some pending nomination and selection) in South Asia spanning across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
A World Heritage Site is a place recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as being of special cultural or physical significance. The list of Word Heritage Sites is maintained by the International World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, comprised of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly. The Programme catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Please click here for more information about UNESCO and here for more information about The World Heritage Committee.
The Committee meets once a year to determine whether or not nominated places will be added to the World Heritage List. There are ten selection criteria, nominated sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of the following criteria:
- to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
- to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
- to bear a unique or, at least, exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
- to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
- to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
- to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
- to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
- to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
- to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
- to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
To read more about the selection criteria click here.
There are currently 1031 World Heritage Sites around the world. Fifty-six of them are located in South Asia. While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
- Bangladesh is home to three World Heritage Sites. Two are cultural sites and one is a natural site. Click here to learn more about Bangladesh’s World Heritage sites.
- Bhutan does not currently have any World Heritage Sites. However, it does have eight properties on its Tentative List which may be considered for nomination. Click here to learn more about some of Bhutan’s possible World Heritage sites.
- India is home to thirty-two World Heritage Sites. Twenty-five of them are cultural sites and seven are natural sites. Click here to learn more about India’s World Heritage sites.
- Nepal is home to four World Heritage Sites. Two are cultural sites and two are natural sites. Click here to learn more about Nepal’s World Heritage sites.
- Pakistan is home to six World Heritage Sites. All six of them are cultural sites. Click here to learn more about Pakistan’s World Heritage sites.
- Sri Lanka is home to eight World Heritage Sites. Six of them are cultural sites and two of them are natural sites. Click here to learn more about Sri Lanka’s World Heritage sites.