23 photos of India’s stunning cultural heritage

From mosques to mausoleums to mangroves, these sites reveal India’s rich history.

India’s UNESCO World Heritage sites are anything but subtle. From mosques to mausoleums to mangroves, together they form a tangible story of India—a country so extraordinary it has served as the birthplace of four major world religions and one of the oldest civilizations on the planet.

No site tells a single story. A tour through Ellora’s cave temples reveals a layered interaction of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Architecture lessons in Ahmadabad lead to silk studio visits, kite flying, and birdwatching along the city’s numerous lakes. Hop a hundred-year-old, single-track train through the mountains or stroll the second longest wall in the world—there are enough adventures here to last a lifetime. (This temple is covered in thousands of colorful statues.)

Cait Etherton is a Virginia-based writer and frequent contributor to National Geographic Travel. Follow her journey on Twitter @carryoncait.