Ajay Reddy, a former IT professional turned full-time entrepreneur, got piqued to start GoUNESCO.com after reading a tweet in 2012. “The tweet had a photograph of a ticket at Hampi and questioned people about the number of heritage sites they had visited. When I couldn’t recognise half of the places on it, I decided to attempt to travel to all of India’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites that year,” he reveals. After sharing it with his friends, they too were game.
Reddy realised it would be more fun to compete and share experiences, and GoUNESCO.com was launched in January 2012.
The site aims to make visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites fun. “Usually, many associate heritage, ruins and culture as boring places to visit. Most make plans for a vacation at a beach and give these incredible sites a miss. While going to a beach is fun, a travel challenge is fun too,” he adds. The site allows you to turn your trip into a game where every proven visit (you have to upload photos) to a World Heritage Site earns you points and a place on the leader board. You are competing against people from across India and the world to win the challenge. The challenge encourages people to travel as well as learn about heritage. It also gives people with similar interests in travel and heritage a chance to meet and get together.
“Last year, there were nearly 50 participants; they shared travel tips, stories and even travelled together to sites in the challenge. If you don’t have friends who are interested in travelling with you, here’s a group of people who might be,” explains Reddy.
So far, Reddy has been to 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each with it’s own unique story. “I visited Smoky Mountain National Park in the USA when I was working there. It was a last-minute plan and included a 300-mile road trip. My visit to the Taj Mahal was on the sidelines of a friend’s wedding. The travel in MP to visit Sanchi, Khajuraho and Bhimbetka was an extreme backpacking trip, which included sleeping on a railway platform and lunch at a 5-star hotel. I try to keep it different and fun every time,” he shares.
The website reveals that Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple and the Mountain Railways (Darjeeling, Shimla, Nilgiris) as the most popular Indian sites. Reddy believes that every site has its challenges. Transport is often a problem if these aren’t too well-known. “Bhimbetka was incredible — with rock paintings nearly 10,000 years old. But I had not heard of this place before. Also, it’s only about 60 km off Bhopal, but few visit it. There were no guides, and less information. Hampi is a great place to plan a full vacation with ample tourist infrastructure. Agra’s sites have been run over by tourists. Still, nothing is impossible; it takes some amount of planning and will to travel,” he signs off.
log on to www.gounesco.com/