A heritage challenge

Published Jan 3, 2014, 3:52 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 4:25 am IST
Hyderabadi couple Parul Sharma and Ajay Saxena cover 24 heritage sites to win the 2013 GoUNESCO Challenge.

Ten months, 24 heritage sites and with only around Rs 30,000, Hyderabad-based architect couple Parul Sharma and Ajay Saxena took budget travelling to a whole new level. And along the way they also won the coveted 2013 GoUNESCO India Challenge.

Started in 2012 by Hyderabadi travel enthusiast and marathon runner Ajay Reddy, the GoUNESCO India Challenge invites people to cover 30 heritage sites in India within a year. Parul and Ajay visited 24 sites and secured 2,400 points.


The 28-year-old couple had moved to the city two years back; they took up the challenge last March. “Ajay Reddy told me about the challenge; I met him through Hyderabad Runners. My husband and I love travelling; I am personally fond of forts, palaces etc. So we were excited to take part,” says Parul. Though the challenge was hectic, the two didn’t let it clash with their “40 hours a week” work. “We went on weekend trips or on work holidays.”

Starting with Ajanta and Ellora caves, the two backpacked to Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan), Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh), rock shelters of Bhimbetka (Madhya Pradesh) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Mumbai), among other World Heritage sites.


“The most expensive was perhaps Rs 1,100 per night and the cheapest Rs 300; the aim was to travel cost-effectively. So, we traveled only by public transport and always booked our place to stay in advance. Also, we would travel in the night, so we didn’t have to bother about where to put up in the night.”

“During one of the trips when we were travelling with a group, we reached Kaziranga National Park (Assam) at 3 in the morning. There was a leftover bonfire on the highway and we just huddled around it to wait for the Park to open. That was a memorable time,” she says.


The couple will now be visiting more heritage sites abroad. “We have a plan of going to Sri Lanka soon, which comes under the Epic Challenge.”