To white-sand beaches and futuristic cities, Asia—the world’s largest and most populous continent—is filled with breathtaking contrasts. With so much diversity, it appeals to those seeking spirituality, adventure, culture, nature, exotic flavors, and ancient and modern civilizations.
Become transformed as you watch the sun rise over beautiful Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious monuments in the world; watch the sun set over the white-marble Taj Mahal; absorb breathtaking mountain views while strolling along the Great Wall of China; relax and enjoy the soothing warm waters of a Japanese onsen; go on safari in India’s national parks or search for snow leopards in the Himalayas; soak in the sun on the white-sand beaches of Thailand and Malaysia; walk in the footsteps of legendary samurai; watch as pilgrims flock to the most sacred river in the world, the Ganges, said to purify its bathers of sins; become enchanted by the rhythmic chanting of Buddhist monks; get swept up in the bright colors and lively music of cultural festivals; and explore lesser-visited but equally beautiful destinations such as the Flaming Cliffs of Mongolia and the Plain of Jars in Laos.
49 official countries
56 official languages
4.46 billion inhabitants
Boasts the highest and lowest points on Earth
Japan, not only a mega-busy city that thrives on electronics and efficiency, actually has an almost sacred appreciation of nature. One must travel outside of Tokyo to truly experience the 'old Japan' and more importantly feel these aspects of Japanese culture.
Perhaps the most artistic of all Japanese traditions is the cuisine. Simplicity, seasonal ingredients, careful preparation, and beautiful presentation are all important aspects of Japan’s culinary art form! The basis for most meals is sticky rice: Eat every grain, as it’s considered wasteful to leave any. As an island nation, seafood is integral to Japan’s cuisine, as are sea vegetables.
Careful preparation and meticulous presentation are crucial elements of Japanese cuisine. Food is an art form and even the simplest dishes are often prepared by chefs who have trained for many years.
Food is so important to Japanese culture that UNESCO has added traditional Japanese cuisine, or washoku, into its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, meaning that the preservation of this way of eating is vital to the survival of the traditional culture. It was only the second national traditional cuisine honored as such, after French food. In fact, Tokyo has 14 Michelin three-star restaurants, which surpasses even Paris.
India’s riches can often be intoxicating and overwhelming to visitors. The states on the coast of Bay of Bengal are no different. With a history stretching back millennia, and numerous traditional cultures living in the same time-honored way they have for centuries, the Bay of Bengal region is the home of numerous UNESCO World Heritage monuments and landmarks.
In Puri, on the coastline of Odisha, the sacred Lord Jagannath Temple (which is famous for the annual Rath Yatra festival) is a sight to behold. In fact, the word “juggernaut” comes from the force of the huge chariots that are paraded through town during this annual cultural festival.
Odisha is also home to the Konark Sun Temple, which represents the sun god’s chariot. It’s a 13th century architectural marvel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and arguably one of India’s finest historical treasures.
Among the many other superb sites you’ll find on the Bay of Bengal coast are the UNESCO-listed Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (which date from the 7th and 8th centuries), wondrous caves of the Jain religion, mystical and ancient Buddhist monasteries, and pre-historic paintings. Read more about this region.