Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth’s total surface area (or 30% of its land area) and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world’s current human population. During the 20th century Asia’s population nearly quadrupled.
Asia is defined according to similar definitions presented by the Encyclopedia Britannica and the National Geographic Society as 4/5 of the landmass of Eurasia – with the western portion of the latter occupied by Europe – located to the east of the Suez Canal, east of the Ural Mountains and south of the Caucasus Mountains (or the Kuma-Manych Depression) and the Caspian and Black Seas. It is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. Given its size and diversity, Asia – a toponym dating back to classical antiquity – “is more a cultural concept” incorporating diverse regions and peoples than a homogeneous physical entity Asia differs very widely among and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems.
1. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong’s a great city for an adventurous eater. Stop at a street vendor for fish balls on a stick or stinky tofu. Bakeries offer wife cake, pineapple buns and egg tarts. Or opt for as much dim sum as you can eat. If you’re tired of local and regional Chinese specialties, check out upscale offerings from some of the world’s top chefs, like Joel Robouchon and Alain Ducasse.
2. Kyoto, Japan
Regardless of season, it’s hard not to succumb to romance as you wander Kyoto’s atmospheric streets, gaze at the glimmering Kinkaku-ji Pavilion, enjoy the traditional dances of the geisha or feast at restaurants over the Kamo River. Only Rome has more World Heritage Sites than the former Japanese capital. But happily unlike Rome, Kyoto maintains its calmness and romance even among throngs of summer tourists.
3. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is a fast-growing city with plenty of new hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. But chances are, you’re here not because of the city itself, but for what’s nearby: amazingly well-preserved ancient temples. Even if you have the worst jet lag ever, drag yourself out of bed to be at Angkor archaeological Park when it opens—sunrise over Angkor Wat is worth losing sleep over.
4. Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand
Most of this limestone island is a protected marine reserve… which means you’ll enjoy unspoiled beaches, as well as fantastic diving and snorkeling. Several local dive shops get great reviews from our travelers. When you’re back on dry land, chill out even more with a session of yoga on the beach.
5. Luang Prabang, Laos
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the former capital of Laos, and you’ll see everything from golden-roofed temples to vestiges of colonial French architecture here. Buddhist monasteries abound in Luang Prabang, and early every morning, monks process through the streets collecting alms (their food for the day). If you want to watch or participate, though, ask your hotel for a brief etiquette lesson first—you have to distribute the food in a specific manner.
6. Singapore, Singapore
Singapore is known as a bustling metropolis that also happens to be one of the cleanest and safest cities of its size in the world. (Just make sure you heed the local laws—something like spitting in the street might merely be considered rude in your hometown, but here, it carries a severe penalty.) You’ll find historic sites like the Thian Hock Keng temple, superlative shopping (including gargantuan malls) and numerous beaches.
7. Leh, India
The Ladakh capital city of Leh lies near the eastern parts of Jammu and Kashmir, on the crossroads of the historic “Silk Route” from Sinkiang to West Asia and to the plains of India. The humbling monasteries of Shey, Hemis, Alchi, Thikse and Lamayuru will nurture your spiritual needs, and the landscape of Leh provides for a number of adventure activities including mountaineering, white-water rafting and trekking along the Markha Valley.
8. Kathmandu, Nepal
Nepal’s capital is surrounded by a valley full of historic sites, ancient temples, shrines, and fascinating villages. Mingle with locals and animals amid Durbar Square’s monuments, or join mountain trekkers in the bustling Thamel District. Explore shops for exquisite work by local artisans—carpets and paper prints are specialties.
9. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is full of exquisitely decorated Buddhist temples—as you go from one to the next you’ll be continually blown away by the craftsmanship and elabourate details. But if you’d rather seek enlightenment in a gourmet meal, or dance the night away, you’ll also enjoy Bangkok—the restaurant and nightclub scenes here are among the best in the world.
10. Lhasa, China
Deep in the spectacular Himalayan Mountains, Lhasa is a jewel of a destination. Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama, is a major attraction, but you’ll also find numerous important temples and even the world’s highest brewery.