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It’s not often that you find that the hype surrounding a major sight is true, but the Taj Mahal is as beautiful as the stories say. This is India’s most iconic building; a monument to love built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. It can be difficult to avoid the crowds, who can blame them, but visiting at dawn will give you a glimpse of the Taj Mahal in all its glory – the white marble reflecting the moods of the sky as the sun rises.
An extinct volcano that rises 1518 metres out of the Myingyan Plain an hour from Bagan, Mount Popa is the spiritual home of the 37 nats, or animist spirits, and many come here to worship them. Covered in lush forest, you’ll see plenty of macaque monkeys during your visit, but most impressive is a sheer volcanic plug roughly halfway to the summit that is topped by a Buddhist temple which can be reached by climbing 777 steps.
Originally established as a rhino sanctuary, Chitwan is home to over 500 of the one-horned beast which you can attempt to spot on elephant rides, canoe trips, jungle walks and jungle safaris. There is also a chance, if you are incredibly lucky, to see Bengal Tigers (there are just over 100 of them here), whilst deer, monkeys, sloth bears and wild elephants are amongst the other residents. There are a massive amount of different bird species in Chitwan, over 500, so bring your binoculars.
Capital of Ladakh when it was a kingdom of its own Leh, at 3,524 metres above sea level and surrounded by mountains, once sat on the crossroads of the trade routes between Tibet, Kashgar and Tibet. It is a town that many travellers have fallen in love with, and it’s easy to see why – as dramatically -situated as it is, its easy-going, traveller-friendly and wonderfully vibrant. Above the Old Town looms the ruins of the palace and fort of the Ladakh royal family, built in the Tibetan-style. At the foot of the palace’s rocky bluff, the narrow lanes of the bazaar radiate outwards, full of stalls hawking antiques and curios.
Whilst you can fly to Leh from Delhi, it is a good idea to journey by road from Manali or Srinagar, both routes are spectacular, as it gives you more time to adjust to the altitude.
Nestled amongst vast tracts of tea-covered hills and valleys, occasionally broken by waterfalls and lush vegetation, Nuwara Eliya is the hub of Sri Lanka’s tea production thanks to its cool climate and lashings of rain. Several of the tea factories around the town offer guided tours where you can walk through the fields and see the machinery in use – generally the factories are the originals built in the late 19th century, adding a little heritage to the mix. Rounded off with a tea sampling there’s no better way to get a taste of old Ceylon.
Although this section has been fully restored to it’s former Ming Dynasty glory, due to Jinshanling’s distance from Beijing (78 miles) it is much less frequented by day tripping tourists. This distance, and the stark yet magnificent surroundings, give a much better insight into why the wall was created – it isn’t hard to imagine, as you stand high on the wall, a horde of marauding Mongol tribesmen making their way across the landscape. For this reason, this is the section that we would most highly recommend visiting. A cable car has been constructed to take visitors up to the highest point for commanding views over its mountainous surroundings.
Emerging from the jungle you are confronted with a great moat; follow it a little farther and your eyes find a bridge over the water, travel past the walls to land on Angkor Wat itself, huge and hazy in the jungle heat. This first glimpse for most is simply staggering, surpassed by very few manmade structures around the world. Angkor Wat is the Angkor complex’s most famous sight, and Cambodia’s pride and joy and national symbol. The world’s largest religious structure, the wat is an absolute must visit, and although busy, it is still possible to find a quiet spot to reflect on its extraordinary and intricate beauty. Sunrise, though bustling, is worth it.
The Great Wall – Terracotta Warriors – Chengdu’s Pandas – Yangtze River – Shanghai’s Bund
Tokyo’s Senso-ji – Fuji views from Lake Kawaguchi – Kyoto’s extensive heritage – Tea with a geisha or meiko
Halong Bay – Sapa – Hoi An – Mekong Delta – Temple of Literature, Hanoi
Angkor Wat – Phnom Penh – Tonle Sap – Sihanoukville – Angkor Thom
Bagan – Rangoon – Inle Lake – Irrawaddy River – Mt Popa
Khongoryn Els – Ger Camp – Lake Khovsgol – Naadam Festival – Flaming Cliffs