UNESCO work to preserve sites of importance, both cultural or natural, for the common heritage of humankind so for a place to make the list of World Heritage Sites, it must be of ‘special cultural or physical significance’. The three regions of the continent that Asia Inspirations covers (North Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent) has about 169 sites that match this criteria, most of which we can help you visit. For now we’ve chosen the four that we feel should be at least near the top of everybody’s must-see lists for 2016:
The Great Wall of China An undeniable epic feat of engineering, the construction of what is now the Great Wall of China started in around the 3rd century BC and continued until the 17th century AD. If you were to add together the total length of all of the different walls, constructions and fortifications that were built to keep out the marauding hordes of nomads from the north the figure is a staggering 20,000 kilometres. The wall we know today though was built during the Ming Dynasty and stretches 6,259 kilometres from Shanhaiguan, Hebei province in the east to Jiayuguan, Gansu province in the west. The wall scales the peaks and troughs of the lonely hills just north of Beijing, following the historical northern border of the country, making it extremely easy to visit. There are five wall sites within easy reach of the city, each offering rewarding climbs, fantastic views or simply the chance to set foot on this ancient edifice. Some, such as Badaling and Mutianyu, are recently restored whereas others, including Huanghuacheng, is only partially restored giving a greater understanding of the original structure. You can also visit the Great Wall at its westernmost extreme in Jiayuguan, where you can look out over the barren landscapes to the Gobi Desert.
The Taj Mahal, India Never has something deserved an accolade more than the Taj Mahal, considered as it is by many as one of the most beautiful buildings ever created. Perfectly exhibiting the artistic and scientific accomplishments of the Mughals, this white marble mausoleum was built between 1631 and 1648 by the empire’s most successful emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his third and favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. The beauty of the Taj Mahal is found in its simplicity and symmetry – it is said 20,000 artisans from all over the empire and as far as Central Asia and Iran worked on it. Up close you’ll find intricate detail: carvings, inlaid semi-precious stones and Koranic verse, testament to the Taj Mahal’s place as the jewel of Muslim art. Set in lush gardens on the banks of the Yumuna River, complete the giant reflecting pool, the moods of the building reflect its surroundings, so the very best time to visit is at dawn when it not only tends to be less crowded but when the white marble takes on the warm hues of the sunrise.
Temples of Bagan, Burma Built by kings on a huge plain next to the Irrawaddy River, the temples of Bagan number just over 2,200. Built at the height of the Kingdom of Bagan between 1057 and 1287 there were originally over 4,000 structures but earthquakes and invading armies destroyed both the temples themselves and the kingdom. It is believed that the huge number of buildings stem from the Buddhist belief that constructing a place or object of worship gains merit. Many of the temples are well-preserved as they are still used day to day or are sacred to the huge number of pilgrims that still make their way here, whilst others have been restored by UNESCO. Around 300 of the temples also have beautiful frescoes, carvings and statues of Buddha to admire. Compared to the other incredible sights on this list, Bagan is relatively undiscovered – whilst some of the temples are popular attractions, it’s still easy to get off the beaten track and have a whole swathe of the archaeological zone to yourself.
Temples of Angkor, Cambodia It was in 1860 that missionaries stumbled across the vast Angkor ruins; since then the world has had a love affair with these spectacular complex of temples and structures. The Angkor Archaeological Park stretches across an area of 400 square kilometres, encompassing the remains of many different capitals of the Khmer Empire built between the 9th and 15th centuries. Successive kings built bigger and better, doing their best to outdo their predecessors, leading to the construction of some of the world’s most beautiful, intricate and colossal temples. The temples as a whole are a source of pride for the Khmer people but it is Angkor Wat that is the most beloved. The wat is the world’s largest religious building, built as a Hindu place of worship but was converted to Buddhist which it remains today and has been in use since its foundation in the early 12th century. As a whole the temples of Angkor perfectly represent the cultural and religious values of the Khmer, the grandeur contrasting with the Khmer people of today who occupy the small villages and farm the rice paddies that now surround the spectacular creations of their ancestors.
Asia Inspirations can easily include one, two or even all of these magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus many more, on your tailormade itinerary, all you have to do is ask! Call us now or fill in our quote request form.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.