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 world’s most populous
Asia is home to a wealth of
people and cultures, each of them
offering their own
and delicious, cuisines. Whilst
food as a whole does share common
features – vibrant tastes, bright
colours and subtle flavours, and
ingredients – rice, ginger and
chillies (to name just a few),
be amazed by the huge variety of
things you can chow down on.
you like your food hot or not,
bustling street stall or in a
restaurant, prepare to blown
With a population of over four
billion people, Asia is an eclectic
mix of nationalities, societies and
ethnic groups. Examine its extensive
past and you’ll find little history
is shared between countries but
plenty of destinations are considered
innovative early civilisations and
important cultural crossroads so it’s
easy to see where the mystique of the
‘Orient’ of old began. Asian nations
do, however, share strong cultural
values and a love for expressing
their heritage through art, music and
food – experiencing these things for
yourself it a must.
Whether you are looking for
adrenaline adventure, culture or full
on relaxation, Asia is a traveller’s
paradise. From the skyscraping peak
of Mt Everest to the powder soft
sands of an Indian Ocean beach, the
range and depth of experiences on
offer is unsurpassed, whilst the
people you meet all have their own
unique stories they are more than
willing to share. With so much
diversity of culture, heritage,
natural and manmade landscapes, the
best thing you can do when travelling
in Asia is jump right in!
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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.