Asia Travel Guide
“Asia is a marvelous continent to visit. With a total of 49 countries and a population of 4.3 billion, the most prevalent languages in Asia are Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Malay, Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese, Wei, Thai, and English.”
My Top Asia
- The 16th century World Heritage square Naqsh-e Jahan in Isfahan, Iran
- 427 meters / 1401 ft below sea level Dead Sea salt lake, Israel – Palestine – Jordan
- Cave of Jesus’s Birthplace in Bethlehem, Palestine
- The Citadel at Erbil, the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world, Iraq
- 15th century Timurid architecture of Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
- Hazrat Ali’s Sacred shrine and Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan
- 14th century Tashilhunpo Monastery and fortress in Shigatse, Tibet
- 15th century monasteries and monuments of Bhaktapur, Nepal
- 17th century fort and old district of Nizwa, Oman
- The endless Great Wall of China
- 2134 m / 7001 ft mountain top, 62 BC tomb-sanctuary of Mount Nemrut, Turkey
- 9th century peaceful Woljong Temple, North Korea
- 9th-13th centuries ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar
- Mingun town, Myanmar
- Dal Lake in Srinagar, India
- Leh Himalaya city, India
- Varanasi holy city, India
- Jaipur city of Rajasthan, India
- Chiang Mai monuments, Thailand
- Divisoria Market in Manila, Philipines
My Asia bucketlist
- Lake Baikal, Russia
- All around Japan
- Angkor Wat temple complex, Cambodia
- Gobi Desert, Mongolia
- Dili, East Timor
- Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
- Goa, India
- Anywhere in the Maldives
Inspiring Places to Visit in Asia
On this page is a list of Asia’s Best Destinations.
1- Visit Lhasa, Tibet – China
The capital of Tibet and one of the highest cities in the world, Lhasa (“Place of the gods”) is located on a small basin on the north bank of the Kyichu River. At its average elevation of 3,600 m / 11,800 ft, the city is a great base to admire the wonderful surrounding Himalaya Mountains reaching as high as 5,500 m / 18,000 ft. An amalgamate of traditional Tibetan and sophisticated Chinese architecture, Lhasa’s most notable landmark, the Potala Palace, stands tall over a city of conventional, regional architecture and such monuments like the impressive, mystic Jokhang Monastery.
Without a doubt, Lhasa clearly remains a city under Chinese occupation, as it became sixty years ago, armed soldiers and patrols remaining scattered throughout. Nevertheless, wandering around Lhasa is an absolute pleasure. Make sure to discover the city of Tibet before heading to its rural sister, exploring the Barkhor district to take a leisurely stroll while taking in the aura of the “Forbidden City”.
[message_box type=”attention”]Read the page: Kathmandu to Lhasa 8 day Tibet Tour.[/message_box]
2- Visit Petra, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Petra, or the Rose City (named after the color of its rocks), is representative of Jordan worldwide. The settlement is much more than an historic archaeological city cut into the rocks of Wadi Araba valley’s eastern mountains, running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Resting on the slope of Jebel al-Madhabah, Petra’s precise location also refers to the Bible, as some have identified it as Mount Hor.
Only known to the Western world as recently as 1812, Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, described as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. All of the city’s scenery is mind-boggling and truly inspiring, as were its engineers who conceived the construction of its rock chambers and intricate water conduit system.
3- Visit Kathmandu, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Kathmandu is both a noisy and vibrant place, a city where its temples’ transcendent quietness presents itself in stark contrast. The capital of Nepal, it is full of history and magnetic places to visit, all within a short distance to the Himalayas. Concentrating half of the world’s 8000-meter / 26,000-feet peaks within its territory, Kathmandu is where most mountain exploration activities are devised, including ascensions of Mount Everest.
Truly experiencing Kathmandu entails finding the temples at Durbar Square, discovering the world heritage site of Boudhanath Stupa and the country’s most important Hindu temple (Pashupatinath) as well as the Royal Palace converted into the Narayanhiti Palace Museum after the 2001 massacre of the Royal Family by the Crown Prince. Venture onward, into the valley town of Bhaktapur constructed in dark, carved woods, glowing pink brick and embellished by fine stone sculpture.
4- Visit Jerusalem, State of Israel
Jerusalem certainly doesn’t need introduction. Walking through the holiest city in the world, where civilizations have combined their cultures together into a rich, cultural mix, Jerusalem reminds us of its history in every corner.
History, theology and archaeology all come together in each of the quarters of the Old City, serving as a home to Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. Inside its walls, the number of delightful places to visit is vast, including: the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock (Al-Aqsa Mosque), Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Hurva Synagogue, Via Dolorosa, etc. In addition to its incredible sites, simply getting lost in the markets’ alleyways can be a most memorable experience!
Other places to discover in Jerusalem are the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), Wohl Rose Park and Teddy Park, Yad Vashem (Israel’s living memorial to the millions murdered in the Holocaust), Montefiore Windmill, the neighborhoods of Ein Karem and Nachlaot, etc.
5- Visit Istanbul, Republic of Turkey
Istanbul, historically known as Constantinople and Byzantium, is a prosperous, populated transcontinental city located between Europe and Asia. Nobody is indifferent to the exoticism of Istanbul, a city having endless monuments and mosques, trendy neighborhoods, palaces, gardens, markets, museums and cultural activities to keep us entertained for days. Possessing an unforgettable energy, simply walking around such a lively place is an experience to celebrate and cherish.
Places to visit in Istanbul include: the Basilica Cistern, the majestic Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the magnificent Blue Mosque, the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, Süleymaniye Mosque, Chora Church, Galata Tower and the Grand Bazaar. The food is also as excellent as the city’s sights. Don’t leave without trying the Baklavas, sweet phyllo-layered pastries filled with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together with honey syrup. Simply divine!
6- Visit Singapore, Republic of Singapore
With its well-designed, well-executed and well-placed planning, the city-state of Singapore appears as if one, single man had built it from scratch – A pleasure to find. The city’s prosperity has existed since it became a tax-free port, with the settlement of a British trading post in 1819. Today, it is seemingly the perfect balance between ancient culture and the western world, where the powerful industries of high-tech, finance and tourism thrive.
Undoubtedly a varied and rich experience, to visit Singapore, today, is to also revisit the birthplaces of its Malaysian, Chinese and Indian population. Be sure to experience it variety of venues and points of interest such as: street performances of the Chinese opera, ballet and the lively arts scene of international and local talent, the Arab Street and Orchand Road shopping areas, the flavorful (and sometimes odd) cuisine, the many shrines and temples of which The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is the largest and most impressive, Chinatown, etc. All of these places are a lot more than, but may feel like only, an appetizer before the cherry on top of this cake: A skyline to keep our eyes watering above the Lion City – all very colorful, all very Singapore.
7- Visit Great Wall of China, People’s Republic of China
So grand it can be seen from outer space, the Great Wall of China is a colossal fortification of architecture, engineering and effort by a great people. Erected to prevent enemy attack from outside the territory of what is now China, its construction started in 220 B.C. under Qin Shi Huang and continued until the Ming dynasty, in the 17th century A.D. The wall has been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1987.
The world’s largest military structure, the Great Wall of China spans over 20,000 km / 12,400 mi, starting in the east at Shanhaiguan and ending in Jiayuguan, to the west. It contains walls, horse tracks, watchtowers, shelters, passes and even has fortresses. Trust me, the Great Wall’s construction is truly gigantic, seen from close-range, while walking atop it gives a privileged viewpoint over the surrounding landscape, wherever in China you may be.
8- Visit Bethlehem, State of Palestine
If there is a city in the world that doesn’t require introduction for westerners, that city is Bethlehem. Even if you are a nonbeliever of Jesus, the story of his birth (and the rest, proceeding) has surely surfaced as early as kindergarten, or your first memories of Christmastime. According to the Hebrew Bible, Bethlehem was where David was born, crowned the king of Israel. According to the New Testament, it is also, of course, the birthplace of Jesus and where everything commenced for His believers.
Throughout time, the city has seen many changes take place and peoples arrive: the Romans, the Samaritans, the Arab Caliphate, the Egyptians, the Seljuks, Crusaders, Ottomans… Then, the British Empire after WWI, the Jordans as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and, in 1967, finally captured by Israel in the Six-Day War.
Since 1995, Bethlehem has been a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, only 10 km / 6.2 mi from Jerusalem. Not a large city, it has only about 25,000 inhabitants who live mainly from the tourism industry. Pilgrims and tourists alike come to walk in the same places where part of the History of the world was made and recorded, along with other surrounding beautiful sites such as: The Church of the Nativity, Rachel’s Tomb, the Milk Grotto, Shepherd Fields, the Herodium, the Mar Saba Monastery, etc. A few interesting museums to discover are the International Nativity Museum, the Olive Oil Museum and the Palestinian Heritage Center. Simply walking around Bethlehem’s Old City is also an incredible, otherworldly experience you shouldn’t miss. The narrow streets transporting us well into the past, follow Star Street and begin from there!
9- Visit Beijing, People’s Republic of China
Beijing, the capital of China – ruled by the Manchu, the Mongols, then the Communists… The city’s great significance over time is now taking its power into the world economy, as China gets further and further ahead of the game. Beijing is an immense city of 22 million people, with cranes permeating into its skyline from every direction, and is still growing. Yet, the true gems of the city’s great past are cherished by the locals and authorities, as well as tourists.
Visiting The Forbidden City alone is a major task. The Palace Museum contains over 9,000 rooms in an immense palace built between 1406-20. Throughout time, the city had been sacked, rebuilt and restored which is why, here, we can now see objects dating back to the 18th century, Qing Dynasty. Another of Beijing’s most archetypal places is Tiananmen Square where massive parades and gatherings take place, also where its 1989 protests resulted in bloodshed. The daily ceremonies of the raising and lowering of the Chinese National Flag, at sunrise and sunset, are evocative and well worth seeing. Also in Beijing city and nearby, there are a great number of additional places to visit: The Great Wall of China, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, the Ming Tombs, Lama Temple, Beihai Park (Winter Palace) and the Beijing Capital Museum.
10- Visit Mazar-i-Sharif, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Mazar-i-Sharif is the fourth largest city in Afghanistan. After its few years under Taliban control, the city was recaptured by the Northern Alliance on November 9th, 2001, with the assistance of the United States. Since then, there have been several Taliban attacks to reinstate control of the city.
The major tourist attractions of this Afghan city are its well-known shrines and its Muslim and Hellenistic archaeological sites. In fact, “Mazar-i-Sharif” meaning “Noble Shrine”, refers to the city center’s famous pilgrimage Shiite Muslim mausoleum of Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. This beautifully preserved, blue-tiled structure well deserves the name Blue Mosque – a true pleasure for visitors to glide across its lustrous floor. Be sure to see the mosque at night, illuminated by brilliant, multicolored lights!
[message_box type=”attention”]Read the page: Driving in Afghanistan – Survival Guide.[/message_box]
11- Visit Yazd, Islamic Republic of Iran
Yazd is a spectacular city in the Iranian desert. Apart from its 12th century Jameh Mosque, have an attentive look at the Water Museum and the extraordinary Amir Chakhmakh complex’s construction, Atashkadeh (the Temple of Fire). There are many other incredible places to see, but the most distinct is named “Yazd Tower of Silence”. Not really a tower, this structure with massive curved walls built on top of two hills was constructed as an altar for the dead to be “cleaned” by vultures, according to Zoroastrian ritual. Yes, you’ve guessed it: Yazd is the center of the Zoroastrian culture.
Besides site seeing, an experience you absolutely should not miss is the medieval bazaar, one of the Middle East’s best-preserved bazaars. As for Yazd’s old city, it is consists of entirely traditional architecture using mud wall construction. Exploring the historic neighborhoods and relaxing in its parks, hiking nearby mountains in search for the perfect view over the city, hitting the cafes to meet locals are all options in Yzad, at your disposal. So, take them all!
[message_box type=”attention”]Read the page: 79 Reasons to Visit Iran.[/message_box]
12- Visit Wadi Rum, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Truly leaving an impression on its visitors, Wadi Rum’s south Jordanian views are astoundingly dramatic. The site of the film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) as well as many other films, here we witness a grand display of mountains, sandstone and granite rising from its sands to 1700m / 5,600ft and greater, resulting in massive, narrow canyons and fissures which are equally as impressive.
Here, prehistoric petroglyphs remain in tact on the rocks, as well as the Zalabia Bedouin tribes living in large, goat-hair tents. Nowadays, the tribes mostly make their living by helping climbers and trekkers explore this region where eco-adventure tourism has risen in recent years. In addition, visitors are also fond of riding Arabian horses and camping under Wadi Rum’s brilliant stars!
13- Visit Bam, Islamic Republic of Iran
Bam Citadel was once the largest adobe building in the world. Located in the desert on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau, Bam’s origins date back to the Achaemenid period (6th to 4th centuries BC). Its peak occurred, however, from the 7th-11th centuries, when the city was a great producer of silk and cotton garments and it was located at the crossroads of vital trade routes.
Surprising how the medieval, mud-constructed town survived for so long in time, Arg-e Bam is massive. Since long ago, people settled in the area based their livelihood on the underground irrigation canals and qanāts, from the oasis. Today, a modern new city of Bam was built nearby.
14- Visit Samarkand, Republic of Uzbekistan
The second largest city of Uzbekistan, Samarkand lies in the valley of the river Zerafshan. A city as old as Babylon or Rome, also having its share of changes throughout time, enduring conquests of Alexander the Great, the Arabs, Genghis-Khan and Tamerlane. A rich combination of Iranian, Indian and Mongolian cultures, the West and the East: This is Samarkand.
The beautiful, even majestic, Samarkand is a legendary city along the Silk Road. With its ancient architectural monuments being a unique testimony of its heritage, the highlights to experience there are: Registan Square, Bibi-Khanum Mosque, Imam al-Bukhari Mausoleum, the Shakhi-Zinda compound and the Gur-Emir ensemble, among many others. Each place is a visual representation of pure poetry with their delicate blue tiles and carved marble. As well, the many sounding minarets around town are an absolute must-see, or must-hear!
15- Visit Nissi Beach, Republic of Cyprus
Located in the resort area of Ayia Napa, Cyprus, the sandy Nissi Beach attracts many visitors to its beautiful scenery, a 500-meter stretch of beach with pure waters. Aside from the obvious natural conditions allowing water sports and relaxing, Nissi, named after one of the nearby small coastal islets within walking distance through the shallow waters, has become an increasingly popular destination due to its many nightclubs. DJs excite crowds with music played during lively events, such as foam parties and catwalk fashion shows. Other than its many people, another frequent visitor to Nissi is the Great White Pelican, a considerable-sized bird wandering around, looking for something to eat.
16- Visit Samail, Sultanate of Oman
Samail Castle, or Samail Hosn, rests in a valley of the same name, surrounded by the rocky, black Hajar mountains and palm groves whose dates provide locals with a significant part of their economy. A beautiful castle in an equally impressive landscape, inside it are many exhibition rooms displaying local artifacts while narrating the building’s history.
Hosting the castle, the Wadi Samail is the largest valley in Oman. Here, we can also find other fortifications such as Oman’s oldest mosque, Masjid Mazin bin Ghadouba, as well as Bait Al Khubar, Al Shahbaa Fort and a large number of smaller forts and Watch Towers.
[message_box type=”attention”]Read the page: 25 Amazing Places to Visit Oman.[/message_box]
17- Visit Aqrah, Republic of Iraq
Its namesake, derived from the Syriac word meaning“barren”, gives a proper introduction to Aqrah. Built on the hills of Kurdish Iraq, the city offers a gorgeous view over the entire region, especially if you climb to the tall, narrow tower of its mosque.
In Aqrah, a visit to the market is a very interesting experience while, around town, several springs and even waterfalls can be found. Surprising, given the name of the city!
18- Visit Girne, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Widely known by its Greek name, Kyrenia, Girne is one of the most beautiful towns in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. With rugged mountains in its background, Girne was founded in the 10th century by the Myceneans, the first Greek invaders of Cyprus. The city’s charm mostly occurring within its lovely harbor area, this perspective offers views of the island’s greenest, surrounding landscape as well as the peaceful waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Venetian Castle in Girne is well worth a visit before heading to its religious sites: the Anglican Church, Cafer Paşa Camii, the Ottoman Cemetery and Chrysopolitissa Church – all clearly showing the importance of the spiritual nature of this town. As for its culture, visit Girne’s tiny Folk Museum and Icon Museum to get a glimpse of the island’s ethnology. Another site to visit is the Bandabuliya, constructed as the town hall in 1878 and recently transformed into a market with a tourism and craft centre.
19- Visit Murghab, Republic of Tajikistan
The word Murghab, meaning “prairie river” in Persian, makes the town’s location by the Murghab River easy to guess. Standing in the Pamir Mountains at 3,650m / 12,000ft elevation, the highest town in Tajikistan, Murghab’s location near important regional roads makes it the regional trade center, illicit drugs included.
Founded by Russians as a military outpost in 1895, Murghab doesn’t appear to be much more than a temporary frontier. Being the only significant town in the eastern half of Gorno-Badakhshan, its population is only about 4,000 people living a simple life, the views over ice-capped peaks constantly present throughout their days.
20- Visit Tash Rabat, Kyrgyz Republic
Thought to have been originally built as a Nestorian monastery in the tenth century (even though there were no artifacts found considered sacred to Christians), Tash Rabat is a structure made of crushed stone on clay mortar, consisting of 31 rooms, many of them possessing a dome. Located 3200m / 10,500ft up in the Kyrgyzstan mountains and in the At-Bashin ridge, Tash Rabat’s surrounding mountains embrace everyone who visits this well-kept, 15th century caravanserai. This roadside inn, or caravanserai, where travelers once regained their strength from their journey on the Silk Road, is also available for today’s travelers. You can stay at Tash Rabat, in the yurtcamp of the caretaker, and explore the area while hiking or trekking by horseback. Then, move on to the main north-south highway, to Lake Chatyr-Kul and Torugart Pass, or to the ruins of Koshoy Korgon fortress.
21- Visit Hazrat-e-Turkestan, Republic of Kazakhstan
Turkistan, the name of the city once called Hazrat-e-Turkestan, north of Chymket, in Kazakhstan. The ancient city name means “Saint of Turkistan”, which is enough to understand its religious importance to the thousands of visiting pilgrims every year. Considered the Second Mecca of the East, Turkistan was an important trade center of the past, dating as far back as the 4th century, and the most important learning center for Kazakh steppes people.
The city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mausoleum of Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi built under the order of Timur in 1389, is a delightful place to visit. Impressive from the ground, its large dome surmounts the body of its construction, truly eye-catching and majestic in both its geometric splendor and its intricate, multicolored tile patterns.
22- Muynak, Aral Sea Uzbekistan
Once in a prosperous and nature-blessed region, Muynak is a town that fell in disgrace in Uzbekistan. Once a bustling fishing community on the bank of the Aral Sea, it fell in the hands of man’s actions. This is the story. It was, in fact, the only port city in all Uzbekistan, a center of industrial fishing and canning. Then, the Aral Sea disappeared…
Dominated by cotton production, the land’s monoculture used water from sea’s tributary rivers for irrigation while pollution caused by agricultural chemical runoff also caused the water to evaporate. Thus, the Aral Sea completely vanished from Muynak. What remains is the town’s major tourist attraction, a truly impressive sight: A cemetery of ships and an armada of rusting ship remains. Here, there is also a one-room museum, dedicated to Muynak’s heritage as the center of Uzbekistan’s fishing industry, maintained by some of the few ethnic Karakalpaks who still reside there.
23- Visit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur’s essence has always reminded me of Singapore, why I’ve posted similar photos of the two cities. KL, as it is widely known, is also a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures with different religions and a vast blend of modern and traditional. Even though it is less organized, tidy and tranquil than Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is a wonderfully rich and diverse place to visit in Asia.
Top attractions in Kuala Lumpur are, of course, the Petronas Towers – the city’s Twin Jewels that you can even ascend! Next, visit Chinatown, the Menara KL Tower, the earliest Moorish-style Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Central Market, a cultural landmark where the city’s artistic community convenes. Also, remember not to leave Kuala Lumpur without tasting the savory food at Jalan Alor and, surely, without visiting Batu Caves, a Hindu shrine inside a 400-year-old limestone hill containing a 100-year-old temple.
24- Visit Erbil, Republic of Iraq
Erbil (or Arbil) is the capital and largest city of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. A city dating back to 6000 BC, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Not at all the Iraq we see in the news, at least when I was there, 1.5 million people live in Erbil. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Sasanians, Arabs and Ottomans all inhabited the city, leaving their marks.
The prosperous and economically successful Erbil has a lot to keep its visitors occupied: markets, carpet shops, grandiose mosques and a few centenary churches. There is also an archaeological museum containing a large collection of pre-Islamic artifacts and a UNESCO World Heritage citadel on the city’s most prominent hill. Outside of Erbil proper, nature provides us with the lofty Gali Ali Bag waterfalls, the highest cascades in Iraq and the Middle East.
25- Visit Malacca, Malaysia
Malacca’s 14th-century territorial origins fought for control over the Malay Peninsula between Java and the Thai Kingdom. An important trade center in the region, the city grew into a rich and cosmopolitan market town trading spices and textiles with India and Indonesia. In the Malay world, Malacca had a sophisticated language and advanced literature, outstanding cultural dances and a superior, hierarchical court structure. When the colonial era came, the Portuguese (my people), led by Afonso de Albuquerque, decided to conquer Malacca in 1511, as part of their plan to extend their influence in Asia by dominating ports in the region. They remained there 130 years, introducing Catholicism to the region through the works of St. Francis Xavier. Then, the Dutch arrived. Then, the British…
Malacca’s long-standing Chinese presence and that of the later Europeans, together resulted in a city with an architecture and culture unfound anywhere in East and Southeast Asia, most definitely not lacking in heritage appeal to tourists. In discovering the town, I truly enjoyed the combination of red and white buildings, just like in the photo. “The Historic State” features many sites, embodying the richness of the cities’ legacy, that are worth a visit: Fort A Famosa, St. John’s Fort, St. Peter’s Church, Christ Church, Francis Xavier Church, the Museum of History and Ethnography, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Jonker Street (antique goods), Portuguese Square, Sri Poyatha Moorthi Temple, Tranquerah Mosque and so on!
26- Visit Naqsh-e Rustam, Islamic Republic of Iran
Basically a large rock serving as a necropolis, Naqsh-e Rustam lies 12km / 7.4mi from Persepolis, in the Fars Province of Iran. The site is truly quite spectacular, particularly, the stone’s relief with the oldest dating to 1000 BC.
Here, there are also four tombs of Achaemenid kings surfacing slightly above the ground, locally known as the “Persian Crosses” because of their facades. In fact, the entrance of each tomb is at the center of each cross. Beyond their entrances, there each leads to a small chamber containing a sarcophagus of a Sassanid-period king, presumably that of Darius I the Great, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II.
[message_box type=”attention”]Read the page: 79 Reasons to Visit Iran.[/message_box]
27- Visit Bhaktapur, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Founded in the 9th century, the ancient Newar city of Bhaktapur was once the capital of Nepal during the “Malla” Kingdom, from the 13th-15th centuries. Together with six other sites and collectively named “Kathmandu Valley”, Bhaktapur is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list of monuments and buildings. Besides the Valley region’s incredible artistic and historic achievements, notable sites to visit are: the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka of Kathmandu, Patan, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Bauddhanath and the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan.
Bhaktapur, translating to “Place of Devotees”, has probably more temples than a person can visit. The city also exhibits the most well-preserved old city center and palace courtyards in Nepal. The temple artwork, using mediums of wood, metal and stone, is absolutely fascinating. A place to sit and watch life go by while appreciating the surrounding magnificence is Layaku, or Durbar Square, the core of the city where Hindu gods and goddesses are honored in the pagoda and shikhara-style temples. At the square, don’t dare miss The Lion Gate, The Golden Gate (Lu Dhowka), The Palace of Fifty-five Windows, the stone Batsala Temple and Pashupati Temple.
Following any street out of the square will take you to a number of other must-see places in Bhaktapur. Head to the five-storey, pagoda-style Nyatapola Temple, look for the Bhairab Nath Temple, find the Dattatraya Temple and beyond! Only 6km / 3.7mi out of town another UNESCO listed site, Changu Narayan Temple, awaits you! As well, the sizable rectangular water pond in Ta Pukhu (Siddha Pokhari) hosts great views over the surrounding mountains’ snowy peaks from just outside the main city gate. There are, of course, many more places to see in Bhaktapur, but I think these are enough to tempt you into venturing there, right?
28- Visit Amadiya, Kurdistan Republic of Iraq
Amadiya is a historic city in Kurdish Iraq that dates back to the Assyrian era. Built in a strategic location on the flat top of a mountain, it was from where the royal Abbas family ruled after the expulsion of the caliphs from Baghdad. This region is also thought to have been the home of the most important Magi priests of Ancient Persia, the “Three Wise Men”, those said to have gone to Jerusalem when Jesus Christ was born.
The views from the dramatic plateau of Amadiya are tremendous, allowing the city to be a major historical center of Chaldean astrology and astronomy in its day. Now having only about 6,000 inhabitants, the residents I encountered were very kind, helping me find the last standing part of the ancient Bahdinan Gate fortress.
29- Visit Shigatse, Tibet
Tibet’s second city, after Lhasa, Shigatse is located high in the mountains like most everything in the country. It is the home of the Panchen Lamas, the Dalai Lama’s religious and political rivals throughout the ages. At an altitude of 3850 m / 12631 ft providing magical views, the city is a beautiful place where its visitors can forget about worries while wandering the easygoing streets and alleyways of the old town. If you get lost, just use the northern Drolma Ridge to reestablish your orientation and you’ll be well on your way!
What is there to do in Shiagatse? Visit the great Tashilhunpo Monastery, the second largest in Tibet and founded by the first Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup, in 1447. There is also Shigatse Dzong, a fortress originally built in the 17th century by Karma Phunstok Namgyal, the second successor in the Nyak family who ruled Tibet for almost 100 years. Finally, don’t leave without taking in the market and its lively atmosphere!
[message_box type=”attention”]Read the page: Kathmandu to Lhasa 8 day Tibet Tour.[/message_box]
30- Visit Anak Tomb No. 3 of the Goguryeo Tombs Complex, North Korea
The Complex of Goguryeo Tombs was considered the first World Heritage Site in North Korea by UNESCO in 2004, and for good reason. Discovered in 1949 and located near Pyongyang in a beautiful environment of abundant vegetation and rocky mountains behind, this capped pyramid-like construction consists of 63 individual tombs from the Goguryeo kingdom. The Goguryeo was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea which became one of the strongest in the northeast China-Korean Peninsula, between the 5th-7th centuries B.C.
Anak Tomb No. 3 is one of the chamber tombs of Goguryeo, differing from the others in its structure and mural design, more closely resembling some of the tombs found in the Chinese province of Liaoning. Incredibly beautiful in their preserved detail, archaeologists have alleged the epitaph and man and woman depicted in the wall paintings to represent royalty buried in the tomb.
[message_box type=”attention”]Read the page: 88 Reasons why I liked North Korea – Explicit.[/message_box]
31- Visit Pingyao, People’s Republic of China
Between Beijing and Xian rests a mandatory stop for anyone claiming to have truly experienced China. One of the Chinese Historic and Cultural Cities, it was also claimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, accredited to its Zhenguo and Shuanglin temples. Meet Pingyao.
During the Qing Dynasty (17th to early 20th century), it was a financial centre of China. The city actually dating back 2,700 years, Pingyao’s well-preserved ancient walls guarding their wealthy inhabitants’ lavish mansions provide the perfect setting for a visit, nowadays.
With authorities’ steadfast effort to keep the atmosphere as original as possible, walking around the car-free streets with traditional 18th and 19th-century buildings is captivating. There are charming wood and painted-glass lanterns hanging outside, adding to the character of the entire city. Within Pingyao, visitors can even experience the traditional Shanxi beds (kang) laid up on platforms in lovely, old courtyard mansions. Not far from the city, there are also some rural temples and imposing fortified clan villages well worth a visit!
32- Visit Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Hands down, my second favorite city in the United Arab Emirates – after Dubai, “Al Ain” literally meaning “The Spring”, is not a small Garden City located on the Oman border. However, with more than half a million inhabitants it remains a rather quiet place compared to the busy rhythm of its nearby coastal life.
Al Ain was once an essential post along trade routes between Oman and the Gulf, as we can see by the city’s many forts and the archaeological finds dating to the Neolithic period. For this reason, in addition to all other accounts of the historical and cultural significance of Al Ain, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, the first site in Abu Dhabi and the UAE to have such a distinction.
With its immense history and tradition, Al Ain has numerous monuments, forts, historic buildings, oases, ruins, archaeological complexes, palaces and museums to visit. While there, don’t miss the beautifully restored mud-brick Al Jahili Fort, the majestic views over Jebel Hafeet mountain (only a few kilometers from the city center) and the unusual camel market.
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33- Visit Osh, Kyrgyz Republic
An estimated 3,000 years old and frequently mentioned as the “capital of the south” of Kyrgyzstan, Osh is a melting pot of Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians, Tajiks and other smaller ethnic groups. Once an important trade center with a flourishing economy, the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, separation of states, and the nearby Uzbekistani border inhibit much of its potential business opportunity. Nevertheless, Osh is still capable of sustaining the most crowded outdoor market in all of Central Asia, the “Great Silk Road Bazaar”. This is The place to visit in town!
Having a number of monuments to boast about, Osh hosts one of the last remaining statues of Lenin. Another monument is that of Kurmanjan Datka, the stateswoman who began annexation of this region with Russia in the 19th century, born into a rich family of the Mongush clan and later named “Queen of the South”. The Russian Orthodox church is also a great sight, peacefully cohabiting in the same city with the largest mosque in the country, next to the bazaar and the 16th-century Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque.
Looking for a superb view over Osh? That can be arranged! The only World Heritage Site in Kyrgyzstan is near to Sulayman Mountain, offering all the views one can dream of. Also on the mountain, The National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman enclose a great collection of archaeological, geological and historical finds of local flora and fauna.
34- Visit Woljong Temple, North Korea
For me, Woljong Temple is absolutely the most monumental Buddhist temple in North Korea, more precisely in the Jol Valley, just east of Asa Peak. Its isolated location lends an awesome perspective over the mountain as well as the surrounding landscape of multicolored tree leaves that envelop this sacred place.
Originally built in 846, Woljong Temple was rebuilt in the beginning of the Yi Dynasty (15th century). Presently, it has beautiful, ornate wood buildings including one pagoda-style construction so iconic it was depicted on a 1958 postage stamp. However, the complex’s main building is Kungnakbo Hall, containing interesting red and blue murals covering its walls. I had the opportunity to attend a private Buddhist ceremony given by the monk who is also the temple caretaker, making Woljong all the more fascinating and memorable.
35- Visit the Dead Sea, Israel, Palestine, Jordan
It’s dead, alright! The only glimpse of life you will be able to find in the Dead Sea is that of people who are, as I did, enjoying themselves floating effortlessly within its salty waters. It’s more than a strange sensation to be able to remain afloat as if sleeping on a bed of fluffy foam, while a most unforgettable one too!
So, how does this happen? Easy! The Dead Sea is 427m / 1401ft below sea level, Earth’s lowest elevation on land, while also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, found to contain 34.2% salinity in 2011. Such hyper-salinity, measuring 9.6 times that of the oceans’, will not sustain life while it can sustain the body’s weight! Since ancient times, the Dead Sea has attracted visitors from the Mediterranean basin to one of the world’s first health resorts, even mentioned in the Bible as a refuge for King David. Throughout the years, the salt lake produced balms for Egyptian mummification, potash for fertilizers, salt for cosmetics, herbal sachets, etc.
Nowadays, this salt lake fed by the Jordan River occupies the Great Rift Valley across Israel, Palestine and Jordan. If you want to try this amazing experience, not to mention getting tanned without sunburn (the salt haze refracts on the beach after the evaporation of water, protecting from UVB sun rays), then take the journey! As a bonus, you will be offered medically proven benefits against skin disease and joint problems. As for the Dead Sea skin-care products, you must buy some – a gift for family and friends or a souvenir for yourself!
36- Visit Haghpat Monastery, Republic of Armenia
Haghpat Monastery is a 10th century religious complex site listed, together with Sanahin Monastery, as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Armenia. The two monastic complexes serve as examples of the highest proliferation of Armenian religious architecture, a style combining elements of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and the traditional vernacular architecture of the Caucasian region.
Founded by Queen Khosrovanuysh, wife of the Bagratid king Ashot III, the Haghpat Monastery complex has a variety of amazing buildings. Its largest church, the 10th-century Cathedral of Surb Nishan, has a central dome resting on four pillars of lateral walls hosting frescoes and bas-relief art works depicting its founders. Another structure, the small domed Church of Sourb Grigor (St. Gregory), had two side chapels and a tall bell tower added to the original church. A few magnificent 11th-13th century khachkars (cross-stones) can also be found on the monastery grounds.
The surrounding mountains and landscape harmonize well with Haghpat Monastery, built on a lush promontory overlooking the Debed River while halfway up the hill for protection while also hidden, maintaining monastic humility. My tip to enjoy your visit, even more, to this enchanted place is to wait for a mass with emotional Orthodox chants.
37- Visit Yungang Grottoes, People’s Republic of China
Only 16km / 10mi west of the city of Datong, the Yungang Grottoes are found in the Shi Li river valley, at the base of the Wuzhou Shan mountains. The caves are a limitless wonder to experience and, because of that, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. Containing 252 caves with 51,000 statues, respectively, these grottoes were praised for their Buddhist cave art of 5th and 6th-century China.
Carved on a sandstone cliff around 400 AD, the Yungang Grottoes remain well preserved. Originally spreading across more than 15km / 9.3mi, today only 1km / 0,62mi remains. To understand the sequential changes in style along its interior, visitors should follow a certain sequence of caves across the three clusters (east, central and west). Have fun exploring these remarkable, precious grottoes!
38- Visit Mount Nemrut, Republic of Turkey
At 2,150m / 7,050ft above sea level, Mount Nemrut, or Nemrut Dağı, is a place you must visit at sunrise or sunset to take-in all of the site’s grandeur and environs. A remote hill chosen by Antiochus I (69–34 B.C.) as the site to build his mausoleum, one of the world’s most incredible Hellenistic-period constructions, it stands as a strong representation of the Greek and Persian cultural origins of the kingdom. No wonder it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as early as 1987.
The site is truly outrageous! The huge rock heads, many double my size, are absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the cluster of aligned, full-size statues in the temple. You will never forget this place!
39- Visit Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman
One of the oldest cities in Oman, Nizwa was one of the major centers of the country’s trade, religion, education and art, while also its capital. Its geographical position, at the crossroads of routes connecting key regions of Oman, made Nizwa an important meeting point while also a prosperous city where the importance of date production is evident from its widespread date palm plantations.
The city’s three major tourist attractions were renovated in the 1990s, using their original, traditional materials and leaving their condition absolutely pristine for us to visit today. First, is the Nizwa Fort, constructed in 1668 AD. The most visited monument in Oman, its architectural lines and patterns are simply astounding. Next, Nizwa Souq is where you can find some of the city’s famous handicrafts and agricultural products. What really dazzles here is the silver jewelry and Khanjar (curved daggers) making. Finally, go to the World Heritage Site of Falaj Daris. “Falaj” refers to water running through a channel dug in the earth, the source being groundwater found in valley subsoil. This is why Falaj Daris is considered the life-preserver of Nizwa, since it provides the plantations with necessary and essential irrigation.
“Best Destinations in Asia by other Travel Bloggers”
I asked other travel bloggers about their favorite places in Asia. Read about the places other travelers like to spend their holidays.
Singapore – by Bemused Backpacker
Singapore is a destination that is dismissed by so many travelers as nothing more than a stopover destination, a nice place to spend a few layover hours and enjoy the delights of Changi airport, but very few people give it more than that basic passing glance and they are missing out on so much. I love the fact that Singapore is clean and that everything works like finely tuned clockwork, I love the world-class tourist attractions like the zoo and Sentosa Island and I love the high tech malls and air-conditioned buildings that make up the futuristic metropolis.
Singapore is everything every Western country should aspire to be, in about 50 years. But much more than that, after living on and off in Singapore over the last decade I have seen the rich and deep tapestry of cultures that exist beneath the surface, I have eaten my fill of the famous foodie destination and have seen what Singapore really has to offer the traveller who spends the time to get to know it. Singapore is so much more than many travellers give it credit for, and for those who get out of Changi airport and give it a chance, they will not regret it.
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Bagan, Myanmar – by Willful and Wildhearted
Bagan is one of those places on this planet that holds a bit of magic. I had long dreamt of visiting the historic temples during a sunrise, so you can imagine my happiness when I saw them in person. Sitting atop of the ancient ruins and scootering around on the dirt paths made me feel grateful to be alive and for the lifestyle I choose. The people in Bagan (and the entirety of Myanmar, really) are some of the kindest I’ve encountered on my travels and the food was to die for. While this town will certainly become super touristy in the future, I suggest any and everyone to visit as soon as they can.
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Raja Ampat, Indonesia – by The Crowded Planet
Raja Ampat in Indonesia is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s a small archipelago just off the coast of West Papua, and it takes forever to get there – I guess it’s one of the reasons why the place is still blissfully quiet and not that many tourists visit.
The main reason to travel to Raja Ampat is diving – the area is one of the best of the world in terms of marine diversity, and in just ONE dive I saw more than in all other 30 dives of my life combined! If you don’t dive, no worries – snorkeling is just as amazing, or you can simply enjoy stunning places like Pasir Timbul, a sandbank that appears for only a few hours a day in the middle of a pristine lagoon.
Another place in Raja Ampat that everyone should visit is Pianemo, a cluster of coral islands covered in forest and surrounded by emerald sea. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and the fact there was no one else besides our group made it even more special! Accommodation in Raja Ampat can be pricey – the cheapest option is staying in a homestay in the village of Arborek, where tourism is managed by the local community.
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Sawinggrai, Indonesia – by Contented Traveller
Raja Ampat, Indonesia is made up of an archipelago of islands. On many of these, you will find small villages like Sawinggrai Village, where there are 36 families who live there and have for generations.
The village of Sawinggrai welcomes visitors and is where many people seek homestay accommodation as this is a premier dive location in this remote yet stunning marine park. Sawinggrai Village also attracts many bird watchers as it is home to the Cenderawasih, the iconic Bird of Paradise.
The village was fascinating for us as much it is built on top of the water. The water is so clear that you can see the marine life under you. Another big attraction was the children of the village, who grow up on and in the waters.
The children are educated at a little school in the village and sing the songs of West Papua to the visitors. The children love to sing and to dance for the visitors. They show us how to hand feed the fish and then do what they do best for the rest of our visit – they play in the water. The children are in the water from a very early age, and it seems that they learn their water skills from the older children in the village.
It was fascinating to watch how the people of the village live such a natural and happy life in the far of islands of Raja Ampat.
Getting to Sawinggrai Village in Raja Ampat is not easy but nor is it impossible. To visit the archipelago of Raja Ampat you come to the city of Sorong, on the far west coast of Papua. This is via Jakarta, Makassar, Ambon or Manado.