A giant in every sense, Asia is too massive and diverse to conceptualise as a single digestible travel "destination". From the mountains around the Black Sea in the west to the snow fields of Russia's far east, there are more people and cities in Asia than outside of it. Travel options range widely, from the desert ruins and modern mega-malls of the Middle East to the magnificent ancient monuments and giant mountains in South Asia, from the beach bungalows and jungle treks of Southeast Asia to the mega-cities and technology capitals of East Asia.
Asia offers intriguing destinations for every type of traveller, be they novice or experienced road-warrior. Easier options include ultramodern, prosperous, and largely democratic countries like Japan and the East Asian Tigers of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, in which people enjoy very high standards of living. More challenging are extremely poor countries where people struggle even to get a few grains of rice each day, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Laos and East Timor. Some countries are well-established on the budget tourist trail such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, but other countries strictly restrict tourism to certain regions or types of tourism, such as Bhutan and the Maldives. North Korea and Turkmenistan, easily the world's most isolated and repressive states, take it even further with constantly-watched group tours dedicated to their great leaders. Of course, there are also many countries lying somewhere in the middle, such as the emerging powerhouses of China and India which make wonderful travel destinations in themselves due to their long history, size, tradition and diversity.
|Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan)
Being one of the most closed regions in the world, these countries offer bare, spectacular landscapes and true adventure in the footsteps of Marco Polo and elsewhere forgotten communism.
|East Asia (China (mainland), Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan)
Contrasts of old versus new, the biggest of mega-cities at the front-end of technological development combines with well-preserved temples and sites of the ancient cultures and philosophies still present in everyday society. The vast, open plains of rural China and Mongolia offer something quite different.
|Middle East (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen)
Home of the first civilizations in the world's history, and the land where the three Abrahamic religions were revealed, it is now one of the fastest growing regions of the world with increasing development and a rich heritage.
|Russia and the Caucasus (Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia, South Ossetia)
Russia covers much of Asia, a huge country of vast, empty expanses. The Caucasus is a dense, warm, friendly region, but some parts of it are war zones and are considered unstable.
|South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)
The breathtaking roof of the world that is Himalayas in the North, tropical, humid waterways in the South, and some of the most chaotic cities to be found in between.
|Southeast Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam)
Hot and humid, Buddhist monasteries and tropical beaches offer relaxed getaways from the rowdy, bustling cities popular with backpackers.
The precise borders of Asia are fuzzy: a good guide to the Asia–Europe border is the Ural Mountains in Russia. For cultural and historical reasons, some parts of the Caucasus are considered European.
- Bangkok—Thailand's bustling, cosmopolitan capital with temples, nightlife and fervour
- Beijing—capital of the People's Republic of China with Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and many cultural sights.
- Dubai—most modern and progressive Emirate in the UAE, developing at an unbelievable pace
- Hong Kong—a truly world-class metropolis with a unique mixed Chinese and British heritage
- Jerusalem—containing the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old City, this city is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims
- Mumbai—most diverse, busy and cosmopolitan city of India, known for its nightlife and well known as the home of the entertainment industry.
- Seoul—beautiful palaces, great food and a hopping nightlife, Seoul is a frenetic way to experience the Asia of old and new
- Singapore—modern, affluent city-state with a medley of Chinese, Indian, Malay and British influences
- Tokyo—the world's largest city brings a huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis with high-tech visions of the future side by side with glimpses of old Japan
These are some of the largest and most famous destinations apart from major cities.
- Angkor Archaeological Park—magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire
- Bali—unique Hindu culture, beaches and mountains on the Island of the Gods
- Dead Sea—stay afloat in this extremely salty lake
- Great Wall of China—several thousand kilometres long, its condition ranges from excellent to ruined
- Lake Baikal—the biggest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, containing over one fifth of the world's supply
- Mount Everest—the world's tallest mountain straddling the border of China and Nepal
- Petra—ancient city carved out of sandstone and one of the new 7 Wonders
- Registan—the impressive historic heart of Samarkand, a major trade city on the Silk Road
- Taj Mahal—the incomparable marble tomb in Agra
See also UNESCO World Heritage List#Asia.
Asia is the birthplace of ten major religions: namely, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Jainism and the Bahá'í Faith, not to mention countless other tribal faiths. It is also home to the world's fastest growing cities a wide range of exotic cuisines, the world's highest mountain ranges and some of the world's most ancient cultures.
Asia is by far the largest continent and as such is extremely varied geographically. Asia contains virtually every possible climate and terrain from the frozen plains of Siberia to the jungles of Indonesia to the deserts of Arabia. Asia's (and the world's) highest point is Mount Everest, along the border of Tibet and Nepal, which rises to 8,848 m (29,028 ft) above sea level. Its lowest point is the Dead Sea, located at the meeting points of Israel, Palestine and Jordan, whose surface is 400 m (1,312 ft) below sea level. Asia's longest river is the Yangtze, which runs 6,300 km (3,915 mi) through China all the way from the high Tibetan Plateau to Shanghai. Its largest lake is the 386,400 km² (149,200 square mile) Caspian Sea, which is surrounded by several Central Asian nations. Asia is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, by Australia to the southeast, and by the Indian Ocean to the south. It is bordered by the Red Sea to the southwest, by Europe and the Urals to the west, and by the Arctic Ocean to the north.
Very broadly speaking, Asia can be categorized into a few large areas geographically
North Asia I.e. Russia, N.China and parts of Japan- Extremely cold winters with brief but often hot summers. Large areas of forest.
East Asia China, Japan, Korea- Relatively temperate with distinct seasonal differences.
South/ SE Asia Thailand, Indonesia, India, Burma etc. Monsoon climate. Generally hot all year round but with a wet and dry season. Most of Asia's rainforests and beaches are to be found here
West Asia Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon etc. Hot and often dry. Winters can be mild but summer can be extremely hot. The area contains large deserts but also areas of high fertility.
Asia's busiest airports include Hong Kong (HKG), Dubai (DXB), Beijing (PEK), Singapore (SIN), Kuala Lumpur (KUL), Bangkok (BKK), Seoul (ICN), Tokyo (NRT, HND) and Jakarta (CGK). If you're heading to anywhere in Asia, chances are that you'll pass through at least one of these airports whether in transit or as a final stop. Fortunately for those with long transit times, they are some of the best equipped airports in the world, known for their efficient service and ample distractions. Additionally, Shanghai (PVG), Guangzhou (CAN), New Delhi (DEL), Mumbai (BOM) and Chennai (MAA) are major hubs for travel to China and the Indian sub-continent. For the Middle East, Doha (DOH) and Abu Dhabi (AUH) also have reasonably good connections.
If you are coming to Asia by train, you'll likely be coming in through Russia or Turkey, although other options may exist. For an interesting experience, try the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Although the distance between Indonesia and Australia may seem close, there aren't any ferry services between the two continents, and freighter travel is probably the most reasonable option. Various cruise companies like Royal Caribbean and Princess run cruises from Australia, but only Holland America travels across the Pacific from North America.
Due to the vast distances and expanses of water separating Asia's different regions, air travel is likely to be the preferred mode of transport between the region's many travel destinations. Fares are lower on average than in Europe or America, and low-cost airlines in Asia are rapidly expanding their networks particularly in Southeast Asia.
Many languages are spoken throughout Asia, comprising a number of families and some unrelated isolates. While the local languages are always best, some blanket languages can be useful in multiple countries. In the Middle East, Arabic is widely understood, while knowledge of Russian will help you in Mongolia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Hindi/Urdu is useful in South Asia and Malay/Indonesian will help you in Southeast Asia. Mandarin Chinese is spoken by most in China, and understood in Taiwan, and to a lesser degree, in Singapore, but there are many other languages spoken including different dialects.
See Talk for a more general discussion of coping with language difficulties.
- Burma Road
- Istanbul to New Delhi over land
- Ho Chi Minh City to Shanghai overland
- Karakoram Highway
- Moscow to Urumqi
- On the trail of Kipling's Kim
- On the trail of Marco Polo
- Silk Road
- Trans-Siberian Railway
- Russia to Japan via Sakhalin
- Cruise between the dramatic limestone Karsts, islets and island, in the emerald blue sea of Ha Long Bay.
- Sleep on board a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala in India.
- Experience the architecture of the Taj Mahal Agra in India.
- Dive in a crystal blue sea in Bunaken, Indonesia to see a colourful coral reef and it's wide variety of tropical fish.
- Climb Mount Everest, the highest point of land on earth (Nepal) or K2, second highest, in Gilgit-Baltistan.
- Explore Borneo, one of the oldest living rainforest in the world, in Indonesia and Malaysia.
- Climb Mount Bromo, Indonesia, an active volcanic mountain that has an amazing scenery during sunrise.
- Take a Tour to Yogyakarta, Indonesia's Cultural hub, and gateway to see magnificent Buddhist temple Borobudur and Hindu temple of Prambanan.
- Explore Lake Toba, The largest Volcanic Lake in Indonesia and the world.
- Visit Lombok, a popular island east of Bali, with its beautiful white beaches and famous Gili Trawangan island and Mighty Mount Rinjani located in Indonesia.
- Climb Mount Fuji, An icon of Japan
- Asia has a huge number of dive sites from snorkeling to scuba, with much interesting undersea life and quite a few wrecks. For details, see Scuba diving#Asia.
- Visit Cox's Bazar, the longest sea beach in the world, and Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest of the world, in Bangladesh.
Asian cuisine is incredibly diverse, from Turkish kebabs to Arabic pita bread to Indian curry and Chinese noodles, there is really no shortage of different food that you can try. Rice, in its many varieties, is a very common staple throughout Asia.
Usually the largest city or capital of each country has a modern nightlife scene. Tea is the most common beverage, especially in both South Asia and East Asia. In tropical areas, enjoy fresh fruit and coconut juices. In some areas, fresh water and clean drinking water may not easily be available.
Due to the vast size, safety in Asia varies wildly. It is a safe place in general and most tourist attractions on the continent are far from conflict, There are, however, some regions in which conflict and/or general lawlessness exists. The most obvious examples are Afghanistan and Syria, and to a lesser extent Iraq. Afghanistan's government controls only parts of the country and also Iraq is in a state of war against Al Qaeda and various other armed forces. There is a full scale civil war in Syria. These countries are considered no-go areas and should be completely avoided by travellers (if one absolutely must go, consult War zone safety and the authorities of your country before you go). Yemen could also be added to the list of no-go countries, due to a very high threat of terrorist attacks, kidnappings, tribal violence, and general lawlessness.
Although much of the Middle East can be visited without any major risks, it is known for its political tensions and there are no-go areas, for the moment especially Syria. The Gaza Strip is at times a war zone between Palestinian factions and the Israeli army, and kidnappings of foreigners have occurred. Israel has coped with missile attacks as well as suicide bombings by radical militant groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, but mostly in areas close to the Gaza Strip and Lebanon (and attacks from Lebanon happen only occasionally), and by far the biggest threat in most of the country is from dangerous drivers. Lebanon and the West Bank (Palestinian National Authority) generally cope with an unstable political situation and internal conflict.
Bahrain has experienced some political violence in the past, so check on current conditions before you go.
Iran and Pakistan cope with a low-level conflict in the Balochistan region against Baloch insurgents. More dangerously, Pakistan is active in a full-scale war in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, both of which should not be visited. Kashmir, claimed by both Pakistan and India, is also a region with tens of thousands of casualties since 1989 due to political strife and insurgency. In 2009, the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in India has resurfaced, particularly in Chhattisgarh and other parts of Eastern India. Northeastern India also copes with dozens of insurgent groups, some of which have armed factions.
Southeast Asia is a major travel region and most of it is perfectly safe to visit. A notable exception is East Timor, which continues to face sporadic internal ethnic and political tension and related violence may occur. But even in some popular countries, there are some areas that should be avoided. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the south of the Philippines was an area of conflict between the government and the Muslim separatist movement but it should now end because of the preliminary peace agreement signed in Manila in 2012). The rest of the country, specifically Luzon and the Visayas, are very safe, just like the rest of Mindanao (including the Davao and Cagayan de Oro areas). Thailand, the most visited country in Southeast Asia, is generally safe with the notable exception of four deep southern provinces, where fighting between the Thai military and Islamic insurgent groups still continues. Indonesia is a very diverse country, with armed groups fighting for independence in Papua, while Maluku is relatively safe now.
East Asia is probably the safest area in the continent, but political tensions also exist in this region. You should be aware that North Korea and South Korea are still technically at war and hostilities could in theory resume at any time, although the border between them is still a worthwhile tourist destination in its own right (check current situation if you plan a visit). China, a vast and diverse country, is a relatively safe destination, yet the restive provinces of Tibet (and its accompanying counties and prefectures in neighbouring provinces) and Xinjiang still often bar foreigners at any hint of trouble.
Refer to the specific country pages and the authorities of your country for more information. As a precaution, always know the address of embassies, and notify in case of any issues faced.
Many areas of Asia, especially Southeast Asia and South Asia, are humid tropical, and there are health risks attached to travel in those regions. See tropical diseases and the country articles for specific information.