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Asia is the world's largest continent by land area and population, home to 4.4 billion people; more than half of the world's population.

The continent is too massive and diverse to conceptualize as a single digestible travel "destination". 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 gets a tremendous number of travellers, both for tourism and business. Many of the world's most-visited cities are in Asia, including Bangkok, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Osaka, Mumbai and Shanghai.

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Asia offers intriguing destinations for every type of traveller, be they a novice or experienced road-warrior. Easier options include modern, prosperous countries like Japan and the East Asian Tigers of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, where people enjoy very high standards of living. There are also extremely poor Asian countries, where people struggle even to get a few grains of rice each day, such as Cambodia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Laos and Timor-Leste (East Timor). Some countries are well-established on the budget tourist trail, including Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, but there are other countries that 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, which is where one might place the emerging powerhouses of China and India; those huge, populous lands make wonderful travel destinations in themselves due to their long history, traditions and diversity.

Regions

  Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan)
Being one of the most closed regions in the world, these countries offer bare, stunning landscapes and true adventure in the footsteps of On the trail of Marco Polo.
  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 originate, 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 have a reputation of both hospitality and a degree of instability. Geographically these territories have a foothold in both Europe and Asia, and are sometimes referred to as Eurasia.
  South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)
The breathtaking roof of the world that is the Himalayas in the north, tropical, humid waterways in the south, and some lively and chaotic cities to be found in between.
  Southeast Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, Timor-Leste (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 hard to define: 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. The Bosphorus bisecting Istanbul is also regarded as the border between Asia and Europe. Sinai is geographically in Asia but politically a part of Egypt. And at the other side, the continental plate of Australia also includes parts of Indonesia, which is generally counted as part of Southeast Asia.

Cities

Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China
  • 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


Other destinations

These are some of the largest and most famous destinations apart from major cities.

Beach on Bali.
  • 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 Tibet 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.


Geography

All summits above 7,000 m, including the pictured Mt Everest, are in Asia

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 (29,029 ft) above sea level. Its lowest point is the Dead Sea, located at the meeting points of Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan, whose surface is 400 m (1,300 ft) below sea level. Asia's longest river is the Yangtze, which runs 6,300 km (3,900 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.

East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) is relatively temperate with distinct seasonal differences. South and South East Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, India, Burma etc.) has a 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.) is hot and often dry. Winters can be mild but summer can be extremely hot. Central and north Asia have continental climate with the coldest winters outside Antarctica and hot summers; in some places the difference between all-time highs and lows can be over 100°C.

History of Main Page

The history of Asia is long, complex and diverse enough that some universities have whole departments devoted to it and a full account would be a multi-volume work. Even a reasonable summary would be much more than a travel guide could sensibly attempt.

Also, some articles here cover historically important things in Asia:

All the UNESCO lists — World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage, Biosphere reserves, Geology parks and Creative Cities — include sites in Asia.