The depth in culture of Asia can be seen in its massive collection of World Heritage sites covering entire cities, national parks, and lakes. India and China tend to have the most important sites in Asia, with the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall quickly springing to mind, while the likes of Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia also have lots to offer.
Taj Mahal – Agra, India The Taj Mahal in Agra is one of the world’s most recognizable World Heritage sites, a fine mausoleum built by Shah Jahan of the Mughal Dynasty for his wife after she died giving birth to his 14th child. The building stands on a raised terrace amid fine grounds next to the Yamuna River and features reflecting pools out the front.
Terracotta Army, China Dating from 210 BC the terracotta army features thousands of warriors, chariots, horses, acrobats, strongmen and musicians built for the First Emperor of China. The remains were subsequently discovered buried in a farmer’s field in 1974 in Shaanxi province. Work continues at the site to reveal ever more figures which vary in height from 184 to 197cm, the tallest of which are the generals.
The Great Wall, China Built to protect the northern Chinese borders from Xiongnu attacks throughout the various dynasties, the Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications stretching for over 6,400kms and built and maintained over 2,000 years between the 6th century BC and the 16th century AD. The wall was guarded by over a million men at its peak and millions died during the building.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia Cambodia’s main tourist hotspot is one of Asia’s foremost UNESCO World Heritage sites. In a nutshell, Angkor features thousands of Khmer Empire buildings from the 9th to the 15th centuries and is spread over 100 square kilometers. Some of the temples are grand beyond words complete with statues, moats and impressive gardens.
Ayutthaya, Thailand On a smaller scale than Angkor Wat, Ayutthaya displays similar architecture from its days as the capital of Siam between the 14th and 18th centuries and although the sacking of the city by the Burmese left much of the city in ruins, it is still nonetheless an impressive sight.
Peking Man Site – Zhoukoudian, China Located to the southwest of the Chinese capital, Peking Man is an archaeological site of supreme importance. Revealed so far at the site are the remains of Sinanthropus pekinensis from the Middle Pleistocene period, as well as objects dating back to around 18,000 BC.
Komodo National Park, Indonesia Founded in 1980 to protect the revered Komodo dragon, volcanic Komodo National Park located near the Lesser Sunda Islands, features the large islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar as well as numerous smaller ones. Several other species of animal are now protected in the park while the scuba diving here is also excellent with whale sharks, manta rays, blue-ringed octopus and colorful coral all in abundance.
Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia Located in Sabah, Borneo, Kinabalu National Park was dedicated a World Heritage site due to its abundance of wildlife and the park’s coverage of multiple climatic zones. Chief among the attractions here is Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest mountain at close to 4,100m. The trekking here is naturally fantastic.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan Also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, or A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial is one of the most fitting World Heritage sites as a reminder of the destruction wrought by nuclear weapons. The building has been preserved as it was left after the explosion and was also the closest structure to withstand the bomb.
Sri Dalada Maligawa, Sri Lanka The Temple of the Tooth Relic is Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist temple and can be found in the city of Kandy. Buddha’s canine teeth are enshrined in the temple and were collected from the ashes after he was cremated. They are today the holiest relics of Buddhism and the beautifully located temple itself is a fitting tribute to the great man.
Lake Baikal, Russia Also known as the ‘Blue Eye of Siberia’, Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest lake and famously holds more water than that of all of America’s great lakes combined due to its immense depth of over 1,600m. Located in southeastern Siberia, the lake is known as the ‘Galapagos of Russia’ and has 1,700 species of plants and animals, many of which are indigenous to the lake.
Lahore Fort, Pakistan Pakistan’s Lahore Fort, known locally as Shahi Qila, is situated in the northwestern corner of this walled city and is spread over 50 manicured acres. The fort goes back to the time of antiquity and its main sights are the Bara Dari Pavilion and the Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). Try to make it here on a Monday, Thursday or Saturday, when the city puts on a sound and light show at the fort.