Of all the civilizations with a claim to being the oldest in the world, most are in Asia. This continent is home to billions of people adhering to dozens of religions and cultures that have produced landmarks dating back thousands of years. Naturally, Asia has accomplished countless advancements in the arts, technology, culture, and cuisine. One of the best ways to come to appreciate the many distinct, rich cultures of Asia is to visit the major landmarks of different nations. You’ll find a great opportunity to delve into Asian history while seeing unforgettable sights.
The old Chinese kingdoms fought many wars against the invading Mongol tribes to the North. Many dynasties of Chinese Emperors contributed to the Great Wall defenses, a massive complex of walls meant to deter Mongol invasions. The Chinese government is in the process of restoration, and you can visit Mutianyu to see the Great Wall in all its fully-restored glory. For an exciting hiking experience, visit Jiankou, a stretch of wall that runs along steep hills and has undergone little restoration. Grass and foliage overran it a long time ago, and it provides a great contrast against Mutianyu.
The Taj Mahal is a grandiose expression of love dating back to the Mughal Empire. The Mughal Shah Jahan commissioned it after the death of his favorite wife to serve as her mausoleum, and when he died he went to rest there too. The Taj Mahal is a massive, architectural feat adorned with painstaking artistic detail. After admiring the building itself, you can walk among the famous symmetrical gardens and reflect on the fact that this beautiful place exists because, centuries ago, two people loved each other.
Mount Fuji is Japan’s most important natural landmark, with great spiritual and cultural significance. You can hike the massive volcano along several designated trails in July or August. Once you’ve seen the view from the mountainside and you need a rest, you can unwind at the nearby Hakone hot springs.
The Angkor Wat Archaeological Park is one of the most important religious sites in Cambodia. The powerful Khmer Empire ruled from the city, and before it faded away into the history books, it constructed a series of unique, beautiful temples. You can head to the nearby Terrace of Elephants, a wide area lined with stone elephants and lions sculpted centuries ago. Afterward, you can visit the Terrace of the Leper King, a haunting monument to the Hindu god of the underworld.
The golden stupa of Pha That Luang is one of the most iconic landmarks in Laos. The stupa is covered in a layer of gold, but the real significance of it comes from what’s said to be inside it: a bone of the Buddha himself. It’s a powerful, beautiful religious monument and a must-visit destination in one of Asia’s less-visited countries.
The limestone islands of Ha Long Bay are a sight to behold. Your first priority will have to be a boat ride among the limestone pinnacles jutting up from the water, so you can enjoy the unique landmark from up close. According to the old Vietnamese legends, the limestone rocks are the teeth of dragons that protect Vietnam from invaders.
Hop aboard a Bangkok river taxi and head to the Grand Palace, often called the birthplace of Thailand. After the Burmese destroyed the old capital and threw Ayutthaya into disarray, King Rama built his new palace and capital city to be sheltered by the Chao Praya River. While it started out as simple wood construction, it steadily grew in size and splendor as the centuries went on and Bangkok thrived. Today, you can walk among the 2.5 million square foot palace and marvel at the monuments to Thai history.
Emperor Qinshihuang is an unbelievably important figure in Chinese history. He unified China, which derives its name from his Qin dynasty. Contemporary religious beliefs placed great importance on the contents of one’s grave and held that they followed the dead to the afterlife. As such, a terracotta recreation of his victorious army stands guard over his mausoleum. The Terracotta Army is an astonishing feat of craftsmanship, in terms of quantity and quality. The thousands of soldiers are each distinct from one another, which means that they could not have been cast from molds. Rather, each is a unique, hand-made artistic masterwork. Few symbols of respect and loyalty outdo the mausoleum of Emperor Qinshihuang.
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is a place with a rich history behind it, and it stands as a living contrast between the past and present. The Tokugawa Shogunate once used it as their seat of government and fortified it accordingly. Today, the Imperial Palace maintains its moat and high stone walls, but the bridge is always open. The outer grounds of the park are something of a park area, with tour guides offering information and guidance. On special occasions, visitors may enter the palace itself and see the Emperor and the royal family. In this regard, you can see just how much Japan still maintains its traditions.
You can take an exciting look into the distant past at the Bagan Temples of Myanmar. They were constructed by the adherents of a dead religion over one thousand years ago. Climbing to the fourth or fifth terrace of the Shwe San Daw Pagoda is worth the breathtaking view of the sunrise and sunset. Later on, you can visit the Htilominlo Temple, a gorgeous temple marked by spires, four well-preserved Buddha statues, and religious frescoes in the interior.