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Ancient cultures and snow-capped mountains, idyllic beaches and active volcanoes, seething cities and dense jungle, Asia is the world’s richest, most diverse continent

Low living costs, fascinating Buddhist cultures and easy-going rural lifestyles make Southeast Asia and India classic destinations for independent travellers, and the recent boom in regional airlines make travelling around these regions increasingly swift. The neighbouring countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are often visited on one itinerary, frequently combined with traveller-friendly Thailand.

For walkers, the mighty Himalaya mountains arc through Asia, sheltering little-visited mountain kingdoms and providing world-class treks in Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet (China), Pakistan, and northern India.

For wildlife enthusiasts, Asia offers the chance to see three of the world’s most iconic threatened species: the tiger, the panda and the orang utan. Beyond these flagship species, the teeming rainforests of Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the island of Borneo harbour species still unknown to science, as well as opportunities to meet and stay with Asia’s hunter-gatherer tribes.

Culture vultures are spoiled for choice too, with two of the world’s oldest civilisations – China and Japan – showcasing their rich pasts but also, in their buzzing, 24-hour cities, pointing to the future. It is hard to pick from Asia's architectural marvels: the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat are just two.

Looking for downtime? Asia also boasts more than its fair share of tropical beaches – ideal for snorkelling and diving. Pricey but postcard-perfect, the Indian Ocean islands of The Maldives are a classic honeymoon destination, while nearby Sri Lanka offers greater diversity and better value. Further east, take your pick from the thousands of beach-fringed islands of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Many first-time visitors to Asia worry about health issues, but in reality, providing you take reasonable sensible precautions, few travellers suffer more than an upset stomach. And for many, good health is the very reason for a visit: throughout Asia, natural healing techniques and Buddhist philosophies are combined in some of the world’s most relaxing and rejuvenating body and soul experiences.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your Asian adventure today…

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