The planet's largest and most populous continent, Asia is home to nearly 4.5 billion people and covers a third of the entire world's land area. Asia has the oldest civilizations, the highest peaks, the most populous cities, and the tallest buildings in the world.
About 4.8 million Americans travel there each year. It is a tapestry of history, cultures, religions, vast landscapes, art and architecture. If you're planning a trip, whether you want to relax on a beach, party the night away, soak up the history or take in the natural beauty, you're going to have to narrow it down a little.
To help you out, we culled some of the most popular and well-reviewed destinations from travel booking site TripAdvisor's Traveler's Choice awards to create this list of top destinations in Asia.
Above, Hoi An, Vietnam.
The tropical Indonesian island is loved for its volcanic mountains, rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs, and has the biggest Hindu population in Indonesia. Visit the lively bars of the beachside city of Kuta, or relax in the resort towns of Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua. The island is also known for its yoga and meditation retreats. Above, Balinese villagers in a traditional Hindu procession in Ulun Danu water temple.
Indonesia's third-largest city, Bandung features a large collection of Dutch colonial architecture, as well as a beautiful botanic garden, zoo, golf courses and a variety of culinary offerings. Above, Gedung Sate, a neoclassical government building built in 1920.
Thailand's capital is known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. Visit Wat Arun, a riverside temple with its recognizable spire, catch the Chatuchak weekend market, the largest market in Thailand with more than 15,000 stalls, or see the The Golden Buddha, a gold statue weighing 5.5 tons, in the temple of Wat Traimit. Above, a street food vendor in Bangkok.
China's sprawling capital, with a population of 21.7 million and its urban area alone covering over 500 square miles, has history stretching back 3,000 years. Enjoy both modern architecture and ancient sites such as the Forbidden City complex, (above) the imperial palace and Tiananmen Square. See the Great Wall of China, and visit the National Museum of China with its huge collection of cultural relics.
This historic city dates back at least 6,000 years. It is also home to the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation center where visitors can view endangered giant pandas in a natural habitat.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
A small mountainous city (pop. 131,000) Chiang Mai is a popular destination for travelers and expats. It is known for its colorful hill tribes, shopping, lively nightlife and excellent cuisine.
See the old city temples, such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, an ornate temple complex featuring a legendary white elephant shrine. Visit Dsi Inthanon National Park, above, popular for its cool weather and waterfalls.
Da Nang, Vietnam
The coastal city in central Vietnam is one of the country's most important port cities, with a history as a French colonial port. Da Nang is known for its sandy beaches and is a popular base for visiting the inland Bà Nà hills to the west of the city. Popular attractions include the Dragon Bridge over the Han River, above, and My Khe Beach.
See ancient temples, relax on the beaches or shop in the modern shopping malls. Fukuoka, with its fresh seafood, is a foodie's heaven. Visit Maizuru Park, which contains ruins of the17th-century Fukuoka Castle.
Above, visitors throng to the 200-meter-long blooming wisteria tunnels of Kawachi Fuji-en.
The seaside city of Goa is perfect for relaxing on the sandy shore. In Old Goa, the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a fine example of baroque architecture. Above, Palolem beach.
Vietnam's second largest city features centuries-old architecture and tapestry of Southeast Asian, Chinese and French culture. Shop the busy, narrow streets of the Old Quarter, and visit sites such as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison. Hanoi has parks, lakes, shaded boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas.
Hoi An, Vietnam
The ancient town has grand architecture cut through with canals, and features a mix of eras and styles, from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda. If you're there on the 14th day of the lunar month, you can catch the lantern festival.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Also known as Saigon, this busy and noisy city is famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. It's also known for its French colonial landmarks. Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground tunnels used by the Vietnamese to stay safe during the war with the U.S. Above, Ho Chi Minh City Hall. It is known as Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee Head office and was built in 1902-1908.
Hong Kong, China
The autonomous territory and former British colony of Hong Kong is packed with 7.3 million people. Its vibrant, densely populated urban centre is a major port and global financial hub with a skyscraper-studded skyline. Visit the Temple Street night market, and take the tram to see the views from the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Above, neon lights on Tsim Sha Tsui street, a popular shopping area.
There are endless must-see historic sites in Hue, which sits on the Perfume River. Visit the ornate Imperial Citadel, above, the colorful Thanh Toan Bridge, the royal tombs and the Forbidden Purple City.
The capital of India's Rajasthan state is known as the Pink City, for the distinctive color of its buildings. Explore the City Palace, Hawa Mahal, and the Jaigarh and Amber forts. Above, decorated elephants carry riders from Amber Fort.
Home to millions of people from around the world, Jarkarta is a mixture of languages and cultures, poverty and wealth. Enjoy some of the best nightlife in Asia and expect the worst traffic. Above, people enjoy the weekly "car free" day near the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in the heart of the Jakarta business district.
Ko Samui, Thailand
Enjoy the beachy village restaurants and pubs of Ko Samui, which was once a fishing community, and is today more of a resort island. See a cabaret show, visit the Wat Plai Laem, a Buddhist temple with gilded red rooftops and a huge spindly-armed statue of Guanyin. Above, Angthong national marine park in Ko Samui.
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Located on the northern part of the island of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu serves as a gateway for visitors headed to the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park, the Padas River for white water rafting, or Mount Kinabalu. Shop in the huge shopping malls, enjoy fantastic panoramic views from the Signal Hill Lookout point, or see the floating mosque, above.
The southern Thailand town of Krabi is your base camp for exploring the lush region of jungles, limestone cliffs and stunning islands just offshore. There are Buddhist shrines still used by local monks in the chambers of the town's top attraction, Tiger Cave. Krabi is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and white sand beaches. Above, a monkey sits on the stairs at Tiger Cave.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malaysia's capital is home to 1.6 million people. Its skyline is dominated by the 1,480-foot-tall Petronas Twin Towers, a pair of glass-and-steel-clad skyscrapers with Islamic motifs and the world's tallest twin skyscrapers. The city features colonial architecture, excellent shopping and dining and its colorful Chinatown is a popular bargain hunter's paradise. Visit the Batu Caves and the Perdana Botanical Gardens.
Kyoto has an ancient past. The Shimogamo Shrine dates to the 6th century and seems suspended in time. Visit the many shrines, such as Fushimi Inari Shrine, then see the life-sized Thousand Armed Kannon statues of Sanjūsangen-dō. Enjoy traditional geisha performances, and savor a meal at a restaurant on the Kamo River. Above, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto's top sights.
From Kyoto, you can easily have a day-trip, thanks to convenient traffic in Japan. Here is a guide for you to take some great day-trips from Kyoto.
Langkawi is an archipelago of 140 islands and only a few are inhabited. Visit Langkawi Island, the largest island and a UNESCO World Geopark where you can see the rainforest from the Langkawi Sky Bridge, pictured above.
Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province. It's a popular surfing spot. Above, locals prepare for a Hindu rituals in Tanah Embet village in West Lombok.
Formerly administered by Portugal, Macau is an autonomous region across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong. Enjoy the gaming and nightlife in this lively city. Some call Macau the "Las Vegas of Asia." The historic center is a rich blend of Chinese and European architecture and culture and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Manali is a resort town nestled in the mountains of of Himachal Pradesh and the beginning of an ancient trade route. It is a popular tourist destination.
Enjoy exploring this city, a UNESCO world heritage site with a rich trading background and multicultural history. Visit Jonker Street, in Chinatown, known for its antique shops and night market. Melaka is about two hours from Kuala Lumpur.
Formerly known as Bombay, this densely populated city of over 18 million is made up of seven islands and is known for being energetic and friendly. The city is famous as the heart of the Bollywood film industry. Take a guided tour of Dharavi -- the slum made famous by "Slumdog Millionaire" -- for a glimpse into what life is like for nearly a million people.
Above, devotees bid adieu to Ganesha, the lord of good fortune, in Mumbai at the end of a 10-day festival.
New Delhi, India
The capital of India and seat of all three branches of the country's government, New Delhi is a vibrant, bustling city of 22 million people where cows wander the shanty-lined streets.
Visit the Qutub Complex, which houses some of the most sophisticated architectural masterpieces and historic structures in India, the 17th century Red Fort, shop at the Dilli Haat street market, or take in the art at the National Museum.
Above, people wash in preparation for Iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan.
Osaka is a large port city and commercial center of nine million people on the Japanese island of Honshu. It's known for its modern architecture and hearty street food. The stylish city is a shopping hub, with fabulous restaurants and nightlife. Top city attractions include the aquarium, Universal Studios Japan, the futuristic Floating Garden Observatory and the 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle, pictured above.
Penang Island, Malaysia
Take in the breathtaking views of the whole island from Penang Hill, once used as a retreat during the British colonial period, and is now a popular tourist destination. Georgetown is a mix of centuries of foreign influence. See the Kek Lok Si Temple, a seven-tiered pagoda which combines Thai, Chinese and Burmese styles and houses a stunning collection of Buddha statues.
Thailand's largest island is known for its beaches, excellent diving, and watersports. There's plenty to explore at Phuket's aquariums, gardens, and Buddhist temples.
The capital of Hokkaido and Japan's northernmost island was the host of the 1972 Olympic Winter Games. Today it draws visitors from around the world for its annual Snow Festival and its world-famous ramen (it has a ramen-inspired theme park.) Above, a conveyer-belt sushi restaurant in Sapporo.
Experience the past, present, and future all at once in China's largest city. Visit the Bund, a famed waterfront promenade lined with colonial-era buildings. Across the Huangpu River rises the Pudong district's futuristic skyline, with the bulbous Oriental Pearl TV and Radio Tower.
Above, sightseeing boats in Zhujiajiao Ancient Town (often called Shanghai Venice). The ancient water town was established over 1,700 years ago.