The Land of the Rising Sun, a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands in the Pacific Ocean, defies the imagination. Few places on the planet provide such an intricate blend of east and west, and fewer blend the past, present and future so seamlessly. From Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, tea ceremonies, sumo tournaments, and beautifully-clad geisha to sleek shopping malls, high-tech gadgetry, delectable cuisine and awe-inspiring scenic wonders, Japan will forever be an enigma.
So spellbinding is the tiny teardrop-shaped South East Asian island Sri Lanka, that Marco Polo once described Sri Lanka as the “finest island in all the world”. Once known as Ratna-Dweepa, meaning Gem Island, it is the much-celebrated jewel of the Indian Ocean. A holiday here will be complete with idyllic white-sand beaches, lush rainforests, elephant-filled national parks, wonderfully conserved temples, eight UNESCO-listed sites, and fabled tea plantations.
Having emerged as one of South-East Asia’s hottest destinations, a holiday through Vietnam is loaded with ancient cities, gorgeous beaches, exquisite countryside, and mouth-watering national cuisine. Defined by its French colonial past, Vietnam exudes history and soul; from capital Hanoi with its Parisian grace and belle époque architecture and Ho Chi Minh City with its stark contrast of old and new, to the remote villages of the Mekong Delta, and the exquisite Halong Bay - one of the world’s New Natural Seven Wonders.
Glittering palaces and temples, snow-capped hill stations, exquisite forts, fabulous wildlife, and an intoxicating mix of vivid colour, aromas and landscapes assault the senses in India - probably the most enigmatic and life-affirming place on the planet. From the icy peaks of the Himalayas to the lush greenery of Kerala, a holiday here intrigues with an intense fusion of religious sites, verdant backwaters, timeless customs, vibrant street markets, rich regional cuisine, and exceptionally friendly people.
Divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, the island of Borneo is the world’s third-largest island packed with plenty of natural assets: underground caves, pristine orangutan-filled rainforests, dramatic waterfalls, sparkling white-sand beaches, and half of the planet’s known plant and animal species. Exceeding expectations for those with a spirit for adventure and an appreciation for endangered wildlife and cultural richness, it doesn’t get more exciting than this far-flung paradise.
The promise of an epic holiday in the heart of the Far East is realised in China, home to both the world’s oldest continuous civilization and futuristic megalopolises. The sheer scale of East Asia’s cultural stunner is as staggering as its seemingly infinite 4,000-mile-long Great Wall. This is a holiday of many contrasts and cultures, where Beijing and Xi’an offer the best ways to explore its revolutionary and imperial past, and Shanghai and Hong Kong present a glamourous glimpse of its future.
Teeming with awe-inspiring antiquities, time-etched temples, colonial architecture, white-sand beaches, and floating villages, Cambodia is a beguiling country that never ceases to amaze. Visitors to Cambodia will be rewarded with countless treasures; from the iconic temple complex at Angkor and the colourful floating villages of the Tonle Sap, to the idyllic sun-kissed sands of Sihanoukville and Kep, and the frenetic Phnom Penh - a capital city enjoying a cultural renaissance.
Off-limits for years but now back on every intrepid traveller’s wish-list, Burma (now known as Myanmar) is the enigmatic “golden land”. Everything about this south-east Asian country demands exploration: gilded Buddhist temples, trekkable landscapes, celebrated life-giving rivers, pristine beaches, sublime historic cities, tribal communities, and some of the world’s most impressive monuments. Best of all, it is fabulously untouched by mass tourism, meaning a holiday to Burma at this time will offer a true unspoiled gem.