Whether you prefer to meet a holy monkey, eat sushi for breakfast, receive a monk’s blessing, helicopter over the Himalayas, or just enjoy the myriad unique views—we’ve rounded up a bucket list of 50 things to do, eat, see, shop for, and experience in the wide world of Asia.
Experience one of the oldest and newest cultures on the Asian continent
Sri Lanka’s recorded history dates back to the sixth century B.C. The decades-long war between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamils, the largest single ethnic minority here, finally ceased just four years ago, and the country is poised for a rediscovery: very old Asia made new again.
Drive into Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle
Stop in Polonnaruwa, one of the country’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Construction of the 1,200-square-mile capital began around 1055; it was once a sprawling fortified city and the second seat of Sri Lanka’s royal dynasty. Explore the ruins of the palace and the carved Buddhas of Gal Vihara.
Face the Lion’s Rock
The ancient royal compound of Sigiriya, or Lion’s Rock—the star attraction in the country’s Cultural Triangle—is best visited in the morning, before the day heats up: It takes roughly 45 minutes to reach the summit, but you’ll be treated to frescoes, rock gardens, and other splendid sights with every step.
Feel the awe of history in the Buddhist cave temples of Dambulla
There are about 80 caves in this first century b.c. complex that was once inhabited by monks and hermits. Ignore the god-awful Buddha-goes-to-Vegas museum and facade and instead take the 15-minute climb to the temples. Stop along the way to buy an offering of fresh white lotus blossoms. The first temple you’ll see is also the oldest, and is dominated by a 46-foot-long statue, carved directly from the granite mountainside, of a dying Buddha, one of the traditional poses in which he is depicted. The space is so small, and the Buddha so large, that the encounter is unexpectedly intimate: No matter how silent the other visitors are, you can’t help but feel the crush of millennia.
[Via Conde Nast Traveler]