Tiny and with a reputation for unreasonably strict laws, from banning chewing gum to a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, the city-state may not seem an ideal candidate for a travel top 10 list. It is however amazingly multicultural and a microcosm of Asia. You get mix of Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian cultures in a safe English-speaking city with excellent connections to the region and beyond. All this and more makes Singapore a good starting point for those interested in the Orient.
Straddling the narrow strip of sea separating Europe from Asia, Turkey has a bit of both worlds. The heritage of one of the greatest Islamic empires of the Middle East meets a vibrant Mediterranean culture. Turks are a hospitable people, and with the heavy European influence on pretty much every facet of urbanites’ daily lives, the country may give the least severe culture shock of any Middle Eastern state.
8. South Africa
South Africa is the wealthiest country on the African continent, and also one of its most diverse. It is home to the Zulus, White Africans and the voices that brought us the Lion King! Set out from famous world cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg to see the beauty of the African savannah. The proud lion and mighty wildebeest deserve to be witnessed in their natural habitat at least once in your life.
The largest country in Europe and occupying almost a third of the Asian continent, Russia has a lot more to offer than snow and vodka. It is a land of contradictions. Modernist skyscrapers stand side by side Medieval Orthodox cathedrals. Lake Baikal in central Siberia has the world’s best kept secret: A vibrant summer beach culture during the short but relatively warm summer months in the Russian Far East.
Who doesn’t just love Mexico? The most diverse of Latin American countries makes for the trip of a lifetime. Ancient jungle temples, Caribbean beaches, Wild West settler towns in the desert, and the Western hemisphere’s largest metropolis. The country deserves your appreciation of its culture as much as you deserve that plate of Tacos after a long day’s hiking in the land of the Aztecs.
Italy boasts more art per square kilometer than any other nation on the planet. The core of the Roman Empire and the European renaissance, you can find some of the world’s most well-known artworks here. It is also a very classy destination, so be sure to show your friends those photos of you holding up the leaning tower of Pisa or posing with Michelangelo’s David!
Ah, France. The French believe it to be the center of Western civilization, the most refined place in the universe. While the glory days of French power and cultural dominance may be long gone, what remains is the world’s most popular international tourist destination. Every self-respecting homme du monde should have climbed the Tour Eiffel’s endless stairs or sipped wine on a terrace outside a Cannes café.
The world’s most populous country and oldest continuous civilization has embraced Western capitalism and is racing ahead toward development. It has never before been easier to see the wonders of the Orient. In spite of the Communist takeover, Shaolin monks still practice Kung Fu in ancient temple courtyards and hillside pagodas still stand tranquil where they have been since the time of the first Empires.
2. United States
Sometimes the best thrills are found at home. Our great nation, built on immigration from all over the world, has dominated world culture for a century so it is easy to forget about the many peoples and locales we don’t see on TV every day. Have most of us even visited a sizeable number of National Parks or Native American reservations? If you’re one of those who hasn’t, get in your car and explore the great Red, White and Blue!
The undisputed number one destination for most types of travelers, Thailand is the quintessential Asian civilization. Its temples and palaces will satisfy your every sightseeing photo-op. The country’s modern infrastructure easily takes you between Bangkok, one of the continent’s most vibrant centers of culture, shopping and nightlife, to beautiful islands and world-class tropical beaches. It is definitely a marvelous place to visit for short vacations to year-long explorations!