The continent of Asia is so large, the first 10 stops on your tour are only an introduction. (Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images )
With so much to see and do on the massive Asian continent, even the top 10 destinations do not adequately represent the continent's diversity. Compiled from lists representing both Asian and Western tourists, the most-visited and most-famous tourist destinations in Asia are sometimes familiar while still surprising. Among the top cities to visit, you will find the familiar trio of Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo, but even the tourist sites in these familiar and beloved capitals may surprise you.
Agra, India: Taj Mahal
Built in the 17th century in memory of his beloved late wife, Emperor Shah Jahan created the Taj Mahal, now considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and one of India's major tourist destinations. The white marble mausoleum encrusted with precious gems and Koranic verses laid out in flower patterns took 22 years to construct and still attracts lovers and dreamers from all over the world, captivated by the romance of the building just as much as the heartbroken husband who built it.
Bali, Indonesia: Beaches Galore
For those who want to enjoy island living, Bali is a top destination. A mountain chain with several active peaks cuts across the island from east to west, dividing the landscape into steep slopes in the north, lush plains tumbling down the backside of the mountains into the center of the island and sandy beaches in the south. As the most popular island in Indonesia, the Balinese have taught many tourists the local concept of "Tri Hita Karana, " which unites God with humans and nature in a trinitarian philosophy.
Bangkok, Thailand: Most Asian Arrivals
Based on a study of international air arrivals conducted by MasterCard, Bangkok is the top tourist destination in Asia, with 11.5 million visitors arriving annually. Sunny beaches, ancient temples, intense night life and a thriving modern city make Bangkok a great first destination for Western travelers. However, it is visitors from nearby Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as Tokyo, who make up the largest share of international visitors to the city, according to the study.
Beijing, China: History on a Massive Scale
The historical sites of Beijing make it another top destination with tourists from China, Asia and Western countries. The Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City are some of the city's grandest ancient attractions, while an estimated 16 millions tourists a year make the day trip to the Great Wall, originally built to protect China's northern border more than 2, 000 years ago.
Hong Kong, China: Victoria Peak
Winner of TripAdvisor's "Best Asian Destination" Travelers' Choice Award in 2011, Hong Kong is a city known for its culinary delights, massive skyscrapers and modern structure. It is also home to Hong Kong Disneyland. But it is Victoria Peak, the highest point in the city, rising 1, 810 feet, which tops the tourists' destination lists, receiving more than 9 million visitors annually.
Kyoto, Japan: Asia's World Heritage Leader
The second travelers' choice destination in Asia according to the TripAdvisor awards, Kyoto is home to more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other city in Asia (and any in the world, apart from Rome). But if ancient temples and the famed Imperial Palace are not on your list of things to see, Kyoto still should be. Visitors to Nagashima Spa Land, an amusement park and spa treatment center, number more than 11 million annually, making it one of the biggest theme parks in all of Asia.
Mount Everest, Nepal: Reaching the Peak
Not all visitors to the world's greatest peak actually climb to the top; in fact, most of them are content seeing Mount Everest from nearby Tibet, China or even India. But the world's highest peak, rising 29, 029 feet, still tops many a tourist's list of sights to see in Asia. Stop by on a journey through Kathmandu.