Asia is the world’s largest continent, with a total area of 16,838,365 sq miles (43,608,000 sq km). It comprises 49 separate countries, including 97% of Turkey and 72% of the Russian Federation. Almost 60% of the world’s population lives in Asia.
Area: 16,838,365 sq miles (43,608,000 sq km).
Highest point: Mount Everest, China/Nepal 29,029 ft (8848 m).
Lowest Point: the Dead Sea, Israel/Jordan -1388 ft (-423 m) below sea level.
Longest river: the Yangtze, China 3915 miles (6299 km).
Largest lake: Caspian Sea, Asia/Europe 143,243 sq miles (371,000 sq km).
Largest island: Borneo, Brunie/Indonesia/Malaysia 292,222 sq miles (757,050 sq km).
Highest recorded temperature: Tirat Zevi, Israel 129°F (54°C).
Lowest recorded temperature: Verkhoyansk, Russian Federation -90°F (-68°C).
Wettest Place: Cherrapunji, India 450 in (11,430 mm).
Driest Place: Aden, Yemen 1.8 in (46 mm).
Population: Approximately 3,823,390,000 people.
The number of countries: 49.
Countries in Asia
Click on any country to see their profile page with Google maps, driving directions, and dozens of land specific data.
Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen.
Google Maps Asia
Stretching from the frozen Arctic to the hot Equator, Asia is the world’s largest and most mountainous continent. Much of the land is barren, with vast, empty deserts in the southwest and central Asia and the remote, windswept plateau of Tibet to the north of the Himalayan mountains. Asia also has some of the world’s most fertile plains and valleys beside rivers that include the Mekong, Indus, and Euphrates. In Southeast Asia, the land is mainly mountainous or covered in tropical rain forests that are teeming with wildlife. Away from the mainland, scattered on either side of the Equator, lie thousands of islands, many volcanic.
Most of Siberia, the Asian part of Russia, is bitterly cold in winter. In the north lies the tundra, where part of the soil has been frozen since the last Ice Age. Beneath its surface, there are vast supplies of minerals. To the south lies the world’s largest coniferous forest. This cold forest makes way for a dry grassland area, known as the steppe, which forms Russia’s main farming region.
From its source in the Tanggula Mountains on Tibet’s plateau, the Yangtze River flows through mountainous land for most of its course. Its final stages follow the southern edge of China’s Great Plain until it reaches the East China Sea. In the flatter areas, the Yangtze supplies water for irrigation. In the past, flooding has caused thousands of deaths.
Unlike most deserts, the Takla Makan and Gobi in central Asia have hot summers but freezing winters. Much of their landscape is made up of bare rock, with huge expanses of shifting sand. Vegetation is sparse, except in river valleys, as shown here in the Takla Makan. Some animals, including wild camels, can survive cold winters in the Gobi.
The Himalayas, right, form a massive land barrier between the Indian Subcontinent and Tibet. The range is permanently snowcapped and contains the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. The mountains began to form about 50 million years ago when a moving plate carrying the Subcontinent began to push against the Eurasian plate. When the plates collided, the edge of the Indian plate was forced under the Eurasian plate, and the seabed in between was folded up to form the Himalayas.
Political map of Asia
Asia is the world’s largest continent, encompassing many different and discrete realms, from the desert Arab lands of the southwest to the subtropical archipelago of Indonesia; from the vast barren wastes of Siberia to the fertile river valleys of China and South Asia, seats of some of the world’s most ancient civilizations. The collapse of the Soviet Union has fragmented the north of the continent into the Siberian portion of the Russian Federation and Central Asia’s new republics. Strong religious traditions heavily influence the politics of South and Southwest Asia. Hindu and Muslim rivalries threaten to upset the political equilibrium in South Asia, where India – in terms of population – remains the world’s largest democracy. China, another population giant, is reasserting its position as a world political and economic power. On its doorstep, the dynamic Pacific Rim countries, led by Japan, continue to assert their worldwide economic force.
Transportation in Asia
The transportation system varies enormously in extent and quality across Asia. Early trade routes included the Silk Route, Beijing across Central Asia, and the sea routes around southern Asia’s coastline. Today, transportation networks often radiate from coastal ports, reflecting the continuing importance of sea and river travel for trade and external communications. In the interior, high mountain barriers such as the Himalayas, the Altai Mountains, and the Tien Shan, deserts like the Gobi, Takla Makan, and Ar Rub‘ al Khali, remain virtually impenetrable to most modern terrestrial transportation. Major engineering feats are necessary to conquer these hostile frontier territories. However, the Trans-Siberian Railway’s success in overcoming the harsh Siberian landscape proves that cross-continental transportation is physically possible if not economically viable.
Population in Asia
Some of the world’s most populous and least populous regions are in Asia. The plains of eastern China, the Ganges River plains in India, Japan, and the Indonesian island of Java all have very high population densities; by contrast, parts of Siberia and the Plateau of Tibet are virtually uninhabited. China has the world’s greatest population – 20% of the globe’s total – while India, with the second-largest, has more than one billion.
Large areas of the Middle East and Central Asia are an empty wilderness, unsettled by people because of their extreme dryness or cold temperatures. Most of the population is concentrated in the fertile river valleys and coastal lowlands of south and east Asia. Aside from Singapore’s island city-state, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in Asia, with 2,837 people per sq mile (1,096 per sq km).
A large proportion of Asia’s population still lives in the countryside as farmers, but the number living in cities is rising steeply. The largest cities in Asia now have populations of more than 10 million.
Languages in Asia
During the 19th century, Russian was introduced into Central Asia and Siberia. Under the Soviets, Russian-speaking became mandatory – replacing the indigenous Ural-Altaic languages in many urban areas – although today, the use of Central Asian languages is being revived in the new republics. India’s linguistic mosaic comprises Dravidian languages, such as Tamil, in the south, and the north’s Indo-Aryan languages, such as Hindi. In China, three main languages, Mandarin Chinese, Wu Chinese, and Cantonese, share the same written form, but their spoken dialects are mutually unintelligible.
Standard of living in Asia
Despite Japan’s high living standards and Southwest Asia’s oil-derived wealth, immense disparities exist across the continent. Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most underdeveloped nations, like Nepal and Bhutan’s mountain states. Further rapid population growth is exacerbating poverty and overcrowding in many parts of India and Bangladesh. While India’s economy is modernizing, many Indians still live and work in traditional ways. This blend of old and new is typical of modern life in India.
Climate in Asia
Asia’s climate exhibits marked differences from region to region, with freezing polar conditions in the north, hot and cold deserts in central regions, and subtropical conditions throughout the south. Much of this variation can be attributed to enormous mountain barriers and internal depressions found across the continent. Monsoon winds, which reverse semi-annually, cause alternate wet and dry seasons across southern Asia. These air masses moving north from the ocean are stripped of their moisture over the Himalayas, causing arid conditions across Tibet’s Plateau. Both the south and east are susceptible to tropical cyclones or typhoons.
Half of the climate zones that exist on Earth can be found in South Asia. This means that South Asians must adapt to widely varying conditions.
South Asia has six main climate zones. The highland zone has the coldest climate. This is the area of the Himalayas and other northern mountains, where snow exists year-round. The lower elevations, including the lush foothills and valleys of Nepal, Bhutan, and northern India, are much warmer. They are in the humid subtropical zone that stretches across South Asia. Although the climate varies in South Asia, the region is greatly affected by monsoons or seasonal winds. South Asia’s most extreme weather pattern is the cyclone, a violent storm with fierce winds and heavy rain. Cyclones are most destructive in Bangladesh, a low-lying coastal region where high waves can swamp large parts of the country.
Land use in Asia
Vast areas of Asia remain uncultivated as a result of unsuitable climatic and soil conditions. In favorable areas such as river deltas, farming is intensive. Rice is the staple crop of most Asian countries, grown in paddy fields on waterlogged alluvial plains and terraced hillsides and often irrigated for higher yields. Across the Eurasian steppe’s black earth region in southern Siberia and Kazakhstan, wheat farming is the dominant activity. Like tea in Sri Lanka and dates in the Arabian Peninsula, cash crops are grown for export and provide valuable income. The sovereignty of the rich fishing grounds in the South China Sea is disputed by China, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Environmental issues in Asia
Uzbekistan’s transformation by the former Soviet Union into the world’s fifth-largest cotton producer led to the diversion of several major rivers for irrigation. Starved of this water, the Aral Sea diminished in volume by over 75% since 1960, irreversibly altering the area’s ecology. Heavy industries in eastern China have polluted coastal waters, rivers, and urban air, while in Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia and Indonesia, ancient hardwood rainforests are felled faster than they can regenerate.
The Aral Sea receives most of its water from two rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. Before the 1960s, these rivers delivered nearly 13 cubic miles of water to the Aral Sea every year. But in the 1950s, officials began to take large amounts of water from the rivers to irrigate Central Asia’s cotton fields. Largescale irrigation projects, such as the 850-mile-long Kara Kum canal, took so much water from the rivers that the water flows into the Aral slowed to a trickle. The sea began to evaporate.
Until the late 1980s, the Soviet nuclear industry was the economic mainstay of Semey (renamed Semipalatinsk), a northeastern Kazakhstan city. Between 1949 and 1989, scientists exploded 470 nuclear devices in “the Polygon,” a vast nuclear test site southwest of Semey. The nuclear tests were so close to Semey that citizens could see the above-ground explosions’ mushroom clouds. Later, underground explosions cracked walls in towns 50 miles away. The testing caused widespread health problems. Winds spread nuclear fallout over a 180,000-square-mile area, exposing over a million people to dangerous levels of radiation. The exposure caused dramatic increases in the rates of leukemia, thyroid cancer, congenital disabilities, and mental illness. Although testing at the site ended in 1989, radiation’s harmful effects will continue for years to come.
More hopeful is the potential for oil to bring wealth to Central Asia. Regional leaders see great promise in the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea. Besides, engineers have recently discovered oil fields in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. These discoveries have triggered what many call the new “Great Game,” as nations all over the world begin to compete for profits from the region’s resources.
Unfortunately for the people of India, the Ganges is in trouble. After centuries of intense human use, it has become one of the most polluted rivers globally. Millions of gallons of raw sewage and industrial waste flow into the river every day. Dead animals’ bodies float on the water, and even human corpses are thrown into the river. As a result, the water is poisoned with toxic chemicals and deadly bacteria. Thousands of people who bathe in the river or drink the water become ill with stomach or intestinal diseases. Some develop life-threatening illnesses, such as hepatitis, typhoid, or cholera.
Did you know about Asia?
- The Russian Federation is the largest country – the Asian part covers 5,190,909 sq miles (13,444,468 sq km).
- Mongolia is the least densely populated country in Asia: 4 people per sq mile (2 per sq km).
- Singapore is the most densely populated country in Asia: 18,220 people per sq mile (7,049 per sq km)
- The Maldives is the smallest country in Asia: 116 sq miles (300 sq km)
- Between 1960 and the present, the Aral Sea lost about 80 percent of its water, which causes one of the earth’s greatest environmental tragedies.
- South Asia’s people have strong economic and spiritual ties to their great rivers, especially the Ganges.
- Each year, millions of Hindu pilgrims come to Varanasi, in northern India, to bathe in the Ganges’ waters (one of the most polluted rivers in the world) – the sacred river of their religion.
- Hinduism is not based on the teachings of one person or deity-like many other religions. It has been shaped by many ethnic, religious, and cultural groups.
- South Asia’s climate ranges from the frigid cold in the mountainous north to intense heat in the south’s desert regions. Seasonal winds, called monsoons, have an enormous impact on the region’s vegetation.
- One of the world’s most famous gems – a star sapphire called the “Star of India” – is Sri Lanka.