South Asia

South Asia comprises the countries lying between the Himalaya range of mountains and the Indian Ocean (north to south) and between the Ganga and Indus river valleys (east to west). The Indian Ocean shoreline is divided between the Arabian Sea (in the west) and the Bay of Bengal (in the east). The extensive, triangular-shaped landmass of South Asia is sometimes referred to as "the Indian subcontinent", or simply "the Subcontinent".


Map of South Asia's countries
Home of beautiful mangroves and the world's longest beach.
A Buddhist-majority country influenced by East Asian culture and way of life.
Ancient and rich culture with the Himalaya mountains in the north, desert in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south.
Home to gorgeous beaches and has cultural influences from India and the Middle East.
Home to Mount Everest, birthplace of Buddha, adventure tourism, many rare animals and pure hospitality.
Rich in culture and history, varying climates and terrains from hot deserts to snowy mountains, and home of 5 of only 14 eight-thousand metre high mountains on earth but tourism is suffering due to the unpredictable security situation.
Sri Lanka
The pearl of the Orient, has a tropical climate and cultural influences from the rest of South Asia.

Associated countries

The following countries are sometimes considered part of South Asia, although are categorized elsewhere in this guide:


The Red Fort in Delhi

Other destinations

Ruins at Mohenjo-daro

See Islands of the Indian Ocean.


The Maya Devi temple in Lumbini, built on the spot where Buddha was born

Some commonalities exist to this area, mainly climate and culture.

Climate: Apart from the Himalaya, the climate is tropical, with monsoon in summer and dry winter. However, you have the extremes of this climate, i.e. in Western Pakistan monsoon is quite non-existent and in Southern India, it lasts for six months. Sri Lanka even has two monsoons, one in May, one in October/November.

Culture: The influence of historical Indian culture can be seen everywhere. Four major world religions have their origins within South Asia: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. Later Islam was introduced by Muslim invaders starting around the 7th century and rose to prominence during the Mughal Empire.

An additional layer of South Asian cultural unification derives from the influence of British culture, and especially the frequent and growing use of the English language, as a result of India having formed the "Jewel in the Crown" of the British Empire before Independence in 1947.

Population density: South Asia is one of the world's most densely populated regions - approximately 1.6 billion people (or roughly a quarter of humanity) make their home there. The average population density of 305 people per square km is 7 times the world average.


The region does not have a lingua franca. However, as much of South Asia was under British rule, English is widely spoken by educated people. Hindi and Urdu are spoken over much of India and Pakistan. As the two languages are mutually intelligible, if you have to learn one before visiting, pick one of these. Hindi will also help you in Nepal, as the Nepali language is quite similar. Bengali is another major language spoken in Bangladesh, West Bengal and understood in some other eastern states of India.

Other than these, South Asia has a fascinating diversity of languages. India, in particular, is home to hundreds, and Pakistan also has quite a few. In the major cities and tourist destinations, you will be able to get by with English with varying degrees of difficulty.

Get in

The Sino-Nepali friendship bridge


Getting in overland to South Asia can be a challenging task. From the west it's relatively easy, along the routes described below.

In the northwest, South Asia borders Afghanistan which has been a war zone for several decades. Entry from China is possible either along the Karakoram Highway or to Nepal, though you will need a special permit to travel through Tibet. Quite a lot of bureaucracy is reportedly required to travel overland from Myanmar.

By plane

International airports include:

Many flights from the west coast of North America arrive via Singapore and Bangkok, while flights originating on the east coast usually have a stopover somewhere in Europe depending on the airline.

Flights from Europe arrive via Dubai, Doha and several other major airline hubs.

The number of direct flights between India and U.S/U.K is increasing.

Get around


Jal Mahal, Jaipur


The Lion Rock in Sigiriya, one of Sri Lanka's World Heritage Sites

Historical topics



For most countries in the region, bargaining is essential while shopping.



A Bengali fish meal

You will not be able to experience the best of South Asian culture until you have consumed its flavorful food. India alone has one of the best cuisines in the world; however, you can find something that will suit your taste buds anywhere throughout the region.


Tea is a common beverage consumed throughout the region. But, each country will have something tasty for you to drink.

Stay safe

Much of the region is considered a safe place to visit, with the exceptions of northwestern Pakistan close to the border of Afghanistan. Northwestern Pakistan is a war-zone, and is often controlled by extremist militant groups such as the Taliban; it should be avoided as much as possible.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 25, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.