As both the largest and the most populous continent in the world, it's no surprise that Asia is full of unique geography and interesting history. From the world's highest mountain peaks all the way to the plummeting depths of the Dead Sea, Asia is a truly majestic place. Here are just a few fascinating facts that will change the way you look at this huge continent.
It Has the World's Largest Continuous Sand Desert
If someone asked you to name a famous desert, it's very likely that the Sahara Desert would be the first to pop into your mind. This makes sense — the Sahara is the largest desert in the world, after all. But the Arabian Desert, located along the Arabian Peninsula, is a close second. It holds an almost mystical place in pop culture and folklore. Home to stories like Sinbad, Ali Baba, and Aladdin, the desert is alive with myths. It is also enormous, stretching across 900,000 square miles — more than four times the size of France! In fact, this desert has the largest continuous stretch of sand in the entire world, and is composed of three smaller deserts: the Rub'al-Khali, the Ad-Dhana, and the An-Nafud.
With its spectacular mountain ranges and distinctive orange-tinted sand, the Arabian Desert is arid but beautiful. In fact, despite its harsh conditions, people have been living in this desert for up to 2.4 million years. Ostensibly the most famous inhabitants of this region are the Bedouin people, who were originally a nomadic group. However, modern transportation has greatly increased the accessibility of the area. In fact, the Saudi capital city Riyadh is located on the desert sands.
The Philippines Is Home to One Very Interesting Island
Bear with us for a minute, because this gets complicated. Located in the Philippines is an island, which is located in a lake, which is located on an island, which is located in a lake, which is located on an island. Is your head spinning yet?
The island at the center of it all is called Vulcan Point, which is located on Main Crater Lake. Main Crater Lake is, in turn, on an island named Volcano Island, which can be found in Lake Taal, which is located on the island of Luzon. Vulcan Point is actually part of an active volcano, making it the world's largest volcano in a lake on a volcano.
Vulcan Point itself is actually fairly small, but this region is a popular tourist spot due in part to the mind-bending nature of the island. People also flock to the area to see the beautiful views — bright teal water surrounds the islands, and steam can often be seen billowing up from the volcano.
Mongolia Has the Lowest Population Density in the World
While Asia as a whole has the highest population of any continent, containing 60 percent of the world's population (or approximately 4.3 billion people), it is also home to one of the countries with the lowest population density in the entire world: Mongolia. It ranks as the 18th largest country in the world, but only has about 2 people per square kilometer.
Part of Mongolia's low population density is due to its hostile terrain. Many areas of the country consist of harsh deserts that are difficult to inhabit, forcing much of the population to cluster in the more temperate northern regions. While many people living in this country remain nomadic, permanent settlements have been cropping up since the 1920s. In fact, the capital city of Ulaanbaatar is home to over one million people today.
Despite Its Size, China Only Has One Time Zone
Unlike Mongolia, China has an incredibly high population density — it is home to some 1.42 billion people, and has approximately 150 people per square kilometer. In fact, China and India are the only countries in the entire world to have populations of over one billion people.
However, despite China's enormous size, it is unique in that it only has one time zone. For comparison, the continental United States — which is approximately the same size as China — has four distinct time zones. Known as Beijing Central Time, China's singular time zone has been in effect since 1949. Its goal was to unify the country. While this was hardly a new idea, it has had some strange effects due to China's size — after all, 7 a.m. in the capital looks pretty different from 7 a.m. 3,000 miles west. People traveling through different regions of the country may be startled by the experience of having sunsets at midnight, sunrises in mid-morning, and breakfasts under pitch black starry skies. Local shops even adjust their hours so that people can shop during daylight — even if daylight lasts until 11 p.m.
Russia's Lake Baikal Is Incredibly Important to Evolutionary Science
Located in southern Siberia, Lake Baikal is more than just a beautiful view. Known as the "Galapagos of Russia," this lake has provided scientists with an immense amount of knowledge about the science of evolution. This is due to the fact that aquatic life here has been left undisturbed for millions of years, enabling 1,340 animals and 570 species of plants to grow and evolve over time. In fact, many species found in Lake Baikal are completely unique, and can be seen nowhere else in the world. One such animal is the Baikal seal, one of the only freshwater seals in existence.
Lake Baikal is also the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the entire world. It stretches across 400 miles, and, at its deepest point, goes down about 5,000 feet. It also offers absolutely stunning views; surrounding the deeply vibrant blue lake are incredible snowy mountain ranges. Left undisturbed for so many centuries, this region is truly a spot that captures the beauty and tranquility of nature.