Europe has always been perceived as the place to be for impressive castles, but the following architectural masterpieces are sure to convince you exotic Asia and the Middle East have just as much to offer.
Himeji Castle, Japan
Known also as White Heron Castle because of its beautiful white exterior, Himeji is the most visited castle in all of Japan and the first national landmark to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list.
Himeji Castle started as a fort in 1331 but over the centuries, the warlords who ruled over the land enlarged it and left their mark on the structure. The Himeji Castle complex that we see today was finally completed in 1609 and unlike other Japanese castles has never suffered serious damage due to earthquakes, fires or wars.
The best time to visit Himeji Castle is in the first half of April, during the cherry blossom season.
Mehrangarh Fort, India
Built atop a 125-metre high hill, Mehrangarh Fort lies in the centre of Jodhpur, one of India’s greatest cities. Construction began in 1459 by order of Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, but most of the structure was completed during 1638-1678, in the time of Jaswant Singh.
Inside the 36-metres high, 21-metres wide walls of Mehrangarh fortress lie some of the most beautiful and historical palaces in India, all known for their impressive carvings and lavish courtyards.
Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Described by Lawrence of Arabia as “the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world”, Krak des Chevaliers was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. It was used by King Edward the First as an example for his castles in Britain and is one of the few places where Crusader art can still be observed.
Krak des Chevaliers was a virtually impenetrable fortress and made the Knights Hospitaller a force to be reckoned with in the Holy Land, until the year 1271 when Mameluke Sultan Baibars finally captured it.
Krak des Chevaliers suffered serious damage from repeated Israeli aircraft attacks since 1948.
Matsumoto Castle, Japan
Built in the city of Matsumoto, Nagoya Province, Matsumoto Castle lies very close to Tokyo, making it a popular attraction for both Japanese and foreign tourists. It is a great example of Japanese flatland castles, not being built atop hills or cliffs.
Surrounded by a moat with swans and ducks, the black exterior of Matsumoto Castle earned it the nickname Crow Castle. However the best time to visit this masterpiece of medieval Japanese architecture is in winter, when the dark walls are covered by pure white snow.
Although Matsumoto Castle was never attacked because the civil wars ended, the Ishikawa clan rebuilt it in anticipation of gun warfare. The walls were reinforced to resist bullets and gun-slots were installed.
The fortress of Arg-e-Bam is considered by many to be the biggest most beautiful mud-brick structure in the world. Its origins date back to 500 BC, during the Ashkani era and it was inhabited until the year 1850 when for unknown reasons it was deserted.
Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Arg-e-Bam was severely damaged by a powerful earthquake in 2003. Practically 80% of the citadel complex collapsed, but now countries like China, France and Italy are helping Iran rebuild Arg-e-Bam in the name of historical preservation.