RUGGED BEAUTY MEETS ANCIENT TRADITIONS
Laos holidays soon have travellers settling into the slow pace of this laid-back land. Whether joining locals for a game of petanque or offering alms to monks, the genuine warmth of the people of Laos is striking.
Landlocked Laos is often overlooked for its more famous beach-clad neighbours, however the spectacular landscapes, sparkling temples and secluded charms rival any in Asia. Tranquillity abounds in the languid villages and even the cities feel more like laid-back towns. The Mekong meanders by, setting the slow pace with life blooming along its fertile banks.
Buddhism is an integral part of the culture in Laos and blossoms in the ever-present golden temples. Laos is home to a diverse range of ethnic minorities and a unique cuisine, and even seasoned travel find a sense of wonder here. It is a serendipity for those seeking an Asia not often found these days.
Luang Prabang is a traveller's dream. The streets are virtually car-free and the town is made for exploring by foot or bicycle. Trees bulging with tropical flowers reach out between crumbling French architecture and glittering temples crusted in gold. Brightly-robed monks are ever-present and in the morning alms-giving ceremony, the line seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. Sitting pretty on the banks of the Mekong and Kahn rivers, the city is backed by jungle-clad mountains.
Plain of Jars
This mysterious archaeological site is steeped in legend. Thousands of megalithic jars are scattered across the plateau, clustered in groups from a few to hundreds. Dating from the Iron Age (around 3000 years ago), it has not been confirmed what the enigmatic jars were built for, but the most common belief is that they were associated with prehistoric burial practices. There are over 90 sites containing the jars and the plains are home to spectacular scenery and H'mong highlanders.
Long a backpacker favourite, Vang Vieng is growing up. Travellers of all descriptions are being drawn by its natural beauty with towering limestone peaks, caves and river scenery. A new breed of boutique hotel has flourished, and activities like river cruising, kayaking and zip-lining have taken over the infamous river tubing. Explore the lush surrounds by bicycle or on foot, crossing rickety bridges and passing small local villages.
Vientiane is the charming capital of Laos, with an idyllic setting on the banks of the Mekong River the laidback vibe is more town than city. The French influence is evident, from the crumbling mansions to the cuisine, and the riverside charms are best discussed over a Beer Lao with sunset views.
This quiet town on the banks of the Mekong has a fantastic local market and is ideal for sipping sundowners on the water's edge. It is also a great jumping off point for all the delights of Southern Laos. The Bolaven Plateau is close by, where waterfalls flow amongst pristine forests, quiet villages house a range of minority hill tribes and coffee plantations bloom from the ground offering the chance to taste coffee straight from the grower. Pakse is also the starting point for boat trips down to the 4,000 Islands.
Relaxed even by laid-back Laos' standards, a trip to the 4000 Islands unwinds the most tightly wound traveller. There are three main islands to visit here, where you can cycle the quiet paths, swim in the river or try and spot the elusive Irrawaddy dolphin. Make sure you leave plenty of time to rock in your hammock as tropical breezes float by.
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The Night Market in Luang Prabang
Laos' royal capital, Luang Prabang is home to the region’s most authentic night market, where local hill tribes sell textiles, handmade silver jewellery and delicious regional snacks.
Walk the Plain of Jars
See the mysterious Plain of Jars, steeped in legend, and spend a couple of hours walking between two of the sites.
Cruise the Mekong
Soak up the laid-back charms of the upper Mekong on an overnight slow boat journey from Thailand or cruise for a few hours near the Cambodian border to try and spot the elusive Irrawaddy River Dolphin.
Kayak in Vang Vieng
Kayak amidst the dramatic limestone scenery on the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng, made even more magical by the colours of the setting sun.
Cooking class in Luang Prabang
Learn how to make delicious Lao cuisine in a hands-on cooking class at Tamarind in Luang Prabang.
Cycle Done Khone in the 4,000 Islands
Visit the remote 4,000 Islands region in Southern Laos for untouched beauty and rare flora and fauna, then cycle the quiet lanes amongst crumbling architecture and coconut palms.
Alms ceremony in Luang Prabang
Rise early and join locals on the streets of Luang Prabang offering rice and other alms to the line of hundreds of monks, with saffron robes stretching as far as the eye can see.
Sample coffee on the Bolaven Plateau
Sample Robusta and Arabica coffee straight from the grower at a small organic coffee plantation on the Bolaven Plateau.
A game of Petanque in Luang Prabang
A remnant from the country’s French occupation, Petanque is a national pastime in Laos. Join the locals for a game and make a new friend.
Stay at Kamu Lodge
Stay in a sustainable eco-lodge and learn about traditional activities with your Kamu hosts, trying some of the activities yourself before falling asleep amongst the surrounding tranquillity.
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