Whether wandering among the ruins of Angkor Wat or the gilded temples of Luang Prabang, or losing yourself in the wild landscapes of Phongsali or the Cardamom Mountains, a holiday to Laos or Cambodia offers a heady mix of intense experiences. In happy balance, both destinations offer a more laid-back vibe, especially when you take time out from the traditional tourist trail. Enrich your trip with pockets of dedicated downtime, making the most of that slow-paced serenity, and recharging your batteries ready for the next adventure. Our Laos and Cambodia Specialists have picked out their favourite spots in Laos and Cambodia for ultimate relaxation...
Cambodia’s coastline is peppered with gorgeous slices of beach paradise, and the island resort of Song Saa stands out from the crowd. Gorgeous villas nestle in the jungle, or perch on stilts over the crystal shallows, and its eco sustainability credentials are second to none. As Brittany put it, ‘barefoot luxury with Cambodian charm, and super deluxe service - the ultimate stop for total relaxation’.
The Six Senses Krabey is another picture-perfect retreat far away from the rush of city life, while the One Resort on Koh Rong offers a stripped-back ethos where your gaze is focused on enjoying the view.
Landlocked Laos has no coastline, but that doesn’t stop it from offering a handful of superb ‘beach-side’ resorts among the 4000 Islands region of Si Phan Don, on the Mekong river in southern Laos. Gemma loves the ‘super laid back vibe’ and she and Lionel agree that La Folie on Done Daeng is ‘the place to stay for R&R”. Think sandy shorelines, tall palms, labyrinths of islets and misty mountains on the horizon.
Speaking of the mighty Mekong, one of our favourite ways to relax in Laos and Cambodia is to step off the shore and float away on a cruise down the river that runs the length of both countries: the famous Mekong.
In Laos, the Vat Phou cruise is a 3 day journey from Pakse to Khong Island, taking in the temples at Wat Phou and Oun Moung, moving at a leisurely pace as you watch the world go by.
Further south, where the river runs through Cambodia, the Aqua Mekong is less cruise ship, more floating palace, and is the ultimate in Mekong cruise luxury. Choose from 3, 4 and even 7 night cruises, starting from Siem Reap and heading over the Vietnam border to Ho Chi Minh City. Break the journey in Phnom Penh, visit small villages along the shore, and enjoy world-renowned cuisine, spa treatments, outdoor cinema and a swimming pool on board…
In Vang Vieng, on the Nam Song River in central Laos, you can combine adventures on the water with time spent unwinding on the shore. Make sure you’re at your best for caving, kayaking and climbing by indulging in some serious R&R in between. While away the hours on your private verandah at the charming Riverside Boutique Resort, watching the river roll through the striking limestone karst landscape.
Flowing through Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains, the Tatai River region has everything you’d want from a rural retreat, combining a wild landscape with accessibility, wildlife treks and a sense of being a world away from modern distractions. We love the Rainbow Lodge for pared-back rustic simplicity, unbeatable views over the valley and swimming under waterfalls.
Staying with Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains for a minute (to be honest, we never want to leave!) this enigmatic verdant wilderness is equally tempting adrenaline-thrill seekers and those craving off-the-beaten-track time out. Nick loves the calm, minimalist atmosphere of the Cardamom tented camp: a handful of safari style tents in a timeless clearing. Head out wildlife watching with the forest rangers, and return to camp to bask in the unspoilt forest.
For something a bit different, take your glamping experience out on the water at the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, near Koh Kong, where you can let the movement of the water gently lull you to sleep.
Among the hills of northern Laos, the Muang La Resort is wonderfully stylish surprise. A rope bridge across the river brings you to small landscaped gardens leading to stilted bungalows with gorgeous interiors, perfect for turning off and tuning out for a while.
One of Gemma’s recommendations for something unique is a meditation journey along the Mekong. Set off from Luang Prabang with a trained instructor who’ll guide you through traditional Buddhist meditations among the caves and temples along the banks...
If your idea of unwinding is more massage than mindfulness, there are plenty of spa resorts throughout Cambodia and Laos where you can indulge in a few pampering treatments to rejuvenate body and mind. Green Park in Vientiane has cosy suites, a palm-shaded pool and a renowned spa, while in Cambodia, the Veranda Resort in Kep has perfect facilities for fitting in some R&R when travelling with kids.