Relaxing, green and genuinely welcoming, laid-back Laos is the place to spend unhurried time and find your own pace. Its enigmatic landscapes and exquisite temples are perfect for gentle exploration, while its jungle-flanked rivers offer wonderfully scenic boat trips.
A traditional Buddhist way of life prevails for the majority of Lao people, and days are refreshingly slow-paced, even in the capital city. Visitor numbers are much lower than neighbouring countries, and we’ve experienced a great deal of spontaneous hospitality whilst travelling there.
There's no resisting the allure of world-famous UNESCO city Luang Prabang, the country's crown jewel with hundreds of extraordinary historic temples. It’s not exactly Asia’s best kept secret these days, but is still surprisingly charming and visitor footfall is relatively low. Thanks to LP’s towering fame, the capital city Vientiane does count as something of a hidden gem — we like to give it a couple of days, enjoying the uncrowded temples and excellent street food stalls.
Laos is full of intriguing landscapes which lend themselves to simply exploring. The mysterious Plain of Jars, a sprawling megalithic site, is yet to be fully explained by archaeologists, while the Bolaven Plateau offers superb scenery and coffee plantation homestays. In Viang Xai you can visit a cave complex which housed thousands of people during the Vietnam war — complete with underground schools, temples and hospitals.
Time to unwind
The 4,000 Islands region (Si Phan Don) offers this landlocked country an alternative to the seaside. Riverine islands sit in a broad shallow stretch of the Mekong, where the flow slows and life is laid back even by Laos standards. Spend time here relaxing, island-hopping and messing about in boats, all within reach of the Bolaven Plateau, the peaceful streets of Champasak, and the Angkor-era temple of Wat Phou.
Rivers are still a significant way for locals to get around in Laos. A river journey will help you synchronize with the gentle pace of your hosts, and there's no better way to sense the country's heartbeat. Catch a boat and you'll be out amongst the local fishermen, with a fine view of life on the riverbank and rarely a tourist boat in sight.
The country’s craggy landscapes are incredibly scenic, and treks here can be adapted to different abilities. It's all seriously satisfying, from the paths through rolling hills and rice paddies to farming villages, to the mountain routes which lead you to tribal communities where forest living is the norm.
Thing to love in Laos
What to do in Laos: Discover more with our hand-picked experiences & highlights
Suspended above the shady forest floor, the Nam Et ‘Nests’ are spherical eco-pods where you can snuggle down to rest after a challenging day’s trekking. Hear the songs of wildlife in contrast with the natural silence, and feel the gentle swaying of the canopy rocking you to sleep as you experience tree-dwelling in the dense jungle.
There’s something about sport which transcends language, and takes you straight to the fun part of getting to know people. Petanque, one of the most popular pastimes of Laos, is accessible to all fitness levels and an ideal opportunity to meet a few locals as you travel around this friendly chilled out country.
If bonding with elephants is one of your must-do travel highlights, there are few better places to scratch that itch than in Laos. Whilst there are a small number of responsibly run sites, our preference is the MandaLao Elephant Sanctuary. You’ll trek alongside the elephants and learn and the pioneering conservation work being carried out.
Discover your Laos
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With us, you are taken care of from enquiry until your reluctant homecoming. Your holiday is designed by a specialist who knows your destination first-hand. Throughout your travels, you'll have expert personal guides where requested & our full logistical support. And, it goes without saying, we'll be waiting to hear all about it once you're home.
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Explore Laos' highlights
If you have a stereotypical image of South East Asia in your mind there's a fair chance it'll be perfectly realised in Luang Prabang. Saffron-robed monks on route to alms giving in the early morning mist, gleaming temples, well-retained colonial influences and, of course, the graceful people. We love to stay in and around the old town with its wealth of characterful hotels and the riverside restaurants make for the perfect spot for a sun downer.
Whoever said that Laos was landlocked and thus had no beach is only partially correct. There's beach, however being on the banks of working river, you're unlikely to be putting your towel down in it.
The southern Si Phan Do region of Laos, known to English speaking travellers as the 4,000 Islands, is undoubtedly charming and to some extent lost in time. A great chance to combine water and land-based touring with a few days of r&r, the 4000 islands make for a great finish point on Laos journey.
Packed with light adventure opportunities, not to mention a helping of precious time to simply switch off from the madness of the usual day-to-day, a trip to Muang La is very special. Characterised by hills and mountains, forests and rivers, deeply-preserved traditions and timeless cultures, this is remote Laos at its most alluring. Undoubtedly a highlight of any visit is a stay at the Muang La Resort, perched on the banks of the Nam Pak River. You'll be well positioned to explore the region with ease and the resorts natural hot-springs are the perfect way to end any day.
Responsible Travel in Laos
Whilst Laos has long appeared to be a regional leader in its commitment to reusable energies, in reality much of the power generated is exported to China. The reality is that for projects of this scale, Laos must usually rely on the expertise and wallet of its neighbours. Income from tourism, however, helps show glimpses of a brighter more self-sustainable future, when Laos can rely on its own income to drive such progress forward.
Back on dry land, the country is home to a number of lodges with serious Eco credentials and some inspiring wildlife conservation projects such as the Nam Et-Phou Louey Protected Area. The project protects species includes clouded leopard, gibbons, and an incredible array of birdlife and a very threatened population of tigers. The area was once used by locals as a hunting ground, however villagers are now encouraged to protect the wildlife, generating revenue for the community from tourist's wildlife sightings.
Laos’ commitment to retaining its cultural heritage is also to be applauded - and enjoyed – with the country boasting a healthy number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Whether experienced whilst residing in a traditional Old Town residence in Luang Prabang or in the villages surrounding Muang La Lodge, you can be sure that a healthy percentage of your travel spend is working in a positive manner.
Home to Beer Laos - arguably the best beer in Asia.
There are a lot of them around! Lao Buddhism underpins the country’s culture, and is an important focus of daily and social life.
Laos was bombed even more heavily than Vietnam during the 1960s & 70s. 580,000 bombing runs dropped 2 million tons of ordnance in nine years, making it the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
You can generally pay with Laos kip, Thai baht or US dollars in Laos.
Laos’ nickname is the ‘Land of a million elephants’.
Be it the Mekong or the Nam Ou, rivers bring life to Laos, and are sometimes the only way to get around.
Laos has the highest per-capita consumption of sticky rice in the world, with each person eating over 345 pounds a year.
Laos’ national sport is Kator, which is similar to volleyball but the players use their feet instead of their hands to get the ball over the net. Try a game of petanque with some locals for a more gentle sport.
Lao is closely related to Thai. Speakers of either language can understand the other. It is a tonal language, which means that the meaning of a word is entirely dependent on the syllable that you stress. French is also commonly used, a remnant of the country’s Colonial past.