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.
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.
16 days to see the very best of Laos.