Wend your way to forested hillsides, karst-limestone crags, and remote towns and villages which shelter diverse communities and ways of life. Once in the hills, ditch your transport and set out on foot, strolling the backroads to absorb the scenery or striking out towards sleepy villages, high waterfalls and dramatic viewpoints.
Muang La, Luang Namtha, Phongsali and beyond… These remote places are perfect for stretching your legs, fortifying your soul, and perhaps working off some of Luang Prabang’s delicious Laos-fusion cuisine! From gentle hikes to challenging treks, you can skirt rice-fields, follow village paths and clamber into the hills.
Far flung, often mountainous and close to the border, this is the less-visited side to Laos, although getting around is a little easier than it has been in the past. Drive times to Luang Namtha and the rural northwest, for example, have recently reduced from a bumpy eleven hours to a much smoother five.
Although they have many commonalities, each area has its own distinct character. At the northern tip of Laos, peaceful Phongsali maintains strong links with China. Many inhabitants are descended from the tea traders of Yunnan, and the region boasts tea plantations that are up to 400 years old. North-westerly Luang Namtha has become a hub for trekking, with visitors welcomed into villages that are home to some of Laos sixty-eight different ethnic groups. Further east, Muang La is rural Laos at its most charming, and still something of a well-kept secret.
Accommodation runs the full gauntlet, from basic rooms in local homestays, to simple welcoming guesthouses, to the surprisingly luxurious Muang La Resort. These remote regions are home to a unique mix of communities, histories and traditions, and knowledgeable local guides really come into their own.
Which area would we recommend, if we had to choose? Each of us has a different favourite, and in all these regions you’re likely to experience moments where you feel totally removed from your everyday life. Walk between market stalls with smiling vendors hidden behind heaps of colourful produce, sit on low stools enjoying local street food, amble through villages nestled on hill sides, and gaze out across wide mountains.
A two-week journey through Laos’ laid-back cities and rural landscapes, exploring the country’s rich cultural heritage, meeting the friendly locals and going on an adventure or two.