Laos Travel Guide
The incredible UNESCO-protected city of Luang Prabang lies on the Mekong River, and is thus the starting point for many tempting cruises into the surrounding countryside, from short day trips to see nearby cave temples, to longer journeys on live-aboard boats.
Where to travel in Laos
The Plain of Jars lies a full day's drive south from Luang Prabang. One of Laos’ best kept treasures due to its remoteness, this vast megalithic site spreads for miles over the Xiangkhoang Plateau near Phonsavan.
To the south of Luang Prabang is Vang Vieng. Having repelled an invasion by the backpacker brigade in the late 20th century, this riverside town's authorities have happily returned the visitor focus back onto the extraordinary natural setting, and opportunities for great kayaking, caving and trekking.
Don't be deterred by Vientiane's ‘little sister' status compared to Luang Prabang; our Laos Specialists are of the opinion that it’s definitely worth a night or two if you have the time. It’s a remarkable capital city, and helps you truly understand what makes Laos tick… London at rush hour this is not!
Most people travelling to the south of Laos will board a flight to Pakse, with only the more intrepid travelling by road through Savannakhet, stopping to visit outlying sites such as the recently discovered 'Buddha caves'. Pakse is considered the gateway to southern Laos, where highlights range from Si Phan Don, where you’ll find the 4000 Islands and Laos’ alternative to a coast, to ancient Wat Phou near Champasak, and the majestic Bolaven Plateau.
Travelling in or out of Laos by land, or the Mekong River
As well as flying into Laos, you can enter through land and river borders such as Huay Xai in the far north west (exiting Thailand at Chiang Khong). From Huay Xai, you can either start a two day river journey south to Luang Prabang via Pakbeng, or you can travel directly east via Muang Sing (a trekker's delight) to the Luang Namtha region, which you can explore on foot or bike, visiting local Akha communities.
Laos is a landlocked, mountainous country, widely covered by largely unspoilt tropical forest. Less than 5% of the land is suitable for subsistence agriculture, which nevertheless provides around 80% of employment. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR), one of the world's few remaining communist states, is one South East Asia's poorest countries. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Lao has struggled to find its position within a fast-changing political and economic landscape.
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Population: 6.5 million
Tourism in Laos
Whilst travellers have been visiting for a number of years, tourism is still low key, and it's refreshing to find such a responsible approach being taken by the Lao authorities.
In addition to this, the vastly improved infrastructure in Laos has meant that a 12+ days holiday in Laos can now easily include four or five destinations, and only need one or two internal flights. But it is the improved roads that have made the biggest difference, with some journeys times being cut by as much 25%.