‘Laid back and sleepy’ barely does southern Laos justice, but if you're looking for tiered waterfalls, abundant birdlife, and even the (perhaps surprising) possibility of inland island hopping between Si Phan Don’s deserted beaches, it’s the place to head to. Press pause in a luxury riverside resort and explore Angkor-era ruins and Buddhist temples without the crowds. Trek to backwater villages to discover traditional ways of life and dusty jungle trails, and to the coffee and tea plantations of the Bolaven Plateau for cooler climes where you can escape the heat.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Leave the rest of the world behind as you meander between the backwaters and beaches - yes, beaches - of the Mekong as it flows through southern Laos. Si Phan Don (4,000 islands) presents an even more laid-back vision of Laos, where riverside lodges insist on relaxation and overnight cruises offer gentle adventures afloat. Exploring the islands on foot or by bike opens up traditional communities and cottage industries, while staying at a riverside resort unlocks access to Angkor-era temples, cosy restaurants and vast coffee plantations. Basically, you can take the pace as slowly as you like. There's nowhere quite like Si Phan Don for unwinding in the south.
Clambering up hundreds of higgledy-piggledy stone steps to Wat Phou, just outside Champasak, is a great way to gain deeper insight into the might of the Khmer empire, without having to navigate the crowds of Angkor Wat. The hillside setting, at the base of Mount Phou Khao, offers far-reaching views all the way back to the Mekong, and the sheer scale of the complex encourages imaginations to run riot amongst 1,000-year-old stone statues. The sleepy backwater town of Champasak itself has become something of a base for low-key travel, with comfortable riverside resorts set against a backdrop of rice paddies, grasslands and misty mountains.
Rising above the beaches of Si Phan Don, the Bolaven Plateau is a contrastingly cool and lush habitat that’s ideal for growing tea, coffee and cardamom. Just a short drive out of Paske, the plateau is an easily-accessed escape from the Laotian heat; somewhere to cool off in a refreshing hillside breeze. In fact, when the wind picks up it can get positively chilly, so it’s worth packing a sweatshirt! The waterfalls of Tad Fane and Tad Lo rush powerfully into the mist-covered forest, while the calmer waters of Tan Moan are perfect for taking a dip. Spend time with local farming families to get a deeper insight into life in this airy, elevated landscape.
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.