Laos is simply a naturally beautiful country that still remains largely off the beaten track. Waking up from decades of isolation now is the perfect time to visit, as the country is reaching a delicate counter balance whereby the comfort and ease of travel for the holidaymaker hasn’t yet trampled over local culture and style.
The traditional style of life enjoyed by the majority of Laotians is reflected in the hospitality and warm, inquisitive welcome you will receive everywhere you visit.
Make sure your conversational English is up to speed, as this young, eager population has a voracious appetite to learn our mother tongue! The most obvious attraction is the incredible mountain landscape that’s slowly opening up to tourism and more particularly ecotourism.
A superb and growing range of soft adventure holiday options are opening up and look to be the future for Laos.
The Mighty Mekong
One ever present is the mighty Mekong River that flows from north to south. With a less than perfect road system a 2 or 3 day river cruise is a superb way to experience part of the country; offering a comfortable ride to some beautifully contrasting areas of the country.
In the north the Luang Say Cruise takes you through a land of hills and raging waters from Thailand to Luang Prabang; whilst in the south, on the Vat Phou Cruise, you enter a more languid scene as the Mekong pauses in its rush to meet the South China Sea and spreads its weight across a 15km span to create a visually stunning world of water dotted with up to 4,000 islands.
Luang Prabang: World Heritage splendour
At the core of any holiday to Laos is a visit to Luang Prabang, the fabled city at the country’s core. Surrounded by green hills on a narrow tongue of land at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, the exquisite setting helps create the relaxed, almost spiritual feeling of this heavenly city.
As you wander through the tangled streets, golden Buddhist temples give way to faded French villas and this fusion of architectural and cultural traditions convinced UNESCO to bestow World Heritage status on the city.
Like the country itself Luang Prabang doesn’t intend to remain a forgotten backwater boasting a growing portfolio of atmospheric boutique hotels, world class restaurants, imaginative galleries and superb spa treatments.
It is also a great base from which to explore the surrounding countryside. For example close by you can learn to be a mahout, visit beautiful waterfalls, cruise to Buddhist caves or mountain bike through the hills.
Further afield the Seuang River Experience is a community based eco-tourism project and at Nong Khiaw you can climb, trek, bike and boat through stunning scenery.
Nature, adventure and atmospheric settings continues through the country and other touring highlights include the laid back capital Vientiane, the mysterious Plain of Jars, the lush landscapes of the Bolaven Plateau and the water world around Si Phan Don right on the Cambodian border.
Real adventurers should look to the north and specifically Bokeo Province and Nam Ha, where a jungle playground is waiting to be explored by bike, boat and foot.
For something very different look out for the Gibbon Experience, where you live 40 metres up in treehouses and zipline through the canopy from tree to tree. All this is set against a pace of life that doesn’t generally get any quicker than the rice can grow.
Try it and we doubt you’ll want to leave.