Traversed by the Mekong River and mountainous terrain, Laos is a country that still holds much of its charm from yesteryear while progressing forward with a new, funky vibe.
Located in South East Asia at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southwest, and Thailand to the west and southwest.
Affectionally known as the Kingdom of a Million Elephants, Laos is like a land lost in time, with a strong French Colonial influence meshed with a timeless quality to rural life, where stilt houses overlook paddy fields. Laos retains many of the traditions that have disappeared elsewhere in the region.
Travelling Laos, you will discover a country untainted by mass tourism and Asia in slow motion – this is Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), or ‘please don’t rush’ as the locals like to joke.
A holiday in Laos is always full of surprises, spirituality, generous hospitality, and of course, breathtaking photo opportunities. This Southeast Asian country attracts travellers looking to take it slow and enjoy a relaxing view of mountains and untamed natural beauty. If you’re an adventurer at heart, Laos’ lush jungles are home to miles of scenic trails, underground river caves, and waterfalls. For couples, there are plenty of opportunities to take in the romance of the country and indulge in some 5 star luxury while stealing magic moments like sunsets on the Mekong River Cruise.
How to get to Laos
The international airports at Vientiane and Luang Prabang are served by the Lao national carrier Lao Airlines and a few others, including Scoot, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways (Luang Prabang only), and Vietnam Airlines. Pakse is the third international airport with flights to/from Siem Reap as well as to/from Ho Chi Minh City. Scoot has recently launched flights direct from Singapore to Laos, making it a one hop stop from Australia via Singapore to Laos.
Top 10 Things to do in Laos
Alms Giving Ceremony
Also in Luang Prabang, hundreds of saffron-robed monks gliding through the streets every morning in a call to alms, one of the region’s iconic images. Visitors can take part in the Alms Giving Ceremony, waking early in the morning and armed with a basket of sticky rice, give handfuls to the monks that pass. It is a beautiful tradition to be a part of.
That Luang, or the Great Stupa, in Vientiane is a national symbol (on Laos’ official seal) and also the most sacred monument in the country. From the outside That Luang looks more like a fortress surrounded by high walls and it features two temples with the main stupa, the top of which is covered with gold leaf, standing 148 feet tall.
Laos Buffalo Dairy
A socially-responsible enterprise consisting of a commercial dairy and production facility to make products such as yogurt, cheese and ice cream for local and overseas customers, Laos Buffalo Dairy can be found in Luang Prabang. Get a hands-on experience by visiting the farm, feeding the animals and even washing the buffalo. Finish up by tasting some of the products that are made from the buffalo milk.
Bolaven Plateau and Tad Fane Waterfall Pakse
Champasak Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos is famous for its great scenery, ethnic villages and unexplored corners. It’s probably best known for being home to some of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular waterfalls including Tad Fane and Dong Hua Sao. The plateau’s elevation ranges approximately from 1,000 to 1,350 metres above sea level.
Mandalao Elephant Conservancy
Mandalao is a non-riding elephant experience focused on education and animal welfare. Here you can spend time with some of Laos’ rescued elephants who are there to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. If this is not possible, they have come to live out the rest of their days in what is dubbed the “happy elephant retirement village”. The conservation tours allow visitors to get up close and personal with elephants while learning the importance of their conservation.
Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
Buddha Park (aka Xieng Khuan) is a famous park with more than 200 religious statues including a huge 40-metre high reclining Buddha image. Located in Vientiane, it was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism. This is why his park is full not only of Buddha images but also of Hindu gods as well as demons.
Ock Pok Tok
Ock Pop Tok (meaning “East Meets West” in Lao) was founded on the principles of fair trade and sustainable business practices. The company was pioneering social business and ethical fashion before these terms were even a part of our cultural lexicon. Located in Luang Prabang, visitors can take a free guided tour, stroll through the gardens (where you’ll find the natural materials for our dyes) or come to the Living Crafts Centre to watch the 28 master weavers on their looms. If you have time, you can even participate in a class or two.
North of Vientiane, Vang Vieng is simply a piece of heaven on earth that has attracted many world travellers for years, especially young backpackers. Surrounded by great mountains, rivers, limestone cliffs and rice fields, this small and scenic town offers a long list of interesting attractions. The Nam Song River is where you will witness the infamous ‘tubing’.
Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si Falls have 3 tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into shallow pools, before flowing downstream. The pools make great swimming holes – you can change into your swimwear at wooden huts close to the waterfall’s entrance. Surrounded by a lush tropical jungle, the pools have cascades of up to 5 metres high. There are trails leading to the top of Kuang Si Falls, where you can see the stream feeding into the falls. Wear proper footwear as the trails can rather get slippery, especially during the wet season.
Mekong River Cruise
Take a cruise down the Mekong for sunset with Mekong Kingdoms in Luang Prabang. Step aboard the stunning wooden boat as it sets off down the Mekong serving up drinks and canapes as you just watch the world drift by. Enjoy the glorious sunset over the mountainous surrounds before cruising back to the streets of Luang Prabang.
Where to stay
Sofitel Luang Prabang – Read hotel review here.
Pullman Luang Prabang – Read hotel review here.