A land of ancient treasures and exotic intrigue; of smiling faces and saffron-robed monks; this is authentic Asia.
Landlocked between Thailand and Vietnam, the long forgotten backwater of Laos is startlingly beautiful with rolling mountains, jagged limestone cliffs, brooding jungles, remote tribal villages and not forgetting its lifeline, the mighty Mekong River. The pace of life is slow, centuries-old traditions are lovingly retained and the Lao people wonderfully welcoming.
In the sleepy capital, Vientiane, tree-lined boulevards are crowded with frangipani and tamarind, ancient ruins, gleaming stupas and graceful colonial buildings. When it's time for a cuppa, you’ll find an enticing number of cafes and patisseries, a tasty legacy of French rule. Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Southeast Asia’s most alluring places and considered to be the religious heart of Laos. Wander the palm-lined riverbanks and tranquil streets, absorbing the sights of gilded wats and traditional wooden houses. For a truly picture-perfect snapshot of bygone Asia, set a 4am alarm and, with luck, you’ll catch Buddhist monks as they wander the city to collect alms from the locals. Just outside the city are the popular Kuang Si Falls where it’s possible to enjoy a refreshing swim in the pools.
Other places of interest include the spectacular scenery and outdoor pursuits of Vang Vieng; in Champasak you can see Khmer ruins including Wat Phou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; while the small rustic town of Nong Khiaw is ideal for absorbing rural Laotian culture. In the southeast see the incredible Plain of Jars, some 300 man-height stone jars which are strewn across the hills.
Much of the rest of Laos remains carpeted by green and punctuated only by small backwater towns as well as the Mekong River and its slow-flowing tributaries. There is perhaps no better way to discover this stunningly scenic and culturally distinctive land than a river cruise.
GMT +7 hours
Lao Kep, although US$ also accepted in some places.
Vientiane and Luang Prabang are approximately 13.5 hours from the UK (via Bangkok).
Laos is always hot and humid. November-January are the cooler months; the wet season is June-October, while February-May is drier and very hot. River travel is best between November and January due to high water levels.
A visa may be required. Please ask for details.Find out more