Laid-back, entrancing, romantic… Laos’s reputation as the ‘sleeping beauty’ of Indochina is well-earned. A holiday to this most isolated land will leave you charmed and inspired.
The least known and least explored of the Indochina states, Laos is a mountainous country with a limited infrastructure. While recent years have seen the country reveal itself more and more to the outside world, it still attracts a fraction of the visitors that neighbouring Vietnam and Cambodia receive, making a holiday to Laos a decidedly more relaxed affair.
Laos' lifeline is the Mekong River, which flows languidly from the northwest of the country to the southeast. Life in the towns along its route, including the delightful capital Vientiane, moves at a similar pace; these are largely unhurried places, a far cry from the Bangkoks and Saigons of the world. Saffron-robed monks are a common sight and the traffic seldom a problem even in the capital. Here you will find some of the friendliest people in the region and, away from the larger towns, places seemingly untouched by the 21st century.
Most visitors to Laos head straight for the town of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site situated in the northwest of the country, on the banks of the Mekong River. With its lively market, Buddhist temples and beautifully-preserved French colonial architecture, Luang Prabang is the perfect spot to spend a week's holiday. The town can be reached by boat on the Mekong River, with overnight cruises departing from Thailand and stopping at the Pak Ou Caves en-route.
Away from Luang Prabang, travellers with a sense of adventure can discover largely unspoilt countryside, home to unique hill tribes such as the Tai Lue, Hmong and Akha. In north-eastern Laos, the mountains conceal the enigmatic Plain of Jars, while a little further south the dramatic limestone karst formations around Vang Vieng are not to be missed as you travel overland from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. In Laos, unlike other countries in the region, you won’t be shocked by the contrast between town and country; even Vientiane could be described as a large town which can for the most part be explored on foot.
The south of Laos is often overlooked in favour of Luang Prabang and the capital, but here you can spend a few days' holiday leisurely cruising the Mekong on a converted rice barge. Perhaps take an excursion on a slow boat towards the Cambodian border to view the waterfalls and to spot the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins. A visit to Wat Phu, the holiest temple in Laos, is also a must. This Khmer sanctuary is a close relative of Cambodia's more famous Wat, but attracts a fraction of the visitors - it's well worth the effort required to reach it, if only for the stunning views from its hillside perch.
Whatever your preferred style of lodging you will be spoilt for choice in Laos, where you'll find a wide array of accommodations encompassing everything from converted colonial homes and former royal households to urban boutiques, rustic wooden lodges, riverside resorts, tented camps and jungle tree houses reachable only by zip-line! Indeed, Laos boasts some of the most creative and beautiful hotels in the entire region - let us help you discover the best of them on a tailor-made Laos holiday.
LAOS HOLIDAYS AT A GLANCE
The dry season runs from October to April with the hottest months of the year from March to June, but Laos is a year-round destination
Laos' northern mountainous regions can be significantly cooler, particularly at night
The best way to arrive in Luang Prabang is by boat from the Thai border
Find time to enjoy a Beer Lao with the locals, joining them in watching the world go by
Explore the south of Laos on a 2-night cruise by converted teak barge
You can easily combine a holiday to Laos with northern Thailand and Cambodia
You wouldn't think of Laos as a trekking destination but the northern highlands offer wonderful opportunities for walking holidays
Regions in Laos
Luang Prabang is the greatest attraction to this region with its plethora of gilded temples, but visitors who want to really learn about the country and its people will find much more to discover in Northern Laos.
Though it sees far fewer visitors than the north of the country, Southern Laos has a number of unique attractions. The Southern capital, Pakse, is a charming, lively town, while the Khmer temple of Wat Phu, the holiest site in Laos, is a haven of tranquility.
Vientiane may not be one of the must-see capitals of Asia, but its size, relaxed atmosphere, colonial architecture, temples and shrines make it a worthwhile place to spend a few nights.
Example itineraries in Laos
12-day itinerary visiting the remote north of Laos; spend a night in a tree house in Bokeo Nature Reserve; trek the Luang Nam Tha hills; and meet the tribes of Muang La
Discover Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and the world heritage town of Luang Prabang in this 7-day overview