• Laos

    • Laos, landlocked country of northeast-central mainland Southeast Asia.
    • It consists of an irregularly round portion in the north that narrows into a peninsula-like region stretching to the southeast.
    • Overall, the country extends about 650 miles (1,050 km) from northwest to southeast.
    • The capital is Vientiane (Lao: Viangchan), located on the Mekong River in the northern portion of the country.

    Laos has so much to offer, here are some of the things Laos is known for.

    Luang Prabang

    Bordered by the Mekong River and the Nam Khan (Khan River), this timeless city: of temples is the stuff of travel legends: rich in royal history, saffron-clad monks, stunning river views, world-class cuisine and some of the best boutique accommodation in the region. Hire a bike and explore the tropical peninsula’s backstreets, take a cooking class or just ease back with a restful massage at one of the many affordable spas. Prepare to adjust your timetable and stay a little longer than expected.

    Si Phan Don

    Laos’ hammock-flopping mecca has been catering to weary travellers for years. While these tropical islands: bounded by the waters of the Mekong are best known as a happy haven for catatonic sun worshippers, more active souls are spoilt for choice. Between tubing and cycling through paddy fields, grab a kayak, spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins, and then round off your day with a sunset boat trip. Don't miss a side trip to the largest falls in Laos, the mighty Khon Phapheng, often referred to as the Niagara Falls of Laos.

    Vientiane

    Meandering along the banks of the Mekong, Vientiane is surely Southeast Asia's most languid capital. The wide streets are bordered by tamarind trees and the narrow alleys conceal French villas, Chinese shophouses and glittering wats. The city brews a heady mix of street vendors, saffron-clad monks, fine Gallic cuisine, boutique hotels and a healthy vibe that sees visitors slinking off for spa treatments and turning their time to yoga and cycling. It may not have Luang Prabang’s looks, but Vientiane: has a certain charm all of its own.

    Vang Vieng

    The riverine jewel in Laos' karst country, Vang Vieng: sits under soaring cliffs beside the Nam Song (Song River) and is the undisputed adventure capital of Laos. Since the party crowd moved on, tranquillity reigns again with more family-oriented visitors dropping in to soak up such well-organised activities as hot-air ballooning, trekking, caving and climbing. And don't forget the original draw: tubing down the river. Where once there were only budget guesthouses and same-same traveller cafes, now they have been joined by smarter boutique hotels and restaurants serving delicious food.

    Trekking and Homestays

    Laos is famous for its wide range of community-based treks, many of which include a traditional homestay in a local ethnic minority village for a night or more. Trekking is possible all over the country, but northern Laos is one of the most popular areas. Luang Namtha: is the most accessible base for ecotreks in the Nam Ha NPA, one of the best-known trekking spots in the Mekong region, and there are lots of local homestays available in Lanten, Khmu and Tai Daeng communities.

    Vieng Xai Caves

    This is history writ large in stone. An area of outstanding natural beauty, Vieng Xai: was home to the Pathet Lao communist leadership during the US bombing campaign of 1964–73. Beyond the breathtaking beauty of the natural caves, it is the superb audio tour that really brings the experience alive. When the bombers buzz overhead to a soundtrack of Jimi Hendrix you'll be ducking for cover in the Red Prince's lush garden. It's a long, hard journey to this remote corner of the country, but well worth the effort.

    Tham Kong Lor

    Imagine your deepest nightmare: the snaggle-toothed mouth of a river cave beneath a towering limestone mountain, the boatman in his rickety longtail taking you into the heart of darkness. Puttering beneath the cathedral-high ceiling of stalactites in this extraordinary 7.5km-long underworld: in remote Khammuan Province is an awesome experience. You'll be very glad to see the light at the other end of the tunnel. The village of Ban Kong Lor is now the most convenient base for visiting the cave, after an explosion of guesthouses and small resorts in the last few years.

    Wat Phu Champasak

    Not as majestic as the temples of Angkor, but just as mysterious, this mountainside Khmer ruin: has both the artistry and the setting to impress. Once part of an important city, it now sits forlorn on the side of Phu Pasak. You'll discover something special at each level as you walk up to the summit where the views are vast and the crowds are thin. Other related ruins can be found in the rice paddies and forest down below.

    River Trips

    River trips: are a major feature of travel through Laos. One of the most popular connects Luang Prabang and Huay Xai, the gateway to the Golden Triangle, via Pak Beng. From local boats to luxury cruises, there are options to suit every budget, including floating through sleepy Si Phan Don in the far south. Beyond the Mekong, other important rivers such as the Nam Ou connect places as diverse as Nong Khiaw and Muang Khua (for Phongsali). It's also possible to kayak some of these regional rivers on multiday trips.

    Zipline Adventures

    Laos has really emerged as the zipline capital of Asia with high wires criss-crossing the jungle and karst landscape from the far north to the deep south of Laos. The original zipline adventure is the Gibbon Experience: which spans the forest valleys of the lush Nam Kan NPA. There are now many other world class ziplines in Laos, including the Nong Khiaw Jungle Fly, the Green Jungle Park in Luang Prabang, the Tad Fane Zipline on the Bolaven Plateau and the Mekong Fly over a Mekong waterfall. Adrenaline adventures await.

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