For many people looking to travel to and explore Southeast Asia, Laos may not be highest on their tour radar, but it most certainly should be!
Often overshadowed by its bigger, louder brothers – Thailand and Vietnam – many choose to simply whizz through Laos or not visit at all. Quite frankly, landlocked Laos is one of SE Asia’s most stunningly beautiful, friendly and exciting destinations and should be on the top of every traveller’s list.
Filled with dramatic limestone and karst mountains, hidden caves, lush jungles and terraced rice paddies, rural villages far off the beaten track, imposing waterfalls, rivers that flow throughout the breadth of the country, Laos is jam packed with scenery that can’t be beat elsewhere. Top this off with top-notch food, glittering stupas and temples and adventure like rock climbing, kayaking, trekking and biking, this is the best place to be in SE Asia.
Here are 6 unbeatable reasons to visit Laos!
Simple, fresh, local ingredients, cooked and prepared to perfection! Classics like pho (an addictive noodle broth), green laos curry and the fiery Som Tam Lao (green papaya salad) to the lesser known but equally delicious laos larp (a mince meat salad), and bamboo shoot soup all find our way onto our plate while in Laos.
The French influence also means a fresh, proper baguette is never far away. Last but not least we can’t help but mention Beer Laos, the country’s official and best beer, perfect on its own watching the sunset along Mekong or as accompaniment to the dishes we’ve just mentioned.
Few people are as a genuinely welcoming as the people of Laos, and you’ll notice this from the moment you step foot into its borders. Laotians are friendly and laid back, loving nothing more than to share this enthusiasm with others. They’re always up for a laugh and you’re guaranteed a good time.
More so, they are passionate about their country, family and culture and their willingness to share this with others is heart warming. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself invited into their homes to share stories and laughs over tea or for a round or two of Lao Lao (pungent rice whisky)!
Meandering rivers and the currents of the Mighty Mekong that flow through the country, verdant jungle jutting from dramatic karst peaks, caves carved out over thousands of years – filled with secret lakes and buddhist offerings.
Waterfalls and blue lagoons, fertile land tended and terraced through generations and a land that’s sublime beauty transcends time.
Laos is breathtakingly beautiful.
The River Life
In a landlocked state, it is the rivers that flow throughout which provide the soul and lifeblood of this nation. Here commerce is traded, people, livestock and possessions transported, life is lived and sustenance is found. Far from the noise and clutter of the roads and cities, you will find villages only accessible by these flowing highways, relatively untouched by development of the modern era.
The majority of Laotians live in rural settings and it is the rivers that help to connect each other. The best way to explore and experience Laos is on its many rivers, sitting in the boats of varying sizes that travel up and down the country. Sit back, relax and watch as the world passes you by.
It may not be home to the Grand Palace or the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, but Laos is filled with plenty of temples of intricate design and inspired architecture, displaying craftsmanship and faith.
The UNESCO-listed, World Heritage City, Luang Prabang, alone has over 32 temples and 1000 active monks. The phrase “temple fatigue” just doesn’t exist here.
Buddha statues are often sculpted using precious minerals. It is believed by many Buddhist followers that offerings and prayers to the statues provide a link to the supernatural world.
The Trekking, Kayaking, Climbing, Caving, Biking…
Adventure and Laos go hand in hand. Few places offer an opportunity to explore, get active and experience such a grand dose of adventure! Trekking, kayaking, caving, rock climbing and mountain biking are available to do throughout Laos, getting you off the beaten path and the chance to see more of this incredible country.
Trek for days without seeing a road, visiting and staying with local Hmong and Akha or choose to tackle the latest 6a climbing at a limestone crag. Kayak from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, via the Nam Lik and experience grade 2-3 rapids while witnessing traditional river life or mountain bike through the myriad of trails through jungle terrain while visiting secret waterfalls and blue lagoons.
Discover caves that once had entire villages living in them throughout the Vietnam War and be impressed not only by its beauty but also by the history they keep.
Laos is by far our favourite country to explore in SE Asia, a true gem and an adventurer’s paradise. It’s not hard to see why we come back time and time again. I’m looking forward to raising a glass of Beer Laos on our next trip!
– Sarah Allard – Co-Founder
Lost Earth Adventures goes to Laos in our 23-day South East Asian Odyssey, our 16-day South East Asian Explorer and 10-day Northern Laos Adventure tours. Guaranteed departures are set for October and November this year and are guided by Sarah Allard.