Overview

About the size of the UK and three times larger than Ireland, landlocked Laos is one of Asia's best kept secrets. Retaining an old-fashioned charm and slower pace of life, Laos is home to a number of diverse cultures; colourfully dressed hill tribes populate the higher elevations, while in the lowland river valleys, coconut palms sway over Buddhist monasteries.

Reminiscent of a bygone era, the smell of bread as it bakes in the ovens and coffee as it's freshly brewed mingles with exotic local aromas in the morning markets in the sleepy capital, Vientiane, Rural stilt houses and paddy fields look just as they do in the movies and hundreds of monks drift through the streets of Luang Prabang every morning. For those looking for spirituality and relaxation and for those seeking adventure in underground river caves, on jungle ziplines or on an exotic safari - one thing is certain, there's more to Laos than meets the eye.

Highlights

Not just a stopover between Thailand and Vietnam, this country is filled with rich heritage and warm welcomes.

Plain of Jars

Discover the Plain of Jars, mysterious giant stone jars thought to be over 2,000 years old and scattered across 15km of the Xieng Khuang Plateu, perched high above the Mekong and Vientiane Plain. However, there's more to see in the region, from beautiful scenery to friendly villages.

Bohemian Luang Prabang

Sitting by the Mekong and Khan Rivers, in a slim valley shaped by towering green mountains, the bohemian town of Luang Prabang is home to red-roofed temples, French-Indochinese architecture, some of the country's best cuisine and Laos' most sacred Buddha image - the Pha Bang. Visitors to this tiny town, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can take in the view from top of Mount Phousi at sunrise, wander around the lively morning market, explore the elegant Royal Palace Museum and visit the impressive Wat Xieng Thong Temple in one day. Those staying longer should take a boat up the Mekong River or discover the Kouang Si and Tad Se waterfalls to the south.

Temples and Buddhist statues

Laos' laid-back capital, Vientiane, is a former French trading post dotted with grand monuments. Visit Wat Sisaket, the city's oldest temple, and Wat Simuang, one of the most popular temples before stopping at That Luang in the evening, when the golden spires glow in the setting sun. Just outside of the city, Xieng Khuan, the Buddha Park, is a popular day trip and home to more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues, including a 40m long reclining Buddha.

When to visit

October to April is when the weather’s warm and dry throughout. The 'green season’ is from late May to October, when the rains showers are usually short and sharp making the waterfalls flow once more and the wildlife flourish in the lush scenery. River travel is best between November and January.