Are you looking for where to go when traveling to Laos? Or are you curious about its cities and still not sure where to go? Then let’s the journey begin, but with a brief introduction.
Solo travel or organized travel?
While adventure is an essential ingredient of any trip, solo travel is not always synonymous for exotic encounters and unique adventures. Clearly, the bohemian charm of solo travel, the chance to meet new people and explore paths you wouldn’t have known on an organized trip, make the experience incomparable. However, you need to be able to adapt to the situation, be patient and make more effort, since you must do everything yourself: from organizing your trips to choosing your itineraries.
In a country like Laos this is possible, however it is worth remembering that relying on professional and ethically trustworthy local tour operators is a wise choice that does not always mean a loss of authenticity and connection with local cultures.
As a matter of fact, access to tribal areas (such as the Bam Nalam village and the Khmu tribe) or to trekking itineraries in less popular areas often plays a decisive role in appreciating local life and providing direct support to these populations, who would otherwise be excluded from the self-guided itineraries or the standard itineraries of large tour operators. That’s what we at In AsiaTravel are here for: advice, suggestions, itineraries of one or multiple days. We take responsibility not only for the people who rely on us, but also for the territory and the local realities that we will meet.[toc]
What to see in Laos: cities and places of cultural interest
This kind of itinerary follows the most important waterway of Laos and of all Southeast Asia: the Mekong River. Most of the cities and archaeological sites are located close to this vital waterway, whose economic and cultural value has influenced the lives of Laotians for thousands of years.
The capital of Laos and the perfect place to begin your journey. It is one of the political and religious hearts of the country along with Luang Prabang. Numerous Wat (temples) scattered throughout the city are evidence of this. Wat Si Saket and Wat Ho Phra Kaew are the oldest and a must-see destination to get an idea of the artistic and cultural heritage of the country.
The culinary selection of the city’s restaurants is remarkable too. They range from Indian to Vietnamese cuisine, without renouncing Western flavors and influences.
An important hub for American military operations in Southeast Asia between the 1960s and 1970s (the old landing strip can still be seen within a short distance from the city center), it is now a favorite spot for lovers of adventure and exploration. Located along the peaceful banks of the Nang Song, its beautiful landscape of karst hills immediately stands out. Visit its surroundings with its caves and lagoons of crystal-clear water, Tham Nam is a splendid example of this.
Further north is the ancient capital of Laos: Luang Prabang. It is located along the banks of the Mekong River. It is a magical place that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Staying here gives the feeling of gradually stepping into the true tradition of Laos. I have in mind the temple of Phu Si with its endless steps, offering spectacular sunrises and sunsets, or Pac Ou (Cave of a Thousand Buddhas), which can be reached by boat through the tropical forest. Sacred place of the Buddhist tradition, it hides inside hundreds of statues of the Enlightened One and the ancient atmosphere of forgotten rituals. I think about the monks who walk the streets of the city at dawn to receive offerings from the faithful. I think of the noisy and colorful markets that fill the streets of Luang Prabang.
During every journey there is always a place that sticks in your mind for its peace and the melancholic feeling of being a long way from home, while at the same time feeling safe and at ease in the place where you are. This is Nong Kiaow. A small village approximately 12 hours north of Luang Prabang, the perfect place for trekking through limestone hills.
The city is situated in a bend of the Nam Ou River, overlooked by countless bars and restaurants. The atmosphere here is as authentic as it gets without sacrificing comfort, an example of sustainable tourism when it manages to blend into the local rhythms.
Wild West town, we can all agree on that. One main street, dusty though paved. Unremarkable restaurants. Zero nightlife. However, you won’t forget Phonsavan so easily, but for completely different reasons!
The archaeological sites of the Plain of Jars are a unique heritage, where curiosity and astonishment will follow you all the way. Ancient and hard to date artifacts (probably dating back to the Iron Age), their function is mysterious and they are part of a particularly fascinating natural context. Thousands of them are spread across multiple sites and some are over ten feet high. Impressive artifacts of a culture still partly unknown.
We are located more than two thousand meters above sea level, so do not forget warm clothes for the evening!
Far from the charm of Luang Prabang and the lively atmosphere of Vientiane, Pakse is a place that sticks in the memory with its colonial atmosphere, its lively markets and its venues where you can drink and eat while enjoying the quiet river panorama.
A visit to the ancient temple of Wat Phu, not far from the town, is worth a day’s exploration. The temple stretches partly along an alluvial plain near the Mekong, and partly behind an imposing rock face. It is truly spectacular!
Pakse is also a good starting point for one- or multi-day explorations to the Bolavens Plateau.
Laos: destinations and itineraries for nature lovers
Hua Xay – Luang Prabang via river
An unusual and fascinating boat itinerary, featuring the legendary atmosphere of both ancient explorers and more modern heroes. The departure or arrival, you name it, is the town of Hua Xay, located on the border with Thailand and a perfect place for nature trekking and visits to local tribal villages. The itinerary, depending on the boat you choose, will last two or more days. The tropical forest is the backdrop to this trip, highlighting the villages you will see along the way. Carefully choose the agency to rely on, as this is important given the length of the itinerary and the fact that it is impossible to get off if the services do not meet your expectations.
If during your trip you happen to be in the towns of Pakse or Champasak drinking coffee in their many cafes, be sure that the Lao coffee you are sipping comes from the Bolavens Plateau. A vast plateau that offers unique spots surrounded by nature. In this case, relying on a professional and competent tour enables you to discover local realities and places that would otherwise be difficult to reach without your private transportation.
Coffee plantations with tours and tastings await you. The area offers a wide range of waterfalls: high and imposing (Tad Yuang and Tad Fane) or rapid and impetuous (Tad Hang). Plus, trekking and visits to local villages of the Ale, Nge and Katu tribes.
Si Pan Don or the 4,000 islands
Nel sud del Laos a pochi chilometri dal confine Cambogiano troviamo le 4.000 isole. In southern Laos just a few kilometers from the Cambodian border we find the 4,000 islands. Whether the number is exactly that, it is hard to tell, but the landscape is nonetheless mottled with islands varying in shape and size in a wide expanse of the Mekong River.
The three main islands are Don Dhet, Don Khon and Don Khong. You can also enjoy pleasant bike rides across the bamboo bridges that connect the islands allowing you to admire their natural beauty.
You can also visit the Irrawaddy black dolphin sanctuary or take a river excursion to Nagasang and Khone Phapeg waterfalls.
Here ends our trip, on the border between Laos and Cambodia.
May your journey, alone or with us, always amaze you.