Although often overlooked by visitors to Southeast Asia, Laos is a lovely place to visit that is most known for its charming colonial architecture, peaceful Buddhist monasteries and beautiful mountain scenery. Much less touristy than its neighbors, it has a rich and varied history, culture and heritage to delve into with quiet hill tribe villages and laidback towns hidden away amidst its vast swathes of untouched wilderness.
The only landlocked nation in the region, it lies at the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. While it mostly consists of thick forests and rugged mountains, plains and plateaus are dotted here and there with the wide and winding Mekong River making up much of its western boundary.
Despite its small size, Vientiane is both the largest city and capital with most visitors simply using it as a gateway to the rest of Laos’ untold riches. It does however have a few interesting historic sites and temples to check out while ambling along the river at sunset and browsing its markets makes for the perfect, peaceful introduction to the country.
As it was formerly the capital of the kingdom, most people immediately flock to Luang Prabang for its atmospheric temples, gorgeous French colonial buildings and lively night market. Luang Namtha in the north also attracts lots of visitors thank to its stupendous scenery and day treks as does Pakse which acts as a base for exploring the phenomenal Wat Phu temple complex with boat trips around Si Phan Do or the ‘4,000 islands’ also proving popular.
Besides learning more about the customs and cultures of the hill tribe villages, many tourists also go hiking, biking and kayaking about the small country’s diverse landscapes. Other than the epic karst hills of Vang Vieng and twinkling Tad Sae Waterfalls, the vast Vieng Xai Caves and intriguing Plain of Jars count among its top attractions.