Most people can't even pronounce Laos, let alone point to it on a map. But it's is one of those countries that has so much to offer, especially for a relatively small country. We loved getting into the rural areas and exploring the country both on and off the banana pancake trail (if you don't know what this is, google it. It'll make you smile).
Laos is home to some of our favourite things to do in Southeast Asia, do you agree with our list?
1. Pedal the 4000 Islands, Don Det
It's hard to know if there actually are 4,000 Islands, but cycling around a couple of them is a great way to spend the day. We based ourselves in Don Det and within ten minutes had cycled out of the small village into the countryside. It's a pretty small island, but you can quickly get to rapids, waterfalls and pass by beautiful fields and farms, it's a great way to see the more rural side of Don Det.
2. See the Laotian Angkor Wat, Wat Phou - Champasak
The Khmer Temples aren't just located in Cambodia, and Wat Phou is another example of the incredible architecture this dynasty created. You can explore many of the old buildings as well as get an amazing view of the Mekong River and countryside down below. You'll find it refreshingly empty and easy to wonder off and feel like you are completely alone in this crumbling former city.
3. Motorcycle the Bolivan Plateau
Motorcylcing in South-East Asia is a pleasure and we loved hiring a bike for a couple of days and exploring the Bolivan Plateau. Although we didn't have the time, many people extend this into a huge loop covering the central part of Laos.
From Pakse you can explore a few waterfalls and coffee plantations, enjoying the freedom to do exactly what you want, free from the schedule of tours and public buses. Just make sure you bring warm clothes as the temperature drops in Patsong and continues to do as you go a lot higher up! We got caught out and had to buy jumpers along the way!
4. Catch a sunset Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang has some of the best vantage points for sunset, so after a day of chilling in the beautiful colonial city, there is no better way to end the day. Our favourite spot was Mount Phousi which offers panoramic views of the sun dropping below the mountain tops.
5. Temple hop, Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is one of our favourite cities in Asia and has an amazing blend of Laotian and French culture, with a relaxed and laid back vibe. One of the best things to do is to walk around and explore the numerous temples, each one seemly more unique than the next.
The art on some of the walls is staggering and we particularly enjoyed looking at the mosaic murals on Wat Xiengthong and the gold artwork on Wat Seng.
6. Take a dip, Kuang-xi falls
If you're looking for the most instagrammed spot in Laos, look no further than Kuang-Xi Falls. When you arrive you'll see why, the stunning blue pools and waterfalls look like something out of a fairytale. You don't need Photoshop to make these beauties look good.
It's a great place to escape the heat and humidity, a dip in these pools is not something you'll forget in a hurry. It can get pretty busy, so it's best to time your trip at the start or end of the day.
7. Relaxed river tubing, Vang Vieng
We've written an extensive blog on Vang Vieng, and the changes in the world famous tubing scene but rest assured even if you're primarily a party animal it's still worth visiting. Whilst the river debauchery has been completely cleaned up, it's still a stunning area to visit and a floating down the river is an experience you would not want to miss.
8. Explore a 7km cave - Tham Kong Lo
Tham Kong Lo is probably the most impressive cave we saw in Southeast Asia and is a whopping 7km long. You explore by boat as the cave has a deep river that flows through it but there are also opportunities to hop out and explore on foot too.
On the day we arrived, the water level got too high to explore after a serious downpour, so keep an eye on the weather, especially if you're there in rainy season. The area surrounding the cave is beautiful too, we got a guesthouse for just $5 with an amazing rice paddy view!
9. Join the alms ceremony, Luang Prabang
You'll have to get up at the crack of dawn, but taking part in this authentic and solemn ceremony is incredibly humbling. Every day, the residents of the city get up at sunrise to offer alms to the town's monks. Unlike in other places where this feels staged, Luang Prabang felt very real, it's not something put on for tourists. Ask your guesthouse for recommendations on what they would like to receive and then just roll up and copy the locals.
10. Drink the hipster's favourite beer - Beer Lao
Within a few hours of being in Southeast Asia you'll see backpackers with t-shirts advertising various country's local beers. The most popular tends to be Chiang (Thailand), Singha (Thailand) Tiger (Singapore) or Bintang (Indonesia). However, ask a hipster and they'll point towards Beer Lao as the best in the region. So where better to get a taste for it then where it's brewed 😃
If you're thinking of travelling to Asia, then why not check out our following blogs:
- Best things to do in Thailand
- Anecdotes from Thailand
- Best things to do in Hong Kong
- Top Hikes in Hong Kong
- Tackling Hong Kong's second highest peak: Lantau Peak
- Instagrammable Hong Kong
- Anecdotes from Cambodia
- That time we were attacked by bears
- 10 must-see places in Asia
- Anecdotes from Vietnam
- Paragliding in Nepal: two very different experiences
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Due to commitments to meet family in Thailand, Laos was one of the countries we spent the least time in and we'd love to go back one day. What are we missing in this list that we should definitely do next time? Let us know in the comments.