Insight /


Laos Hot Destination 2020

Landlocked Laos is a natural bedfellow of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam as part of a South East Asian tour but we feel that Laos is very much a destination in its own right.

Laos’ countryside offers slow-paced exploration in areas little-visited by tourists where immersive and culturally rich experiences await.

The pervading air of Buddhism gives this country a tranquillity mirrored in its welcoming people, and its towns are an atmospheric mix of colonial architecture and temples.

Enchanting Luang Prabang will always be a great draw but we recommend looking beyond this to the lesser-seen spots of Northern Laos. Discover stunning scenery from cascading waterfalls to fascinating hill tribes and bright-green paddy fields plus of course, the mighty Mekong River.

The Lowdown

  • Getting there

    There are no direct flights from the UK. The quickest connection is via Bangkok taking around 15 hours.

  • When to go

    Laos has a monsoon climate featuring a dry and a wet season. The dry season lasts from November to May.

  • Getting around

    Real Holidays will arrange a private driver and guide, and your itinerary may also involve the odd boat!

  • Top tip

    Laos is an excellent choice for families. Activities such as hiking, kayaking and jungle explorations will appeal to enthusiastic teens.

  • Combine with

    Extend your journey through Laos with a visit to the laid-back south, visiting the coffee plantations and waterfalls of the Bolavean Plateau, and the 4000 Islands.

Luang Prabang

Enjoy the pleasures of Luang Prabang, a colourful and thriving town that sits on the banks of the swirling Mekong. Stroll around visiting temples like Wat Xieng Thong to admire its carved wooden doors and distinctive sloped roofs. There are many riverside restaurants to enjoy the unique French-Laotian cuisine including fresh spring rolls, rice cakes and a rich beef stew. Here is a great place to enrol on a cookery course – you might even find yourself cooking with river weed from the Mekong!

A must is to rise at dawn to witness the monks’ alms, a procession of tangerine-robed monks who collect rice from locals in exchange for good karma. In the evening, Luang Prabang comes alive with the night market filled with colourful weavings from local tribes and excellent street food.

Laos river

    Caves and Waterfalls

    Within the rural regions outside of Luang Prabang, you’ll find some bucolic sights to enjoy. The countryside is characterised by the bright green hues of paddy fields. Get up close to the rice-producing plants to learn about Laos’ staple food including the indispensable use of the water buffalo.

    The impressive Kuang Si Falls gushes through the jungle to fan out over boulders into natural turquoise pools. This is a lovely, tranquil spot for a refreshing swim and picnic. At the Pak Ou caves, discover caverns within the limestone cliffs stuffed with numerous-sized buddhas which look out onto the Nam Ou River.

    Hill Tribes and Muangla

    Spend time in remote and picturesque Muang La, approximately five hours north of Luang Prabang. At a peaceful eco lodge, soak up views of the Nam La River and a glorious patchwork of green rice fields and palm trees. Here you can head out on foot or bike to discover small villages built into the terraces of the hillside. Learn about local traditions including how houses are constructed and why wise elders are respected.

    Experience Laotian customs with a family-hosted lunch accompanied by homemade rice wine, cross a river by bamboo raft and see how intricate weaving creates silk sarongs. You should also take time to relax in the rejuvenating environment. The lodge offers massages and there’s a nearby hot spring.

    River Jaunts

    For something different, travel back to Luang Prabang by boat on the River Nam Ou, one of the most beautiful river journeys in South East Asia. Peacefully drift downstream, surrounded by magnificent limestone cliffs with small villages nestled at their base.

    You’ll see local villages laden with bamboo and at times the view will stretch out across the river to nearby mountains. Stop for a secluded picnic on a riverside beach and revel in your rural location, miles from any other tourists. Come home filled with reflections of a Laos that few people experience.