Laos is a little, landlocked country that is frequently overlooked by tourists exploring this part of SE Asia. But, Laos makes a perfect hidden gem that is well worth visiting.
A visit to the dream-like and unique country of Laos makes it possible to not only appreciate the wonderful landscape and scenery, but the welcoming and friendly people and the slower pace of life.
The best time to visit Laos is when the weather is dry and warm which is between October and April. However, for the traveller's on the Laos tours that plan to travel on a main waterway like the Mekong River, the preferred time to visit is November to January. Any regions of the country with the highlands (mainly in the central, eastern and northern parts) will experience the cooler climate. The rainy or green season is likely to run from May to October, but the rainfall is mostly in short, sharp bursts that have minimal impact on your exploration or sightseeing tours. The green season is favoured for its lush scenery and also bringing the waterfalls to life.
Here are just a few highlights of travelling to Laos:
Vientiane is the capital city of Laos and rich in beautiful, ornate Buddhist temples, as well as French architecture. Even though Vientiane is the largest city in the country, it has been able to hold onto its laid back and friendly character.
A great place to visit on the Laos tour packages is That Luang (also referred to as The Great Stupa) which is one of the country's most sacred monuments. Originally built in the 16th century, it is a quite striking structure that stands at a height of 148-ft.
The Patuxai Victory Monument is a further notable landmark that is topped with Laotian styled towers and intricately carved with Hindu Gods. It has the look that resembles the Arc de Triomphe in France.
While in the city, the Vientiane Night Market is a great place to visit for tourists interested in buying gifts or souvenirs for family and friends at home. This market is well located and sits right beside the Mekong River, and gives a captivating view when the sun sets in the evening.
Also, it is worth exploring beyond the city limit to appreciate the surrounding countryside. Even though the roads aren't in the best conditions, the scenery on a car journey is certain to be appreciated.
A visit to Vang Vieng gives tourists an opportunity to explore a small town nestled among lush green rice paddies and massive limestone mountains. This is a great place to experience a variety of activities down the Nam Song River. A relaxing day on the river is certain to offer one of the most striking backdrops possible.
Nearby is the Blue Lagoon, which is a great place to enjoy the water with a very tempting lagoon that is fully equipped with platforms and rope swings for diving off.
For the travellers that like to venture inside caves, the Tham Phu Kham Caves are a short distance from the lagoon. Once inside it is possible to trek through the cool and dark caves to see plenty of Buddhist shrines.
Luang Prabang is a must see destination on the tour of Laos. This city is rich in beauty and culture and a declared UNESCO Heritage Site that can make a traveller's paradise.
There is plenty to see in and around Luang Prabang including the Kuang Si Waterfalls. These multi-tiered waterfalls are concealed in the jungle to create a unique and peaceful oasis that is perfect for swimming in the turquoise blue pools. Also, nearby to the waterfalls are the Black Bear Rescue Centre and a great way to spend the day. The best time to visit the rescue centre is 12-1PM when it is feeding time and the bears are searching their enclosure for food and special daily treats.
A trip to the Mount Phousi Temple is certain to appeal to many travellers and is worth the effort to climb the near 300 steps to the top. At the top of the hill is the Wat Chom Si which is a 7-tiered golden pagoda. In addition to getting the close up view of the temple, the hilltop gives the wonderful panoramic views that look out across Luang Prabang.
For the travellers on the Laos holiday that want to appreciate a little of the local sacred traditions, it is worth venturing out early in the morning to see the monks receiving their daily alms. Monks are only permitted to eat donated food received before noon. They appear in the morning wearing their bright orange robes and bare footed. This can become a very memorable experience and isn't likely to be forgotten in a while.
For travellers that wish to get away from the cities, Laos has plenty of natural attractions that are well worth the effort to visit. Any tourists in the north-east of Laos can visit the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park, which is a perfect destination for the light or challenging trekking opportunities. Also, this park has a wonderful night safari that gives access to a quiet boat trip that passes through the jungle and makes it possible to see several of the local wildlife on the river banks including python and wildcats.
The Nam Ha National Park is located relatively close to the Chinese, Myanmar, and the Thai border. This park is a further great choice for the hiking adventure with trails that pass over rolling hills, across craggy mountains, and through dense forests. Also, many of the treks include passing through the local villages to chat with the people and buy the much needed refreshments.
Another of the great adventure opportunities on the Laos family tours is to book a cruise on the Mekong River and Ou River. This is a very relaxing way to explore the country, and not only makes it possible to appreciate the local scenery, but also see local sights like buffalo's cooling off, children playing and fishermen casting nets.