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doors-of-wat-aham-temple--luang-prabang--Oriental-Colours--1-.jpgLaos is a magnificent country to visit. Visiting Laos is a travel through time with ancient history mixing with new cities and modern civilization in a scenery so beautiful it is overwhelming, Laos is an incredible destination when you make a trip of a lifetime with family and friends. Laos has for many years been a closed country for tourists, so much of this land is unexplored by tourists and remains pristine and undeveloped. In Laos there is tranquil rice paddies, tropical wilderness and fantastic views on wide rivers, bustling cities and a wealth of recreation and adventure possibilities.
 

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1. The mountains of Oudomxay Province in Northern Laos

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The term wilderness is much misused, but it can truly be applied to much of Laos. The mighty Mekong river and its tributaries together create perhaps the single most important geographic feature of the country. Its meandering path in the North has created some of the most stunning limestone karsts anywhere on earth. The backpacker-central town of Vang Vieng is a commonly used base for exploring the karsts. Further north, the terrain becomes more hilly, and the jungle less explored. Luang Namtha is the far-northern town which makes the best base for those visitors who really want to see the truly remote Lao wilderness, and directly experience the lifestyles of the various hill tribes in this region.

In direct contrast to Northern Laos, the Mekong delta lowlands in the South are perfectly flat. Si Phan Don (four thousand islands) is a great base for experiencing what is surely the most chilled and relaxed region anywhere in Asia. Experiencing local village life, taking it all in and doing absolutely nothing should be the aim here. There are though some wonderful river-based sights, including the largest falls anywhere in Southeast Asia. If you are lucky you might get a close-up view of a Mekong pink dolphin.

2. Wat Sene at Luang Prabang

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In this most Buddhist of nations, it is no surprise that temples are a key attraction. In the capital city of Vientiane, the three-layered gilded stupa of Pha That Luang is the national symbol and most important religious monument in the country, dating from the 16th century. There are numerous other beautiful temples which on their own make a stay in the capital city vital for any visitor to Laos.

The whole of the ancient capital of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Befitting that status, this is a truly unique city. Beautifully preserved gilded temples with their attendant orange-robed monks mold almost seamlessly with traditional wooden Lao houses and grand properties from the French colonial era. Spotlessly clean streets with a thriving café culture on the banks of the Mekong and the Nam Khan, complete the picture of a city which is almost too pleasant to be true.

3. The Plain of Jars near Phonsavan

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 The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape dating from the Iron Age. Thousands of stone jars are scattered over a large area of the low foothills near Phonsavan. The main archaeological theory is that the jars formed part of Iron Age burial rituals in the area, but this is by no means proven, and a great deal of mystery remains. The area suffered tragic damage from American bombing during the secret war of the 1960s, and many unexploded bombs remain. When that process is complete it is very likely this will be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.



4. Wat Phu, Champasak
 

 Wat Phu is a ruined Hindu Khmer temple complex in Champasak province. It dates from the 12th century and visitors who have been to Angkor Wat will notice the similarities.

 

 

1. Tubing in Mekong river

tuping-in-Laos---oriental-colours.jpgTo anyone that has been to Laos, you will undoubtedly hear story after story of how they floated down the river with a beer in hand. Tubing is hugely popular among tourists in Laos, however the danger should not be ignored as a number of people die every year from drinking too much and drowning. The Mekong river is perfect for tubing and there are many bars that coat the river, allowing you to pick up a drink as you float along. You can also take a cruise along the Mekong river, which can last a couple of days, but personally I would prefer the tubing.



2. Elephant riding in Bolaven Plateau

For anyone else obsessed with animals, riding an elephant will be on any bucket list when considering Asia as a destination. The Plateau is astounding and will offer some great holiday snaps, while riding an elephant is a personal highlight.

3. Watch Sunset on Phu Si Hill

This hill does not require a disturbing amount of walking, making it possible for anyone (within limit) to gain a great view of the unbeatable Laos sunset. As to be expected, there is a temple at the top of the hill, while you should give yourself plenty of time so you have a great view of sunset when it happens.

4. Kuang Si Waterfalls

Kuang-si-fall.JPGSwimming in the pools of Khouang Sy waterfalls, also known as the Kuang Si falls, you can’t help but feel a sense of tranquility and harmony. The waterfalls are located 19 miles from Luang Prabang, therefore you might want to leave early in the morning for Kuang Si, so you can spend a whole day relaxing and playing in the water. Another good alternative is the hot springs located in Bo Noi and Bo Yai. Another alternative if you love visiting waterfalls is the Tad Sae Waterfalls.



5. Kayaking or white water rafting on the Nam Song River

I am a fish to water and it takes a lot to keep me away for long, therefore I was always going to have kayaking or white water rafting on this list (or both in this case) and there is no better place for kayaking than the Nam Song River. Located in Vang Vieng, the view will look like something out of a postcard, while I can promise you, it is all you will think about when back in the office.

6. The Gibbon Experience

This will be the experience you will notice all over the travel guides and destination brochures, the Gibbon Experiences should be on everyone’s bucket list.

treehouse-gibbon---oriental-colours.jpgYou can stay in a tree house in the Bokeo Nature Reserve, which is enough to make you consider this experience alone. You will then explore the area via zip-wire, along the forest canopies. Zip Wiring is right near the top of my bucket list, while the idea of seeing Cornwall via zip-wire hasn’t fully intrigued me, however zip-wiring across a forest in Laos to your bed in a tree house is beyond a dream. While zip-wiring through the jungle, you will also get to see some beautiful waterfalls as well as some eye catching sights of wildlife and some stunning landscapes. If you are a bit scared of heights, you can also trek through the forest, which is also recognized as a popular alternative.

Make sure you time this right as the area completely shuts during wet season, therefore check before you book as you will strongly regret visiting the country and missing out on one of the most extreme experiences you can live through.

Laos Climate Overview

The annual monsoon cycles that affect all of mainland Southeast Asia produce a ‘dry and wet monsoon climate’ with three basic seasons for most of Laos. The southwest monsoon arrives in Laos between May and July and lasts into November.

The monsoon is followed by a dry period (from November to May), beginning with lower relative temperatures and cool breezes created by Asia’s northeast monsoon (which bypasses most of Laos), lasting until mid-February. Exceptions to this general pattern include Xieng Khuang, Hua Phan and Phongsali Provinces, which may receive rainfall coming from Vietnam and China during the months of April and May.

Rainfall varies substantially according to latitude and altitude, with the highlands of Vientiane, Bolikhamsai, Khammuan and eastern Champasak Provinces receiving the most.

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Temperatures also vary according to altitude. In the humid, low-lying Mekong River valley, temperatures range from 15°C to 38°C, while the mountains of Xieng Khuang it can drop to 0°C at night.

When to go

The best time for visiting most of Laos is between November and February, when it rains the least and is not too hot. It’s also Laos’s main season for both national and regional bun (festivals).

If you plan to focus on the mountainous northern provinces, the hot season (from March to May) and early rainy season (around June) is not bad either, as temperatures are moderate at higher elevations. Southern Laos, on the other hand, is best avoided from March to May, when day-time temperatures break into the 40s and nights aren’t much cooler.

The rainy season is not as bad as you might think. While it will rain – very heavily – the downpours are often fairly brief and can be bracketed by long periods of sunshine. The rains also clear dust from the skies and land, making everything clearer and brighter. Of course, there are downsides; unsealed roads can become quagmires and extensive travel in remote areas like Salavan, Phongsali and Sainyabuli might be impossible. River travel can be a good alternative during these months. If you intend to travel extensively by river, November is the best; flooding has usually subsided yet river levels are still high enough for maximum navigability. Between January and June, low water can make navigating some rivers difficult.

December to February and August are the peak tourist times. January, in particular, is very busy and booking ahead is advisable.

 To be updated

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