It is only in relatively recent times that tourists have begun to go to Laos in any real numbers. It has been called the ‘’land of a million elephants’’; would that Laos still had that number but it has much to attract travellers looking for new and exciting locations. Laos tour packages offer the highlights of the country and tailor made Laos holidays can be put together to cover clients’ specific interests.
The natural environment is beautiful and the people friendly. They are poor but you will see people smiling everywhere despite rural life being hard. The infrastructure is not as good as some of the other countries in Indochina yet there is enough to see and do which more than compensates. In the monsoon season some of the roads may be difficult but it is not a season to dismiss for Laos tour packages or indeed on a wider scale, Indochina tour packages.
While Vientiane is the Capital and the starting point for many travelling in Laos, it is not the major attraction. Certainly there are things to see and do in Vientiane but the real highlight lies elsewhere. Here is a comprehensive list of what Laos has to offer, starting with the real highlight:
• Luang Prabang is the ancient capital on the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers and its many delights have resulted in the city being granted UNESCO World Heritage status. There are many temples to enjoy and orange –robed monks at every turn. Traditional Laos wooden houses mix with those temples and impressive colonial architecture built by the French. Haw Kham, now a museum, was originally the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang while Xieng Toung is the oldest monastery.All Laos tour packages will include LuangPrabang and virtuallyall Indochina tour packages as well.
• Pak Ou Caves are north of Luang Prabang on the west bank of the Mekong River. Hundreds of Buddhist statues in various states of repair have been stored there over the centuries yet none have been thrown away; that is bad luck.
• Kuang Si Falls is 30 km south of Luang Prabang with pools on the many different levels. The only downside is the leeches in the water but the setting is spectacular. There are plenty of tourist facilities and plenty of tourists enjoying them at high season.
• That Luang, otherwise known as the Great Stupa, is in Vientiane and is regarded as the national symbol of the country. Its external appearance is that of a fortress but inside there are two temples with the golf leaf on top at 45 metres high standing out on the main stupa.
• Wat Sisaket’s fame originates from its thousands of small Buddhist images and the many rows of seat Buddhas made between the 16th and 19th Centuries. They come in sizes, made from wood, bronze or stone. Wat Sisaket is also in Vientiane.
• Buddha Park in Vientiane has over 200 statues with a religious theme. The most impressive is the reclining Buddha at over 40 metres high. It is only from the 1950s and put together by a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism so there are some Hindu images as well.
• Vang Vieng around halfway between Luang Prabang and Vientiane was once just a place to break the journey but it has developed into the outdoor activity ‘’capital’’ of Laos; caving, rock climbing, kayaking, trekking and mountain biking.
• Pakse is the capital of Champasak Province in Southern Laos. It is a transport hub for the wider region. It is less crowded than Luang Prabang so Wat Luang is the best place to visit to see the monk alm giving ceremony.
• Bolaven Plateau lies in the south and is a wonderful scenic area that sits at over 1,000 metres above sea level. It is the main coffee producing region of Laos after the French identified as an ideal place to grow it. There is other agricultural production as well in a region where intermarriage has watered down some of the ethnic groups.
• Tad Fane Waterfall deserves special mention. It is the most impressive waterfall in the country and arguably the whole of South East Asia. Indochina tour packages should devote some time to a trip here associated with Pakse and the Bolaven Plateau.
• Wat Phou compares with Angkor Wat and is another UNESCO World Heritage site close to Pakse. It is built on a hillside so there are wonderful views down over the immediate region including the Mekong River.
• Bokeo in the north west of Laos is a rural area of hills, forest and farmland that has changed little over the years.
• The Plain of Jars has thousands of stone jars in various sizes across an area close to Phonosavan. There are theories about their origin but they remain theories. One is that they were Iron Age burial sites. Laos was hit by bombing during the Vietnam War and this plain suffered so there are unexplored bombs still requiring caution for independent travellers.
• That Ing Hang Stupa in Central Laos built in the 16th Century is a lovely carved structure just 9 metres high. It is located in Savannnaket which is also famous as the birthplace of a former Laotian leader, Kaysone Phomvihane.
• Si Phan Don in the Mekong River in Southern Laos is 400 islands and a great place to relax. There is nothing unique about its temples but there are few better places to for a break. There are dolphins in the waters and taking a tour to view them.
Laos tour packages can be designed to meet the interests of client groups. Undoubtedly many of the highlights described above will be included on the advice of specialist companies that wish to show tourists the best of what the country has to offer. Indochina tour packages cover five countries in all with the Laos portion obviously spending time in Luang Prabang and Vientiane as the minimum. It will be days well spent.
Read more: Top 15 things to do in Myanmar