With international travel finally reopening as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, many Brits are now looking for the perfect adventure abroad. Southeast Asia could be the perfect getaway from Devon — and Laos is one of its unspoiled gems.
An exotic land of impressive temples, ancient ruins, and stunning natural beauty, visiting this fascinating country is now easier than ever thanks to the Laos online visa system.
Where is Laos?
Laos is a nation in Southeast Asia. Located in the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula, Laos is flanked by other popular destinations like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. You can easily visit as part of a trip that includes each of these countries. It is equally worth visiting on its own.
Officially called “the Lao People’s Democratic Republic”, the country has a long and rich history as part of independent Asian kingdoms and then the French Empire.
This has all left behind an impressive architectural legacy. You can visit the ruins of dramatic Khmer Hindu temples like Vat Phou, marvel at golden Buddhist stupas, and explore streets designed in the French colonial style.
This all makes Laos a great country for UK nationals to visit during the pandemic.
Where to go in Laos
Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is always a good place to start. It is home to the epic temple of Pha That Luang, or “Golden Stupa”. This Buddhist monument is a national symbol and perhaps the standout of Vientiane’s many temples.
There’s much more to see in the capital — Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park) features verdant gardens with over 200 statues, while the lively outdoor markets and friendly locals give you a true flavor of Vientiane. The night market near the waterfront is much recommended.
The best experiences in Laos are not limited to Vientiane.
Luang Prabang is a must-visit. Close to nature, the Kuang Si and Tat Sae Waterfalls are awe-inspiring and there are plenty of opportunities to ride an elephant in the area around the town.
The city itself was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for “unique and remarkably well-preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage”. The French colonial buildings that make up much of Luang Prabang help to give it its unique character. Its many historic Buddhist temples define it as one of the most fascinating places in Southeast Asia. Each morning, monks from the monastery walk through the streets in procession.
Of course, there are many more incredible destinations. Seasoned travelers might prefer to try somewhere more rural and off the beaten path. There are mountains, caves, jungle, remote temples, panoramic vistas from high plateaus, plus the party town of Vang Vieng.
Laos is a country with something for everyone. Where to go depends on what you want to see and how much time you have.
How long do you need to spend in Laos?
The question of how long to spend in Laos really depends on how much you want to see and do.
Many first-time visitors choose to divide their time between 3 main destinations: Vientiane (the capital), Luang Prabang, and Vang Vieng. Each of these are well worth a look.
Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where a whole host of Buddhist temples and monasteries sit side-by-side with beautiful French colonial architecture. Meanwhile, Vang Vieng is famously a great spot for relaxing, going tubing and kayaking on the Nam Song River, and enjoying the local Beer Lao.
To really enjoy these 3 cities and everything they have to offer, most travelers recommend a 2-week trip.
However, if you want to explore Laos a little more, get off the beaten track, and really get a true flavor of the country, you might want to spend a bit longer.
Why visit Laos?
Travelling is important — especially in the wake of lockdowns and flight bans around the world.
But why travel all the way from Devon to Laos when you can find some of the best country escapes on Earth here in the UK?
There are many reasons, from the exotic culture and unique architectural heritage to the natural beauty and outdoor activities that you just can’t get in Britain. But perhaps the best reason is the sense of adventure. The freedom to explore the unknown. After being stuck at home for so long, Laos is about as different as you can get from Southwest England.
And yet, there’s something familiar about it as well. Largely rural, with quaint towns and villages; even the cities aren’t exactly huge.
Compared with other countries in the region, Laos is relatively unspoiled. While it is still tourist-friendly and easily accessible, the crowds are smaller (or non-existent) and it is not difficult to find a slice of paradise.
The question shouldn’t be “why visit Laos?” It should be “why not?”