Possibly the world’s most laid-back capital city. Spend a couple of quiet days here enjoying the fantastic food from both Laos and around the world, in a slew of excellent restaurants. Wine and coffee lovers will also feel right at home. Alongside this there are magnificent temples and monuments to discover.
2 Vang Vieng
With one of the most beguiling settings in all of Laos, this town has put its tubing craze days behind it and is now once again a great place for exploring the magical limestone mountain scenery that surrounds it.
3 Luang Prabang
One of Asia’s most captivating and classically stylish cities. Protected by its UNESCO status, the town is a pure joy to wander around, with dozens of temples, lovely cafés and riverside bars. Local life here still plays out to the sound of chanting monks and the rhythmic boom of temple drums.
4 Muang Ngoi Neua
A tranquil riverside village set among towering peaks. Trek to waterfalls and caves, visit ethnic minority villages, kayak along the river, or simply swing in a hammock and marvel at the vista from your very own bungalow balcony.
5 Luang Namtha
In the far north of the country, this farflung town is a good base for trekking to tiny villages to get a taste of authentic rural Laos among stunning mountain scenery.
6 Bokeo Nature Reserve
The Bokeo jungle offers the chance to see gibbons in their natural habitat and sleep deep in the forest.
7 Plain of Jars
Just outside the remote city of Phonsavanh, these bizarre stone urns lie scattered across rolling grasslands in an area that saw some of the most intensive US bombing.
8 Vieng Xai
These caves, where the Pathet Lao formed its headquarters while sheltering from intense US bombing, provide a vivid insight into the country’s troubled past. The town itself is home to numerous small lakes and visitors will often be invited to join the locals in a game of pétanque.
9 Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area
Home to numerous endangered species and a huge variety of birds. Book onto the award-winning Nam Nern Night Safari for your best chance of spotting nocturnal mammals such as slow loris and civet cats.
10 Kong Lor Cave
A river cuts through the mountain for some 7.5 km and the spellbinding cave, 90 m wide and 100 m high, can be explored by boat. This is best done as part of the classic motorcycle road trip known as the ‘Loop’.
11 Wat Phou
The atmospheric 12th-century ruins of Wat Phou are an enchanting place to wander at sunrise or in the late afternoon light. Nearby Champasak is a charming town on the banks of the river.
12 4000 Islands
In the far south of the country in the broad sweep of the mighty Mekong, the pace of life on these river islands is super relaxed, even by Lao standards, and there’s little else to do but sink in and enjoy it.