Laos was mentioned in my previous post of 8 countries in Asia Pacific you probably haven’t been to (but should)
Whatever land-locked Laos lacks in beachside attractions it more than makes up for with stunning landscapes and dramatic beauty. Whether it’s relaxing amid the coffee farms of the Bolaven Plateau or exploring dark caves in an adrenaline rush of excitement; marvelling at giant prehistoric stone jars or trying to catch a glimpse of the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin, Laos has something for everyone.
#1 Take a Mekong River Cruise
A slow boat cruise along the Mekong River is a wonderful way to start your journey of Laos, and, I assume, it would also be an equally good way to wrap up an exploration of beautiful Laos. For us, our adventure into Laos started at Chiang Khong on the Thai/Laos border where we organised a slow boat to Luang Prabang. Our two-day slow boat journey cost $135 and included transport from our hotel in Chiang Khong to the border – immigration and customs – and onto the boat – a traditional Laos riverboat. We were given a hot lunch each day and bottled water, tea & coffee and breakfast on the second morning. The accommodation was included at the Mekong Riverside Lodge, as was two village visits and a visit to the caves. It was a lovely introduction to Laos and very peaceful. We were surrounded by beautiful scenery and we even saw an elephant on the bank of the Mekong! We travelled with Nagi of Mekong (I have no affiliation with the company).
2. Kuang Si Waterfall
Kuang Si Waterfall is simply stunning. The gorgeous terraced pools are enwreathed by tropical forest and the cool blue water beckons to all as it lazily flows past. It is impossible to resist the pull of the cool refreshing water. Don’t even try! For those with more energy, take a walk to the natural spring which is the source of the waterfall and explore the big cave. Furthermore, for no extra cost, there is a Bear Rescue Centre where you can watch the moon bears and sun bears sleep or play in their enclosures. You can easily spend a day here.
3. Explore caves in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng could easily be called Laos’ adventure capital! Activities found in Vang Vieng include hot air ballooning, ATV, dune buggies, off-road bikes, paramotor, kayaking, zip-line aerial adventure, rock climbing, caving and tubing.
Taking a lazy tube ride down the Nam Song River is pure bliss. For adventure, go and explore some of the many caves and if you are lucky and get off the beaten track a little, you may find a cave you can explore without another tourist. Our favourite was the caving and tubing combined. Known as the water cave, Tham Nam Cave, was delightful in its ability to stir up the adrenaline – what is it about being in the dark, and in the water, that gives us the creeps! For adventure, exploration and fun you can’t miss Vang Vieng!
4. Plain of Jars
The Plain of Jars is considered one of the most important prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia. Across the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau, in northern Laos, there are thousands of stone jars. For what purpose, and by whom the jars were created remains, to this day, a mystery. There are, of course, many theories surrounding these ancient jars. Some theories are backed up by partial evidence including Madeleine Colani’s research in the 1930’s which concluded that the jars were associated with burial practices. Local theories include the jars being used to brew rice wine and, my favourite… that they were the cups of giants.
The jars are made of stone, they are big, and there are literally hundreds of them! To stroll the plains and forests that hold the monolithic jars is really something special. You can’t help but think about the people that carved out the jars and ponder their day to day life; your thoughts continually coming back to the same question – what were the jars used for.
5. Konglor Cave
Have you ever wanted to live a little Lord of the Rings… get in touch with your inner Frodo! Well, you can! Visit Konglor Cave and take a boat trip through the mountain. That’s right, through the mountain. Along a river. In a boat. It sounds a little other-worldly, doesn’t it? This expedition takes you along a 7.5km river, in a precariously-balanced wooden boat, in a dark cavernous cave, with only head lamps for light and the sound of dripping water. Journey to the centre of the world? It may seem like it, but after an hour of jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, mind shattering cave exploration, you finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Konglor Cave was the highlight of our trip to Laos, and in my opinion, it is an absolute must-do!
6. Bolaven Plateau
The charming Bolaven Plateau, known for its exceptional coffee and dramatic waterfalls, is a place of verdant tranquillity amid the muddy scenery of rustic villages and unpretentious markets. An eclectic array of sights and sounds, coupled with the pungent aroma of the agrarian lifestyle, and the scent of roasted coffee, make the Bolaven Plateau a beguiling destination for those in search of a rudimentary excursion of Laos. If coffee and waterfalls aren’t your things, there is always tea, trekking or just relaxation.
A popular way of exploring the Bolaven Plateau is by scooter (motorbike). With your own transport, you are able to tailor your exploration of the plateau to your interests and desires. Coffee farms, remote villages, colourful markets and alluring waterfalls are only some of the sights, sounds and aromas you will experience on this sensory journey!
7. Si Phan Don archipelago
Si Phan Don, which translates to 4000 thousand Islands, is an archipelago of islands, rocks and sandbars in the Mekong River, in southern Laos. It is home to a pod of rare Irrawaddy dolphins and the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia. Khon Phapheng Falls is the largest waterfall along the Mekong river and it is the reason why the Mekong isn’t navigable by boat all the way into China. Living in the fresh water of the Mekong is a pod of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. In Si Phan Don you have the chance to see the rare dolphin from the shore or, better yet, during a boat trip along the river. There are three main islands in which you can stay. Don Khong, Don Khon and Don Det… Don Khon is the closest to the territory of the Irrawaddy dolphins and is easily accessible by Don Det as they are joined by a bridge. Exploring this two island by bicycle is an interesting and relaxing way to past the time and take in the atmosphere of village life.
The 7 Wonders of Laos is written by Kelly.
Kelly blogs at TrippinTurpins. Intrepid sailors, perpetual travellers bold explorers, they are currently travelling in South-East Asia. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter
Have you visited Laos? What are the places that you have visited in Laos that you feel should make into the list of 7 wonders?