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Laos

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Extended Journeys to Laos

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Have more time, second trip to Laos, or looking for something specific? Here are some additional highlights when creating your custom Laos travel plan. If this is your first taste of Laos, visit our Essential Laos travel page to discover must-see sites, attractions and travel destinations.

The North

Hill Tribe Exploration

Wedged between Burma and Yunnan, this remote region of Laos is notable for its abundance of ethnic minority peoples and its rugged natural beauty. Among the colorful and unspoiled tribes are Hmong, Akha, Yao, Khamu, Lao Huay, Shan, Black Thai and Thai Lu.

 

These unique pockets of humanity may well be some of the last holdouts against the tide of cultural homogenization in Asia. As modern means of transportation, satellite television and the Web converge to form an irrepressible wave of global culture that washes over our world, visiting these tribes represents what is surely a fading opportunity to witness a way of life that has existed in these mountains for millennia.

Muang Sing

Using the little town of Muang Sing as a base, make day-trips (by 4WD and on foot) into seldom-visited villages. The people in this area are influenced by the neighboring villages in China to the north, and strong Chinese cultural overtones make for fascinating insights into the similarities and differerences with the Lao people to the south.

Luang Nam Tha

Stay at a lovely eco-lodge run by friends of ours for a one-of-a-kind Laos vacation experience. By day access surrounding tribal villages, and return in the evening to enjoy authentic gourmet cuisine in the open-air restaurant while watching life by the river.

Muang La

This village is highly recommended for those who yearn to stray far from the tourist ruts into the traditional culture of ancient Laos, yet savor fine accommodations and delicious, authentic cuisine. Of of Asia's hidden jewels (mums the word, this is our find), it is an oasis of tranquility, tradtional tribal cultures and lush fields. It is best explored on a 4 day/3 night boat trip from Luang Prabang on the gorgeous Nam Ou River which, at points along the way, features stunning scenary of limestone karst that juts 2,000 feet into the air from the river's edge. Our all-time favorite route begins in Luang Prabang, then heads to northeast to Nong Khiaw by private boat. From there it's over to Muang Khua then on to Muang La for an idyllic two-night stay. Return to Luang Prabang by private car.

 

The Central Region

Vang Vieng

This sleepy town a few hours from Vientiane is a delightful place for day hikes or a lazy afternoon on the river in a pirogue (canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk). The area is notable for its dramatic karst topography and many deep caves. There is a small resort here with simple bungalows.

Ponsavan/Plain of Jars

A stark and beautiful place scarred by terrible bombing from the U.S.-led war, there are thousands of stone jars scattered over a huge area-some weighing over a ton-that have mystified archaeologists for years. Though there's still no conclusive evidence as to their origin or purpose, recent research points to their being used as burial urns. Local legends say the urns were used as rice-wine cups by a race of giants. This area has long been the center of a thriving Hmong culture and it's possible to stop and hike to a fascinating mountaintop village on your Laos tour.

The South

Savannakhet & Tha Khaek

Known to locals as Savan, this bustling riverfront town handles much of the burgeoning trade between Thailand and Vietnam. Nearby That Ing Hang is one of the most revered shrines in southern Laos.

Tha Khaek was a French garrison town early in the century and then a gambling center before the Revolution of 1975. A fascinating stop on your tour of Laos, it still has a great deal of colonial charm with pretty views of the river and striking limestone formations.

Champasak & Khong Island

A historic province, which was once an independent Lao kingdom, is home to the impressive 1,000-year-old Khmer ruins of Wat Phu Champasak, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site, on a hilltop overlooking the Mekong, is spectacular. Spend a dreamy afternoon on your Laos tour traveling by boat from Wat Phu Champasak to Khong Island through lovely scenery into Si Phan Don "The Four Thousand Islands." Close to the Cambodian border are the mighty Khong Phapheng Falls and a peaceful stretch of river where Irrawaddy dolphins may be seen.

Bolaven Plateau

This fertile plateau has a pleasant climate and numerous plantations growing coffee, rubber, bananas and cardamom. It's possible to hike (or travel by elephant) to nearby ethnic villages inhabited by primitive Mon-Khmer people such as the Alak, Suay, Bru and Katu, some of whom still tattoo their faces. Stay in a bungalow perched above a pretty waterfall and swim in the pools below.