Amongst all the countries in South East Asia, Laos is up there as one of the most unique and unspoiled. Chances are if you’re visiting this landlocked sliver- squished between Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Thailand and Myanmar- you’ve got a knack for visiting the unbeaten corners of the globe.
Buses, boats, trains and planes bring you into Laos, with most journeys beginning either in the capital city of Vientiane or north in Luang Prabang. Though the usual stops along the tourist trail are worth a visit, there are also some lesser-known sites that should not be missed.
1.Gibbon Experience, Bokeo Nam Kan National Park
One of the most unique experiences to be had in Laos is found in Huay Xai, in the northwest corner of the country. Based in Bokeo Nam Kan National Park, the Gibbon Experience infuses ecotourism with adrenaline & adventure, allowing you to live and fly amongst the treetops during their 2-day/1 night (Gibbon Express) and 3-day/2-night (Classic/Waterfall) excursions.
Canopy level tree houses will be your home base for the stay and an extensive series of zip lines your mode of transportation. Soar through the forest with your eyes peeled for birds, bears, tigers, elephants and the elusive Black Gibbon, with your funds reinvested towards forest conservation and local community projects.
Be prepared for varying levels of difficulty- depending both on the chosen package as well as the season, and don’t forget to bring along a few recommended essentials (toiletries, water, mosquito repellent, flashlight, etc.)
While the package will put you back around 190 USD (1 Night) or 310 USD (2 Nights), just remember where the money is going, and that you probably won’t find yourself in the Bokeo Nature Reserve again any time soon.
If you’re looking for another unique Lao experience (that doesn’t cost as much), you can head southeast (from Bokeo) to the northern capital of Luang Prabang. A UNESCO World Heritage City and top site for any Lao traveler, this must-visit destination is found right smack in the center of the old town. Towering 100+ meters above Luang Prabang, Mount Phousi is a gorgeous vista point and local religious site that sits in between the Mekong and Nam Khan River. For a mere 2.50$ you can visit two notable Buddhist Wats, get some great shots of the town, rivers and mountains in the distance, and capture a remarkable sunrise/sunset from the highest point in town (bring a flashlight!). Though you do have to climb over 300 steps to reach the top, it’s a sight not to be missed.
3.Tham Chang Cave, Vang Vieng
This photo of Tham Chang Cave is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The final lesser-known destination for all travels through Laos may cause some initial distress: Vang Vieng. If you’re wincing at the idea of joining drunken, scandalously clad backpackers in the midst of a pristine Lao village, fear not. There are plenty of activities (besides the infamous tubing or sometimes blue lagoon) worthy of a stopover. Though there are a number of different cave complexes tucked into Vang Vieng’s iconic limestone mountains, Tham Chang Cave is undoubtedly the most famous. A small entrance fee (a little over 1 USD) gives access to this beautiful cave, with a well-lit interior and spring-fed pool open for swimming below. Hike 145 steps into the historic cave or swim your way in through spring’s inlet. Only 2 km south from town, this giant cave is a great introduction to other cave complexes in Vang Vieng, and a reminder of the natural beauty that lies outside the river-float debauchery. So if you’re planning a trip or already traveling through Laos, don’t just stick to the beaten tourist path- wander off to its lesser-known sites for a unique, different Lao experience. image A