Despite a limited infrastructure, Laos is a wonderful country to visit. The Laotians are some of the friendliest, gentlest people in Southeast Asia—devoutly Buddhist and traditional in many ways. Not yet inured to countless visiting foreigners, locals volunteer assistance and a genuine welcome.
And because this landlocked nation is so sparsely populated—fewer than 7 million people in an area larger than Great Britain—its countryside is dominated by often impenetrable forested mountains. Laos has a rich culture and history, and though it's been a battleground many times in the past, it's a peaceful, stable country today.[caption id="attachment_1164" align="aligncenter" width="1772"] Festival in Laos[/caption]
Although Laos has opened itself up to international trade and tourism, it's still a secondary destination on most itineraries. Tourism professionals in Thailand and Laos have been energetically pushing a joint cooperation program, making it considerably easier for visitors to Thailand to plan a side trip to Laos.
Top reasons to travel to Laos
NATURAL BEAUTY It may not have the sheer variety of Thailand, but Laos is a beautiful country. Take a multiday trek or bike ride, or enjoy the scenic bus ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL WONDERS The country's most unusual attraction is the Plain of Jars, which has 5-ton stone-and-clay jars of mysterious origin. Wat Phu, pre-Angkor Khmer ruins, is Laos's most recent UNESCO World Heritage Site.[caption id="attachment_1165" align="aligncenter" width="1417"] Sayabouly Laos[/caption]
BUDDHIST CUSTOMS Observing or participating in morning alms in Luang Prabang is a magical experience; so, too, is sitting in a temple to chat with a novice monk, surrounded by the sounds of chanting and chiming bells.
THE MEKONG The Mekong is the lifeline of Laos. You can travel down the mighty river and stop at one of 4,000 islands for a chance to spot freshwater dolphins.