Often overlooked in favor of its better-known neighbors, landlocked Laos remains one of Southeast Asia’s most beguiling destinations.
Mainly mountainous and bisected by the lifegiving Mekong River, separated from Vietnam by the Annamite mountains to the east and by the upper Mekong from Thailand to the west, it’s a place with an untouched, almost mystical charm, and visitors are unfailingly captivated by its arresting landscapes and the warmth and humor of its people.
At elevation, hilltribes villages populate waterfall-filled tracts of forest. In lowland capital Luang Prabang, Theravada monks swathed in bright saffron and burnt sienna robes weave between gilded temples, French colonial homes and traditional wooden houses to collect alms.
On a river trip to the Pak Ou caves to see thousands of Buddha images left by the faithful, you’ll pass local fishermen playing out finely-woven nets from bamboo boats and visit silk-weaving villages where local women craft fine scarves bound for the country’s atmospheric night markets. You’ll can get a feel for Laos in a couple of days, but those that linger longer are richly rewarded.