Laos is a country that you should definitely visit if you like untouched nature. Despite the fact that you will also find very interesting hill tribes and ancient monasteries and temples in, for example, Unesco city Luang Prabang , it is nature that makes the country so impressive. From south to north you will find varied landscapes. Jagged karst mountains rise in otherwise fairly flat landscapes, fast-flowing rivers traverse hills in dozens of shades of green. Caves and waterfalls are numerous and there are more hikes to cool viewpoints than you could make in one trip. These are the most beautiful places in the nature of Laos.
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1. Bolaven platter | Waterfalls and coffee plantations
The Bolaven plateau (Location here ) is one of the most pristine places in Laos. Due to its slightly higher location, it is a few degrees cooler here all year round than in the rest of southern Laos. On the slopes of the plateau and the hills around it, you will find green forests. Tucked in between are some of the highest waterfalls in the country. Small villages show what life was like everywhere in Southeast Asia years ago. People live in wooden houses on stilts and are often still shamanistic. There are coffee plantations on the plateau itself.
Those who like to explore the country on their own can tour the green landscape on a motorbike for a few days and spend the night in home-stays or one of the resorts that are often located in the most beautiful places. It's really dark here at night!
2. Thakhek Loop | Longest River Cave
A little further north, in the central part of Laos, you can also drive a very nice route on a motorbike. The Thakhek Loop is one of the most famous road trips in the country and for good reason. From Thakhek (location here ) you first pass the most impressive caves, a natural swimming lake and karst landscapes, and then drive through a bizarre landscape full of dead trees.
The Nam Theun Reservoir (Location here ) was created by the construction of a dam. A lot of trees got wet feet due to the increased water level and died. The Apocalypse-like atmosphere is very special. However, the most beautiful part of the loop is the most northerly. Here too, the dramatic karst landscapes are great and you will find another paradise swimming lake, caves and viewpoints.
The coolest is the Kong Lor Cave (Location here ), a 7 and a half kilometer long river cave, through which you sail in a small wooden boat with an outboard motor. Staring into the darkness you feel how immense the spaces are, while you sail over underground rapids. The only light is that of your headlamp and that of the illuminated part of the cave after the first 10 minutes of sailing.
Knowing more? I wrote a complete travel guide full of tips and experiences about Thakhek Loop on my website.
3. Vang Vieng | Outdoor activities in the karst landscape
Just a few hours north of Southeast Asia's smallest and probably sleepiest capital, Vientiane Vang Vieng (Location here ).
This small town once stood on the Nam Song River known for its party vibe and tubing. You then float down the river in an old inner tube, enjoying the karst landscape around and the drink at the many bars on the bank. Every year there were several fatal accidents on the water, which caused tubing to be banned. It is now allowed again, but Vang Vieng has transformed into a real outdoor destination in the meantime.
Here you can climb, mountain bike or hike to one of the many viewpoints in the fairytale landscapes. In the most beautiful places, locals have further excavated natural streams to make “Blue Lagoons” out of them. Here you can swim in the bluest swimming pools, at the foot of the most beautiful hills. Early risers can take a hot air balloon ride over that dramatic landscape at sunrise, or at the more popular sunset. Whatever activities you undertake, Vang Vieng is beautiful.
4. Nong Khiaw | Impressive viewpoints
Nong Khiaw (Location here ) has been passed by for years by anyone who just took the boat to it Muang Ngoi. This much more famous backpacker town on the Nam Ou river is also super located, between mountains full of green jungle and caves everywhere and the most authentic villages nearby.
Nevertheless, Nong Khiaw itself has a lot to offer. The town is already super photogenic, on the river, which is quite wide here. From the center you can hike to 5 or 6 different viewpoints, from where you have a fantastic view of Nong Khiaw and the impressive nature around. If you set out just after sunrise, you have a good chance to climb through a cloud cover in the winter months, and then see the mountain tops above that white blanket. Sunset is also a good time to hike to the viewpoints. The light is then magical.
5. Nam Ha National Park | Pristine jungle
Hill after hill of densely wooded hills. So was the whole environment of Nam Ha National Park (Location here ) ever. Unfortunately, due to the Chinese invasion, there is a lot of tree felling in the north of Laos. Where jungle once stood, you will now find one rubber plantation after another.
Fortunately, a large part of the Nam Ha national park is still green and the hills are too steep for rubber plantations. The area in between Luang Namtha. and the Thai border direction Chiang Rai is amazingly beautiful. You can make a multi-day trek here and sleep with the locals, who live in small villages in the jungle. They often still live very traditionally, even though they often save their homemade, colorful clothing for special occasions such as weddings. You can still experience how simple and hard life is in this remote part of Laos, very special to experience.