With the beautiful northern city of Luang Prabang at its heart, much of the northern countryside of Laos is a hilly and forested wonderland, and highly suited for scenic and adventure travel.

Numerous National Biodiversity Conservation Areas, many containing rare and endangered species, populate the landscape, some very remote, and offer substantial trekking and adventure activities, the most easily accessible of which are Phou Hin Poun, Luang Namtha and Phou Khao Khouay. The Nam Ou, Nam Xuang and Nam Ming rivers are the focus of river rafting and kayaking.


The stunning karst landscape and lakes around the town of Vang Vieng is the busiest and most developed of Laos' adventure playgrounds, offering waterfalls, caving, rock climbing, cycling, trekking, kayaking, tubing and rafting. The town provides a good base to explore the wilderland beyond and is often the scene of much backpacker bustle.


The town of Phonsavan is the base for journeys to visit the plain of Jars, so named after the numerous sporadic distributions of large stone jars, some weighing up to a ton and, in the absence of datable material, speculated to have been in situ for around 2000 years, though in actuality the origins and usages remain as mysterious as the culture whose strange legacy entices visitors to the area today.

If intending exploring the plain of Jars, however, a guide is essential due to the considerable residual presence of unexploded material left over from the conflict which spilled over from Vietnam during the American War. A fascinating and insightful window into the world of the Viet Minh resistance to the 'secret war' on Laos is found in the nearby Pathet Lao caves at Vieng Xai.


To the northwest, the plain around Muang Sing, surrounded by mountains, is home to many ethnically diverse villages lying within the area known as the Golden Triangle, a region straddling the Burma, Thai and Lao borders formally notorious as the world’s opium growing capital.


In the centre of northern Laos, upriver from Vientiane, at the point of confluence with the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, the small city of Luang Prabang, a former capital, is one of Southeast Asia’s cultural treasures and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Despite the presence of French buildings, Luang Prabang provides a serene and leafy window into the pre-colonial world of East Asian life with a true air of authenticity and real charm.

The Old City nestles between the converging rivers and is picturesquely surrounded on three sides by water, whilst the landward view is sculpted by the sacred hill of Phousi, glitteringly highlighted in gold by the spires of That Chomsi, a popular visitor viewpoint over the soft greenery of the city, and a focus of gathering at sunset, via the charming Dragon stairway.

Often described as ‘fairytale’, the gracefully carved and delicately ornamented Wat Xieng Thong, the city's most famous feature, has elegantly stood in Luang Prabang since 1560, and is the most beautiful of many decorous wats that sit within the old city and beyond.

Now vacated of royalty, and built in a hybrid of Laotian and French styles, the Royal Palace Museum sits beneath the sacred hill, and is open to the public, with the palace contents remaining largely as the king left them, and full of cultural and other treasures.

A popular sight in Luang Prabang is the daily alms-giving ritual of saffron-robed Buddhist monks winding in a long line through the early morning streets.

Beyond the inner city the delicate village-like air of Luang Prabang becomes more pronounced, sheltering a number of wats and the Dala and Hmong markets.

Upriver, beyond Luang Prabang, Pak Ou Buddha caves, filled with a riot of Buddha images, can be visited by boat and provides a pleasant excursion. Another popular and scenic river trip is to the multi-tiered Kuang Si Waterfall, a good picnic spot and suitable for a swim or fun splashabout.

The countryside around Luang Prabang is also pleasant for trekking, cycling and rafting, and home to many villages of Lao’s ethnic minorities.