7 Bucketlist Things to Do in Laos

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lao kids

lao kids Khmu village

One of my readers asked me what my top things to do in Laos were.

When I arrived in Laos, I wasn’t sure what there was to do either.  Laos is largely rural; it has marvelous beauty, nice treks and subtle charm.  Simply put, traveling Laos is to get lost and take your time soaking in the experience of it. But here a bucket list worthy of your next trip there.

Top 7 bucket list things to do in Laos

 1. Boat ride on the Mekong River

Taking a boat ride down the Mekong River is a must. The karst landscape, dotted with mini islet formations jutting out of the river, is vast, intimidating, delicate and stunningly picturesque, all at once. It’s like taking Vietnam’s Halong Bay and transforming it into a Laotian riverside signature. You’ll feel like you’re in a painting. The view is exquisite even if an hour later your ass is hurting from the stern, unforgiving wooden bench seats!

laos karsts

Karsts along the Mekong River

2. Trekking Northern Laos

Did you know Laos is 80% rural?  Taking a trekking tour in Northern Laos is a popular itinerary for adventurous outdoors tourists.  Spend a few days, trudging up hills, over streams and staying in bamboo huts with village families, to learn about the daily life of a Lao village. The mountains and rivers are photogenic and the vibe laidback enough to make you want to stay forever.

Notable trekking spots in Northern Laos: Muang SingLuang Nam Tha. I did one from Muong Ngoi.

trekking in Laos

trekking in Laos

3. The Gibbon Experience

If you’re coming from Northern Thailand through Huay Xai, try the Gibbon Experience. Stay in a canopy treehouse and explore the Bokeo Nature Reserve by trekking or ziplining around. Maybe even spot cute gibbons!

Check out Wandermom (here) and Scott & Kenna’s Excellent Adventure (here) for the good and the bad of the experience.

4. Tubing in Vang Vieng

If cheap buckets of beer, bikinis and rope swings are your thing, then read further. Amidst the magical karst gems of cliffs and caverns, Vang Vieng is better known by twenty-something travelers as the party-happy watering hole for tubing. What is tubing? Inner tubes carrying alchoholic-laced tourists, drift down the Song River in the formation of a pub crawl. Free shots, beer pongs, dancing and much more fun awaits you!

5. Experience an herbal sauna

It may not look like much more than a wooden shack, but if you’ve been trodding on your feet the entire day, this will be a sweaty heaven. Wrapped only in a sarong, provided by the premises, enter the sauna’s boarded darkness and feel around for a seat. Feel the perspiration roll while you’re swathed in ascending vapors, from a concocted herbal brew boiling underneath. Inhale deeply and let your body unwind and open to your senses (Read about Bohemian Traveler‘s sauna action here).

Leave the sauna in 10-15 minute intervals to cool down and sip on some herbal tea before returning for more. Done? Rinse yourself off by dipping a cup between cold and boiling water, for a warm mix. Then breathe out, ahhhh…  Cost can range but is still low. I experienced one in Muong Ngoi for $2 USD.

laos sauna, herbal sauna in laos

inside the herbal sauna


5. Get a Lao Massage

Are Thai and Lao massages the same? It may feel so. They both take a firm hand, utilize pressure points and meridians and pull on your body as if it were taffy! The Lao traditional massage torques your body as if you’re doing yoga postures; the masseuses stick hands, feet and knees, into your tight spots to give you a good pull. I actually liked it. It’s not as painful as it may sound, although you may feel tousled and a bit roughed up. It felt more rigorous than a Thai massage, but offers a good stretch, some bone cracking and blood circulation. A good workout of a massage!  Cost ranges about $6/hour.

Getting a Laos massage

Getting a Lao massage

7.  Enjoy the simplicity and beauty of Laos

Did you know that Laos is 80% rural?  The unjaded landscape and village scenery are refreshing to see, divorced from overactive use of technology, Laotians are friendly and its perhaps the last Southeast Asian country to feel untouched by excessive tourism.

Khmu village laos

Khmu Village

What are your top things to do in Laos?

 


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13 Comments. Leave new

Muang Ngoi was one of the most beautiful, untouched places we visited in Laos! Next time you make it back you will have to check out the Bolaven Plateau!

Reply
    Avatar
    Christine Kaaloa
    January 5, 2016 7:38 pm

    I’ll have to do that @Megan! Actually, you just pretty much said what I’ll be posting on FB for Muong Ngoi! Totally agreed.

    Reply
Avatar
Caroline Dennigan
September 4, 2012 10:04 pm

Tubing in Laos looks fun I have to say. Maybe after a few shots I will try it!
I must be one of the few people who have never had a massage before. How much should you expect to pay in Laos?

This is also a useful little site that I came accross for independent travellers.
http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/index.php/en/asiapacific/laos.html

Reply

Great tips Christine! I missed the herbal sauna, which is a bit silly considering I am from Finland and I love saunas 🙂 Need to go back to Laos just for that I think. I’d probably add motorbiking around Laos to that list. The roads in south Laos are in pretty good condition (well, some of them anyway) and there is so much to see on the countryside!

Reply

    @Jarmo: Wow, motorbiking is a fantastic idea for Laos seeing as Laos is so rural and country! Just seeing the landscape from the bus or the boat didn’t feel like enough to me; it seems so much richer. I’m sure your ride must’ve been amazing! But did you just try to find a hotel on the road? That couldn’t have been easy…

    Reply

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