Laos is one of the best destinations in Southeast Asia for outdoor adventures and sports. Most of country is mountainous and the diverse terrain includes dense forests, lush valleys, vast cave systems, winding rivers, and towering peaks.
This breathtaking scenery provides visitors with an incredible amount of activities to enjoy. Some more experienced explorers choose to go trekking solo or in small groups but there are plenty of travel companies who offer inexpensive, organized outdoor activities.
Here are some of the best outdoor activities in Laos which allow you to experience the country’s wild side. Some of them require a certain level of fitness but there are also a couple which everyone can do.
If you’re planning a trip to Laos, make sure you you apply for your visa before you set off. The Laos eVisa application only takes a few minutes to complete. If you’re going to engage in outdoor activities it is also essential to make sure you have the necessary vaccinations for travel to Laos.
Trekking is the most popular outdoor activity in Laos and it has quickly become a major business are new routes continue to spring up throughout the country. There are trails of varying difficulties and lengths depending on what you’re looking for. Typically trails last between 1 and 5 days though some can last up to a couple of weeks.
The far north of the country is the most popular region to go trekking. There are mountains, hills, forests, and traditional tribal villages. The tourist facilities are excellent, and there are numerous low-cost, eco-friendly packages which tourists can sign up to.
If you’re interested in visiting hill tribes, the best towns to go to are Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, where can go on organized day trips and even village stays. Trekkers wanting a more independent experience can find local guides at Muang Long, Xieng Kok, Houayxai, Vieng Phoukha, Muang Khoua and Nong Khiaw.
Trekking is a safe activity but visitors should follow the basic health recommendations for Laos to minimize the risk of problems.
Caving and Rock Climbing
Epic limestone scenery makes Laos a prime destination for caving and rock climbing. Some of the best areas to experience magnificent caves and cliff faces are Vang Vieng, Kasi, Thakhet and Vieng Xai.
There are clear, easy-to-follow pathways which most people can manage, as well as more serious spelunking expeditions which you can join (you need local permission and guidance to do this).
Rock climbing is fairly new in Laos which is great for explorers looking for lesser-known routes. There are unnamed peaks, unclimbed rocks, and brand new adventures to be had.
Visitors who are into bouldering should check out Green Climbers Home in Thakhek (Khammouane province) which offers 272 climbing and bouldering courses.
Large areas of wild scenery, unpaved roads, a few cars might not be ideal for road cycling, but it’s an unbelievable destination for mountain biking. It has become one of the most popular locations in Asia for serious mountain bikers who bring their own bikes and gear with them.
Route 13 is the most popular route. It goes from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and offers stunning scenery including the Vientiane Plain. However, less experience bikers should know it is very mountainous and challenging. There are some easier and just as beautiful routes in the Houaphan and Xieng Khuang provinces.
Mountain bikers should carefully plan their routes as it’s easy to underestimate distances and difficulty. One alternative is to join an organized tour which eliminates these risks.
Laos has some spectacular rivers which visitors can enjoy in many different ways. Many tourists simply like to go on a boat trip while others prefer the rush of going down rapids.
Kayaking in Laos is very popular and there are numerous options for visitors. There are day-trips for beginners and well as high-speed, high-difficulty tours for those looking for an adrenaline fix.
The best locations for kayaking are Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Luang Namtha. The Khammouane Limestone NBCA is one of the best spots as it offers a 7-km natural tunnel which runs through the heart of the mountain.
River tubing gained a notorious reputation after a string of alcohol-related deaths but there have been less over the last few years. However, there are still people getting drunk at riverside bars along the way. Find out more if Laos is safe for tourists.
River tubing itself is safe, fun, and relaxing. It just involves lying on a rubber ring and floating down a river (most typically the Nam Song). The problems come when people start swinging on dangerous rope swings and jumping off rocks into shallow waters after a few drinks.
If you want a more relaxing trip it is best to go in the morning as there are less people. If you’re looking for a party-atmosphere, go in the afternoon or early evening.