Visiting and exploring the many temples is one of the key things to do in Laos; however, there are plenty of outdoor activities that visitors can enjoy to supplement their sightseeing.
Cycling is a great way to explore Laos. Vientiane is very flat, making it easy to rent bikes. Luang Prabang banned motorcycle after too many visitors got injured so bicycles are the preferred way to get around. There are many visitors that have cycled the entire perimeter of the country, which is only recommended for very active participants. PVO Bike Rental or Vientiane ByCycle offer tours through Vientiane. In the hillier Luang Prabang, there are trips available from Tiger Trail Laos.
The most popular outdoor pursuits in Laos are tubing and white-water rafting. Best experienced in Vang Vieng, a four-hour car or bus journey from Vientiane will take you to the middle of the Lao jungle to traverse the Nam Song River. A popular hang-out for backpackers, most places in the area cater to budget travelers.
Hiking around the Nam Ngum Lake is also a favorite activity, created when the Nam Ngum dam was built to generate hydropower electricity. Located about 60 miles outside of Vientiane, the lake is a popular weekend spot for locals. There are many floating restaurants along the shore that specialize in grilled fish and boat cruises are available on the lake.
Caving has becoming increasingly popular in Laos with many beautiful underground worlds to explore. The majority of these are not regulated or supervised so take a tour or hire a private guide. Popular caves include the Oung Kao Rao in Luam Namtha and Tum Lot Cave in the Khammouane province. Contact Green Discovery Laos or Exotissimo for more information.
Green Discovery Laos is the leading provider of adventure travel and eco-tourism in Laos with a range of tours from trekking, zip lining, cycling, and mountain climbing to elephant rides, kayaking and motorcycling. Their highlights are wildlife- and bird-watching tours across varied types of terrain, whether it is on a visit to the hill tribes, coffee plantations or simply enjoying nature.
A popular trek is to the hill tribes, who live up in the mountains. Nam Ha Ecoguide Services can arrange overnight stays in the village. Experience first-hand what tribal life is like and learn the traditions of Laos’ earliest people.
The country is home to some incredible limestone karst formations that are perfect for rock climbing. Although many head to Vang Vieng, there are other options, such as in Nong Khiaw and the Gecko Wall in Luang Prabang. Green Discovery Laos can arrange equipment rental and tours for beginner lessons.
For something different, try participating in a monk chat, an opportunity for visitors to interact and talk with the monks. Many are keen to practice their English, while others want a cultural exchange of ideas. In Vientiane, visitors can do this at the Wat Ongteu temple and in Luang Prabang at Wat Chedi Luang.
Another way to interact with the monks is to give alms in the morning. There are certain cultural rules that must be followed so ask your hotel to help prepare food such as cut fruit and sticky rice. Between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., monks walk along the route to accept these gifts. Make sure to take off your shoes, kneel, and keep your head bowed below that of the monk’s. Women should never touch a monk or their bowls, so if unsure, ask a man to help. For those interested in Buddhism, Laos is a perfect place to experience it first hand. Meditation is a popular activity and there are plenty of places to try it like the Lao Dhamma Center in Vientiane.
No visit to Laos would be complete without giving the herbal sauna a try. These simple wooden shacks are mostly are linked with temples and are not luxurious, but wonderfully relaxing. In Vientiane, the herbal sauna at Wat Sokpaluang is the most famous and also offers traditional Lao massage. In Luang Prabang, the Lao Red Cross on Thanon Wisunalat is the place to head.