When it comes to authentic cultural experiences, nowhere offers more than the friendly nation of Laos. Late to the tourism game, having been closed off to the outside world until a few decades ago, Laos remains under-touristed, and life continues here as it has for centuries.
This rich, well-preserved heritage makes for some unforgettable interactions with locals and offers a window into a world that is rare to see these days. Combine that with the stunning natural landscapes and outdoor activities and you have a perfect family trip.
There are no cinemas, malls or theme parks here, making it an ideal place to unplug and reconnect. Plus, experiences that bring you closer to nature and offer genuine cultural enlightenment, create memories to last a lifetime. Take a look at our six top reasons to visit Laos with your kids.
Experience Tak Bat in Luang Prabang
The city of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most charming towns in Laos. Peppered with gleaming golden temples, streets lined with crumbling French colonial buildings, this really is a place where you can witness the cultural melting pot that makes Laos so spellbinding.
There’s plenty to see and do in the town, from the Royal Palace Museum to nearby elephant parks and caves, but one of the most memorable experiences can be had if you’re prepared for an early start. At dawn each day, saffron robed monks leave their temples to collect alms, streaming through the streets in a grand procession. Known as Tak Bat, the ceremony is conducted in complete silence as a form of meditation. But you’ll need to hit the streets around 5 – 6 am to catch it, and remember to dress appropriately.
Home-stay with a hilltribe in Northern Laos
To the north of Laos, life goes on as it always has, in a simpler, more natural way. Trekking to a hilltribe homestay has to be one of the greatest cultural experiences Asia has to offer, and while it can be challenging for little ones, older children will have a blast.
Children are one of the greatest ice-breakers when it comes to engaging with the warm Hmong people. Plenty of these communities offer homestays for a night or two, giving you the opportunity to live like a local, if only for a short time.
Explore Buddha Park in Vientiane
A visit to the compact capital of Vientiane is a must. Its tiny size makes it perfect for exploring by tuk-tuk, an activity that is always good family fun. The mighty Mekong bends around adjacent to the city, giving opportunities for boat trips, riverside walks and pretty sunsets.
One of the most fun things to do in Vientiane with your kids is a half hours ride to the south east of the city, and it’s called Buddha Park. Built in 1958 by one very creative monk, it houses more than 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues, some of which are absolutely enormous. There’s loads to discover and lots of room to run around and explore, so it’s well worth the trip.
Get up close and personal with elephants
The elephant is considered the national animal of Laos, thought to bring strength and luck, so for the most part they get treated pretty well. There are some ‘sanctuaries’ that are mere tourist attractions, offering rides on chained animals – widely considered to be unethical. But there are also true havens for wild elephants, and well worth a visit to see these beautiful creatures.
The Elephant Conservation Centre in Sayaboury is a great choice, where you can watch the elephants from observation stations dotted around the natural forest and lake. Nearer to Vientiane, the Vang Vieng Elephant Sanctuary lets you touch, feed and even bathe the rescued elephants.
Go on a night safari in Nam Et-Phou Louey
Up in north-eastern Laos, Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park is home to stunning waterfalls, thick forest and a huge variety of natural life. Safaris into the wild could see you spotting bears, elephants, deer and wild pigs. The park also has some of the best birdlife in Indochina.
A great way to explore the park is to take a 24-hour trip, staying in an eco lodge overnight and exploring the jungle by boat. Some tours offer night safaris too, where you can discover civets, owls, bats and, yes, tigers! The chances of seeing a tiger are slim, given the private creatures they are, but the night time hunting is great fun anyway.
Discover wild swimming and rescued bears, in one day
Just outside Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Falls promise a doubly exciting day out with kids. Known for their turquoise, milky waters, the waterfall itself is one of the most photogenic spots in the country. There are multiple pools to swim in around the area, and the main pool has rope swings and jumping in points. Be aware, it is a natural spring, so the water is quite cold, but incredibly refreshing on a hot day.
Within the park, and included in the ticket price for the falls, is the wonderful ‘Free the Bears’ rescue centre, where you can see rescued sun and moon bears. Most are orphaned cubs, and the sanctuary has rescued more than 100 bears to date. As well as bears, the sanctuary also gives safe haven to pangolins, macaques, tortoises, birds, civets and more.
When to visit Laos with kids
Visiting Laos is best experienced between October and April, when the weather is dry. May to September brings the ‘great season,’ when the rains return to the country. However, the rainfall is usually short and sharp, so can be managed fairly easily. If you can brave the showers, you’ll be rewarded with cheaper prices and less busy attractions.
Even during the sunny months, up in the highlands it will still be cool, and can at times be cloudy and drizzly. If you plan to travel along the Mekong in the dry season, November to January is when the river is fullest and easiest to navigate.
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