So your planning a winter getaway. It’s easy to slip into a travel rut, thinking places like the Caribbean or Hawaii are the best locations to kick the winter doldrums. If you’re looking for the perfect winter escape to take in culture, try new foods, enjoy warm weather and go on a wild adventure look no further than Southeast Asia’s very own Laos. Not convinced yet? Here are 13 reasons why you should book a ticket to the land of a million elephants this winter.
It’s Dry Season
It rains on average once per month during the Lao winter. In the height of the rainy season (June-September) it can rain every other day, reaching 4.7 inches (12 cm) per month. If you don’t want a deluge to get in the way of your vacation plans, the winter is the optimal season to visit Laos.
Sick of apples and oranges being the only fruits on offer in the grocery stores? Laos’ tropical climate means fresh fruits are available year round. Have you tried mangosteen? Dragon fruit? Rambutan? Papaya and pomelos are in high season during the winter. Eat your fill in the markets, drink your fill of fruit shakes and convince yourself that a fruit garnish makes your cocktail more healthy.
Laos is the perfect vacation destination for active travelers. Overnight trekking trips in the highlands, kayaking and tubing on the rivers, and zip-lining through the trees are just a fraction of what’s in store for outdoorsy types traveling to Laos. While it’s fine to book a tourahead of time, spontaneity is welcome with tour operators booking “day of” or next-day tours without a problem.
Buddhist temples dot the countryside in Laos, and it’s hard to walk more than a few minutes in the cities without seeing another monastery. The architecture and detail in these active religious sites are worth the trip themselves. Some monasteries offer programs where visitors can chat with the monks and practice meditation, but visitors are also welcome to drop by to look around.
The Weather Can’t Be Beat
The average temperature during the day is 72º-81º F (22º-25º C) in the winter. At night it drops to between 59º-66º F (15º-19º C.) This means November through February is the most pleasant time of the year to visit Laos. You’ll avoid the heavy rains that come in the summer months and the sweltering heat of the spring.
Cheap Mixed Drinks
Laos produces several types of liquor: Lao Lao and Lao Hai. Domestic production keeps the prices down for those who want to imbibe on their winter getaway. Those looking for their favorite spirits cocktail will be happy to note Johnny Walker and Hennessy are available in Laos for prices that won’t break the bank.
Beyond The Beach
While spending a week on the coast can be a relaxing way to spend a holiday, it’s not the only way to spend a winter getaway. Visiting Laos requires an adventurous spirit and patience, but the rewards are great. Fabulous foods, incredibly kind people, and natural beauty make Laos an unforgettable vacation destination.
The Views Are Stunning
Winding mountain roads, cascading waterfalls, jungle plants and colonial French architecture add to the visual wonder that is Laos. The landscape is diverse and gets flatter and hotter as you travel from the cool, mountainous north to the flat southern region of the country. Lao hill tribes still wear traditional clothing which will be of interest to those curious about the vast cultural diversity in Laos.
The Culture is Relaxed
Lao people are laid back and easy going. On one hand this means service is slow, transportation can be challenging and a sense of urgency is non-existent. On the other hand, aren’t you on vacation to get away from the stress of everyday life? Take it easy, take it slow and enjoy the Lao culture.
Swim In A Waterfall
Laos has hundreds of waterfalls cascading over rocks and cliffs down its many fresh water rivers. Take a trek to one of these natural beauties and swim in the basin. Some falls have platforms to jump from, rope swings to hang on and zip-lines that end in the water.
Coffee shops are booming in Laos. While you can always fall back on the classic iced Lao coffee in a bag (served extra sweet with condensed milk,) there are also shops that will whip up a fabulous cappuccino or americano. Visit the Bolevan plateau to see where the coffee plants grow and the beans are harvested and processed.
Play With Elephants
Asian elephants are native to Laos and interacting with these majestic beasts is a must for animal lovers traveling to Laos. Instead of riding, spend the day with these gentle souls in one of several elephant sanctuaries such as the Elephant Conservation Center or the Elephant Village and Sanctuary, both near Luang Prabang.
The sunsets are magical
The Mekong river makes up a long portion of the western boarder between Laos and Thailand. As many major cities in Laos are located on the river (Vientiane, Thakek, Savannakhet, and Pakse) riverside bars and restaurants do brisk business during the golden hour when visitors come to drink, eat and soak in the last of the sun’s rays. Watch the fishing boats and the water reflect the red and orange clouds.
Sunset, Laos | © Regina Beach/Culture Trip