The Lao People's Democratic Republic is Southeast Asia's only landlocked country, sharing borders with Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Lao has one of the most pristine natural landscapes in Southeast Asia, with rugged, thickly forested mountains and plateaus making up most of the total area. Laos is crisscrossed by a myriad of rivers and stream, the most important of which is the Mekong River. Forming a natural border with Thailand in some areas, the Mekong passes through nearly 1,900 kilometers of Lao territory, shaping the way of life of almost 70 percent of the country's 6.5 million people.

The Lao system of 20 National Protected Areas covers nearly 14 % of the country. With large tracts of tropical monsoon forest, diverse wildlife populations and bizarre karst limestone formations riddled with caves. There are many existing opportunities for ecotourism activities such as trekking, rafting, bird watching and camping that allow you to experience first-hand the country magnificent natural and cultural diversity.

Laos is home to over one hundred species of large mammals. Many of these are familiar Asian species such as tiger, Asian elephant and guar (a species of wild cattle). Lao also holds and impressive diversity of primates including five species of gibbon, five species of macaque nad four species of leaf monkey. Birds with over 700 species recorded to date and new species being added to the country list.

The small town of VangVieng 150 km north of the capital is set in a dreamlike landscape of bizarre limestone mountain peaks and sheer cliffs with the Nam Song River bisecting the town. At the base of the town's limestone mountains are a network of caves to explore. There are a variety of well-developed tourism services in VangVieng and a wide range of accommodations. Water sports such as kayaking and tubing are popular and rock climbing is also a growing pastime.

Lao PDR's heritage includes the LuangPrabang, historic city dating back as far as the 14th century which is now a living UNESCO World Heritage Site. This wonderful town has become a "Tourism Mecca" in Southeast Asia, popular with both regional and long-haul visitors. Another is Vat PhouChampasak is an excellent example of early and classic Khmer Architecture, dating from the 7th to 12th century and at the foot of Vat Phou is the Ancient City of Settapura dated 5th century. XiengKhoung Province has the Plain of Jars, with over 3,000 large stone urns spreading over 60 major sites, weighting from 2-3 tons each, aged to be about 3,000 years old. Huaphanh Province has Hin Tang Archaeological Park and the historic caves at Viengxay, one of 15 National Heritage Sites.

The best time to visit Laos is between October and May, when most festivals and traditions are celebrated in accordance with harvest seasons for historical Buddhist practices. Indulge in street revelries of BounPimay Lao (the Lunar New Year Festivities) in mid- April, or you can choose to join in the celebrations of the Boun Bang Fai( the rocket festival) in May, and That Luang Festival in November. Renowed for its fine woven silk and cotton, you can find the best of Laotiane handicraft especially at the Morning Market.

Source: ASEAN Tourism Website,