With spectacular limestone karst scenery, rice paddies and rugged forested hills fringed by waterfalls, sleepy Laos is home to both indigenous tribes and countless natural wonders. Its borders were closed until the 1970s, hence Laos remains relatively undiscovered and untouched by development, especially compared with neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. In the far north, the traditional way of life continues. Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, typifies the tranquil atmosphere of this beautiful country.
Buddhism reigns supreme here, so Laos trips should include a visit to a Tak Bat, an alms-giving ceremony where meditating monks collect offerings from local people at dawn. Or try Baci, a sumptuous vegetarian feast and bracelets-tying ceremony that blesses people with a healthy life. After a day spent visiting pagodas and temples, head to one of the bustling night markets in Vientiane, the capital, which come to life with an assortment of food stalls and bars jostling for prime position.