Located in Vientiane, Pha That Luang (“Great Stupa in Lao”) is Laos’ most incredible religious monuments. The stupa has several terraces with each level representing a different stage of Buddhist enlightenment. The lowest level represents the material world; the highest level represents the world of nothingness. Built in the 16th century on the ruins of a Khmer temple, this stupa battles centuries of destruction and rebuilding, and remains one of the most incredible and authentic examples of architecture.
Languid and lovely Luang Prabang (ຫລວງພະບາງ) is one of the most alluring places in Southeast Asia. Nowhere else can lay claim to the city's old-world romance of 33 gilded wats, saffron-clad monks, faded Indochinese villas and exquisite Gallic cuisine. It's a unique place where time seems to stand still amid the breakneck pace of the surrounding region.
This Unesco-protected gem, which sits at the sacred confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan (Khan River), has rightfully gained mythical status as a travellers' Shangri La, and since its airport opened a decade ago the town has seen a flood of investment, with once-leprous French villas being revived as fabulous – though affordable – boutique hotels.
Beyond the evident history and heritage of the old town are aquamarine waterfalls, top trekking opportunities, meandering mountain bike trails, elephant camps, kayaking trips, river cruises and outstanding natural beauty, the whole ensemble encircled by hazy green mountains.