When and Where to visit Laos

dsc_4236.jpgLaos doesn’t look so big at first glance but with so many nice places to linger and some serious hills in the north, it’s not hard to spend a month exploring the country. Six weeks would be a better time frame if you want to cover everything without taking any public transport.

The most popular route to cycle is up Route 13 from the capital Vientiane to Luang Prabang. This is a scenic and challenging ride that takes you past the karst limestone mountains around Vang Vieng and up twisty, winding roads to the UNESCO world heritage city of Luang Prabang. From there, you can either continue north to other towns in Laos and the Chinese border or you can get a boat to Huay Xai and the Thai border.

Cycling with the localsThe southern half of Laos doesn’t have the stunning scenery of the north but it’s nice in its own way, with plenty of rice paddies and water buffalo to gaze at as you pedal towards the popular Si Phan Don islands in the Mekong, very close to the Cambodian border. The cities of Pakse and Savannakhet make for pleasant stopovers with their French colonial flair.

A popular loop is to cycle from Pakse up to the coffee growing area of the Bolaven Plateau and the town of Paksong, around a 50km climb, and then down to the waterfall resort of Tadlo and back to Paske. This is about three days on the bike and as long as you like just relaxing in any number of beautiful spots.

It’s possible to bike Laos in any season. The most popular time is during the cooler months, from October to March. April and May bring sweltering temperatures and it’s the rainy season from June to September. The overcast days of the monsoon season can actually make for quite pleasant cycling, as long as you don’t mind the odd afternoon shower. You can’t really hit the back roads during the rainy season either. They quickly turn into big mud puddles! The main roads should be perfectly passable though.

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