Ten great reasons why you should go off-the-beaten-track and travel to magical Laos, a southeast Asian gem. Put this wonderful country on your travel bucket list now!

Often overlooked in favour of its more-hyped neighbours Thailand and Vietnam, land-locked Laos is a excellent, rewarding country in which to go, with a distinct Lao-French culture and a relaxed, Buddhist pace of life. Here’s the reason why you should put the country on your wish list:

1. Vientiane

is the most laid-back capital in southeast Asia, with a walkable old quarter and the French impact evident in its clutch of fine restaurants, bakeries and boutiques

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2. Wat Phu

is situated on a site which has been sacred to at least three cultures – investigate the shrines, ruins and unusual geological formations of this mighty complex

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3. The Plain of Jars

is a one of a kind sight – enormous stone jar-shaped vessels scattered over a dozen areas on a lonely plateau – but what are they? Who built them and why? The view of them at sunrise or sunset is something special

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4. The French colonial

presence in the area has left behind a culinary legacy; find magnificent baguettes to munch on for breakfast everywhere over the country. Enjoy with the strong, local coffee

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5. You can cycle

to world-famous heritage sites, caves and jungles, bedding down at homestays and in temples for an extraordinary cultural experience

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6. Minority crafts and souvenirs

of all types can be picked up at the Handicraft Night Market in Luang Prabang – THE place to find Hmong woven clothing, Lao lanterns and much more

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7. Laos is a deeply Buddhist

country and you will see saffron-robed monks gathering their alms every morning, while the philosophy imbues all of daily life here

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8. You can witness

remote and rural Mekong River life at the beautiful Si Phan Don islands – go there now, while development is still in its early days

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9. If you want to try

caving, rock climbing, trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, abseiling or rafting, it’s all on offer in Vang Vieng, Laos’ adventure capital

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10. Luang Prabang

is one of the most romantic cities in the region and a World Heritage Site; its old streets are filled with fine temples and colonial buildings, all set against a backdrop of forested hills and the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers

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