Laos, officially called the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is probably one of the countries in Southeast Asia that many traveling families with kids may not have on their bucket list or may have it but last. As the only landlocked country in the region, Laos has no natural beaches, something that its neighboring countries in the Indochinese Peninsula offer. Of course, the tropical islands where you want to spend a good summer day with your littles ones are missing, too. But why should you consider traveling to the country that is multiple hours away from Bangkok and that appeals mostly to twenty-something solo backpackers? Well, despite its low-key status, Laos with kids is still a good idea. Although it can be a little challenging for parents to take their toddlers because of long road trips on sleeper buses or overnight boat rides, kids eight and above will definitely reap the benefits of seeing what this country offers. So, let me give you some insights into the best things you can do with kids in this seemingly late-to-the party nation.
1. Temple Hopping
The absence of modern theme parks, cinemas, and attractions in most Lao cities and towns is what attracts many parents who want to expose their kids to the culture and the lifestyle of the country. The best way to start your trip in Laos with kids is to take them to as many temples as you can. Temple hopping is a great activity to keep your children’s eyes busy. Among the hundreds of temples that pay homage to Buddha, where monks also reside, the following are the most visited and should be part of any family trip in Laos: That Luang in Vientiane, Buddha Park, Wat Si Muang, Wat Chom Si, Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, and Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang.
Caving in Laos is another activity that is on the top of the list of things to do in Laos with kids. With amazing and intricate cave systems dotted across the country, caving is definitely a must-do. The Pak Ou caves that are home to a number of images and statues of the great Buddha, with some carved on the cave walls, and the Tham Kong Lo, which requires visitors to ride motorized boats to enjoy a 4.3 mile (7-kilometer) tour are the top choices. But you would not want to miss a trip to the largest and undoubtedly the grandest of all caves in Laos, the Kong Lor cave. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites await you.
Another unique way of exploring the country of Laos is by following biking trails. Some locals say that biking is the best way to explore their country, discover hidden places, meet friendly people, engage with the monks, and encounter new cultures. Pedaling through the Lao roads means signing up for an off-road adventure in the mountains of Nong Khiaw and the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang. There are several biking tours that last a day or days that you can enjoy. If you have younger kids with you, biking along designated areas in the Mekong River banks is an alternative.
4. Stand up Paddle Boarding
If you think that Laos is a boring place for water sports enthusiasts, then think again. Though there are no beaches where you can spend a day paddling, the Mekong River provides a good avenue for travelers to enjoy stand-up paddle boarding. Tour organizers help you set your safe journey along the mighty Mekong river. The kids will enjoy the view of the rural villages and nature while you help them paddle down the river.
Afraid of stand up paddling? Kayaking may be the option for you. Arrange a kayaking adventure with your hotel in Luang Prabang. This gives a similar experience as the stand up paddle boarding where you can enjoy the view of the jungle and nature in Laos with kids.
6. Jungle Trekking
Hiking and trekking are not just ideal for backpackers but also a good family bonding activity. To make sure that everything runs smoothly, hire the best operator with the help of your hotel staff and arrange a guided trek tour. There are different trekking tours that also appeal to different types of hikers to choose from. The trek can range from easy to difficult, and may involved multi-day tours with activities that include camping, kayaking, and hiking. Amazing scenery and jaw-dropping topography are guaranteed to be seen during the trek. The kids will also be delighted to meet the Asian elephants along the way.
A number of cooking schools offer short but fun cooking classes in Laos, especially in Luang Prabang. The kids will enjoy shopping for the ingredients from the fresh market. Then, they will have fun preparing several Lao dishes. The dish selection depends on the type of dish you want your child to learn or the prescribed recipe of the day. Most of the schools also offer hands-on and engaging cooking lessons to accommodate vegetarians.
8. Rice Planting
Visiting Living Land Farm’s “Rice Experience” is a great Lao excursion and immersion for your kids who want to know how rice is planted, grown, and harvested. The farm staff teaches everyone, including the young and adults the techniques of planting rice and the varieties of rice they plant. It will be such an educational and fun experience.
9. Chasing Waterfalls
Among the most picturesque waterfalls in Laos that you can visit is the Kwang Si (Kuang SI) Waterfalls. The water that flows down the three-levelled waterfall forming stunning turquoise natural pools will definitely entice the kids to take a dip. Bear in mind though that swimming is only allowed in marked areas and a modest swimming outfit is required. This means no skimpy bikinis for our teens. On the way to the waterfalls, you can also visit the Bear Rescue Center and Butterfly Park. The sanctuary houses a couple of dozen animals rescued from the hands of traffickers and animal poachers.
This article is part of our popular series, Place To Go With Kids!