A trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos represents the trip of a lifetime for many people. But there’s so much to see and do – what should you prioritise? Here’s our list of must-visit Indochina highlights, blending popular gems with off-the-beaten-track hotspots.
1. Halong Bay, Vietnam
If you’ve ever looked at photos of Vietnam, an image of the emerald karst-studded waters of Halong Bay is likely to have been one of them. Halong Bay is on the bucket list of many Vietnam visitors, but there are plenty of good reasons why. Climb aboard a traditional junk ship for a few days, cruise around hundreds of islands and secret beaches, do Tai Chi on deck at sunrise and eat traditional Vietnamese cuisine on-board in the evening. Now that sounds like bliss.
2. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Many visitors to Cambodia head straight for the Angkor Archaeological Park, one of Southeast Asia’s most important heritage sites. While this is a worthy stop, don’t overlook Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh. This vibrant city is claiming an international name for itself, with impressive new architecture such as the Sleuk Rith Institute by the late Zaha Hadid
, and food and cocktail credentials making a global impact, such as the Jackie Kennedy cocktail served at the Hotel Le Royal
. Spend some time there and make new discoveries for yourself.
3. Pak Ou Caves, Laos
Set within the cliffs alongside the Mekong River are some caves like no other in the world. These caves have become globally known for the hundreds of miniature sculptures and figures of Buddha. Marking a place of worship for hundreds of years, pilgrims would leave behind a Buddha idol after reaching the sacred caves. The collection built up, creating an unexpected spiritual phenomenon.
4. Sapa, Vietnam
While Sapa is a fairly bustling town in the mountainous region of northern Vietnam, it marks an unparalleled opportunity to get off-the-beaten-track in the country. Many hill tribes in the surrounding region live in remote corners, meaning they’re only reachable on-foot. Wander through postcard-perfect rice paddies and soak up the dramatic mountain scenery before meeting these traditional communities yourself. It’s even possible to organise a homestay with them.
5. Vientiane, Laos
The Laotian capital with the intimate feeling of a town – given the population of just 200,000 – Vientiane is a place to live like a local for a few days. The New York Times describes Vientiane
as a “place where monks in orange robes outnumber tourists, and French colonial roofs and gilded temples form the skyline.” The relatively small size means it’s possible to explore on foot or by bicycle, while a vast tract of the city overlooks the Mekong River, making it an ideal spot for laidback drinks at sunset.
Explore these and more Indochina highlights on one of our multi-country tours