Formerly known as the Land of a Million Elephants, Laos has it all in terms of stunning geography and amazing ecosystems. The mythical Mekong river bisects the country and acts as a natural border against Thailand; the Annamite Mountains tower above the endless plains, and the forests of Sayaboury hide the last remaining wild elephants.

Laos is equivalent in size to the UK, but is home to just 7 million people. For such a small population, it is surprisingly diverse in terms of its people. Colourfully dressed hill tribes live in the hinterlands, while in the river valleys you will find Buddhist monasteries tucked away amongst the trees. The country also retains a delightful French influence from its colonial days: the UNESCO city of Luang Prabang boasts stunning colonial architecture alongside the traditional Buddhist temples, and the smell of fresh baked bread in the mornings is enough to make any westerner smile with pleasure.

Despite its charming character and natural beauty, Laos is still relatively undiscovered on the tourist trails. This adds to its sense of appeal for many, although as time passes it is fast on its way to becoming a popular travel destination. Probably best known for the backpacker hub of Vang Vieng, where visitors can explore the stunning countryside from the inside of an inflated tractor tube, the cities of Luang Prabang and Vientiane are also entering the list for popular tourist destinations. The huge range of stunning Buddhist temples and incredible natural beauty spots make it a perfect destination for everyone.

Many people choose to start their travels as a volunteer in Laos. Whether on a gap year, career break, summer trip or holiday with a difference, life as a Laos volunteer really varies depending on what you choose to do. Oyster volunteers focus on elephant volunteering in Laos or teaching in Laos – and everyone enjoys travelling in their free time to maximise their Laos volunteering experience.

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