Ever since Tha Khaek opened its French-colonial shutters to travellers and the dramatic 7km-long underworld of Tham Kong Lor became a must-see fixture on itineraries, central Laos has been enticing visitors. Thanks to its honeycomb of caves and dragon-green jungle, activities on offer run from world-class rock climbing to trekking in Dong Phu Vieng NPA where you can sleep with the spirits in a Katang village. Cave exploration is an obvious headline attraction, but kayaking trips are also a big draw thanks to the myriad rivers that course like veins around and, often, through the karst mountains.
This part of the country claims the most forest cover and highest concentrations of wildlife, including some species that have disappeared elsewhere in Southeast Asia. With its rugged, intrepid travel, and stylish pockets of comfort in Savannakhet and Tha Khaek, central Laos makes for a great place to combine your inner Indiana Jones with a Bloody Mary.