Whether it's for trekking, cycling, kayaking, ziplining or a family homestay, a visit to northern Laos is for many the highlight of their trip. Dotted about are unfettered, dense forests home to big cats, gibbons and a cornucopia of animals, with a well-established ecotourism infrastructure to take you into their heart.
In the north you will also find a tapestry of vividly attired tribes unlike anywhere else in Laos.
Here the Land of a Million Elephants morphs into the land of a million hellish bends and travel is not for the faint-hearted, as roads twist and turn through towering mountain ranges and serpentine river valleys.
Most northern towns are functional places, rebuilt after wholesale bombing during the 20th-century Indochina wars. But visitors aren't here for the towns; it's all about the rural life. River trips are a wonderful way to discover the bucolic scenery at a more languid pace.