Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eco-tourism in Laos is an interesting website. Created by The Lao National Tourism Association, it aims at promoting eco-tourism, green hotels and nature tours and treks in Laos.
For such a destination, beautiful but still limited in volume and notoriety, we are very impressed by the effort of the governement - much more than in certain much more developed countries of the West ;-)
Here a few examples of what Laos can offer on eco-tourism:
The Lao system of 20 National Protected Areas covers nearly 14% of the country and is recognized as one of the best designed protected areas systems in the world. With large tracts of tropical monsoon forest, diverse wildlife populations, bizarre karst limestone formations and many ethnic minority groups, Laos' protected areas have an abundance of ecotourism attractions. Although most Lao protected areas are remote and difficult to reach, there are many existing opportunities for-ecotourism activities such as trekking, kayaking, bird watching and camping that allow you to experience first-hand the country’s magnificent natural and cultural diversity.
Each of the 18 provinces in Laos is uniqueand ethnically diverse, with varying landscapes and forest types, wildlife, handicraftsand other cultural industries, Buddhist and non-Buddhist festivals, and many ecotourism opportunities. Exploring the more remote and less traveled provinces will give you a better understanding and appreciation for Laos’ magnificent cultural and natural heritage, and can help spread the of tourism to areas further away from the main tourism centers of Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
A great, ecologically friendly way to get around Lao is by bicycle. With a population of only about 6 million people, Laos has light traffic outside the main towns and biking around the country's green hills is gaining popularity. It is best to bring your own bike if you plan on a longer trip, but for shorter trips, many tour companies and guest houses rent mid-range mountain bikes. There are currently organized bike tours to the mountains and ethnic villages in Luang Namtha. Other great places to rent a bike are Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.
Trekking is a popular way to explore the mountains and forests in Laos. There are many well designed 1-3 day trekking trips available that usually invole an overnight stay in rural ethnic minority villages. If you are planning a trek, using a trained local guide is strongly recommended as trekking is still a relatively new activity in Laos. Resident guides have intimate knowledge of indigenous plants, animals and local culture, and hiring guides through a tour operator or guide service will make your trek more educational. If you want to visit a Lao National Protected Area booking a trek is one of the best ways to do it.

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