The “land of a million elephants” boasts serene landscapes, laid-back locals and entrancing culture. We round up the Top 10 must-see destinations that are worth a stop in Laos!
Laos is a mountainous country in Southeast Asia that was long forgotten from the outside world. Its population of 7 million scattered across a landscape of almost entirely wilderness and untouched jungles, Laos is one of the least densely populated countries in Asia, lending it a unique aura of serene isolation and authentic adventure. Slowly but surely, its tourism is developing, built into the lush landscape and weaving through the country’s collection of rural villages, jungle hideaways and golden cities. But among its charms, these are the 10 magnificent destinations in Laos that we think are not-to-miss on an adventure to Indochina.
Known as the most beautiful landscape in Laos, Vang Vieng is a riverside town attracting millions of young travelers from all over the world. It’s no wonder, since its landscape of mountain peaks, waterfalls and caves woven into the seams of Nam Song River is picturesque, to put it lightly. Vang Vieng is home to cultural discovery and adventure travel, too, with a handful of temples to visit between trekking and rock climbing in limestone mountain formations.
Muang Ngoi Neua
Follow the river in northern Luang Prabang upstream for about an hour, and you’ll find yourself in Muang Ngoi Neua. The mountainous town here is perfect for those that prefer walking, trekking and driving along river and mountain terrain, and enjoying the sounds of birds chirping. Out of Laos’ many destinations for peaceful reflection in nature, Muang Ngoi Neua is one of our favorites.
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang is one of Laos’ most incredible religious monuments, and stands in towering golden prestige in Vientiane. Not only is Pha That Luang the most important religious monument for Laotians, but also a symbol of Laos’ culture and history. Built in the 16th century on the ruins of a Khmer temple, this stupa battles centuries of destruction and rebuilding, and remains one of the most incredible and authentic examples of architecture. Although certainly one of the most statuesque and beautiful, Pha That Luang is just one of Laos’ incredible wats and pagodas that shouldn’t be missed.
Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don, or 4000 Islands, is a vast archipelago situated in the south end of Laos, located where the Mekong River flows through the Khone Waterfall before reaching the main river in Cambodia. Suggested by its name, Si Phan Don is home to countless of lush, all-but-deserted islands of varying sizes, each with incredible landscape that’s ripe for adventure travel. While in Si Phan Don, travelers here might catch a glimpse of the Irrawaddy dolphin, one of the most endangered and intriguing wildlife in Southeast Asia.
A journey to the land of a million elephants would be incomplete without a visit to Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a still off-the-beaten-path cultural favorite of travelers to Laos.
The centre of the city is situated on a peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers in the mountainous region of Northern Laos. Here you can find ancient Buddhist temples, incredible natural landscapes and some of the most beautiful cultural processions each morning with saffron-robed monks during Alms Giving.
Bokeo Nature Reserve
Bokeo Nature Reserve was created as a refuge for Laos’ wildlife that were threatened with extinction, or endangered by hunting and forest destruction. The best way to explore this protected area is with the Gibbon Experience Project, a conservation project launched after the discovery of the indigenous black-cheeked gibbon, one of Laos’ most endangered primate species. Hidden in the lush tropical forest, the project is a fascinating collection of tree houses and rope bridges woven through jungle brush, and boasts one of the best back-to-nature experiences in all of Southeast Asia.
Tham Kong Lo Cave
Tham Kong Lo cave is considered a natural wonder in Southeast Asia., and for very good reason. Formed by the Nam Hun Bun River, which flows 7 kilometers through limestone mountain formations, the cave is some 90 meters high, and is something of a natural tunnel that weaves through central Laotian wilderness. Those looking for adventure travel will find this to be the perfect destination in Laos for rock climbing, trekking and rafting.
Kuang Si Waterfall
Kuang Si is regularly touted as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, and has three tiers leading to a 50 kilometer drop into crystal pools of water. The water from the fall flows downstream, and can easily be reached by kayaking for those adventurous enough, and is close enough to Luang Prabang to make it a day trip. Plenty head here for swimming thanks to pristine water conditions, so come prepared with swimwear to jump in.
Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia which flows through 5 countries including Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Measured at some 4,350 kilometers long, the Mekong River is steeped in cultural significance and continues to be one of the most important natural landmarks for farming, fishing and culture in southeast Asia. Its biodiversity is second only to the Amazon River, making it a biological landmark as well as a natural beauty. Sailing its length from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is a perfect way to experience it.
Built in Hua Phan province in 1960, Vieng Xai tunnels is a significant historical landmark as an epicenter of wartime activity. During the turbulent years of invasion, Laotian soldiers used this stretch of underground passage to hide, and with a capacity of more than 23 million people, the tunnels become the home of a “hidden city” complete with an army barracks, cinema and hospital. Although smaller than the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, Vieng Xai is distinct thanks to its geography — jungle valleys and tall karsts surround it and lend it a significant natural beauty making it a must-see destination in Laos.