Laos is a very interesting country which has opened up to tourism in recent years. When one thinks of Laos, what comes to mind is the country’s spectacular landscapes, vibrant and diverse culture, and beautiful natural surroundings. There is something here for everyone. Adventure enthusiasts can have fun exploring various river caves and ziplining, while culture lovers can immerse themselves in one of the many temples. For a place that is still largely untainted by tourism, there are many places that one can visit. Your trip to various places around the country will leave you raving for a long time to come. Continue reading below to find out more about the best places to visit in Laos.
1. Luang Namtha
Luang Namtha is more famously known as the biggest city in the northwestern part of Laos. For travellers commuting between Laos and China, this is the city that serves as a pitstop. Many people here take the opportunity to trek to the countryside or visit the national parks that are close by. When feeling peckish after a long day out, a good place to eat is at Minority Restaurant. This is a local eatery that serves traditional food deriving from various ethnic communities. There are several stupas around the town which one could visit, with the most famous one called Phum Phuk. If you are into shopping, do not miss out on the Morning Market. Start off by having a sumptuous breakfast before getting lost in the displays of fruits and vegetables. Do check out some exotic delicacies like pig head and animal skin.
2. Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don or 4000 islands shares its border with Cambodia. The town sits along the Mekong River and offers much to see and do. The main attraction of this town is its rustic and rural characteristics. Tranquillity prevails throughout the town and visitors get the wonderful opportunity of watching the Irrawaddy dolphins in action. Stop by the impressive Khone Phapheng Falls while here.
Luang Prabang is a city in Laos which is of great cultural significance. There are many religious and historical sites here. To explore in greater detail, the best option would be to book a city tour. The first stop is a local market - a traditional market where you can see a wide range of fish and vegetables being sold to local residents. Continue on to famous sights like Wat Mai Suwannaphumaram Monastery and Royal Palace Museum. Other attractions that you can see here include sights like Wat Xieng Muan and Heuan Chan Heritage Museum. Worth visiting is also the very famous World Heritage House Wat Pak Khan and Wat Sen. With a tour like this, you can safely say that you have covered most of the major attractions in the city.
Luang Prabang Half Day City Tour
Duration: 4hrs30 Min Duration
The best way to discover this famous city and to get an insight on the best attractions in Vientiane would be through a guided city tour. You will be able to visit major sights like the oldest temple in Laos, Wat Si Saket. Be amazed when you see over 8000 statues of Buddha adorning the walls of the temple. Also visit Wat Ho Phra Keo, a religious museum featuring Khmer and Laotian artwork. Get the chance to explore the surroundings of the Presidential Palace and learn about how it was once a French governor’s palace. You are bound to feel hungry by lunchtime, so stop at a local restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious meal. Be sure to check out Friendship Bridge, the point that links Thailand and Laos. If you are on a full-day tour, your last activity will be a ride along the Mekong River.
Vientiane City Tour
Pakse is a riverside city located in the south of Laos, the second most populous in the country. It is a charming city with much to offer its visitors. People who come here will definitely enjoy sights like the Si Phan Don Islands. Check out the convergence of the two rivers, Sedone and Mekong. There are several markets that have much to offer shoppers, especially tourists. Visit some of the stupendous temples and take some great pictures to remind you of your fabulous trip. You will also see some monks praying during various times of the day. To know more about the culture and history behind the Champasak region, head to Champasak Historical Heritage Museum where you can check out some intricate carvings and ornaments. It is said that the main highlight of this region is Bolaven Plateau. This plateau is covered in massive rivers, lush jungles, as well as a stunning waterfall.
Phonsavan is a town in central Laos which is a great base to explore Plain of Jars, a famous archaeological site. The town remains largely rustic and unspoiled by tourism. There are a fair number of hotels and restaurants in the area, making it easy for tourists to stop here for a night or two. Head out to the hills off the town and enjoy the crisp air and natural beauty. While in Phonsavan, do take some time to visit Mulberries Organic Silk Farm. This is a great place to learn all about silk and its production process. You’ll also see how silk clothing is made.
7. Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is a beautiful town in Laos which definitely warrants a visit. There are a lot of natural landscapes, and tourists are guaranteed to feel a sense of enchantment. Engage in adventure and check out some of the caves here. For instance, you can head over to Tham Chang cave which offers stunning views. Walk leisurely through the lush greenery, which would last about 30 minutes, and then cross a suspension bridge. In addition, you can also visit Phu Kham Cave. As it is located right on the Blue Lagoon, those seeking some fun in the water will enjoy being here.
8. Lak Sao
Lak Sao is a hidden gem located in the eastern part of Laos, close to the Vietnam border. This town is largely known for two things: its hot springs at Ban Pak Nam Eun which many visitors enjoy, and the shopping opportunities in town. Lak Sao makes for a great pit stop when looking to break one’s journey from Vientiane to Vietnam. Travellers making the journey across the border can stop at the hot springs and relieve their aches and pains. For those interested in some adventure to an off-the-beaten-path destination, the perfect spot to do some hiking or walking is at Pha Phi Hong. While the amenities here are on the basic side, the pleasure that an adventure seeker will experience is immeasurable.
Paksan is a rustic town located in the Bolikhamsai Province of Western Laos. This town is close to the border of Thailand and is linked by the Mekong River. Regardless of whether you are transiting through this town or you are a local visiting the interiors of the country, there is something here for everyone. The natural landscape of this region is astounding and appeals to adventure lovers. Visit Limestone Forest Viewpoint, where you can hike up to admire the most amazing view of the limestone karsts. Look out further and enjoy the scenery covered by crevasses, peaks, and gullies. Take wonderful photos and enjoy the fresh, crisp air. If time permits, head down to some of the waterfalls in the area, like the Seven Colours Waterfall and Tat Kham Waterfall.
Escape the busy cities and experience a slice of village life by visiting Pakbeng. This place is best known as a small town located in Northern Laos. One would pass this village on their way from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai or vice versa. As such, this village can be regarded as a pit stop for those wanting to break their journey. Many boats that ply this route arrive in Pakbeng in the afternoon. This means that many tourists usually spend the night here before boarding the boat again the following morning. Although Pakbeng is a sleepy town, there are some things worth doing while you’re here. For instance, one could head a little further afield and explore the countryside. Hire a tuk-tuk and head out to admire the lush paddy fields, as well as the other little villages around Pakbeng. If this does not interest you, then head to a local bar to chill and unwind. There are some bars and restaurants in the area, the liveliest one being Hive Bar.
11. Nong Khiaw
A trip to Indochina is definitely memorable when you put Nong Khiaw in your itinerary. This town is a laidback place located in Northern Laos and on the banks of the Nam Ou River. It boasts stunning views of this river and has limestone mountains as a gorgeous backdrop. Nong Khiaw is also perfect as a transit stop when travelling through Laos. Head to Phathok Caves to check out the history of the place. These caves used to serve as shelters for villagers trying to protect themselves from the bombings that happened in the past. Get a guide so that you can better understand the intriguing stories.
12. Huay Xai
Huay Xai is a great town to stop over when travelling through Laos. This place sits on the border between Thailand and Laos, therefore it contains some Thai influences. People usually traverse through Huay Xai because of their cruise along the Mekong River. Travel to the Gibbon Experience located in Bokeo National Park. Tickets for this attraction can be booked in Huay Xai, but you would have to travel about four hours to reach the village on the outside of the park. Take some time as well to explore Wat Keophone Savanthanaram. This is a temple that is known for the murals that depict some violent scenes that took place during the war.
Savannakhet is a quiet town located in the Savannakhet Province. The town sits on the Mekong River and borders Thailand. Not many tourists plan to visit this town, however, there are a few attractions that are worth visiting at least once. If you are a traveller continuing north or south of Laos, this is a good pitstop. A favourite activity here is to bike around, as there is hardly any traffic and the roads are in good condition. One can easily rent a bike and explore the Mekong area. Close to the Friendship Bridge that connects Laos with Thailand, you may also want to stop by this place.
Thakhek was once a trading port that is located in central Laos. The city also sits on the Mekong River, bordering Thailand. This quaint town is dotted with buildings in the French Colonial architecture. There are some attractions around the town that visitors can take some time to visit. One can check out Tham Nang Aen Caves - loosely translated into “cave of sitting and flirting”. Find out the legend behind these caves and enjoy the cool breeze inside. Outside, admire the beautiful limestone formations.
15. Muang Xai
Muang Xai is one of the largest cities located in Northern Laos. Many people pass through this city when trying to get to either China or Vietnam. It is well worth your time to spend a couple of days in this rustic town that remains unspoiled by tourism. There are a number of things that one can do here. For instance, head to Chom Ong Cave, situated just outside of Muang Xai. Admire the large number of rock crystals along with stalagmites and stalactites. It is best to hire a guide to explore this area, as the cave is otherwise locked.
Paksong is an interesting town to visit whether you are a local or a tourist looking to explore Laos. Adventure junkies, in particular, will enjoy the activities available here. There are about seven major waterfalls in the city, along with several other smaller ones. This makes Paksong a great town to indulge in some rafting. Get on a jeep and ride the rough terrains through the jungles of Paksong. Most importantly, take some time to visit the famous Bolaven Plateau Waterfall - it is a sight to behold.
Sainyabuli is located along Route 4, and the road eventually connects itself to Luang Prabang. This town also lies on the bank of the Nam Hung River. Many people go to this town in order to visit the famous Elephant Conservation Centre, a place that protects elephants. Elephant riding is not allowed here. Visitors are only allowed the opportunity to bathe, feed, and care for the elephants.
Boten is an interesting place to visit, as it is the only Laos-China border that is kept open for foreigners to visit. Once a gambling destination, Boten has been a quiet town since 2011. This is the result of China banning its citizens from entering Boten to gamble. Nonetheless, there is still hope for the revival of this city, with a high-speed railway construction scheduled for completion in 2022. While in Boten, also visit the Hmong Hill Tribe that lives in the hills in the surrounding area.
Attapeu is located in Southern Laos, where it shares its borders with Vietnam and Cambodia. This is one region where many major tribes like Alak, Katang, and Tahoy, among others, still reside. Attapeu Province is very scenic and still quite rugged. There is an extensive river network around the region, along with three major waterfalls: Tad Saepha, Tad Samongphak, and Tad Saeponglaican. Get a local guide and explore these wonderful natural formations.
20. Don Kho
Don Kho is a rustic island village located in the Champasak Province of Laos. It lies on the Mekong River, upstream of Pakse. There are a few things that one can do while in this village. For instance, head to the Buddhist temple known as Wat Chomphet. This temple features a tall, gold-painted Buddha and offers stunning views of the green surroundings. Also, visit Ban Saphai Handicraft Centre, located by the boat pier.
21. Sam Nuea
Sam Neua or Xam Neua is one of the most remote places in Laos. Though the town itself has nothing much to offer in terms of attractions, tourists like to come here to be surrounded by nature and beautiful views. It is also the gateway to other pretty provinces. The ride here includes travelling on mountainous roads with spectacular views. The main thing to do in town would be to check out the markets. Pathet Lao Caves is also located here, and it is worth visiting. These caves give visitors a good insight into the struggles of the local people during the war.
22. Ban Chom
Ban Chom is a rustic village that is largely not part of a tourist’s itinerary. It is located in the Phouvong District, Attapeu Province. Situated in the southeastern part of Laos, this village offers visitors a glimpse of what a quiet, rural life is like in the country. It is quite far from the capital of Vientiane, but while here you can also make a stop at other nearby villages.
23. Viang Xai
Viang Xai is about 30 km (18 mi) from the east of Sam Neua, near the Vietnam border. It is believed that this city is one of the most difficult towns to reach in Laos. However, since it is also one of Laos’ most important historical sites, it is well worth a visit. While here, do check out the Vieng Xai caves. There are several artefacts on display at the visitor’s centre. These articles are a grim reminder of what the nation went through during the Second World War.
24. Pak Lay
Pak Lay is a rustic and unspoiled town that is located in the Sainyabuli Province. This province is in Western Laos and is built on sandy but beautiful terrains. There are many opportunities for visitors to enjoy hikes and walks through the rainforest. There are also many elephants in the region, so tourists will get a chance to see them up close if they wish.
Champasak is a quaint town that is located on the Mekong River and is the gateway to Wat Phu, a Khmer temple complex which features carvings of Hindu deities. You can also visit Wat Muang Kang, a Buddhist temple and also one of the oldest in the city. The most striking thing about this temple is the Tripitaka Library that features a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, French Colonial, and Laotian architecture.
Laos: Discover World Heritage Site Wat Phu & Chong Mek Border
Duration: 8 hours
26. Bolaven Plateau
Bolaven Plateau is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places one can find in Laos. The entire area is blessed with a beautiful landscape, and groups of people of various ethnicities live here cohesively. This place is known for its lush greenery, cascading waterfalls, and delectable local food.
A trip to remember
If you are visiting Laos, then make the best of it and explore as much as you can. With such beautiful landscapes, fresh food, and adventure opportunities, this trip is one that you will surely remember forever. Feel free to visit any of the above suggestions and enjoy discovering the best of Laos.
Get Trip101 in your inbox