The small, landlocked country of Laos may not be the best known in Southeast Asia, but with unparalleled natural beauty and charming, hospitable locals, it’s easy to fall in love right off the bat.
Not only will you have the opportunity to explore the lush jungles, hills and mighty rivers that make up the landscape, but you will also be able to immerse yourself in traditional Laotian culture. Other things to do in Laos include visiting elaborate temples and rural villages, as well as charming towns and villages to explore. Laos is simply one of those places that will captivate your heart for years to come.
1. Old town of Luang Prabang
If you’re interested in French colonial villas, ornate Buddhist temples, and bustling night markets, be sure to spend a few days in the old town of Luang Prabang. This charming city is full of cultural activities that will delight all types of travelers.
Surrounded by rolling hills and lush karst mountains, the old town of Luang Prabang is visually stunning on its own. However, it is worth strolling through its quiet streets and exploring the different buildings and attractions that await you around every corner.
2. Plain of Jars
The mysterious Plain of Jars is one of Laos’ most unusual attractions. Scattered across the Khouang Plain in the Laos Highlands are hundreds of stone jars, many weighing up to 14 tons.
Historians have debated the true age or origin of the jars. However, they are believed to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old and were originally used to store alcohol or food. Some even think that the jars were used as urns.
3. Nam Song Tube
Immerse yourself in the scenic landscape of Vang Vieng with a relaxing descent down the Nam Song River. It’s a popular attraction for locals and backpackers alike, who come to enjoy the cool waters and possibly a beer or two.
Going down the river, you can stop at one of the many bars that line the banks. You can spend the afternoon partying there, or you can bring a bucket of drink back into your tube to continue the float.
4. Pha That Luang
The spectacular Pha That Luang Stupa is located in the heart of Vientiane and is one of the most beloved symbols of Laotian culture. The three-tiered stupa stretches over 60 meters high and is covered with solid gold and painted. It was built in 1566, after Vientiane became the capital of the kingdom of Lan Xang.
Pha That Luang is a religious pilgrimage site for many Buddhists, who believe that the stupa contains the sternum of the Buddha. Around the stupa are also various temples, elegantly adorned with red roofs and golden facades.
5. Golden Buddha
In Pakse, it’s hard not to notice the gigantic golden Buddha overlooking the Mekong. As you walk up the hill towards the Buddha, you will see many other statues along the way, including the statue of the serpent god who guards and protects the Buddha statue.
To get to the Buddha, you will have to cross the Nippon Bridge from Pakse on foot, by bike or by taxi. You will find the gigantic Buddha perched on top of a lotus flower facing the Mekong River and downtown opposite. It’s an awesome sight anytime of the day, although the sunrise and sunset are even more awe-inspiring.
6. Yes Phan Don
Dotted along the Mekong River is the Si Phan Don archipelago. Most of the Si Phan Don Islands are submerged by the river during the monsoon, although there are three main islands (Don Khong, Don Det and Don Khon) that most people decide to visit.
Exploring the islands of Si Phan Don is a good way to immerse yourself in Laotian culture. You will find traditional houses, shops and restaurants set along the banks of the Mekong River.
7. Vieng Xai Caves
Located in the peaceful village of Vieng Xai, Vieng Xai Caves are off the beaten track for most tourists. Despite their impressive landscapes, the caves are known to have housed more than 20,000 soldiers and civilians during the Indochina War. For more than nine years, these peoples have lived, worked and developed a whole community within the hundred caves.
Although only a handful of them can now be visited, it remains an interesting journey to better understand the tumultuous history of Laos. You will see meeting rooms, houses and theaters that were built in the underground caves.
8. Bokeo Gibbon experience
The thrilling Bokeo Gibbon experience is probably one of the most unique things to do in Laos. You will have the opportunity to stay in one of the tallest treehouses in the world while getting up close to wild gibbons.
Your gibbon Bokeo experience begins with a hike through the dense jungle, where you will encounter gibbons, as well as other wildlife such as deer, leopards, pigs, and even tigers. You will then spend the following nights sleeping in the treetops in one of the tree-hanging houses. The Bokeo Gibbon experience also includes an exhilarating zipline ride through the jungle.
9. Wat Phou
At the foot of the lush mountains of Phou Khao lie the remains of Wat Phou. This complex of ancient Khmer Hindu temples is said to have been built in the 10th and 11th centuries in honor of Lord Shiva. It is now a Theravada Buddhist place of worship and one of the most popular tourist attractions in southern Laos.
Although many structures are starting to collapse, the great architectural remains can still be admired. The main path to the shrine is flanked by cairns, and two palaces are visible on either side. Once at the shrine, you will see various Buddha images, stone carvings, and a library room.
10. Hike to Luang Namtha
Immerse yourself in the heart of the jungle and experience the natural beauty of Luang Namtha. Located in the northeastern region of Laos, Luang Namtha is known for its dense forests, mighty rivers and lush valleys. If adventure is what you are looking for, a multi-day hike is the best way to experience the scenery with your own eyes.
In Luang Namtha, there are different trekking routes and companies, but most trips are between three and five days. You’ll also have the option of camping outdoors and visiting minority villages along the way.
11. Kuang Si Falls
The Kuang Si waterfalls are the definition of serenity. This three-tiered waterfall is located deep in the jungle, surrounded by lush green vegetation and steep limestone cliffs. At the foot of the falls is a sparkling turquoise pool that invites you to cool off.
It’s also possible to climb to the top of Kuang Si Falls for epic countryside views. Despite the rocky terrain, the hike only takes 15 minutes, making it worth it to enjoy one of the most panoramic views in Laos.
12. Xieng Khuan
Although not really considered a temple, Xieng Khuan (or Buddha Park) is still a fascinating place to visit to see many religious figures and statues. Located southeast of Vientiane along the Thai border, Buddha Park is home to over 200 different Buddhist and Hindu statues, many of which are made of concrete.
As you walk through this strange park, you will see statues of humans, gods, demons and animals. Break the open mouth of the 3 meter high demon head and climb the ladder from “hell” to “heaven”. There is also a giant 130-foot-long sculpture of a reclining Buddha, which stands in the center of the park.
13. Vat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most famous temples in Laos, is a must-see if you are traveling to Luang Prabang. Built by King Setthathirath in 1559, it was initially used by royalty for religious functions and festivals.
This Buddhist temple is one of the most elaborate in the country and an impressive testimony to traditional Laotian art. Inside you’ll find golden stencils of mythological creatures and deities painted on the red and black walls. There are also intricate golden patterns carved on the walls and doors of the various rooms.
14. Tad Sae Falls
For a relaxing afternoon, head to the peaceful Tad Sae Falls. The set of falls is surrounded by a green jungle, which increases the beauty as the water pours over the yellow limestone rocks.
The falls draw a more local crowd, and many Laotian families flock here for a swim or picnic. You can swim in the crystal clear pools or just sunbathe on one of the sun loungers provided. You will also find comprehensive facilities such as restaurants, shops and cafes in the immediate vicinity.
15. Kong Lor Cave
Kong Lor Cave is hidden deep in the unexplored wilderness of Phu Hin Bun National Park. This geological wonder is carved directly into the limestone rock and is filled with giant stalactites and walls over 90 meters high.
The only way to access the cave is via the Nam Hin Bun River, which means you will need to hire a speedboat for the trip. Once disembarked, you can admire the dark chamber inside the cave. Multi-colored lights illuminate some places, allowing you to see the details of the awe-inspiring and spooky Kong Lor Cave.