Laos is a beautiful country to visit, with so many lovely places, sights and things to do. The nature is pure and untouched and the atmosphere is still very authentic. It is a country where you can spend weeks and enjoy nature, boat trips and get to know local people in small villages. You marvel at art and culture in the old city of Luang Prabang, but also feel the cosmopolitan atmosphere in Vientiane. In South Laos there are highlights such as the Khmer temples, caves and the idyllic setting of the 4000 islands. In this article you’ll find an overview of the best things to do in Laos, including tips for hotels, tours, best time to visit and local traditions and customs.
- About Laos
- Laos places to visit and things to do
- South Laos highlights | 4 tips
- Other places to visit in Laos
- Mini travel guide Laos
- More about Laos
- Pin for later | Laos places to visit
For a long time, Laos was one of the most isolated countries in Asia. But nowadays Laos is a destination that you absolutely want to visit. It is one of the least visited destinations in Southeast Asia, wich makes you feel as if you are going off the beaten track. Enjoy this list with the best things to do, including tips for hotels, tours, best time to visit, traditions and the South Laos highlights.
Laos places to visit and things to do
The map is color coded as follows:
Blue: places as mentioned below in article
Luang Prabang – the most beautiful town in Laos
Located on the Mekong River, Luang Prabang is the most beautiful city in Laos. The French colonial buildings, interspersed with temples and monks dressed in orange, create a special and even magical atmosphere. The city center is listed by Unesco as World Heritage site. In Luang Prabang you can get inspired by art, culture and beautiful nature for days. In the morning you will see the monks collecting their alms and in the afternoon you will hear the gongs of temple ceremonies everywhere.
There are many things to do in Luang Prabang in Laos. You can visit temples, viewpoints, markets and lovely terraces and restaurants. At a number of restaurants you can learn how to cook Laotian and at the Royal ballet of Laos you can take a traditional dance class. It is also possible to spend a day exploring the area and visiting the idyllic waterfalls of Kuang Si, the butterfly gardens and the surrounding villages.
Hotel tips – Luang Prabang
The Pak Ou caves
One of the best things to do when you are arond Luang Prabang in Laos, is to visit the Pak Ou caves. This cave is known for the thousands of Buddha statues that you will find inside, in all shapes and sizes. The cave has been an important Buddhist shrine since the 16th century. And many pilgrims have brought Buddhas here over the years.
The cave is located along the Mekong and is only accessible from the water. It is best to visit the caves during a trip on the Mekong or as a day trip from Luang Prabang. The cave consists of two parts. A lower part which is easy to reach via a short staircase. And a higher cave, for which you have to climb a large staircase. On the way you always have a beautiful view of the river. Bring a flashlight as it is dark in the caves.
Do you want to visit the Pak Ou Caves from Luang Prabang? Then this might be an interesting tour.
A boat trip on the Mekong river
An absolute highlight in Laos and the best way to absorb the beautiful nature is by taking a boat tour on the Mekong river. Most boats are slow boats, meaning you will cruise for hours on the river and immerse yourself in the daily life of the Laotians, who live around the river. You sail past plantations, small villages and lots of greenery. On the way you see elephants and people working along the river. With a guide you can moor at a number of villages and get to know the people. You can also taste the local whiskey Lao Lao, which is still distilled in many villages in the old-fashioned way.
Do you want to cruise the Mekong river? Then this might be an interesting tour. Most tours include a visit to the Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si waterfalls as well.
This tour can also be done, when you travel from Thailand to Laos or the other way around. From Chiang Khong / Huay Xai, located on the border between Laos and Thailand, you can go for a two-day boat trip on the Mekong river, with an overnight stay in Pakbeng. The tour ends in Luang Prabang.
Visit local villages
In Laos you will find countless villages, with tribes such as the Kamu (Kmhmu), Tai Dam, Akha and Hmong. You can visit these villages and meet the local families. It is a great way to support these places and learn more about traditions, customs and life in Laos. In Luang Prabang you will also find an interesting museum called TEAC. In a few rooms, this museum provides very brief information about the various tribes from Laos. There are also shops in Luang Prabang and Vientiane, where beautiful Hmong art, such as jewelry and scarves are sold.
Looking for a special experience among the locals? During a two-day trek you will walk through villages in northern Laos, spend the night with local families and learn more about their way of living. More information can be found here.
Vientiane – the cosmopolitan capital
Vientiane is the capital of Laos and also the commercial and cultural heart of the country. It is a modern city with boulevards, lots of buildings and shops. The French influences are still clearly visible in certain places, due to the architecture and the many French bakeries and cafes. Vientiane in Laos has few spectacular things to do and sights, but a short visit to the capital is definitely worth it. To visit the iconic buildings, such as the golden stupa and Patuxai, the Laotian version of the Arc de Triomphe. But also just to enjoy the nice cosmopolitan atmosphere in the center, around the boulevard. Here you will find interesting galleries, shops, temples, restaurants and lots of trendy cafes.
Hotel tips – Vientiane Laos
- Lao Poet hotel
- La Seine Hotel
- S2 Modern Boutique Hotel
- Salana Boutique hotel
- More hotels in Vientiane.
Want to read more about Vientiane? Check out my Vientiane Laos City Guide with tips for the best things to do in terms of art, culture, fashion and history, hotels and restaurants.
Dive into the history of Laos | historical things to do
Laos is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world. It is said that more than 2 billion kilos of bombs ended up in Laos during the Vietnam war. Unfortunately, there are still unexploded bombs scattered across the country and accidents occur daily. Many local people get injured and disabled because they encounter an unexploded bomb during their daily work on the land. The COPE visitors centre and UXO Visitors Centre in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, are institutes that provide physical rehabilitation services for the victims and also function as a museum. You will find a lot of information about the history, current situation and investigations for finding and defusing the bombs. With your visit you will not only learn something about Laos, but also contribute to these important projects.
Vang Vieng is located in a karst landscape, which comes straight from a picture book. For years Vang Vieng was the partyplace of Laos and still there are many cafes, but it is more quiet than before. Nowadays there are many outdoor activities and things to do in this part of Laos such as tubing, rafting and kayaking. This is an overview of interesting tours. My recommendation is to visit Vang Vieng if you like these outdoor activities or if you want to make a stop between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Make sure you spend the night along the river and take a boat trip at the end of the day, to admire the sunset behind the beautiful landscape.
Hotels in Vang Vieng
Looking for outdoor things to do in Vang Vieng in Laos? This is an overview of interesting tours.
South Laos highlights | 4 tips
Konglor caves | South Laos highlights
One of the South Laos highlights and things to do is to visit the Konglor cave. This is a 7.5 km long cave, which you sail through for 1.5 hours. It is very dark and you only see lights from the different flashlights. The silence in this gigantic cave, makes the tour unique. On the way you get to admire the illuminated stalagmites. Sometimes you have to step out and walk a bit through the water, if the water level is too low for the boats. It is a large cave, with a size of 90m to 100m at the highest point. I recommend to put on water shoes and clothes that can get wet, and bring a waterproof bag for your camera.
The Konglor cave can be reached from Konglor village, or Ban O, a small village that is entirely dedicated to the cave, with simple guesthouses and little eateries. The caves are also part of the Thakhek loop, a 450 km route that you can travel by scooter or motorbike from the city of Thakhek.
Looking for a place to stay? This is an overview with tips for simple guesthouses in Konglor Laos.
Si Phan Don islands | South Laos highlights
Si Phan Don, better knows as the 4000 islands, are located close to the border with Cambodia. This place belongs to one of the South Laos highlights without a doubt. It is a place to absolutely fall in love with, because of the relaxed atmoshere. There are not many things to do or see in Si Phan Don islands in Laos, but that is exactly the charm and reason to go.
In the annual dry period, thousands of sandboxes and islands form in the side arms of the Mekong river. Hence the name 4000 islands. A number of islands, such as Don Khong and Don Det, are inhabited all year round and are easy to visit. You can sit along the boulevard and gaze at the river views. Or rent a bike and explore the surroundings, passing small communities, temples, rice fields and water buffaloes. It is also possible to go on a boat trip, visit waterfalls, and observe the irawaddy dolphin, the pink freshwater dolphin. In the evening you can enjoy fish in banana leaf in one of the small restaurants on the boulevard.
Hotels Si Phan Don
The 4000 islands are also a good destination to include in your trip, if you are traveling to or from Cambodia. The border Nonghokkhienne (Laos) – T.P.K. (Cambodia) is about a 45 minute drive from Muang Khong, the capital of Don Khone.
Wat Phu | archaeological things to do in Laos
Are you interested in history? Then one of the best things to do in Laos is to visit Wat Phu. It is one of the archaeological South Laos ighlights. Wat Phu was built by the Khmer in the 12th century and would have been the inspiration for Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Where you share the ruins of Angkor Wat with countless tourists, it is likely that you will have Wat Phu almost to yourself.
You will find remains of temples with beautiful ornaments. From the temple of Shiva, on top of the mountain, you have a view of the surroundings. Wat Phu is located near the city of Champasak, in the south of Laos.
Planning to include Wat Phu in your Laos itinerary? You can book your tour here, including transportation and guide. Read everything about a visit, including tips for Wat Phu Laos in the next article.
Hotels in Champasak
Extra tip – Hang Ing Hang stupa | South Laos highlights
Are you near Savannakhet? Then the stupa of Hang Ing Hang, the stupa of the hanging tree, is one of the places to include in your itinerary, because of the interesting story. There used to be another shrine at this place, where Buddha would have rested during his journey, under a hanging tree. That’s why this place became sacred. Buddha is also said to have become ill here from eating pork. It is therefore forbidden to consume pork in the vicinity of the stupa. Festivities and ceremonies take place here regularly to honor this holy place.
Looking for hotels? This is an overview with tips for hotels around Savannakhet Laos.
Other places to visit in Laos
- The Plain of Jars, is located near the town of Phonsavan. This is a plain with a large amount of mysterious jars and urns of unknown origin. According to archaeologists, the jars are believed to be 2,000 years old. Some jars are up to 3 meters high and the heaviest jug weighs 6 tons. I think it is incredible how they were able to make these things thousands of years ago. There are daytours and multi day treks. This is an overview with different tours.
- The Bolaven plateau is located at an altitude of 1000 meters. It is a fertile region with waterfalls, forests, rivers and a lot of agriculture. The area is named after the population of Laven and several tribes still live there. I do not recommend an elephant safari, but going on a beautiful hike to visit villages seems very worthwhile. Here you can find a full day crossing the Bolaven Plateau tour.
- In Northern Laos you will find the Bokeo Nature Reserve, which is known for its spectacular Gibbon Experience. Here you can experience ziplining, spend the night in the world’s highest treehouses and wake up surrounded by Gibbons. By visiting this place you are also supporting the National Park and the many communities. Something I would love to do during a next visit.
Mini travel guide Laos
Laos traditions and customs
This is an important overview with tips for “do’s and don’ts”, to respect Laos local traditions and customs.
- Dress appropriately (covered shoulders and legs) and be respectful when entering a temple or shrine.
- It is inappropriate and disrespectful to shout or raise your voice.
- There are many shrines in Laos. Never enter without permission and never take anything with you.
- You will encounter many monks in Laos. Never touch them and always keep an appropriate distance.
- Always ask local people for permission to take a photo, unless it is from a distance.
- Never step over a seated person. Heads are sacred and are “high”, while feet are low an used for walking. Never put your feet on a table or a chair.
Tours in Laos
Best time to visit Laos
What is the best time to visit Laos? Laos has a tropical climate, with the rainy season, running from June to September. This means there will be showers on a daily base but the landscape is beautifully green. After the rainy season it gets a bit cooler and temperatures are pleasant. October through March is the best time to visit Laos. After February it slowly gets warmer.
Reasons to visit Laos
- Laos is less visited in comparison with neighboring countries.
- Beautiful cities like Luang Prabang.
- Unspoilt and pure nature.
- An interesting and tragic history.
- A diverse amount of places to see and things to do in Laos.
- An authentic atmosphere, the opportunity to get in touch with the locals and learn about Laos traditions and customs.
More about Laos
Pin for later | Laos places to visit
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