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Pha That Luang in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Laos

Laos Sights & Attractions

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The key attraction of Laos is its undoubted status as the least westernised, the most relaxed and thereby the most authentic of all Indochinese nations. How much longer this will last is open to much speculation, but while it does this is a truly special and unique country to visit. 

Luang Prabang (for temples) and Vang Vieng (for scenery) are the undisputed highlights of a trip to Laos. With extra time, visit Nong Khiaw and the Plain of Jars in Phonsavan. The capital  Vientiane has only a few sights of interst.

Natural attractions

The term wilderness is much misused, but it can truly be applied to much of Laos. The mighty Mekong river and its tributaries together create perhaps the single most important geographic feature of the country. Its meandering path in the North has created some of the most stunning limestone karsts anywhere on earth.

The mountains around Vang Vieng are particularly beautiful with the golden glow of sunset behind them.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

The backpacker-central town of Vang Vieng is a commonly used base for exploring the karsts. Further north, the terrain becomes more hilly, and the jungle less explored. Luang Namtha is the far-northern town which makes the best base for those visitors who really want to see the truly remote Lao wilderness, and directly experience the lifestyles of the various hill tribes in this region.

In direct contrast to Northern Laos, the Mekong delta lowlands in the South are perfectly flat. Si Phan Don (four thousand islands) is a great base for experiencing what is surely the most chilled and relaxed region anywhere in Asia. Experiencing local village life, taking it all in and doing absolutely nothing should be the aim here. There are though some wonderful river-based sights, including the largest falls anywhere in Southeast Asia. If you are lucky you might get a close-up view of a Mekong pink dolphin.

Cultural attractions

Monks and temples - in Luang Prabang.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

In this most Buddhist of nations, it is no surprise that temples are a key attraction. In the capital city of Vientiane, the three-layered gilded stupa of Pha That Luang is the national symbol and most important religious monument in the country, dating from the 16th century. There are numerous other beautiful temples which on their own make a stay in the capital city vital for any visitor to Laos.

The plain of jars in Phonsavan. Decide yourself if this is worth the long trip.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.de/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

The whole of the ancient capital of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Befitting that status, this is a truly unique city. Beautifully preserved gilded temples with their attendant orange-robed monks mold almost seamlessly with traditional wooden Lao houses and grand properties from the French colonial era. Spotlessly clean streets with a thriving café culture on the banks of the Mekong and the Nam Khan, complete the picture of a city which is almost too pleasant to be true.

The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape dating from the Iron Age. Thousands of stone jars are scattered over a large area of the low foothills near Phonsavan. The main archaeological theory is that the jars formed part of Iron Age burial rituals in the area, but this is by no means proven, and a great deal of mystery remains. The area suffered tragic damage from American bombing during the secret war of the 1960s, and many unexploded bombs remain. When that process is complete it is very likely this will be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Wat Phu is a ruined Hindu Khmer temple complex in Champasak province. It dates from the 12th century and visitors who have been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia will notice the similarities.

Things to See in Laos

Monument/Building Night Market
The night market features vendors selling all the typical Lao arts and crafts, some more touristy than others, and is set up every day along the main street parallel to the river. Be warned that it closes down around 9PM, ... more
 2 Fans, in Luang Prabang
Waterfall Kuang Si Falls
A large multi-stage waterfall located 29 km south of Luang Prabang. There are multiple pools at different levels, all of which are reportedly safe to bathe in, and are extremely picturesque. It is worth putting a... more
 1 Fans, in Luang Prabang
Nature/Wildlife Pak Ou Caves
— The famous "Buddha caves" are north of town on the Mekong and can be reached by road (approx 1 hr) or river boat (around 1.5 hrs). Alternatively, you can hire canoes and a guide for the day, which would a... more
 1 Fans, in Luang Prabang
Nature/Wildlife Phou Si
 The main hill in the city from which you have a good view of the whole area. It's not a very steep climb from the bottom and sunrise and sunset are the most sensible and rewarding times to go up.   There is a ne... more
 1 Fans, in Luang Prabang
Walk Alms Ceremony
Every morning at dawn Monks collect alms of rice from kneeling villagers and early-rising tourists. Ask your guesthouse host to assist you the day before in preparing if you'd like to get up and give alms in the morni... more
 1 Fans, in Luang Prabang
Waterfall Khone Phapheng
This is an impressive waterfall with the largest amount of volume of water in Southeast Asia. However, it does not have much height if you are wondering about that. It is a long stretch of waterfall and rapids and very mag... more
 1 Fans, in Si Phan Don
Waterfall Li Phi Waterfalls
If you have not had enough waterfalls on your trip, one other waterfalls that you can visit while in Si Phan Don is Li Phi Waterfalls. It is also called the Devil's Corridor by some locals as it is believed that the falls ... more
 1 Fans, in Si Phan Don
Nature/Wildlife Bear Rescue Center
— Located adjacent to the way to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, the Bear Rescue Center has a enclosure for endangered Asiatic Black Bears that have been rescued from poachers. There was also an Indo-Chinese tiger, but sadl... more
Included in the entry to Kuang Si Waterfalls, in Luang Prabang
Museum Haw Kham
— The former royal palace and now serves as a museum. There's also sometimes local drama or dance performances in the adjacent theatre. Presently under renovation so closed to public review. Also Haw Kham visitation ... more
in Luang Prabang
Monument/Building Wat Xieng Thong
— The oldest monastery in town and one of the most beautiful. Opens from 6AM - 6PM. Entry fee 20,000 kip. One entrance on the road along Mekhong river, the other on the by-lane off the main road.
in Luang Prabang
These are just 10 of 23 Things to See in Laos. Show more.

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