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23 Most Beautiful Places In Laos You Simply Have To Visit

When I was telling my friends about my (then) future trip to Southeast Asia, everyone had questions about Bangkok, Phuket, the Angkor Wat, Vietnam’s coastline, and the Malaysian islands. However, no one asked a single thing about Laos. And most travelers that backpack around Southeast Asia often skip poor little Laos and head to its famous neighbors. Even for me, Laos was this small landlocked country surrounded by mystery. However, I’ve done my fair share of traveling around and learned that there are a lot of beautiful places in Laos.

After that, I decided to write this article to share the things I’ve learned about Laos with the world. Here are some of the things you must do when visiting Laos.

Laos Is Not A Less Developed Version Of Cambodia

kuang si waterfall

Laos is not as nearly as famous as its neighbors and most people say that there’s not much to do in Laos. That couldn’t be further away from the truth. Laos is an amazing country with arguably the most hospitable people in Southeast Asia. I must say that before I visited this magnificent country I didn’t know a lot about Laos. It was a real mystery country for me. One of my friends described it as a less developed version of Cambodia but I soon saw just how wrong he was…

The Difference Between The North And The South

laos road

The main reason for this is that they used to be two different kingdoms battling for power throughout history. However, most travelers prefer the north, and some go even that far to say that there’s nothing to see in the south. Of course, I don’t agree with them. Yes, it’s a very peaceful place, and you can’t expect to find wild parties anywhere in the south but there’s a lot to see there.

The landscape is flatter so the roads are a bit better. And it’s not only about the 4,000 islands. Some other must-see places are the ancient city of Wat Phou, the lush forests of the Bolaven Plateau, and my personal favorite, Konglor Cave, arguably the most amazing cave in Southeast Asia.

Now that we covered some basics, let’s see which are some of the most beautiful places in Laos you should seriously consider visiting.

Visit The Unesco Sites Of Luang Prabang

sunset in Luang Prabang

We’re starting this list of most beautiful places in Laos with Luang Prabang. Nestled at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is a fusion of traditional Lao wooden houses and European colonial architecture (a legacy of its history as a French protectorate but more about this later). The town’s history dates back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in this part of the world.

When visiting Luang Prabang, you can’t miss the wats (temples) like Wat Xieng Thong’s (dating back to 1560) intricate mosaics and sweeping roofs, Wat Visounnarath’s architecture, and Wat May Souvannapoumaram, the town’s largest temple. As the sun sets, the night market takes over. Here, you can haggle over handicrafts or find that perfect, colorful textile that screams, “I’ve been to Laos and all I got was this amazing piece of art.”

Experience The Relaxed Atmosphere of Vientiane

Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane is like that chill friend who never gets ruffled, even when everyone else is losing their cool. It’s the smallest capital in Southeast Asia, but it packs a punch in the chill vibes department. Unlike its bustling neighbors like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, Vientiane is where you go to slow down, breathe, and maybe forget what day of the week it is.

Strolling along the Mekong Riverfront at sunset is a must. It’s like the town’s social media – everyone’s there, from joggers to families, all soaking in the pink-hued sky. And let’s not forget the Night Market that pops up here. It’s not your typical tourist trap; it’s more like a casual get-together with great street food and quirky finds.

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See Quirky Statues In Buddha Park

buddha park laos

This list of the most beautiful places in Laos wouldn’t be complete without Buddha Park, locally known as Xieng Khuan, which translates to ‘Spirit City’, is like the eccentric cousin in Laos’ family of tourist attractions. Located just outside Vientiane, this park is filled with Buddhist and Hindu sculptures that closely resemble a Salvador Dali painting, but with a distinct Southeast Asian twist.
Created in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a monk turned mystic, Buddha Park is a quirky blend of religion, mythology, and a dash of ‘what on earth?’.

The park is filled with over 200 statues, each with its own story and a presence that ranges from serene to downright bizarre. The pièce de résistance is a 40-meter high reclining Buddha, lying nonchalantly as if it decided to take a nap and never got up.

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Admire The French Architecture

vientiane travel guide

Surprise surprise! Lao people can speak French. However, the language isn’t the only French thing you will find here. You’ll find crepes in the breakfast menu and you can see French-style colonial buildings everywhere. But the most surprising part was by far the omnipresence of baguettes. You can find them on the streets, you can find them in the bakeries. They’re everywhere. And so are French people. A large portion from the backpackers visiting Laos is French.

Explore Laos’ 4,000 Islands

Laos islands

Speaking of most beautiful places in Laos, we can’t forget about its islands (yes, Laos has islands!). I think Laos is one of the rare landlocked countries in the world to have so many islands. Located deep in the most southern part of Laos you can find a cluster of islets at the Mekong River, known as Si Phan Don, translating to 4,000 islands. And there are a lot of soft sandy beaches on the banks with the most famous islands being Don Khong, Don Det, and Don Khon.

Stay In A Treehouse (The Gibbon Experience)

gibbon experience laos

Speaking of beautiful places in Laos, we can’t forget about the Gibbon Experience. Nestled in the canopy of the Bokeo Nature Reserve, The Gibbon Experience is where you get to live out your childhood treehouse fantasies, but with better amenities and fewer splinters. Think of it as a hotel room hoisted high up in the trees, where your neighbors are gibbons and your morning alarm is a symphony of the jungle.

Getting to the treehouse is an adventure of its own filled with a lot of trekking and a bit of ziplining through the jungle. Perched high in the trees, the treehouses offer panoramic views, rustic interior, and as many amenities as off-the-grid accommodation can offer. The best part is that by staying here, you’re also supporting the preservation of the forest and its inhabitants, particularly the endangered gibbons.

Go Rock Climbing In Phu Hin Bun National Park

Phou Hin Bun National Park

Phou Hin Bun National Park has a unique karst landscape filled with limestone cliffs, caverns, and crags. It’s like a full-blown 360-degree panoramic climbing experience with a variety of routes, catering to both beginners and the spider-people masquerading as expert climbers. But it’s not just about the climb. The park itself is a treasure trove of biodiversity and one of the most beautiful places in Laos. It’s home to an array of wildlife, like thte Laotian Sao La (a species of bovine which is endangered), the Indochinese Tiger, the Giant Muntjac, the Asian Elephant, the Clouded Leopard, and the Lao Langur.

Try To Find The Kuang Si Waterfall

kuang si waterfall

Embarking on a quest to find Kuang Si Waterfall in Laos is like following a treasure map where X marks a natural wonder so stunning, it could make a rainbow jealous. You’ll meander through small villages and lush landscapes that look like they’ve been lifted straight from a postcard. As you approach Kuang Si, the sound of cascading water teases you before you even catch a glimpse and then, you see it – cascading tiers of water flowing down like a giant, aquatic staircase with each tier forming its own turquoise pool, each one cleaner than the previous one.

Uncover The Beauty Of Vang Vieng And The Blue Lagoon

Vang Vieng

This list of the most beautiful places in Laos couldn’t be complete without Vang Vieng, a town once notorious for its wild party scene, has gracefully matured into a peaceful, laid-back eco destination. The town’s main attraction is the Blue Lagoon which shouldn’t be confused with the Blue Lagoon in Iceland (unlike that one, this lagoon is not manmade but it’s also not “as blue” as you might expect.

Nestled among limestone karsts and rice fields, Vang Vieng offers a landscape so picturesque it could make a postcard blush. The town itself has a laid-back vibe, with streets lined with cafes and eateries that invite you to sit back, relax, and maybe ponder the meaning of life over a cup of locally grown coffee.

Take A Hot Air Balloon Ride

hot air balloon

Vang Vieng is also arguably the cheapest place for hopping on a hot air balloon in the whole world. In addition to the myriad of cheap accommodation facilities, you can also get a hot air balloon ride for as low as $78. If you want to thick this (oftentimes pricey) experience off your bucket list, Vang Vieng is one of the best places to do it. Not only is it much cheaper but the views of the Laos countryside are sure to sweep you off your feet.

Take A Trip To One Of Laos’ Most Remote Villages

Muang Ngoi Neua

Nestled in the northern Laos highlands, the remote village of Muang Ngoi Neua is one of the most beautiful places in Laos. To get there, you’ll take a boat ride along the Nam Ou River, a journey that’s equal parts serene and scenic. Once you disembark in Muang Ngoi Neua, you’ll find a village that’s blissfully stuck in time. It’s a place where roads are merely a concept, and the main street is a dirt path lined with small guesthouses and cafes. Electricity is a recent luxury here, and internet access? Let’s just say you’ll have plenty of time for offline activities.

Chase Waterfalls In Champasak Province

Champasak waterfall

Next on our list of most beautiful places in Laos we have the Champasak Province. Chasing waterfalls in Champasak Province is like participating in nature’s own version of a scavenger hunt, where each cascade you discover is more breathtaking than the last. Let’s start with the big name in town: Tad Fane Waterfall, consisting of two streams of water plunging over 100 meters into a gorge, surrounded by lush tropical forest.

Champasak is peppered with waterfalls, each with its own character. Take Tad Yuang, for example. It’s like the chill cousin of Tad Fane – less dramatic but just as beautiful, with pools at the bottom perfect for a refreshing dip. Not to be outdone, Tad Pha Suam offers a more laid-back vibe. It’s a wide, horseshoe-shaped waterfall that’s more about breadth than height and then there’s the Bolaven Plateau, the heartland of Champasak’s waterfalls with a smorgasbord of cascades, coffee plantations, and cool weather.

Go On An Adventure On The Thakhek Loop

Thakhek Loop

Located in central Laos, the Thakhek Loop is one of the most exciting journeys you can take in Laos. Most people take a bike but you can also rent a car or go on a tour with a bus. The loop can take anywhere from 3 to 5 days, depending on how often you stop to gawk at the scenery (spoiler: it’ll be often). You’ll start and end in Thakhek, a charming off-the-beat town and from there, follow the loop as it weaves its way through landscapes that range from jaw-dropping karst mountains to tranquil villages.

One of the stars of the show is Kong Lor Cave that can be accessed only by boat via an underground river that winds through a 7-kilometers long limestone tunnel. The loop also threads through local villages, offering a peek into rural Lao life and a chance to see Laos in its most authentic form.

Discover Nam Ha National Park

most beautiful places in laos

Nestled in the country’s northwest, it’s the kind of spot where you half expect a nature documentary crew to pop out from behind a tree. The park is home to clouded leopards, barking deer, and a myriad of rare bird species. Walking through Nam Ha is like stepping into a giant, green, living room. The trees tower overhead like natural skyscrapers, and the air smells like it’s been freshly manufactured by plants (because, well, it has). And let’s not forget the cultural aspect. The park is a stone’s throw from several ethnic villages, offering a peek into lifestyles that haven’t changed much in centuries…

Unravel The History Of Houaphan Province

Houaphan Province

Houaphan is rugged, mountainous, and draped in a cloak of dense forests. Houaphan is famously known as a stronghold during the Secret War in Laos. This province was the headquarter for the Pathet Lao, the communist forces during the conflict. Some of the must-visit historical sites here is the Viengxay Caves that were home to the headquarters of the Pathet Lao during the war and the Hintang Archaeological Park dotted with dozens of enigmatic menhirs (standing stones).

See Centuries Old Tea Trees In Phongsaly Province

Phongsaly Province

Located in the far north of Laos, bordering China and Vietnam, Phongsaly is a hidden gem, particularly for tea enthusiasts and lovers of the less-traveled road. Some of these trees are over 400 years old, making them contemporary with some pretty significant moments in history. The tea from these ancient trees is the kind of brew that has depth, character, and a story in every leaf.

Explore The Rural Towns Of Attapeu Province

Attapeu Province

Comfortably situated near the border with VIetnam and Cambodia and often (if not always) forgotten by tourists Attapeu Province is one of my favorite places to explore in Laos. The list includes the provincial capital, Attapeu, home to the gorgeous Sae Pong Lai Waterfall, beautiful temples, and a few vibrant tribal cultures; then there’s Sanxay, a remote town that’s home to several ancient ruins and the famous Phou Asa Temple, and my personal favorite- Xaysetha, a small district that serves as a gateway for travelers looking to explore the natural beauty of Attapeu.

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Visit The Plain of Jars, Xieng Kuang Province

Plain of Jars

Speaking of the most beautiful places in Laos, we can’t forget to mention the Plain of Jars in Xieng Kiang, a collection of massive stone jars, up to three meters tall. It’s one of those enigmatic historic places that blows your mind and leaves you with a gazillion of questions going through your mind.

The jars themselves are a bit of an enigma; some say they were used to store water (or even rice wine), others claim that they were part of ancient burial rituals but no matter what they were, they are fascinating and a reason enough to get off the beaten track and explore this place. The Plain of Jars in Xieng Kiang consists of several jar sites, and is home to over 300 of these jars.

Befriend Elephants In The Sanctuaries Of Sainyabuli Province

laos elephant

It took me a couple of trips before I discovered this but Sainyabuli is pretty much the elephant capital of Laos, and the absolute go-to place if you want to get up close with these magnificent creatures in a way that’s respectful, kind, and know that the elephants there are not being abused for quick profit. Here, elephant sanctuaries, like the renowned Elephant Conservation Center are havens where the bond between humans and elephants flourishes. These centers are crucial, offering refuge and rehabilitation for elephants who’ve had a rough trot in life.

See The Bolevan Plateau Coffee Flieds, Salavan Province

Bolevan Plateau

Next on our list of the most beautiful places in Laos we have the Bolevan Plateau coffee fields where the air is as rich with the aroma of coffee as it is with tales of the land. The Bolaven Plateau is famed for its Arabica and Robusta beans, nurtured by the cool, misty climate and volcanic soil. This place is the perfect destination for travelers who want to learn about local life through the stories of local farmers. In addition to this, the area is a natural gem with cascading waterfalls and lush landscapes.

Experience The Lao New Year

wat si saket

And it’s locally known as Pi Mai or Songkran. It’s celebrated for three days every year from the 13th of April till the 16th of April. In Luang Prabang, the celebrations last for a week. April is one of the hottest months in Laos and the temperature gets up to 40 degrees Celsius but experiencing these celebrations is certainly worthwhile.

Go On A River Cruise

Laos mountains

The Mekong River has been both, a giver and taker of life in Laos throughout history and that’s not far from the truth today as well. For instance, when you visit Vientiane, the capital, you won’t find shopping malls or fancy neighborhoods. Instead, you will see that the most happening place in the city is the riverside. I’ve never seen anything like that before. I’ve never seen a modern city that’s still so dependent on a river. While we’re at it, floating at the Mekong is an amazing experience, especially early in the morning when there’s nothing but mist and a couple of boats floating in absolute silence.

Take A Food Tour

korean street food tourism

I know this is a list of the most beautiful places in Laos but we can’t conclude this article without a few words about Laotian food. A lot of people know about Thai food, Vietnamese pho dishes, and even Cambodian amok curries. But Lao food is a real mystery. Let me break it to you: Lao food is just as tasty as any of the other three. The most famous dish is marinated meat, called larb which can be served either raw or cooked.

Some other famous dishes are the sticky rice and Lao sausage (also delicious). They use a lot of herbs in their cuisine and their food is mostly either sour or spicy. Lao people love their beer too. You can get the national Beer Lao pretty much anywhere for $1.20.

Related: Most dangerous places in Southeast Asia

Helpful Tips For Finding Beautiful Places In Laos

PDR Laos stands for Please Don’t Rush Laos. It’s a joke of course. But Lao people don’t like to rush and neither do their public transport vehicles. Buses are normally never on time and neither are the people when you need to meet someone. I got the impression that Laos is a very chilled out country where no one is ever in a hurry and this laid-back attitude is refreshing. Get ready for some lazy afternoons! Also if you have motion sickness, keep in mind that the roads are also in a very bad condition. A journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang (around 300 km) takes at least 8 hours!

Women are not allowed to touch monks. This is a part of Lao culture. Monks are respected figures in the Lao society because of their deep spirituality and touching them if you’re a woman is considered disrespectful. This isn’t something I necessarily agree with but it’s the way it is. When you’re greeting put your hands together and bow instead of shaking hands.

Be careful with cannabis. Cannabis is tolerated to a certain extent in Laos but it’s not legal. Be careful especially in touristy places like Vang Vieng. There’s this common scam where you buy some cannabis from a local peddler and you’re intercepted by the police at the next corner. Chances are, they are working together and you will either end up in jail or will have to pay around $600 USD for bail. Read about some other common scams in Southeast Asia here.

For the cheapest flights to Laos, Qatar Airways is always a safe option. To save even more, use this Qatar Airways special offer and save up to 25% on your flights to Laos.

For travel insurance for your trip to Laos, I always recommend SafetyWing.

To save on all bus, train or ferry rides in Laos, use 12goasia and save up to 15% (for more info check out our 12go Asia review here).

Alternatively, if you want to rent a car in Laos, this offer gets you up to 30% off on all car rentals.

To save on accommodation, use this offer to save up to 20% on all bookings in Laos.

And last but not least, don’t forget to sort out your visa. If you want to get your Laos visa easy and hassle-free without a trip to the embassy, check out Ivisa. I always use their services when I need to obtain a visa before traveling and their service is amazing.

So, there you have it; these were the most important things I wish I knew before visiting Laos.

visiting laos
15 things I wish I knew before VISITING LAOS

I Love Asia

Thursday 28th of November 2019

What a detailed blog post!

Laos is indeed a wonderful country but it history is rather tragic. Nowadays, it is often underrated by its famous neighbors such as Thailand and Vietnam in terms of travel destination. However, I do love the charm and ancient vibe of the country, especially peaceful and homely atmosphere in Luang Prabang. I will definitely return to Laos and visit Vang Vieng. Btw, keep up with your awesome work!

Passport Symphony

Thursday 28th of November 2019

Thanks a lot. I appreciate your feedback.

Go Ear

Friday 25th of January 2019

I loved my 3 weeks in Laos, in 2012. Awesome place. Thank goodness VV stopped being a party town. It was a gorgeous spot but drunk Western kids half clothed were terrible for the community. I look forward to returning and yep, it is a wee dusty too ? Ryan

Passport Symphony

Saturday 26th of January 2019

Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience, Ryan. Indeed, some not-so-good things happened in VV in the past. I like it so much more the way it is now

Anjali W

Friday 25th of January 2019

Your pictures from Laos are so fascinating and beautiful. The Mekong river seems so serene. I would totally be spending half of my day on the banks of the lake. I would also be looking forward to trying out river tubing in Vang Vieng whenever my visit Laos. It seems a unique thing to do and enjoy there. The food looks delicious too. I am having Laos on my bucket list now.

Passport Symphony

Saturday 26th of January 2019

Thank you, Anjali- I'm really glad you liked it. I hope you visit Laos someday

Amar Singh

Friday 25th of January 2019

Thanks for sharing this wonderful destination and I agree with you that a lot of us skip and don’t think of this destination when planning south east Asia. I have visited this area my self few times but skipped Laos. The land locked country but a lot of islands give it that beauty of water and land. The food looks interesting and must be in line with the area Thanks for sharing a great post.

Passport Symphony

Saturday 26th of January 2019

Thank you, Amar. I'm really glad to hear that you liked this post. Laos is indeed, an amazing country.

emman damian

Thursday 24th of January 2019

Wow! A lot of good things about Laos. I haven’t been to Laos but I really wanted to go. I want to experience the food, the culture and the way of life. I hope I can come to this wonderful country soon. PS: Yes, I won’t rush Laos! Haha.

Passport Symphony

Saturday 26th of January 2019

Indeed, Emman. I hope you get the chance to visit Laos someday.