Laos is one of the most underrated destinations in Southeast Asia. The landlocked country is often overlooked for neighboring Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia or Myanmar which can offer beachfront accommodations.
Despite the lack of oceanfront, Laos offers beautiful scenery offers lush green forests, rice fields, and mountains - plus it is home to some of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular waterfalls. Compared to Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat, in Laos, you can visit a UNESCO World Heritage temple that is 500 years older! That is not all, thrill seekers can stay in the world’s tallest tree house which is 100 feet off the ground and is only accessible by zip line. While animal lovers can visit one of the most ethical elephant conservatories in the world.
The laid-back country offers plenty of beautiful architecture and landmarks too, from their own version of the Arc de Triomphe (Patuxai) to plentiful gold gilded Buddhist temples such as Wat Xieng Thong. Not only does Laos offer plenty to do and see, but it is also extremely affordable to visit too, making it perfect for your next vacation.
In case you aren’t sold already that you need to book a vacation to Laos, here are 22 images that show you why Laos should get more love.
Laos certainly has no shortage of beautiful waterfalls to see, and the most visited one is Kuang Si Falls located 20 miles from Luang Prabang. The Kuang Si Falls has 3 tiers leading to a 164-foot drop into a turquoise pool. The pools below are a favorite swimming spot with locals and tourists, and there are convenient wooden changing rooms close next to the entrance of the falls. Around the Kuang Si Falls, there are several food vendors selling snacks and grilled meats, so you can easily enjoy lunch after swimming.
A popular photo spot in Laos, Vieng Tara Villa offers beautiful scenery that you might have seen on your Instagram feed. The peaceful traditional village is built around rice fields and overlooks the Nam Song River. Much like the floating villas in the Maldives, this boutique resort has private villas on stilts over the rice fields that are only accessible via a wooden walkway. Located just a 10-minute walk from the center of Vang Vieng, it is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of Laos.
Pha That Luang, or the Great Stupa, is the most important national monument in Laos. The gold-covered Buddhist stupa is in the center of the city of Vientiane and is a symbol of Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. The entire stupa is covered in gold and is surrounded with high walls and features two temples. Every November Pha That Luang is the site of the Boun That Luang Festival where thousands of people come to pay respect and celebrate the most important Buddhist event in Laos. At the November celebrations, you will find parades, religious ceremonies and live music making it a lively time to visit.
Wat Xieng Thong, also known as Golden City or Golden Tree Monastery in Luang Prabang is one of the most historically significant and impressive Buddhist temples in Laos and the coronation site of Lao royalty. Built in 1560, under the royal instruction of King Setthathirath, the temple features elaborate gold leaf gilding and lacquer. Inside there is a brightly colored tile mosaic of the golden tree of life. When visiting Wat Xieng Thong, there is plenty to explore, as it is made up of over twenty structures including shrines, pavilions, and residences in addition to the surrounding gardens filled with ornamental trees and flowers.
With a nearly 400 foot drop, the Tad Fane is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Southeast Asia. It is a tourist favorite in Laos as you can see two streams plummet down a cliff into the Jungle basin below. Situated in the northeast of Champasak Province, the best lookout points of the Tad Fane are from across the canyon at the Tad Fane Resort or by going on a tour through the Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area. Located near two other waterfalls, Tad Yuang and Tad Champi, you can easily spend the day visiting waterfalls.
No trip to Laos is complete without a visit to Buddha park just outside of Vientiane. The park contains over 200 religious statues on display, including a giant 390 foot long reclining Buddha. Built-in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism, you will find religious statues from both religions throughout the park. There is plenty to see inside, and you can easily spend part of the afternoon wandering the park checking out the remarkable scale of all the statues inside. The massive Buddhist sculptures are popular with tourists are the ones large enough to climb inside.
Laos's Arc de Triomphe, Patuxai (also known as the Victory Gate) is a war monument of the center of Vientiane, Laos. Taking inspiration from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Patuxai showcases Laos architectural design. The gate was built to commemorate those who died in the struggle for independence from France and previous occupiers Siam and Japan. The interior is spectacular with depictions of gods, lotus, and elephants, and for a small fee, you can climb to the top to enjoy panoramic views of Vientiane and the Mekong River.
Just 40 minutes outside of Luang Prabang in northern Laos, MandaLao Elephant Conservation focuses on education and elephant welfare. Unlike many elephant conservations in Southeast Asia, this is a non-riding experience that allows you to interact with the gentle giants in a natural way. When visiting you will get to get up close with the elephants including joining the mahouts to feed and bathe the elephants. Highly reviewed by tourists and news sites as being one of the best elephant conservations, MandaLao Elephant Conservation aims to promote ethical treatment of elephants in Laos and around the world.
The Royal Palace Museum used to be the Royal Palace has been converted into a museum where you can learn about Lao history and culture. There is plenty to see in the museum, for example in the old throne hall, the crown jewels of Laos are on display. Included in your admission to the Royal Palace Museum you'll be able to visit Wat Ho Pha Bang otherwise known as Haw Pha Bang, which is located on the grounds of the museum and is one of the most stunning monuments in Laos. Wat Ho Pha Bang is the royal temple and is beautifully decorated with ornate gold gilding and contains Laos’ most sacred Buddha image.
Vang Vieng in Laos is a popular destination for adventure and outdoor sports with many tourists visiting to swim in the Blue Lagoon, go water tubing, or go hiking a beautiful viewpoint. There are plenty of tour companies offering 1 to 3-day hiking tours of Vang Vieng where you can scale the limestone cliffs of the Pha Ngern mountain. There are 3 viewpoints relatively close to each other (silver, lower and highest viewpoint) that offer a panoramic view of the dense green jungle and rice fields below. The easiest to reach is the silver cliff, which you can reach the top in 25 minutes, but the highest viewpoint offers a better view if you don't mind the longer hike.
Wat Si Muang is a Buddhist temple in Vientiane, the capital of Laos and a popular site of worship. The elaborately decorated temple with intricately carved details both on the interior and exterior of the building and has a golden Buddha in front of the temple. The temple is believed to provide good luck, with visitors coming to make a wish. It is commonly believed if you wish for something here it will come true, and many people return to the temple to offer gifts to give thanks for their wish being fulfilled.
Vat Phou, meaning mountain temple, is a ruined Hindu Khmer temple complex in southern Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the oldest archaeological sites in Laos with one temple on the site being built in the 5th century (but most of the buildings are from the 11th to 13th centuries). 500 years older than Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat, Vat Phou is remarkably well-preserved considering the age of the structures. When visiting allow at least 2 hours to give yourself enough time to see all the stunning architectural details and the wonderful view of the nearby Mekong River.
Live out your childhood fantasy in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure where you can sleep in the world's tallest tree house that is over 100 feet off the ground and surrounded by the treetops! As part of the Gibbon Experience, you will sleep in a treehouse and zip line through the jungle to see local wildlife and waterfalls. The amazing experience will have you going over 9 miles of zip lines with some of them as long as 2000 feet! The Gibbon Experience is perfect for anyone who wants to unplug from technology and spend 2 to 3 days having an exhilarating time in the jungle.
Phadeng Peak is in Luang Prabang Province of northern Laos. The trail to Phadeng Peak is well maintained but a bit steep at times, yet it is well worth the climb for the view from the top. The hike takes on average 1 and a half hours to go up and under an hour to go down. At the top of Padang Peak, there is a wooden lookout point that provides an outstanding photo opportunity of the mountain peaks and the white clouds below. By late morning the clouds clear out and you'll be able to get a clear view of the valley. If you want to linger at the top to relax before the hike down, there conveniently are hammocks perfect for taking a short rest in.
The Kuang Si Butterfly Park is a new attraction that is located next to the Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang. Here you can stroll through the wondrous array of flowers, and peaceful fish pond as you see all the different types of butterflies. While the area around the waterfalls already had plenty of butterflies, the butterfly park provides you the opportunity to get up close to butterflies as they land on your hand. While visiting the Kuang Si Butterfly Park make sure to visit the nearby waterfall and bear sanctuary.
To reach the Tham Phu Kham Cave you will need to hike through the forest to reach the entrance in a limestone cliff. Parts of the path inside the cave are rather steep but well worth the effort to explore the labyrinth of chambers filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Within the cave, you'll be able to find a statue of a large bronze reclining Buddha that is illuminated by sunlight that comes through a hole in the ceiling. After your hike in the cave, you can cool down by going for a swim in the nearby Blue Lagoon, a popular swimming spot.
The Plain of Jars is a mysterious site that is filled with thousands of stone jars that cover the valley. Laos's version of Stonehenge, the megalithic stones are believed to be created over 2000 years ago and many researchers theorize the jars might have been once used as funerals urns or for food storage. Meanwhile, locals have a more entertaining story for the jars saying they were used to brew drinks for mythical giants. Today, the mysterious location is often free of tourists making it easy for visitors to view the massive jars range from 3 to 10 feet in height and weigh up to 14 tons!
The Wat Phou Festival takes place every year on 15th day of the 3rd month of Lao lunar calendar. The festival is hosted commemorate all those who have contributed to building the Wat Pho, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Wat Phou Festival takes place over 3 days and includes a light show, sports, elephant procession, concerts and traditional dancing. The important festival attracts people from all over Laos and neighboring countries, who come to pray and take part in the various ceremonies and help to work on restoring the Wat Pho.
The Khone Phapheng Falls is a series of cascading waterfalls in the Mekong river and is one of Laos’ most beautiful natural attractions. Located in southern Laos on the Cambodian border, the Khone Phapheng Falls is the largest in Southeast Asia being 35376 feet wide! When it is the rainy season, 2 million gallons of water per second flow over the falls, nearly twice as much as the famous Niagara Falls! The best viewpoint is on the ground on a misty morning when you might be lucky enough to catch some rainbows over the falls.
The tak bat, is the Buddhist monks' collection of food and is a must-see for travelers in Luang Prabang in Laos. In Luang Prabang, hundreds of monks from the nearby temples walk down the street just after sunrise. The ritual is almsgivers feed the monks as they need spiritual redemption, while the monks need food. In silence, the locals give a scoopful of sticky rice to each monk's bowl. If you wish to participate in tak bat you can ask the hotel you are staying at to prepare you sticky rice. Make sure if you are attending to keep your shoulders and legs covered, and to stay silent. If you are going to give rice to the monks you will also need to take off your shoes.
The Mekong River is the world's twelfth longest river and goes through Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, and Laos! While in Laos you can enjoy scenic boat tours of the river, go swimming, or dine at restaurants overlooking the river. One affordable spot to enjoy the Mekong River is in Four Thousand Islands where you can rent a bamboo bungalow over the Mekong River and enjoy a prime view of the spectacular sunsets over the water. The relaxing Four Thousand Islands is the perfect place to enjoy the serene country.
For the best view of Pakse, Laos you need to visit Wat Phou Salao which is a hilltop temple. It is a 2.5-mile hike up to the temple up a long staircase, it is best to plan your visit for early morning or late afternoon, so you can reach the top for sunrise or sunset. At the top of the hill is a giant gold Buddha statue that looks over the city and makes an amazing photo opportunity particularly at dawn or dusk.