Laos is a small and often forgotten landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Historically it was part of French Indo-China and also was a less known part of the greater Vietnam War. Today it often takes backstage to the larger tropical beach rich Vietnam, or Cambodia with its impressive Angkor Wat ruins and Thailand that has long been a tourist destination. But none of that means Laos is lacking in things to see and do - just that its many treasures are yet to become mainstream.

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Introduction To Laos

  • Official Language: Lao
  • Capital And Largest City: Vientiane
  • Currency: Kip
  • Independence: 1953 (From France)
  • Population: 7 Million

Laos is the only landlocked country in the region and it has many thickly forested landscapes with beautifully rugged mountains. The country is home to many ethnic groups of which the dominant Lao is just over half of the population. The highest mountain is Phou Bia which rises up to some 9,245 feet or 2,818 meters.  The mighty Mekong River is a significant part of its border with Thailand.

  • Visa Policy: Visa On Arrival Or eVisa For Western Countries For 30 Days

Laos has been growing as a tourist destination, although it remains behind its larger neighbors. The vast bulk of its tourists and visitors have come from its neighbors Vietnam, Thailand, and China and only a small amount from Western countries. For those travelers who want to explore the riches of Southeast Asia but find the likes of Thailand too mainstream and touristic, then Laos could be a great option.

Laos is generally divided into north, central and southern regions and each is worth exploring. They boast extensive jungles and much of the territory of Laos is protected. While touring in Laos it's not uncommon to see elephants meandering their way along or seeing monks walking along the roads.

When To Visit And What To See In Laos

The best time to visit Laos is through the rainy season from November to February - that's if you want to see the country's amazing waterfalls in all their glory and go on boat trips. If you aren't bothered with those activities then you can consider visiting in the dry season.

Two of the main attractions in Laos are Wat Phou Complex and Luang Prabang.

Wat Phou

Wat Phou is an ancient Khmer Hindu temple complex. It was the site of a Hindu temple from the 5th century although the surviving ruins date from the 11th to 13th centuries. It is located in the south of the country is a UNESCO-listed site (inscribed in 2001). If you visit it and it reminds you of the awe-inspiring ruins at Angkor Wat, well it was part of the Khmer Empire that was centered on Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat may be the most impressive ruined temple complex around today, but it isn't really unique and there are multiple temple complexes across South East Asia today.

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Today Wat Phou is open to the public and you can see this mystical abandoned city for yourself.

  • Hours: 8.00 am - 6.00 pm
  • Cost: 50,000 LAK or $5.20 For Foreigners
  • Bonus: There Is A Museum At The Site

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang literally translates into English as "Royal Buddha Image" and is actually a city in central Laos. Many of the adjacent villages make up the UNESCO "Town of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site". This area is famous for its many Buddhist temples and monasteries and seeing Buddhist monks collecting alms is a common sight here. Additionally, it was the capital of a former empire and even the royal capital and seat of the Laotian government until its overthrow in 1975.

It's not just its rich historical and architectural significance that draws tourists, but also its natural beauty. Luang Prabang is also home to some of Laos's most significant waterfalls like the stunning Kuang Si Falls and the Tat Sae Waterfalls. In addition, it also has the Pak Ou Caves about 15 miles to the north. These caves are noted for their many miniature Buddha sculptures with hundreds of tiny wooden sculptures adorning the selves of the caves.

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Perhaps one of the more unusual attractions in Luang Prabang is its Elephant Village Sanctuary. This sanctuary is for the protection and rehabilitation of rescued elephants.

Vientiane City

Vientiane City is the capital of Laos and is also full of things to see and do. Vientiane City has become a melting pot of Laos's many different ethnicities and is a great place to learn about the history of this small Asian country. Some of the main attractions here include the Patuxay Monument, Wat Si Saket, Wat Phra Keo, and the Buddha Park. Like many other Southeast Asian cities, visiting the night market is simply a must.

Laos is unlikely to be the reason why you visit South East Asia. But if you do visit, be sure to check out this mostly glossed-over gem just waiting to be popularised.

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