Top 5 Places to Go in Laos

These five communities offer a full picture of the beauty, relaxed pace, and lifestyle of the Lao people. Whether you're looking to connect with nature, see cultural and historical sights, or party all night long, you'll find these opportunities in Laos. I highly recommend the Lonely Planet Laos guide to help you get the most from your time in Laos.

Monks in Luang Prabang.
Monks in Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang

The UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang, Laos offers a restful and cosmopolitan experience for travelers. The key attraction here is the laid-back vibe, the friendly Laotian people, the delicious food, and the charms of the Old City quarter.

Luang Prabang is filled with beautiful World Heritage sites, like the Wat Xieng Thong temple and the Royal Palace Museum. Don't miss the opportunity to give the monks alms in the morning, watch the sun set from Mt. Phu Si or see traditional Laotian dance. Learn more about Luang Prabang top activities.

Plain of Jars

The mysterious Plain of Jars refers to a collection of oversized urns that lay scattered across the countryside near Phonsavan Laos. The jars have many different origin stories; no one really known who put them there or what they were doing.

You can explore the Plain of Jars on your own, or go as part of a tour. See, touch, and climb on the urns to experience this unique site. When seeing the area, please remember than unexploded ordinances can be a problem, and so stick to the trail.

Vang Vieng

A favorite of backpackers, Vang Vieng is the adventure capital of Laos. You'll also find lots of bars to support Vang Vieng's reputation as a party town for adventurous youth.

Here, you can explore the caves just outside the city or go rock climbing. The real attraction is the Nam Song River, which offers float trips. Travelers float down the river, stopping at beer bars located along the way. The bars lure tourists with free shots of the local liquor and club music you'd expect to find in the U.S. or U.K.

Tourists can use the rope swings that go over the water, but should be aware that these are often dangerous. In 2011, 27 travelers died in Vang Vieng from hitting their heads on the river's rocks or drowning.

Travelers who want to explore Vang Vieng without getting too close to the backpacker culture may want to consider staying on a local organic farm that allows guests to work. A little outside town, it is more remote and quiet.

Vientiane

Low-key capital city Vientiane offers some of the best Lao food in the country. Vientiane also hosts an incredible morning market filled with silks and crafts by local artisans.

Cultural highlights include the Wat Sok Pa Louang monastery, the Ho Phra Keo temple, and the Xiang Khuan Buddha Park. The latter is filled with giant Buddha statues that you can explore.

After seeing the sights, you can unwind in the town's herbal sauna.

Since most Lao flights come through Vientiane, you should plan to take a day or two to see it on your Southeast Asia trip.

Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don

Si Phan Don

The hammock islands offer unparalleled relaxation an the chance to see the near extinct Irrawady dolphin. To get there, you will need to make your way to Pakse, and then take a boat from Pakse to the islands. Stay on Don Khon, the main island -- it offers waterfalls and dolphins. Then tour some of the other islands by boat. The area is popular with backpackers looking for a place to unwind, but is still remote and underdeveloped, and so not as wild as Vang Vieng.

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