There is a lot of overlooked and underrated travel destination in South East Asia. One of them is the Lao People’s Democratic or Laos. It is a landlocked country in the Indochinese peninsula which is surrounded by more known countries like Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
The origin of its name is as interesting as Laos’ geography and culture. “Laos” goes back to the “Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol” or the kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao. Now, before you set any plans in visiting Asia, read this first. We may just convince you to go against the crowd and visit Laos instead.
When is the best time to visit Laos?
Just like in any country, Laos has its sunny and rainy days – seasons that can “make or break” your trip. The best months to visit Laos is from October to April where the rain is done and the weather is now warm and windy.
Since Laos is a country where river transportation is still significant, you also need to know when is the best time to visit for river tours. The months of November and January have waters that are deep enough for easy movement but calm enough for safe transport.
How to get to the city center from Vientiane Airport?
There are three ways on how to get to downtown Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
First, you can take the scheduled shuttle trip that goes back and forth from the airport to the Central Bus Station. It will stop along with hotels and establishments. It will cost you 15,000 Kip (1.73 USD) for a one-way trip.
Second and third, you can take a taxi or minibus. The former is better if you have a lesser-known destination that is not part of the shuttle or minibus’ route. Both the taxi and minibus are waiting for passengers at the airport exit.
How to get around Laos?
Traveling in Laos requires more legwork and patience. You will get to savor all of what the country can offer if you will just take it slow. You can ride the bus if you will be doing inter-municipality travel but if you have decided to explore a single city more, you can ride the “tuk-tuk” or a motorbike with an attached rear carriage.
There will be taxis, minibusses, and rentable motorbikes too but the cheapest and more common ways to get around are through the bus and tuk-tuk.
10 Top Tourist Attractions in Laos
Tourist attractions in Laos are plenty. You will need a lot of time to cover all of them if you want to spend a significant amount of time in each one instead of rushing to the next destination.
Remember what we said about river tours in Laos? A lot of it happens on the Mekong River. This river is not just in Laos but in other 5 countries as well. Its watershed or source is from the Tibetan Plateau shared by China, India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Then, it will run through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
A boat trip in it is a majestic experience, something you will not find in any urban city. It starts from the Thailand-Laos border and ends in the city of Lua Prabang. Typically, you will traverse the river along with other passengers in a slow boat. It is a large boat that runs slowly to have a total of at least five hours of river time.
Wat Phou Temple Complex
Also called as Vat Phou is a historical site in the Champasak Province that traces its origin to the Khmer people of Cambodia. It is a Hindu temple located at the base of mount Phou Khao, which is considered the home of Shiva.
It was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2001 due to its historical and modern-day significance. It is subject to many conservation projects throughout the years.
Pha That Luang
It is hard to miss the Pha That Luang, a large gold-covered stupa (a hemispherical structure) in the middle of Vientiane.
Its shape symbolizes five purified elements of Buddhism: The square base represents the Earth; the hemispherical dome/vase for water; conical spire for fire; upper lotus parasol and the crescent moon for air; and the sun and the dissolving point for the element of space.
Wat Xieng Thong
Another Buddhist temple is Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Phrabang. Its is located at the spot where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers join. You will see a lot of carvings and relics inside that shows its rich history since it was constructed in 1559.
To get inside, visitors pay an entrance fee of 20,000 Kip (2.30 USD). Not bad if you want to learn more about Laos before leaving.
Through the influx of tourists coming in Laos, the Vang Vieng has become the town where most of the backpackers and casual travelers stay. Despite its increase in commercial activity, the Nam Song river and the karst hills surrounding the town is protected.
If you are planning to visit the tourist attractions of Laos, you may consider staying here if you want the nightlife (or not if you want a more secluded place).
Kuang Si Falls
Sometimes, all we need is an extra adventure in an almost savage place. This waterfall has three levels in which the bottom level is swimmable. The water here is close to turquoise and has a shade of green if the sun hits it right.
You will see a lot of photographers here capturing the landscape of the falls. After all, this type of Earth formation can be rarely found in our home cities.
Pak Ou Caves
The Pak Ou Caves are part of a bigger network of caves nearby the Mekong River. Once inside, you will see that there are a lot of miniature Buddha statues and figures. You can enter through the first cave which is accessible by a staircase from the riverbanks. The other entrance is also accessed via stairs but is more surrounded by trees.
Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don also means “4000 islands.” This is because it is an archipelago composed of islands in varying sizes (some are submerged during low tide). It is located at Champasak Province in southern Laos. The Don Det–Don Khon railway, the first railway in Laos which operated from 1893 to 1940, is located nearby.
Plain of Jars
Last in the list of our tourist attractions in Laos is the Plain of Jars, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is called a megalithic landscape because of the thousands of stone jars around the base of the Xiangkhoang Plateau and some in the plateau’s upper area.
These jars have lids on them and is discovered to be storages of people back in 500 BC–200 AD. All of the jars have Chinese markings and paintings of humans.
Patuxai is a war monument in the center of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It was built between 1957 and 1968. It is one of the top tourist attractions in Laos.