Often overlooked by visitors to its neighboring counties, Laos is easily Southeast Asia’s best-kept secret. Don’t believe us? You’ll have to visit to see for yourself! You’ll be quickly amazed at the stunning scenery, historic Buddhist temples, and delicious food. This land-locked country is filled with natural beauty and cultural experiences, so we’ve come up with the top seven things to do in Laos.
1. VANG VIENG: NAM SONG RIVER
Once a quiet river town, Vang Vieng (along the Nam Song River) now hosts daytime tubing and a lively party scene into the evening. Experience the cold waters of the river in a large tube as you float the day away. If you prefer to stay a little drier, you also have the option to kayak down the Nam Song River. Kayaking also gives you the options and mobility to explore local water and bat caves. The current of the river is very slow, making it a safe option for beginners in both activities. And if you don’t feel comfortable with either adventurous activity, motorized boats are also available so you can still enjoy the river views from the water.
No matter your method of transportation, the Nam Song River is one you must experience.
Located high in the mountains, Phongsali is a small town with stunning panoramic views. Remember to pack a coat, as this trekking spot often gets cold up in the clouds. Phongsali trekking tours will take you up the mountains for a forest scenery and down into the valleys for the rice paddies. You’ll also have the unique opportunity to stay with the Akha Puxo people, marvel at the town’s interesting architecture, and see China’s influence on Phongsali. To learn about the history of Phongsali, you can also check out the Museum of Tribes, where you’ll find rich information, many photos, and colorful costumes.
3. KUANG SI WATERFALLS
Go deep into the thick tropical jungle for a cool atmosphere filled with waterfalls. After spending a few days in the heat and humidity, you will want to explore this natural retreat filled with refreshing water and blue/green views. Follow the marked trails on your journey to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, where you will find numerous pools a turquoise pond and stream. Take a dip in one or many of them or just view the beauty among all. (We recommend packing a suit, as these waters are hard to resist!)
4. TAT KUANG SI BEAR RESCUE CENTER
The adorable bears housed at the Tat Kuang Bear Rescue Center were all once rescued from poachers who wanted their body parts for traditional Chinese medicine. Here, you can take a nice day trip and view the bears playing with tires, swinging in hammocks, and frolicking around their open healthy habitats. The Tat Kuang Bear Rescue Center focuses most on the Asian black bear. Read all of the informative sides located along the wooden paths during your next visit.
5. PLAIN OF JARS
This attraction is — perhaps somewhat surprisingly — exactly what it sounds like. The Plain of Jars is a collection of thousands of large stone jars throughout the Xieng Khouand plain and northern India. The jars date back to around 1,500 to 2,000 years ago, and some believe that they’re evidence of a larger trade route. These jars range from three to 10 feet high, weigh up to 14 tons, and are believed to once have been the storage for human remains, water collecting, or rice wine.
The area is actually one of the most dangerous archaeological sites in the world, with thousands of unexploded bombs from the Secret War of the 1960s that have yet to be discovered. When visiting, stick to Sites 1, 2, and 3 (and the Quarry) for safety purposes. Site 1 is the closest to the city, offers a small museum, and is also the busiest and most touristy. Sites 2 and 3 are much more quiet with no one in sight but the occasional farmer and cow on some days. We recommend hiring a local guide for an hour spent between Sites 2 and 3.
6. LUANG PRABANG
Luang Prabang is known as a very peaceful and spiritual destination with monks, markets, a riverfront, and spectacular sunsets. During your stay, you must wake up early (around 5 a.m.) at least once to watch and experience tak bat, a ritual where Buddhist monks walk through the street for the morning almsgiving. For a fantastic 360-degree view of Luang Prabang, climb up to Mount Phu Si. Once near the top, you can walk to the back of the mountain and spot the giant Buddhas carved into the cliffs. After your hike, hit the markets for overwhelming sensations of color, noise, and smells. Shop the clothes and jewelry made with ammunition shells from the Vietnamese War, and pick up a coconut donut or a famous Luang Prabang salad for a treat. Round off your day by the Mekong River at one of the many bars that offer picturesque views of the fiery sunsets.
7. HUAY XAI
Sleep in a sky-high treehouse alongside many of the gibbons that call this jungle home. Spend your mornings wildlife spotting and your days ziplining from tree to tree or trekking to the Nam Nga River. In Huay Xai, the Gibbon Experience is a huge conservation success, as it invests a lot of time in reforestation programs by taking care of old trees and also planting many diverse new ones. Spot the biggest tree in all of Laos during your next visit there.
Whether you are a backpacker, thrill-seeker, soul searcher, or something in-between, Laos should be at the top of your next travel destinations. Experience the laidback Laos life and embark on an incomparable journey.
Which Laos attraction seems the most appealing to you? Have any to add? Comment below your Laos suggestions! Then let Acanela do the planning for you for your next adventure to the mystical and beautiful country of Laos. We offer a Classic Myanmar and Laos Expedition (slightly nicer accommodations, more structured activities, more meals included) and a Laos Cultural Adventure (lower price, greater freedom to explore on your own).