1. Dramatic karst mountain-flanked rivers in Vang Vieng
The Nam Song River was once dotted with rowdy watering holes, but in recent years the government has attempted to clean up the reputation of debauched river pursuits (namely tubing). Hedonistic pockets still exist, but the riverscape and bucolic countryside, dotted with caves and lagoons – the natural beauty which attracted the first wave of travelers – are still reason enough to visit.
2. Awe-inspiring ruins at Vat Phou
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in Southern Laos is a former Khmer temple dedicated to the Hindu god of Lord Shiva before it became a Buddhist place of worship. It’s recommended to join a guided tour to explore the mystical temple complex so you know what your eyes are feasting on.
3. Waterfalls & ethnic diversity at Bolaven Plateau
The region in southern Laos is known for their waterfalls and diverse ethnic villages, including the Suay, Katu, and Alak (pictured below). The twin falls of Tad Fane, one of the most spectacular in the region, cascades over 100 meters into a deep gorge; the falls are at their fullest during summer and autumn.
4. Unique Buddha Park (Wat Xieng Khuan) near Vientiane
Situated just outside Vientiane past the Friendship Bridge, the unique park, founded in the late 1950s, is littered with over 200 concrete statues. The sculptures are a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist gods and demons, animals and humans. The park is definitely on the quirky side, but provides many photo ops and a good way to spend the afternoon outdoor.
5. Stunning religious landmarks in Vientiane
One of the most recognizable icons of Laos, Pha That Luang is a gilded 45m-tall stupa is surrounded by 30 smaller stupas. The monument has been reconstructed many times in its history, which can be traced back to as early as the 3rd century, when it was said to have enclosed a piece of Buddha’s bone.
6. Bustling markets and picturesque rice paddies
7. Heritage old town of Luang Prabang
Located at the confluence of Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, the northern city of Luang Prabang is the country’s most visited tourist destination. Despite its popularity, the city still manages to retain its small town appeal with a quaint UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed old town center, a must-visit to any traveler to the region.
8. A charming way of life
Hundreds of saffron-robed monks from the handful of monasteries in Luang Prabang collect alms through the streets of in the early mornings. Visitors are welcome to join, but should be mindful to stay respectful (whether giving alms of taking photos) and mindful of cultural do’s and don’ts.