Laos is a captivating landlocked country in Southeast Asia, shares its borders with China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Renowned for its rich history and a tapestry of diverse ethnic groups, Laos boasts a unique culture that is deeply rooted in Buddhism and traditional customs, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking adventure and a deeper understanding of traditional practices.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the beauty of Laos and highlight some of the best things to do in the country.
Things To Do in Laos – Discover 7 Unmissable Places and Experiences in Laos
Show table of content
- 1. Explore the Spiritual Wonders
- 1.1 Luang Prabang Old Town
- 1.2 Discover Luang Prabang’s Temples
- 1.3 Experience the Almsgiving Tradition
- 1.4 Visit the Sacred Pak Ou Caves
- 2. Embrace the Local Culture
- 2.1 Wander Through the Vibrant Markets
- 2.2 Participate in a Baci Ceremony
- 2.3 Attend a Traditional Festival
- 2.4 Visit Pha That Luang
- 3. Adventures in Nature
- 3.1 Cruise Along the Mekong River
- 3.2 Trekking in Luang Namtha
- 3.3 Chase Waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau
- 3.4 Discover the Serene Beauty of Tad Sae Waterfall
- 4. Experience Culinary Delights
- 4.1 Indulge in Laotian Street Food
- 4.2 Experience Traditional Laap Cuisine
- 4.3 Try Wine at a Village Banquet
- 5. Connect with Wildlife
- 5.1 Encounter Elephants Ethically
- 5.2 Visit the Luang Prabang Bear Rescue Center
- 6. Engage in Adventure Sports
- 6.1 Go Rock Climbing in Vang Vieng
- 6.2 Kayak Through Stunning Karst Landscapes
- 6.3 Embark on a Biking Expedition
- 7. Relax and Unwind
- 7.1 Enjoy a Traditional Lao Massage
- 7.2 Rejuvenate in Hot Springs
- 7.3 Savor Sunset by the Mekong River
- 8. Is Laos worth visiting?
- 9. Is Laos safe for tourists?
1. Explore the Spiritual Wonders
1.1 Luang Prabang Old Town
Luang Prabang is a province in northern Laos, 425 km from Vientiane to the North. Recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage for its historical and cultural architecture, the town captivates visitors with its rustic and peaceful beauty and extraordinary architecture, which seamlessly blends the styles of Laos and France. Walking around the old town of Luang Prabang is a must-thing to do for visitors. For those who prefer not to walk, renting a bicycle is a great alternative. Wandering through the narrow alleys and streets will allow you to fully experience the relaxed pace of life here.
1.2 Discover Luang Prabang’s Temples
Visiting Luang Prabang’s Temples is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking spiritual enlightenment. As the center of Lao Buddhism in the past, Luang Prabang is home to almost 40 temples constructed during different dynasties. From the stunning Wat Mai to Luang Prabang’s ancient temples, Wat Visoun and Wat Xieng Thong, each Lao temple represents the culmination of devotion and the skillful craftsmanship of artisans. When visiting Luang Prabang’s temples, remember to dress modestly, remove your shoes before entering and keep a dignified manner.
1.3 Experience the Almsgiving Tradition
The Almsgiving Tradition is an integral part of daily life in Luang Prabang, where locals and visitors alike can immerse themselves in this spiritual and heartwarming practice. As the sun begins to rise over Luang Prabang, locals and tourists alike line the streets to offer food, often rice and fruits, to the passing monks. The act of giving alms, known as “Tak Bat” in Lao, is a way for the Buddhist community to support the monks in their spiritual practice and gain merit. While observing this sacred ritual, it is essential to maintain a respectful distance from the monks, dress modestly, and avoid using flash photography.
1.4 Visit the Sacred Pak Ou Caves
Nestled along the banks of the Mekong River, the Pak Ou Caves are an extraordinary spiritual site in Laos. These caves are home to thousands of Buddha statues of various sizes and styles. The Pak Ou Caves consist of two main caverns, Tham Ting and Tham Theung, and are accessible by boat, offering a scenic journey along the Mekong River. For centuries, Sacred Pak Ou Caves have served as a significant pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Visitors are reminded not to touch or remove any items to respect the sacredness of the caves.
2. Embrace the Local Culture
2.1 Wander Through the Vibrant Markets
Laos’ bustling markets are a window into the heart of its culture and an absolute must-visit for travelers seeking an authentic experience. Luang Prabang’s Night Market is a popular spot where visitors can explore handicrafts, textiles, and delectable street food. In Vientiane, the Morning Market offers a treasure trove of souvenirs, spices, and traditional clothing. Engaging with local vendors not only supports the economy but also opens doors to valuable cultural exchanges.
2.2 Participate in a Baci Ceremony
The Baci Ceremony is a deeply rooted spiritual custom that has been associated with the lives of the Lao people for a long period of time. The ceremony is typically held to mark significant life events such as weddings, births or welcoming guests.
The Ceremony involves meticulous preparations, including Khuan’s tray, which consists of wine, flowers, eggs, chicken, sticky rice, water, and a tower-shaped decoration of white thread with a golden candle atop it. After completing the vows, the celebrant ties white strings around a person’s wrist, signifying good luck for the guests. According to Lao belief, for the wishes to be effective, the person is required to keep the thread on their hand for at least three days without removing it. Participating in a Baci Ceremony allows visitors to learn about their traditional practices and develop a strong bond with the locals.
2.3 Attend a Traditional Festival
Traditional festivals hold a significant position in the spiritual of the Lao people, serving as a reflection of the country’s agricultural cycle, Buddhist customs, and diverse ethnic heritage. One of the most important celebrations is Bunpimay or Lao New Year is held from April 13 to 15 every year according to the Buddhist calendar. It is a time when communities come together to cleanse and purify themselves, welcoming the arrival of the new year with a renewed sense of purity, prosperity, and happiness.
2.4 Visit Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang, also known as the Great Stupa, is the most important Buddhist monument in Laos, situated in the eastern part of Vientiane. Built in 1566 during the reign of King Setthathirat I, it takes the shape of a wine bottle and stands on the ruins of a 13th-century Indian temple. The structure is adorned with symbolic colors, representing the wisdom, creativity, and unity of the Lao people.
Every year in November, the That Luang festival takes place and lasts for three days and three nights, it includes solemn rituals and lively celebrations. The festival features ceremonies like the Buddha bathing ceremony, rice offering ceremony, and blessing ceremony. These rituals hold great religious and cultural significance for the Lao people.
Location: Pha That Luang
Opening hour: 8:00 AM -12:00 PM, 1:00 – 5:00 PM
Ticket price: 5000 Kip
3. Adventures in Nature
3.1 Cruise Along the Mekong River
The Mekong River is the world’s 12th longest river, flowing from the Tibetan Plateau through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. As a landlocked country, Laos does not have direct access to the sea, making the Mekong River a crucial resource for the country. Taking a cruise on the Mekong River offers visitors a serene and mesmerizing experience as they pass by picturesque landscapes, quaint riverside villages, and lush greenery of Laos.
3.2 Trekking in Luang Namtha
Situated in northern Laos, Luang Namtha boasts verdant jungles, rolling hills, and a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Embark on guided treks through the Nam Ha National Protected Area, where visitors will see breathtaking landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and authentic encounters with ethnic hill tribes. Moreover, witnessing their way of life, distinct cultures, and age-old traditions helps tourists to form a strong bond with the heart of Laos.
3.3 Chase Waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau
The Bolaven Plateau, located in southern Laos, is a haven for waterfall enthusiasts and nature admirers. Experiencing the beauty of the Bolaven Plateau by venturing into its lush wilderness, where a string of stunning waterfalls cascades through the dense forests and taking a refreshing dip in the cool pools beneath the serene cascades is sure to leave you feeling renewed and invigorated. Some well-known waterfalls in Bolaven Plateau are Tad Fane, Tad Yuang, and Tad Champi.
3.4 Discover the Serene Beauty of Tad Sae Waterfall
Tad Sae Waterfall is one of the beautiful waterfalls in Laos, located about 20 km northwest of Luang Prabang. Nestled within the verdant jungles of Laos, the Tad Sae Waterfall is a hidden gem that captivates visitors by its pristine, crystal-clear waters and tranquil ambiance. Unlike nearby waterfalls, which are bustling with chirping of people around, Tad Sae provides a calm and tranquil retreat away from the noise and commotion of city life. It’s a perfect destination for those who love peace and quiet.
4. Experience Culinary Delights
4.1 Indulge in Laotian Street Food
Laotian street food has a great variety of delicious dishes that truly reflect the country’s diverse culinary heritage. Wander through bustling markets and street stalls to discover an array of delectable snacks and meals. Don’t miss the opportunity to try “Khao Jee,” a baguette sandwich filled with local ingredients like pork, vegetables, and a dash of spicy sauce. “Sai Oua,” a grilled Lao sausage bursting with aromatic herbs and spices, is another must-try delicacy that will tantalize your taste buds.
4.2 Experience Traditional Laap Cuisine
Considered as the “national food” of Laos, Laap Cuisine attracts tourists with a unique flavor that cannot be found anywhere else. Laap dishes are typically made from minced meat such as beef, turkey, pork, duck, or fish mixed with fish sauce, as well as a blend of typical spices and aromatic herbs. Laap is a popular dish in everyday meals not only for its unique flavor and deliciousness, but it also showcases the thoughtfulness of the person who prepares it.
4.3 Try Wine at a Village Banquet
Rice wine has a special place in Lao customs and traditions and is often considered a symbol of hospitality and celebration. When invited to a village party, don’t miss the opportunity to sample the locally brewed rice wine known as “Lao-Lao.” The welcoming villagers share this drink as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. The warmth of the Lao-Lao and the hospitality of the locals will leave unforgettable memories for visitors.
5. Connect with Wildlife
5.1 Encounter Elephants Ethically
Laos provides a responsible and ethical setting for interacting with elephants, allowing travelers to witness these gentle giants up close. Visiting the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury (3 hours by road from Luang Prabang), offer visitors a chance to fully experience the captivating presence of elephants by watching them in their natural homes, engaging in carefully planned activities, and learning about the dedicated efforts made to protect and conserve these magnificent animals.
5.2 Visit the Luang Prabang Bear Rescue Center
Located near the ancient city of Luang Prabang, the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre is a sanctuary dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating endangered Asiatic black bears, also known as moon bears. These bears, once victims of the illegal wildlife trade, now find safety and care in this exceptional center. Visiting the Bear Rescue Center allows visitors to observe these adorable creatures and learn about the crucial role of conservation efforts in safeguarding their future.
6. Engage in Adventure Sports
6.1 Go Rock Climbing in Vang Vieng
Surrounded by great mountains, rivers, caves, limestone cliffs and rice fields, this small and scenic town is the premier destination for rock climbing in Laos. Vang Vien is a home to various cliffs and limestone caves, offering different levels from easy to challenging for all types of people, from beginners to professional climbers. Additionally, local climbing operators offer professional guidance and equipment, ensuring a safe and memorable experience.
6.2 Kayak Through Stunning Karst Landscapes
Paddling through crystal-clear waters, flanked by limestone cliffs and lush greenery of Laos is a must for kayaking enthusiasts. One of the most beautiful kayaking routes is along the Nam Ou River, where you’ll meander through charming villages, encounter local fishermen, and revel in the serenity of the surroundings. Whether you’re a solo adventurer or part of a group expedition, kayaking in Laos immerses you in the natural beauty of the country like no other.
6.3 Embark on a Biking Expedition
Laos’ diverse landscapes and scenic countryside make it a haven for biking enthusiasts. Rent a mountain bike and set out on an exhilarating expedition, exploring rustic villages, terraced rice fields, and lush jungles. Pedal your way through the Bolaven Plateau and the northern regions near Luang Prabang to enjoy the best biking routes, each promising awe-inspiring views and encounters with local cultures.
7. Relax and Unwind
7.1 Enjoy a Traditional Lao Massage
When visiting Laos for a resort experience, visitors should not miss out on the opportunity to partake in the traditional massage services offered here. Rooted in ancient healing techniques, Lao massage is a blissful experience that combines gentle stretches, acupressure, and rhythmic motions to soothe both the body and mind. Skilled masseurs use natural oils and aromatherapy to enhance the experience, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalized.
7.2 Rejuvenate in Hot Springs
As a country blessed by nature, Laos is endowed with many unique landscapes and an extensive system of natural hot springs in many provinces across the country. that offer the perfect setting for relaxation. Soaking in these mineral-rich thermal waters is not only soothing but also believed to have therapeutic benefits for the body. One of the popular hot spring destinations is the Tad Sae Hot Springs near Luang Prabang. Surrounded by lush forest, this serene location provides an idyllic escape to unwind and reconnect with nature.
7.3 Savor Sunset by the Mekong River
Experiencing the enchanting and calming spectacle of the sunset over the majestic Mekong River is an unmissable opportunity for visitors. The tranquil beauty of this iconic river offers a peaceful backdrop to unwind and reflect on the day’s adventures. Whether you choose to sit by the riverbanks or take a leisurely boat cruise, witnessing the sun’s golden hues dance on the water’s surface is an unforgettable experience.
8. Is Laos worth visiting?
Absolutely, Laos is worth visiting! This enchanting country offers a unique and authentic travel experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression. From its ancient temples and UNESCO-listed sites to the breathtaking natural landscapes, Laos is a hidden gem in Southeast Asia.
9. Is Laos safe for tourists?
Yes, Laos is generally considered safe for tourists. The country is known for its peaceful environment and low crime rates. However, like any destination, travelers should exercise common sense and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety. Besides, visitors should stay informed about the local customs and traditions, and be respectful to the locals.