‘Where is Laos?’ is the most often asked question when I tell somebody that I am from Laos. Well, you cannot be blamed because you don’t know about this small country with more than 7 million people locating inside the unspoiled corner of the world.
Searching no further, we are going to give you the answer within this article; and moreover, you can find 10 best places to visit in Laos. If you are the backpackers, we have 10 best places for you to hang out.
First, we will see what we are going to read.
Where is Laos? The most often asked question!
Laos is located in the center of Southeast Asian peninsula, the geographic coordinates are 1800 N and 10500 E.
Quite hard to imagine? Let me make it easier. The neighboring countries of Laos includes China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
Still complicated? Check the below Google Maps (you can zoom in/out for more information)
The Mekong River forms a large part of its western boundary with Thailand which extends for 1,835-kilometres, north-western boundary with Myanmar for a stretch of 236 kilometres, and southern boundary with Cambodia (535 kilometres).
Whereas mountains form most of the eastern border with Vietnam (the longest border) which extends for 2,337 kilometres, and northern border with China for a stretch of 508 kilometres.
The Mekong River, the longest river in Southeast Asia, the 7th-longest in Asia and the 12th-longest river in the world. Its estimated length is 4,350 km.
It flows through the entire Laos, from the north (Luang Namtha province) through to the south most province of Champasak before it drains into the South China Sea after passing through Cambodia and southern Vietnam.
Laos has the greatest share of the Mekong River. It is important to the country as its people depends on the river for their food and water supply.
Laos is a completely landlocked country, with a total area of 236,800 sq kilometres of which 6,000 sq kilometres is water, the rest (230,800 sq kilometres) is land.
About 70% of the land is mountainous which widely covered by largely unspoiled diverse and rich tropical and sub-tropical forest.
The thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rugged mountains in the north and with some plains and plateaus in the south.
The highest point in the country is Phou Bia (“Phou” Lao word for mountain), reaching 2,820 metres (9,252 feet), that is located in Xiang Khuang province in the north of Laos, and the lowest point is along the Mekong River at 70 metre (229 feet).
Top 10 places to visit in Laos
Beautiful Laos is one of the prettiest countries in Southeast Asia but also one of the least visited. This is a real shame as Laos has just as much to offer travelers as other big-hitter countries like Thailand or Vietnam.
The country is small and landlocked so it has no coastline, but it is known for its spectacular limestone mountains which offer you amazing opportunities to go trekking and explore eerie karst formations and caves.
As well as its mountains, Laos is known for its forest and its waterfalls and you can also try the delicious local food which has Thai and Indian influences.
If you are looking for a real adventure in Southeast Asia then Laos makes it possible and still feels as if you are going off the beaten track, even in the main cities like Vientiane or Luang Prabang.
Take a short break with the inspiring video before reading further down with Top 10 best places to visit in Laos…
The most popular place to visit in Laos, Luang Prabang is an historic city that once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Laos.
Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, the city has numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries, with monks walking through the city collecting alms in the morning.
There are several waterfalls nearby, some of which offer elephant rides to visitors.
A night market at the end of the town’s main street is a good place to buy souvenirs. Adventuresome eaters might want to try fried Mekong River moss, which is a local delicacy.
Below is the video about Luang Prabang travel
Vientiane is the charming capital of Laos and even though this is technically a capital city, it still feels like a small town rather than anything else.
Vientiane used to be a former French trading post during the colonial period, and as a result it has a delightful old French quarter that you can explore.
As you walk around you will also find a plethora of French inspired architecture such as a Laotian version of the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris known as Patuxai.
There are also other attractions that are well worth a visit such as sprawling local markets and temples like Wat Si Saket which is the oldest of its kind in Vientiane.
The below video is about the beauties of Vientiane
Phonsavan & Plain of Jars
Phonsavan actually means ‘Hills of Paradise’ in the Lao language and this is a great place to come if you want to see a more rural side of the country.
This part of Laos is known, rather surprisingly, for its cowboy culture and you will find real life Lao cowboys here who dress in Stetsons and rear cattle on the lush plains around Phonsavan.
This is also a good jumping off point to visit spots like the Plain of Jars which is a gorgeous natural structure that is so-named as the pillars resemble jars. The purpose of this still remains as one of the biggest mysteries in Laos
Wat Phou - Champasak
Set on the west banks of the Mekong, Champasak is a sleepy town sandwiched between the river and mountains. It’s primarily known for being the gateway to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Wat Phu.
Despite its location just 30 km south of Pakse, Champasak is not really on the tourist trail and this to us is a small injustice.
The town is historic and charming, with a single road running along the Mekong lined with decaying colonial manors that were once royal residences, side by side with wood-shuttered Chinese shophouses and traditional wooden homes.
Even the modern homes have zeal—the locals here seem to love painting them in wildly cheerful colours.
Wat Phou is also known as Vat Phou and is a gorgeous Khmer temple which is close to the Phu Kao Mountain in the Champasak Province of Laos.
This is a Hindu temple which was built between the 11th and 13th centuries and this would have been a strategic location in the mighty Khmer Kingdom that stretched from Angkor in neighboring Cambodia.
Nowadays you will find similar temples in style to those at Angkor which are also partially eroded by the jungles of Laos.
Bokeo Nature Reserve & Gibbon Experience
The Bokeo Nature Reserve was created to protect its population of the black-cheeked gibbon, rediscovered in 1997, which was previously thought to be extinct.
A visit to Bokeo Nature Reserve is not complete without a stay at the Gibbon Experience, an eco tourism conservation project.
Guests stay in tree houses and travel by zip line through the forests in search of the Black Gibbon. Besides the elusive black gibbon, visitors to the reserve may also see elephants, bears, tigers and wild buffalo.
The Gibbon Experience also works to rehabilitate and return to the wild animals that were captured by poachers. With mountains ranging from 1,600 to almost 5,000 feet in altitude, the reserve also is a good place to watch birds.
Check the below video to have more idea of the Gibbon Experience
Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA - Nature Trek & Nam Nern Night Safari
The Nam Nern Night Safari is a wildlife-spotlighting adventure by boat deep in the jungles of Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, located in Houaphan Province in the northeastern Laos.
Nature trekking tour: Since 2016, Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area offer new ecotourism attractions: the wildlife conservation trekking tours!
The trekking project offers an unique opportunity to enter one of the most important wildlife habitats of the Total Protection Zone of Nam Et-Phou Louey and track wild species such as wild cats, bears and the wild dog (dhole) using camera traps which are set up along the trail and maintained by tourists.
The data from these camera traps is then incorporated into the protected area’s wildlife-monitoring program.
Visitors stay overnight in an ecolodge built and managed by an ethnic community and learn about wildlife conservation, medicinal plants, traditional agriculture and history of the Secret War.
Proceeds from the tour benefit wildlife protection and small-scale community development. This is one of the only places in the country to see wildlife, which include Sambar and barking deer, civets, porcupine, hog badger, slow loris, macaques, dhole, and Asian golden cat.
You can read more about Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA, the Nature trekking tour, and Nam Nern Night Safari HERE
Below is the promotion video about Nam Nern Night Safari
Xayabouly province & Elephant Conservation Center
Located in the west of Laos, Xayaboury is home to rugged mountains, hill tribes, pristine jungle and wild animals, including the largest number of wild elephants in Laos.
Every year in February or March, a three-day festival draws people from around the country to celebrate the importance of Laos’ national animal.
The Elephant Conservation Center acts to preserve and protect the Asian elephant, a species that is on its way to extinction.
Created in 2011 by a team of experts, its program is set up around the well-being of the animal, the reproduction, vet care, and the schooling of mahouts.
The Center only welcomes elephants that have been working in the logging industry or mass tourism, but there are also some elephants that were born because of the Baby Bonus programme, which was set up by the Center.
Our herd, today about 30 elephants big, can enjoy 530 hectares of protected forest. This large area is of great importance to the quality of life of the elephants, who consume more than 200 kg of food each day.
You can read more about the center here
Watch the below video from Elephant Conservation Center for more information
The Bolaven Plateau is one of the most beautiful places in southern Laos. You can find different naturally gorgeous things grouped together to create a fabulously enticing scene.
Locals live in peace with different ethnic groups, proud of what nature has given them. Large hills, tall trees, forests, cliffs, and ancient volcanoes, plus different local dishes make the Bolaven Plateau one of the best destinations in Laos for nature lovers.
The Bolaven Plateau is the home to some of the most amazing waterfalls in Laos including Tad Fane, Tad Lo, Tad Tayicseua, Tad Yeung, or Tad Phaseum.
Besides, this is also the home to the best tea and coffee plantation in Laos. Spend at least 3 days to explore the plateau to have the best out of what it has to offer.
The below video is about the life, nature, culture, and people of Bolaven Plateau
Oudomxay & Muang La
Oudomxay or Udomxai, also known as Muang Xay is the capital of the larger Oudomxay Province.
This town is also close to the scenic Nam Ko River Basin and is known for its gorgeous mountain ranges.
This is the largest city in the northern part of Laos and many people come here to access other parts of the country.
With that in mind however you can easily spend a few days here as the town is close to a number of famous caves which are a great place to spend some time if you like spelunking.
The below video is about Nam Kat Yorla Pa Resort, and amazing heaven in the mist of northern Laos
Only 28 kilometres north of bustling Oudomxay, Muang La is a picturesque town nestled beside the Nam Pak River, a settlement of tranquil farmland and Khmu villages wrapped by rolling mountains. Once an off-the-grid spot, it has gracefully made a name for itself, no doubt helped by the opening of a luxury Muang La Lodge
Muang La’s main attraction is the natural hot springs. Picture yourself soaking sore muscles in piping hot water while taking in the river scenery. The experience is tonic for both the body and soul—and it’s free. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Aside from the hot springs, there’s not much to do—and that’s the charm.
Head up the road, cross the bridge to the other side of the Nam Pak and stroll through the Khmu village for gentle pastoral scenes and glimpses of daily life.
Return via the endearing 10,000 kip-a-ride bamboo “ferry” built by an enterprising local.
Visit Wat Pha Singkham, a pilgrimage site home to a sacred 400-year-old Buddha, one of the most important in Laos.
Ask a local restaurant to catch and prepare fresh fish from the river. Otherwise, content yourself with rest, relaxation and taking it all in.
Here is the promotion video from Muang La Lodge
Pakbeng is located between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai and one of the main reasons that people visit is to stay overnight if you take a river trip between the two towns down the Mekong.
There is not a huge amount to do in Pakbeng but it is a lovely little spot to spend the night en route to Luang Prabang or Huay Xai.
There are a few nice restaurants in town that look out over the river and this is a great place to come for a cold beer and sunset views over the majestic Mekong.
Below is the video about cruising along the Mekong River and the town of Pakbeng
Bonus: Top 10 places for backpackers
NO DOUBT, Vang Vieng, sitting between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, is the heaven for backpackers in Laos.
In the days of old this part of Laos had a rather wild reputation and a surprisingly vibrant nightlife scene, although now it has become a little more staid thanks to action taking by the local government to clean up its image.
One of the main reasons to come to Vang Vieng is to enjoy the tubing down the Nam Song River and you can take in the lush jungle scenery here at the same time.
There are also other spots such as the Tham Phu Kham Cave which is known for its lagoon and bronze statue of the Buddha.
Love partying and tubing, here is the video for you
Nam Ngum Lake - The north part in Ban Thaheua
20 kilometers south of Vang Vieng, the vast Ang Nam Ngum Reservoir sits above the northern edge of the Vientiane Plain, where the rice-growing flat lands surrounding the capital meet the mountainous terrain of the north.
Created when the Nam Ngum River was dammed in 1971, the deep green waters of the reservoir are dotted with scores of forest-clad islands stretching to a dramatic horizon lined with mountains, their peaks lost in mist.
Nam Ngum Lake serves as the peaceful stop for the travelers from Vientiane traveling up north to Luang Prabang or vice versa.
In the recent years, the development of accommodation gives more choice for the traveler, and the area becomes a good resting places for backpackers after partying in Vang Vieng.
Here is the story of a couple, who spends time at a resort in Nam Ngum to rest after partying in Vang Vieng
The Thakhek Loop, also known as the Konglor Loop or simply “the Loop”, is a 450-kilometre motorcycle journey through some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Laos.
Imagine traversing vast flat valleys bursting with emerald rice paddies and limestone peaks that jut up from the earth like jagged prehistoric fangs.
At the base of these karst you’ll find blue lagoons, remote rural villages and caves galore, the highlight being Konglor Cave.
Imagine zipping on a boat through pitch darkness for 7.5-kilometres, clear to the other side of the mountain.
The loop can be done in as little as three days, but more are recommended depending on how many sights you want to take in and how many kilometers per day you want to ride. The journey should really be savored. Three days is a rush, four days is more leisurely, five plus includes relaxation and side-trips.
The loop starts and ends in Thakhek, taking you through Khammuan and Bolikhamsai Province, two national protected areas, an enormous reservoir, a karst “forest” and to within 30 km of the Vietnam border. Most do the journey anti-clockwise, passing through the towns/villages in this order: Mahaxay, Nakai, Thalang, Lak Xao, Na Hin, Konglor and Vieng Kham.
Over the years, the Thakhek Loop has steadily risen in popularity on backpacker bucket lists—and gained notoriety due to the challenging unpaved roads. Completing it felt like a badge of honour, especially during rainy season when the roads disintegrated into a brutal Tough Mudder obstacle course. At times the 50 kilometer stretch from Thalang to Lak Xao could take four hours.
The loop is a highlight reel, from memorable accommodation, to waterfall treks, swims in cool springs and breathtaking viewpoints—enjoy every kilometre. And do watch out for those water buffalo.
Here is the video about exploring Thakhek Loop on motorbike
Luang Namtha & Muang Sing
Luang Namtha is known for being the largest city in the northwest part of Laos and is famous for being a stop off point for anyone traveling between Laos and neighboring China.
This is also a top spot for anyone who likes to go trekking as you can get out into the surrounding mountains and visit the villages of the ethnic hill tribes in Laos.
If you don’t want to trek then you can also rent a bicycle or a motorcycle and then spend the day scooting around the various villages and checking out the gorgeous waterfalls in this part of the country.
In the town of Luang Namtha itself you can spend your time visiting bustling local markets, sampling the street food and indulging in the herbal saunas here.
The small town and district of Muang Sing sits nestled in a wide-open valley ringed by a fortress of green hills and mountains, just 58 kilometres northwest of Luang Nam Tha. It has all the makings of a star destination: gorgeous scenery, relaxed atmosphere and an astonishing number of ethnic minority villages living side by side.
Within 10 kilometers of the town center live nine distinct groups: Akha, Tai Lue, Tai Neua, Lolo, Hmong, Tai Dam, Khmu, Phou Noi and Yao. Men and women in traditional dress are a common and brilliant sight and this high concentration of minority groups is almost unparalleled in not only Laos, but all of Southeast Asia.
There are also 25 temples in the valley. This density of wats cannot be found anywhere else in Laos outside of Luang Prabang.
All this guarantees a favorite place for backpacker to hang out and explore for months.
Done Det & Done Khone (4000 Islands)
Laos is known for not having a coastline so it may sound strange to hear that it is the home of the Si Phan Don Islands which means ‘Four Thousand Islands’ in Lao.
The islands are caused by the Mekong River dispersing close to the border between Laos and Cambodia which has created these amazing little islets.
The islands vary in size which is great as you can choose some of the larger islands like Done Khone and Done Det if you want a little more nightlife and a wider range of accommodation options.
You can also visit sleepier island like Don Khong if you really want to fall off the grid and get away from it all in Laos.
Check below video about the exciting 4000 Islands
Set in the Xekong river valley in the southeastern corner of Laos, wedged between Sekong province to the north, Champasak province to the west, Cambodia to the south and Vietnam to the east, languid Attapeu is as frontier as it gets.
Welcome to the deep dirty south of Laos.
This area is the least visited part of Laos. For anyone who has spent some time in Laos, the province’s reputation precedes it.
We’ve heard fantastical tales of mining towns that are like the wild wild west, complete with saloons with swinging doors and patrons open carrying arms.
The average intrepid traveler who ventures to Attapeu won’t see gunslingers, prospectors or painted ladies.
You’ll glide along a virtually traffic-free scenic sealed road down from the Bolaven Plateau, and in the provincial capital you’ll see the fisherman casting his net, farmers harvesting rice, a woman guiding her buffalo home and kids splashing in the river at the end of the scorching hot day.
Welcome to Attapeu, the real sleeping beauties of Laos
Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi Neua
Sit along the Nam Ou river, Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi Neua are becoming more and more popular among backpackers to Laos. The 2 towns can be connected by 1-hour boat trip along the Nam Ou river
Nong Khiaw is also known as Nong Kiau and is a pretty spot in Laos that is rapidly gaining a name for itself as one of the best places to visit in the country if you want to get away from it all.
Here you will find some amazing trekking and hiking opportunities and you can spend time biking around the scenic villages here that surround the main town.
Nong Khiaw also sits on the delightful Nam Ou River so you can take a boat trip here that you will let you take in all the scenery from the vantage point of the water.
This part of the country is also surrounded by gorgeous karst formations and the limestone caves here such as the Pha Tok Caves are a great location for anyone who enjoys spelunking.
Muang Ngoi Neua used to be relatively sleepy and under visited, although nowadays it has become known for being a stop off on the legendary Banana Pancake Trail which wraps around several countries in Southeast Asia.
As you would expect, it has now become more and more popular with backpackers who come here for the chance to enjoy the riverside setting and spend time at places like Nam Ou Beach.
You can also get out into the small ethnic villages that surround the town or trek to several famous caves and splendid waterfalls.
Bordered by Yunnan, China and Dien Bien, Vietnam, Phongsali is the northernmost province in Laos. Unforgiving mountainous, sparsely populated, remote and mysterious, it doesn’t get much further than this.
Resting on a ridge in the shadow of Phou Fa (“Sky Mountain”), the small provincial capital and former French colonial outpost is the jumping-off point for treks in the province, which was once part of the Ancient Tea Horse Road (also known as the Southern Silk Road).
Since the 7th Century until as late as the mid-20th Century, tea was exchanged for precious metals, salt and horses on this caravan trade route that spanned southwest China and Tibet.
Locating far in the northern Laos, Phongsaly is completely out of the tourist route, yet it is becoming more and more popular among backpackers who are looking a real colorful heaven.
Below is the simple video about Phongsaly
The northern town of Muang Khua (Muang Khoua) sits at the crossroads of two major “roads”, Highway 2E linking Udomxai to the Vietnamese border, and the Nam Ou river, a waterway-highway through three provinces.
The town was once a beautiful, peaceful spot and the necessary layover was a welcome pause—some relaxing downtime by the river was a good argument for lingering.
A picturesque wooden suspension bridge spans the Nam Phak, in dry season a lazy waterway lined with palms and vegetable gardens.
Muang Khua is not a bad place to break up the journey and stretch the legs.
For those who are passing through and not in a hurry, there are trekking opportunities and like everywhere in Phongsali Province, investing more time gets you further “out there”.
The province is rich with ethnic diversity, only a trickle of travellers use Muang Khua as their portal to trekking, the area is remote and villages remain hardscrabble and hard to reach. One thing’s for sure: you don’t have to worry about mass tourism.
Samneua - Vieng Xai Caves
Hua Phan and its capital Sam Neua rival Phongsali for the title of Laos’ most remote province.
Mountainous and particularly scenic, the province has a mish-mashed network of dirt and sealed roads and lacklustre public transport to match.
Hua Phan is all about slow travel.
Sam Neua sits in a small picturesque valley, a town of white concrete houses topped with red roofs, surrounded by the vibrant green of young rice fields and the grey-green of the mountains.
The town is famous for two major reasons.
There is one fantastic tourist attraction that is not frequently visited that absolutely should be: the caves of Vieng Xai, which is famed for being the region where the communist Pathet Lao forces were headquartered during their struggle with the Lao royal family at the same time the American War in Vietnam was raging.
Combining Samneua and Vieng Xai with the visit to the northern of Laos, and then cross the border to Vietnam is the ideal route for the ones who really love the nature and remote areas.
A video from backpacker couple travelling to Samneua and Viengxai caves
Well, whether you are a high-end tourist looking for a luxury places to rest, or you are a backpacker, Laos has it all for you. The above list is the main idea so that you can form your general Laos travel plan. Of course, there are still plenty of hidden beauties has not been listed in the scope of this article. To keep updated with the latest Laos heaven, do not hesitate to CONTACT OUR EXPERT. In the mean time, you may want to know about Best time to visit Laos and Top 10 festivals in Laos