The Top Places To Visit In Laos

Luang Prabang-LaosOne of the countries that is yet to really embrace the tourism industry is Laos, and without some of the stunning beaches of its coastal neighbors it doesn’t enjoy the same attraction for those who love to relax on golden sands.  However, this is certainly not to say that this hilly country isn’t beautiful, and it still has a tourism industry that is growing, particularly through the capital city Vientiane.  Laos may have a troubled history, but with an improving political stability that is shared across much of the region, Laos is a destination that is starting to reveal its treasures to the tourism industry.


As the capital city of Laos, Vientiane is an important economic hub that is located on the banks of the Mekong river, with a population of close to three quarters of a million. The city itself has a long and colorful history, having in its time been occupied by the Japanese, the French and the Siamese, but is today the seat of government.

For visitors to the city there are a number of historic sites to visit, including Pha That Luang, which is a large stupa fronting on to a large open square that is famed for its ornate surroundings and gold color.  The stone statues at the BuddhaPark and the LaoNationalMuseum are also both worth visiting, while it can also boast one of three bowling alleys in the whole of the country!

The Plain Of Jars

The Plain of Jars is a name that has been given to close to a hundred sites to be found across Xieng Khouang province, with each site including up to four hundred large stone jars.  These sites are believed to date from between 500BC to 500AD, and each jar is at least a meter in height, with the largest jars three meters tall.  All but one of the jars are undecorated, but only a few of these jars have actually had their lids recovered.

The mystery of the Plain of Jars is one that has triggered significant debate about the purpose of the jars, with some historians having found remnants of bone suggesting that they may have been for burning the bodies of the dead.  Local legends for these jars are much more colorful suggesting that they have either been left by a race of giants that used to live in the region, or that they were created by a thirsty ancient king who used these jars to brew vast amounts of rice wine to slake his thirst.


The town of Champasak was once home to the ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Champasak, but is particularly noted for visitors to Laos because of the proximity of the ruined Wat Phu temple.  The temple complex has been on the location for around 1,500 years, but the ruins to be found there currently date from between the eleventh and the thirteenth century.  The site is still a location for Theravada Buddhist worship, which takes place alongside the significant conservation efforts being made to maintain the temple.

Luang Prabang

This small city is to be found in the north central area of Laos, and like many of the settlements in the country has been the seat of a Kingdom historically.  Until the rise of the Khmer Rouge, it was also the capital of Laos, and has been recognized by UNESCO due to its range of historic buildings.  The HawKhamRoyalPalaceMuseum is a particular highlight with a number of wonderful buildings, on a location that has been chosen so that visiting dignitaries could immediately enter the palace after disembarking from their river craft.

For those craving a site of natural beauty, the nearby Kuang Si waterfalls are set in a wonderful area of forest, and are a particularly popular site to relax for visitors.

Vang Vieng

For those looking for a little more excitement from their visit to Laos, the town of Vang Vieng has developed a reputation as a hot spot for backpackers and younger visitors to the country.  The Nam Song river is used for kayaking and riding in tire inner tubes, while there are also a number of rope swings and zip lines in place for those looking for a thrill.  Due to its popularity among teenagers and younger people, the town has a range of internet cafes, restaurants and bars, which has led some critics to claim it is losing its native culture.

Elephant Trekking in Laos

elephantIn Laos, opportunities for tourists are endless. The tiny landlocked country in Asia, wedged between Vietnam and Thailand offers a host of unique activities, but one of the most famous and most well-loved are the elephant treks across the jungles.

Basically, when you are out of the bustling hub of Vientiane and the markets and endless propositions for you to part with your hard-earned dollars, you arrive in smaller towns and even villages full of smiling locals. Getting off the beaten track like this is a dream come true for many young gap-year students or even older people whose kids are now all grown up and they can use the opportunity to give themselves a treat.

One of the most famous places to go elephant trekking in Laos is the Elephant Mahout Camp, which is a parody obviously of the concept of a ‘boot camp.’ This association says that they can divulge to you the ‘secret language of the elephants’, ‘a firsthand jungle experience’ and even to be ‘part of their sacred bathing rituals.’

This form of sustainable and altruistic tourism is practiced at the Tiger Trail Elephant Village as well, where tourist funds are channeled into development projects for the elephants, the local economy, conservation in the jungle and sustainable development for nearby villages and communities.

Most elephant treks can be had for a fee of about 100 USD, though even this might be a bit pricey for the avid backpacker.

The adventurous tourist is usually greeted with either well-furnished hotel rooms or cabins near the jungle where the tour is to take place. For every elephant there are two people – your driver and you. For the particularly brave souls among us, they even offer you the chance to ride on the back of the elephant’s neck without a saddle.

This is one experience you’ll never forget about your stay in Laos!