The 10 Best Things To Do in Laos
Although being overshadowed by neighbor countries, Laos remains its unique style which makes it become one of Southeast Asia’s most charming destinations. Exploring the untouched sceneries, sparkling temples, or testing out the tasty cuisine; Laos has so much to offer to its visitors. If you are planning a trip to this magical country, we have prepared for you the ultimate bucket list of fun things to do in Laos. Are you ready?
10 Best Things To Do in the Laos
Explore ancient temples
Like many Asian countries, Laos has no shortage of stunning temples to be explored. Walk your way through the quiet grounds of golden monasteries really is soothing for the soul. Luang Prabang ancient town has 33 active gold covered temples dotted throughout the town. You could spend a day just exploring the temples alone. Climb Mount Phu Si for 360-degree views over Luang Prabang and visit giant Buddhas etched into the cliffs.
Peep at Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, then walk towards Sakkarin road where many temples line the street every 100 metres. At the sacred spot where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet, you will find Wat Xieng Thong, the city’s most awe-inspiring temple. Vientiane is also full of beautiful temples and the most remarkable one is Pha That Luang. Striking gold-covered spires against the sky in the center of the city, the breathtaking stupa is a marvel and even lights up at night.
If you travel further to the South, do not miss Wat Phou. Nestled at the base of lush Phou Khao mountains, Wat Phu in the province of Champasak is one of the most famous temple complexes in Laos and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. While some of the ruins are more than 1000 years old, most of them go back to the 11th to 13th centuries. It is basically Laos’ version of Cambodia’s imperious Khmer temple. It’s now a Theravada Buddhist place of worship, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Southern Laos.
Attend Alms – giving ceremony in Luang Prabang
The alms-giving ceremony in Luang Prabang has a long history in Laos Buddhist culture. The tradition of alms gathering dates back to the 14th century. Every day at sunrise, hundreds of saffron-robed monks in orange robe walk silently through the streets in town to gather their daily meal. They are Buddhist monks and novices from Luang Prabang’s temples
The locals wake early to prepare food for the monks and wait quietly by the roadside to give their gifts. Some children also wake up and knee with baskets. Monks often share some of their alms with them so that they can take food back to their family. If you love to experience this tradition, just wake up early and do the same as the locals.
Take river boat trips
For a land-locked country, Laos offers a surprising amount of water-based adventures and top of it is the river cruise.
The Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers – the two Lao rivers support a thriving river cruise network that extends from Luang Prabang in the North to Pakse in the South. From either riverside settlement, travelers can see some of Laos’ top cultural stops, while sailing pass the country’s most scenic mountains and villages.
Starting at Luang Prabang, you can cruise up to Pak Ou Caves which hold a multitude of Buddha statues placed there by devotees. As you cruise further, you will reach to Huay Say with one night en route at Pakbeng. Huay Say is the border town, close to main attractions in Northern Thailand as Chiang Rai and Chiang Rai. So, this option is very popular among people who travel between two countries.
From Pakse, the cruise trip will take you along Mekong Delta to visit river side marvels including the highlights in the Southern Laos: the Vat Phou Angkorian ruins; the “four thousand islands” of Si Phan Don; and the majestic Khone Phapheng Waterfall, the largest one in Southeast Asia.
Cruise boats are different in size and luxury level, ranging from noisy motorized speed demons to stately retro-style steamers with cushy cabins and butler service.
With advantage of mountains and jungles surrounding the country, Laos offers many beautiful places for trekking lovers. Trekking opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, from short self-guided hikes to multi-day guided trips, from strolls on marked pathways to deep-into-the-wilderness trails.
The great beauty of trekking is to immerse yourself in pristine nature and explore the hidden places and people far from the usual tourist trail. Many treks will take you to visit remote ethnic villages where the way of life has changed little in centuries. Otherwise, you can see lots of animal and bird-life, breathtaking waterfalls, beautiful cave systems, mountain scenery, deep forest, river journeying and even ancient ruins. In multi-day trip, travelers will stay in the form of home-stays which range from super-rustic to surprisingly comfortable.
One popular starting point for the trekkers is the lovely riverside town of Nong Khiaw. The town has developed into a hub for trekking tour operators, so you will have lots of choice here. The northern town of Luang Nam Tha which is close to the Chinese border is also a perfect spot. You can hike through pristine rainforest and meet Laos’ hill tribe communities in the protected Nam Ha Reserve.
The Northeast Laos, on the border of China, is home to the province of Phongsaly, a remote and less traveled corner of this quiet country. Here, some of Laos’ most pristine mountains and adventurous trails are awaiting people who dare stray off the beaten path.
Vang Vieng is the most well – known place for adventures in Laos and one of popular activities is kayaking on Nam Song River. It is the best way to enjoy the scenic landscape and wilderness of Vang Vieng along this poetic river. To do this, you can book a half day tour from any company in town for about 100,000 Kip (10 USD). It will take few hours, offering some nice stops on the way where you can enjoy Laos Beer.
Located at confluence of Mekong and Nam Ou River, Luang Prabang is also ideal place for kayaking. You can book day trips to paddle kayak on Nam Ou or Nam Khan river which are surrounded by spectacular mountains and jungle. Pinic lunch will be provided during the tour.
One of the top things to do in Laos is tubing. It is really fun when you grab a tube, float down the Nam Song river in Vang Vieng and stop in at riverside bars for some drinks along the way.
Tubing is also one of the main activities in Si Phan Don Islands on the Mekong River. It is really a good way to relax. You can rent a tube easily from any guesthouse and float around in the water in front of it. If you are looking for something more exciting, go further on a boat tour and then tube off the boat.
Swimming at beautiful waterfalls
Laos has many impressive waterfalls, but there are few ones you shouldn’t miss. The Kuang Si near Luang Prabang is the first one. The Kuang Si Falls has 3 tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into shallow pools, before flowing downstream. The pools make great swimming holes and you can change into your swimwear at wooden huts close to the waterfall’s entrance. Surrounded by lush tropical jungle, the shallow pools filled with turquoise water have cascades of up to 5 metres high.
If you like something exciting, you can climb to the top and jump down the water. For another picturesque swimming near Luang Prabang, head to Tad Sae waterfall where you can relax on the rocks or take a dip in one of the turquoise pools. In the south of the country, Bolaven Plateau is nice spot to visit some of the country’s most impressive waterfalls. Tad Phane is the most famous, with twin falls that gush out of a forest-covered rock-face, tumbling down through majestic jungle foliage. Further north in Salavan province is Tad Lo village with its three waterfalls within hiking distance as Tad Suong, Tad Lo, and Tad Hang.
Head south to Si Phan Don, you can visit the magnificent waterfall, Khon Phapheng Falls. It is the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia. With the cascading water crashing and frothing over the rocks, it’s called the Niagara of Asia.
For a cheaper and quieter experience, head to Don Khon to find the fast-flowing rapids of Tat Somphamit or Khon Pa Soi Falls.
Experience to be a Gibbon
It is a popular activity in Huay Xai, near the border with Thailand. You will have a chance to fly from trees to trees and stay on a tree like a Gibbon. It sounds strange but absolutely true. It is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Unplug away from electricity, 3 – hour drive outside the town of Houayxay will take you in Nam Kan National Park. Set amongst 136.000 ha, The Gibbon Experience is actually a wildlife conversation project, focused on sustainable, responsible tourism initiatives, and reforestation. Guides speak English, the equipment is safe, and the food is reasonable for jungle fare
There are two and three day tours, which combine zip-lining, easy trekking, and relaxing amongst the forest canopy in one of the custom made tree houses. You will hike through the jungle and sleep in the world’s tallest tree houses at 30-40 meters high, which are accessible by zip line. Floating through the jungle canopy gives you a much greater appreciation of the complexities of forests, and soaring from one tree house to another is a truly memorable experience. While you stay in a jungle, you may listen to and look for the elusive and endangered gibbons in the forest.
Enjoy slow pace in life of Laos people
Unlike neighbor countries as Thailand or Vietnam where people are always in hurry, Laos has own living style: slow and low pressure. You can feel it not only in countryside but also in big cities as Vientiane. Despite of being a capital, you rarely hear sound of honk from the cars, buses or other vehicles. People are openly and freely smiling.
Further south, you can visit Si Phan Don Archipelago, or the 4,000 Islands. Time here seems to be slower due to the easy, laid-back nature of the islands’ inhabitants. Nothing seems to happen, even the animals barely move.
In the North, Muang Ngoi Neua is quite similar. Although it becomes more popular these days, it is still sleepy village where everything goes slowly. You can spend a couple of nights here to visit around villages and get out of stress.
Try Laos essential tastes and beer
Cuisine is always the best thing to discover a new destination with authentic taste, ingredients and the way to cook.Lao cuisine gets one signature: extremely spicy. Most dishes contain a little bit more slight bitterness than sweetness. The locals use lots of fresh herbs and raw vegetables. Rice is the main dish and the standard kind is sticky rice (khao niaow), eaten by hand from small baskets called tip khao. You need to pinch off a bit of rice by hand, roll into a ball, then dip and munch away.
The national dish is laap, a “salad” of minced meat mixed with herbs, spices, lemon juice and chili. Laos people can use raw meat instead of cooked meat. Another Lao dish is tam maak hung, the spicy green papaya salad. Other popular dishes include ping kai – spicy grilled chicken and mok pa – fish steamed in a banana leaf.
Together with food, you should try the national-pride products of Laos beer. It is made from Laotian jasmine rice, one of the few Lao exports. Laos beer is as popular and widespread as water. You can find it anywhere, from the remote street stalls catering to locals to the packed touristy bars of Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Beer Lao is a smooth, savory, and light brew, and it goes down well with any meal.
We hope you will find the interesting things to do for your trip through our list. In case you need any assistance to plan the trip, don’t hesitate to contact Laos Travel team. Our experienced consultants will help to make your plan come true.
You have given us excellent information and ideas for our upcoming visit to Laos.