Pha That Luang in Vientiane
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Top Things to Do in Laos

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With lush jungles, gilded temples, epic waterfalls, charming countryside villages, and diverse ethnic groups, the small and landlocked Laos offers every reason to fall in love with it at the first sight.

The best things to do in Laos include exploring many of its iconic temples which are home to local monks and served as living places of study, and worship, immersing yourself in the stunning landscapes, exploring the hidden countryside villages, touring UNESCO World Heritage sites in Luang Prabang, sipping a cup of coffee in a coffee plantation, etc.

The following list of top things to do in Laos will help you to plan your perfect exploration and sightseeing in this often-overlooked country.

1. Visit Pha That Luang in Vientiane - national monument and symbol of Laos

Being regarded as the national monument and symbol of Laos, the gold-covered Pha That Luang was built in the 16th century with its main pagoda towering 45 meters high. Surrounding the main pagoda is a high-walled cloister with tiny windows and various Buddha images. Around the main pagoda, you can also find other different Buddhist structures and temples, including a statue of the former Lao king, and the temples of Wat That Luang Nuea and Wat That Luang Tai with red roofs and gold facades.

Pha That Luang in Vientiane
Pha That Luang in Vientiane

2. See Hundreds of Buddha Statues in Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) in Vientiane

Though not a temple, Buddha Park (formerly known as Xieng Khuan) will entertain you with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. The 40-meter-long reclining Buddha at the center of the park is a highlight here.

Here you will find vivid statues of humans, animals, and all of the Hindu and Buddhist divinities including Shiva, Vishnu, Sakyamuni, etc.

Buddha Park in Vientiane
Impressive statues in Buddha Park

3. Experience the Alms-giving Ceremony and Visit Local Morning Market in Luang Prabang

Every morning in Luang Prabang, monks in saffron robes will carry their alms bowls and march through the main streets of the town to collect food from locals and tourists. This is a morning ritual in Luang Prabang, and among all the Buddhist nations in Asia, Laos is the only one that still preserves this unique tradition. Tourists are also possible to donate food to the monks.

After the almsgiving ceremony in the early morning, it’s the perfect time to visit the local morning market where locals do their daily shopping. Located in the city center, the morning market, being teemed with various stalls selling fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, and food, offers many local breakfast options, and insight into locals’ daily life.

Morning Alms-giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang
Morning Alms-giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang

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4. Tour Luang Prabang’s Amazing Temples and Shrines

Sitting at the junction of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang is the former royal capital city of Laos which boasts 34 UNESCO-listed temples. The temples in Luang Prabang represent a unique heritage of palpable spiritual aura, they are not bland museums, but living places of study, and worship and home to local monks.

In Luang Prabang, you will be introduced to Wat Xieng Thong, one of Laos’ most renowned temples featuring characteristics of 16th-century Lao architecture: exquisite wall carvings, sweeping 2-tiered roof, and ornate mosaics, etc., Wat Visoun, the oldest temple in Luang Prabang that can date back to 1513, Wat Mai – one of the most impressive temples in Luang Prabang standing out for its golden high-relief decoration, and Phousi Hill which offers a stunning panoramic view of the ancient town and Mekong River.

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang
Wat Xieng Thong

5. Learn Laotian Ethnic Culture at Traditional Art and Ethnology Center

A UNESCO protected historical building, the Traditional Art and Ethnology Center devotes to promote understanding of authentic ways of life and various traditions and customs of Laotian ethnic groups. Tourists can expect to see exhibition like ethnic clothing, religious artefacts, working tools, etc. A can’t miss for those who want to look into Laotian ethnic culture and life.

6. Enjoy Fun Time at the Kuang Si Waterfalls

Kuangsi Waterfall is a three-tiered and 60-meter-high waterfall flowing through the lush limestone jungles. It is considered the most beautiful natural masterpiece in Laos highlighting beautiful travertine pattern, crystal water, and picturesque swimming pools. It is the paradise to unwind yourself in the turquoise swimming pools and enjoy exciting hiking through peaceful trickle of flowing water, and diverse funguses and flowers.

Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang
Kuangsi Waterfall

7. Cruise along Mekong River to See the Dramatic Pak Ou Caves

Located on the outskirts of Luang Prabang and overlooking the Mekong River, Pak Ou Caves are two linked caves that are known for thousands of miniature Buddha sculptures from the 16th century. To reach the caves, tourists need to ride an upstream boat along the Mekong River and go through several small villages on the way.

That means touring the Pak Ou Caves will offer you a relaxing boat ride, an experience of local village life, impressive limestone cliffs and landscapes, and fascinating Buddha heritages. No one wants to miss it when traveling to Luang Prabang.

Pak Ou Caves in Luang Prabang Laos
Buddha statues in Pak Ou Caves

8. Get Close to Asian Elephants in the Elephant Village Sanctuary in Luang Prabang

The Elephant Village Sanctuary in Luang Prabang is an educational center for the conservation and rehabilitation of Asian elephants, being facilitated by an elephant hospital, museum, gallery, and dung paper-making facility.

The sanctuary offers tourists a rare chance to interact with the adorable Asian elephants. You will enjoy a one-on-one experience of being a Mahout, have a leisure walk together with the elephants in their natural environment, help elephants to take a bath, learn to prepare food for the elephants, etc.

An elephant family in Elephant Village Luang Prabang
An elephant family in the Elephant Village

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9. Explore the Bolaven Plateau

A cool elevated region in southern Laos, Bolaven Plateau is home to major ethnic minorities, beautiful waterfalls, lush forests, and thriving tea and coffee plantations. During a trip here, you can visit a local coffee plantation to sip freshly–brewed Laotian coffee and observe the coffee and its roasting steps.

Natural lovers can head to Thad Fane, the gathering place of dramatic waterfalls (some are even 200 meters high), for the breathtaking scenery of dense jungles. Outdoor enthusiasts can find awesome trekking trails through rural areas of Laos.

Stunning waterfalls at Bolaven Plateau
Stunning waterfalls at Bolaven Plateau

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10. Explore Islands of Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands)

Si Phan Don (meaning four thousand islands) is 2 hours drive away from Pakse. Spreading along the Mekong River and near the Laos and Cambodia border, Si Phan Don is the gathering place of thousands of charming islands, featuring beautiful landscapes, gorgeous waterfalls, and profound Laotian culture.

You can ride a canoe to look into the tropical plants and scenes in this area, stroll along the banks of the Mekong River to find some peaceful fishing villages with traditional bars, restaurants, shops, and French colonial ear buildings, and hop on a tuk-tuk to marvel at the Li Phi waterfalls.

11. Uncover the Mysterious The Plain of Jars

The Plain of Jars is a huge and mysterious archaeological complex with stone jars over 2000 years old and different sizes (from 70cm up to 3 or 4 meters) scattered around the upland valleys and the lower foothills. The origin of these stone jars is still an enigma today, French archaeologist Madeleine Colani has led several researches and suggested that they might be ancient graves.

The site is near the former battlefields during the American secret war where bomb craters can still be seen. Nine of the 90 sites here have been cleared of UXOs, and tourists are highly recommended to follow the signs and walk along the defined trails.

Plain of Jars in Laos
The Plain of Jars

12. Visit the organic farm of The Living Land Company

Located in the outskirt of Luang Prabang, Living Land Farm is a charming community enterprise overlooking stunning rice paddies and mountains, offering many educational programs. The community plans rice all year round, offering many educational programs. Every year, many tourists from worldwide come here to learn rice planting, experience interesting farm activities like bamboo weaving, sugar cane pressing, black smithing, etc.

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