20 of the Most Quintessential Activities to See and Experience in Laos

A City Rife for Discovery and Intrigue Across Every Ridge and Temple

Just one of the many temples that sits firmly between the clouds

A lot of countries seem to be renowned for their amazing mountainous viewpoints and archaeological discoveries that they transcend, taking the shape of something much more than a geographical location. In a way, they become a state of mind — almost like anything is possible for those who wish to seek more from their travels; to see and do everything possible in such a short stretch of time. Laos is one of those locations that commands attention from those caught in its gaze. Located in the southeast part of Asia, Laos can only be described as a hidden gem thanks to the infinite amount of things to see and do within the country itself.

1. Mount Phousi

To revel in the sights and sounds of Mount Phousi is an experience that is met with nothing but pure ambiance. This 100m high hill is a barrage of green and gold with sentient bridges allowing you to trek further and further up the hill to reach the summit. Monuments and shrines welcome you up each step as you begin to reach the further reaches of the clouds, so close you could almost touch it.

2. Vat Phou

Vat Phou is one of the oldest monuments in all of Laos. This ruined Hindu Khmer temple is known to create feelings of déjà vu across the site, inciting certain travelers to travel from thousands of miles away for nothing more than a glance. From afar, this temple looks like the corner part of a broken castle. Once inside you can see for miles into the many other provinces across Laos thanks to the many holes that now punctuate through the temple.

3. Wat Sen

If you wish to see a temple that is still as pristine as the day it was built then you should most definitely visit Wat Sen. Also known as Wat Sene Souk Haram, this Buddhist temple is very reminiscent of the many temples you will see across this part of Asia. The ceilings are high and the gold statues inside are just say touching the top of the ceiling. Located in Luang Phrabang Wat Sen is one of the most beautiful temples you’ll come across in Laos.

4. Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong is another temple on this list. You’ll find that each temple you visit in Laos is as enthralling as the last, you need only see them in person to experience them for yourself. Wat Xieng Thong may be one of the more historic temples in Laos. It’s roof sweeps low sheltering itself from the canopy of green you see spread across the outside of the temple.

5. Luang Prabang (Royal Palace)

Luang Prabang was a palace built in 1904 to house the then king of Laos: Sisavang Vong. For over half a century this palace was used for the royal family to live close to the people surrounding them. In 1975 the palace was turned into a museum, now offering insight into the history of the kings that lived in the palace and the construction of it wholeheartedly.

6. Pha That Luang

What will come to mind almost immediately when you gaze upon Pha That Luang is simply on how gold this structure is; almost monument like in all of its majestic glory. If the gods could choose what offerings they preferred, they would no doubt choose Pha That Luang as their first choice. This stupa has undergone a lot of changes in the past to keep it pristine, renovation aside one can clearly see just how much work went into creating such a bespoke location.

7. Haw Phra Kaew

What was once a former temple for religious prayer, is now a museum for art and small shop that is perfect for those days where you have nothing in the itinerary. Built in 1565 as a shrine to the emerald Buddha. After restoration was set on the location in 1993 Haw Phra Kaew now serves a separate purpose. The art housed here reflect times of old, times that are forever etched in history.

8. Buddha Park

Buddha Park goes by many names most notably Xieng Khuan. Buddha Park is located in Vientiane and is a testament to the monks who can be found throughout Asia. This location is known as a sculpture park, featuring many statues and monoliths dedicated to the Buddhism religion. The sculptures are made from reinforced concrete and are of very divine quality.

9. Patuxai

Shortly after gaining independence as a country from France, the Patuxai site was erected in hopes of creating a memorial for those lost in the fighting that had ensued. Although the wars ended in 1968 there is still a certain vibe about Patuxai that can’t be replicated. This is reason enough to visit Patuxai, an ever important piece of history that can still be felt today.

10. Kuang Si Falls

Because a lot of locations across Asia are left untouched by the sullen hands of excessive tourism you can visit some of the most tranquil of locations that are made from nature's hand, and nature’s hand alone. One of these locations is the Kuang Si Falls: a waterfall amongst the shrubbery of trees and plants. A sight to behold in every shape and form.

11. Tat Sae Waterfalls

Tat Sae Waterfalls – like the Kuang Si Falls – is another one of nature's finest locales. Streaming its way down a tributary of the Nam Khan River, the Tat Sae Waterfalls is a collection of limestone plates that have all lay perfectly underneath the water allowing anyone to take the plunge across many plateaus of the stream.

12. Nam Ngum Dam

A hydroelectric dam that is responsible for a giant chunk of power that runs throughout the country. The dam runs 468m wide and covering most of the country's water reserves. The dam was built in three separate stages due to the sheer length of the dam itself. The dam is so powerful that it provides energy to not only Laos but Thailand also.

13. Pak Ou Caves

Between the Mekong and Nam Ou river lies a cave. Inside the cave you will found a dimly lit adventure that is sure to take you places you never knew existed. Made entirely out of limestone, the cave is lined with thousands upon thousands of buddha statues. It’s said that the cave is very respected among those seeking religious passage, hence the statues and hence the reason why it should be visited in person.

14. Li Phi Falls

In order to reach Li Phi Falls you will have to travel a little out of the way, but in doing so you will get to see a different side of Laos. I’d recommend using a bicycle to get to the falls as there is nothing like the chill of a breeze in a country with starching temperatures. The falls themselves are full of rapid waters that spiral around every ridge and corner.

15. Chao Anouvong Park

Located in Vientiane, the Chao Anouvong Park is a hotspot for a lot of picnic locations as the sun rises, once the sun falls there is a night market that is renown for having pretty much anything and everything, from fresh produce to finely made rugs and clothing. At the centre of the park lies a golden statue of a soldier. As you can probably tell by now there are a lot of statues littered across Laos.

16. Annamite Range

If you are one for mountaineering and hiking of the like then you’ll highly enjoy the upward climb that is the Annamite Range. The range covers such a large space of land that the Annamite Range actually bellows over into parts of Cambodia. The views from the top of the mountain can lead off for miles, you need only gaze for a few short moments to realise that you are standing on the edge of the earth.

17. COPE Visitor Centre

COPE which stands for: Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise is a main source for artificial limbs and wheelchairs across Laos. COPE has a very interesting visitors centre which offers a completely new perspective on the history of prosthetics. On top of the many theatres and displays there is a gift shop. Most of the money spent here goes towards COPE and their work.

18. Knone Phapheng Falls

Another one of Laos’s main bodies of water, the Knone Phapheng Falls is a spectacle of glistening tides and much greener pastures. Just a little further up from the Pak Ou caves, the Knone Phapheng falls sits just above the Cambodian border.

19. Phu Chi Fa

If you are looking for mountains that are a lot closer to Thailand then look no further than Phu Chi Fa. This national park is a kaleidoscope of vibrance as you embark on your ascension to the top of the range. 1,442m high and multiple hours needed to reach the summit, it goes without saying but Phu Chi Fa is impressive.

20. Bolaven Plateau

Last on our list is the ever-entrancing Bolaven Plateau. It’s here that you’ll be able to do a mix of everything mentioned in this list. Elephant day treks are available from tourist offices across Laos. You also have yet another chance at tranquility with a very poignant waterfall that spreads its veins throughout rivers and beyond. 

Kristopher Cook
Kristopher Cook

Published journalist and traveller. My articles are from my own experiences in travelling or from my own imagination, I find they are not only more fun to write but more fun to read. My goal is to always paint a vivid picture with my words. 

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20 of the Most Quintessential Activities to See and Experience in Laos