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As a small landlocked country with no direct flights from outside Asia, Laos often gets overlooked as a holiday destination. In that sense, Laos is a road less traveled for many. However, anyone who has made the trip to this country will tell you that it would be amiss to skip a visit to this place! What the country lacks in beaches, it makes up for in exciting adventures through spectacular landscapes untouched by modernity. From the magnificent Kuang Si Waterfalls to the dazzling temples of Luang Prabang and the lush jungle scenery along the Nam Song River, Laos has a lot to offer. Scroll down to learn more about the hidden gems of Laos and the ideal duration to spend in the country.
Do not let the laid-back vibe fool you into thinking that there is not much to do in Laos. In reality, we would recommend at least a two-week trip so that you can truly sink your teeth into the country. Many jumpstart their Laos trip from Huay Xai, having entered into the country from Thailand, and exit to Cambodia through the southern islands of Si Phan Don. With 14 days to spend in Laos, you can explore the UNESCO-listed sites of Luang Prabang, visit the beautiful temples of Vientiane and soak up the delights of Vang Vieng.
If you are only visiting Laos as part of a longer Indochina trip, then set aside at least three days to see a few of the country’s highlights. Though three days in Laos is hardly enough time to get to know the country, it should at least afford you a taste of one or two major destinations.
For most travelers, a three-day Laos itinerary is often part of a longer Indochina trip. If you have only three days in Laos, we highly recommend that you concentrate in and around Luang Prabang. As the ancient royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang features many of the country’s most important temples and monuments such as Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, Wat Sene, and the Royal Palace Museum. Book a guided tour through the city on the first day so that you can learn more about Laos’ rich history.
On your second day, go on a cruise trip along the Mekong River to see the Pak Ou Caves. A popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists, these caves feature thousands of Buddha icons tucked away in a series of remarkable limestone cliffs. From Pak Ou, you can then head to the iconic Kuang Si Waterfalls and enjoy a refreshing swim in its turquoise blue waters. Finally, spend your last day hiking the sacred hill of Mount Phousi in the morning, before eating your weight in street food at Luang Prabang’s night market.
With a total of five days to spend, we suggest adding two additional days in Vientiane on top of the three-day Laos itinerary above. With its laid-back vibes, numerous Buddhist temples, and stunning gems of colonial architecture, Vientiane forces you to recalibrate your expectations of an urban area. Plus, the city is the perfect place to relax. You can get around Vientiane on foot or in a traditional tuk-tuk, but exploring the city by bicycle is the best way to go about it.
Among the sights, you should not miss are the Patuxai Monument, inspired by the Arc de Triumph in Paris, and the Buddha Park, a sacred site with statues about Buddhist mythology. Temples and monuments aside, Vientiane’s cafe culture is also worth exploring. Featuring hip interiors, gastronomic delights, authentic French pastries, and the perfect cup of delicious Lao coffee, it is easy to see why Vientiane is a haven for traveling coffee aficionados.
Those planning a two-week trip to Laos are in for a treat, as you can traverse the whole country from north to south and tick off most of Laos’ highlights in that duration. Start out by spending a day in the border town of Huay Xai, where the Gibbon Experience is located. The Gibbon Experience is an ape-conservation sanctuary known for its canopy setups featuring the world’s highest treehouses and 15 kilometers of ziplines. Up next is Luang Prabang, the city of temples and monuments. Next, prepare yourself for an adventure in Vang Vieng. From river tubing and ziplining to kayaking and hiking, there is no shortage of outdoorsy adventures to be had in this town. In addition to this, the town is also famous for its idyllic blue lagoons where most of the action takes place. After a full three days spent in nature in Vang Vieng, head for Vientiane and kick back for two days.
From Vientiane, you can either take an overnight bus or catch a flight to Pakse. A quaint and quiet city situated on the banks of the Mekong River, Pakse acts as a gateway to the ecological paradise that is the Bolaven Plateau and the stunning ancient Khmer temple of Wat Phou. Allot three days in Pakse before finally ending your two-week Laos itinerary relaxing in the riverine islands of Si Phan Don.
Travelling to Laos? Chat with a local travel specialist in Laos who can help organize your trip.
Seng Mitthaphome Travel Expert in Laos
Linh Do Travel Expert in Cambodia & Vietnam
Hanah Pham Travel Expert in Cambodia & Vietnam