Between its jagged limestone cliffs, brooding jungle and the snaking Mekong River, Laos is an adventure playground all in one bite-sized destination. So, what are you waiting for? Check out this list of awesome things to do in Laos and get exploring.
The Bolaven Plateau is an elevated region in southern Laos, located mainly within Champasak Province between the Annamite Mountain Range and the Mekong River. The town of Pakse is the gateway, or the launchpad, to the Plateau, which is characterized by coffee and tea plantations and dramatic waterfalls at an altitude of 4000 feet above sea level. Various ethnic groups inhabit the area.
A popular activity is to rent a motorbike and embark on either a short or long loop through the plateau. Most of the road is newly paved, so it is easy to navigate. The short loop can be a minimum of two days with a stop in Sekong for the night, and right back the next day. If you’re planning a longer stay, you can rent a motorbike for a week and really take your time.
The waterfall to coffee plantation loop is ideal on a motorbike, you will be blown away by the scenery, the lush and beautiful plants, giant butterflies, and many waterfalls. It’s best done in a group, but it is also completely possible to do it solo, as long as you are confident and comfortable on a bike. However, if you’re not into riding around on a motorbike then taking a tour is totally fine too.
When in Pakse, it is hard not to notice the giant golden Buddha that overlooks the Mekong River. As you make your way up the hill to the Buddha, you’ll notice many other statues along the way, including the Snake God statue that guards and protects the Buddha statue.
To reach the Buddha, you’ll need to cross Nippon Bridge from Pakse by foot, bike, or taxi. You will find the giant Buddha perched on top of a lotus flower facing the Mekong River with the city center across from it. It’s a stunning sight to see at any time of the day, although sunrise and sunset are guaranteed to be even more breathtaking.
Take a Vat Phou Cruise along the Mekong River, which is one of the best things to do in Laos in order to connect with your surroundings. Set out from Pakse on the colonial-style ‘Vat Phou’ Mekong riverboat for a gentle journey to the mythical Khmer-era ruins of Vat Phou (Wat Phu) through a magnificent, enduring landscape that looks out over the foothills of Champasak province.
The impressive Khmer temple is reminiscent of a miniature version of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, although it was actually built in the late 10th to early 11th century, which makes it older than Angkor Wat. The temple was dedicated to Shiva, one of the Gods of the Hindu Trimurti, and in the 13th century it was converted into a Buddhist monastery.
For a completely local and humbling experience, get up bright and early to observe one of the holiest Lao traditions, the Alms Giving Ceremony, which takes place at six o’clock every morning right in the heart of the old quarter of Luang Prabang. Buy boxes of rice or biscuits to participate in the ceremony or just stand back and watch.
The procession will start on the main street near the Golden City Temple, Wat Xieng Thong, where a long line of barefooted monks in yellow robes walk on the main streets to accept the offerings of believers who kneel down on the ground and devoutly put sticky rice, fresh fruit or other gifts into the monk’s alms’ bowls until the last monk walks through.
What the monks get from the people is their food for the day, however, they also give much of it to poor people sitting along the way. This experience is an extremely moving one, remember to be respectful and dress appropriately. You can also listen to the monks at prayer in Wat Xieng Thong.
Located 10 miles southeast of Luang Prabang, Tad Sae Waterfall is a spectacular natural wonder that you can enjoy during the wet season. The cascades are not as high as Kuang Si Waterfall, but there are many more streams of water pouring over unique limestone formations. Here, you can relax on the rocks or take a dip in one of the large turquoise pools below the falls.
There are steps leading into the largest pool, which makes swimming access really easy. If you hike past the first set of waterfalls, you will find yourself at a second set even more beautiful than the first. Tad Sae is only reachable by boat, giving you an opportunity to retreat into nature. The best time to visit is from August through November. You can hire a tuk-tuk to take you to the Nam Khan river bank, where boats can ferry you across.
Tranquility is back in the party destination of Vang Vieng now that rules and regulations have been imposed. This little tourist town is rebranding itself to make the most out of its glorious surroundings, but tubing is still very much a part of it. You can go there to float down the river on a tube, or you may consider kayaking instead of tubing, or you can hike around the mountains or explore the caves.
Vang Vieng is also a great place to rock climb, whether you are a first-timer or an experienced climber. Rent a motorbike or a bicycle and get out of town. You will be surrounded by lush greenery, dazzling rice fields, and quiet villages within minutes. Check out the Tham Phu Kham Cave and Blue Lagoon on your journey. Both are gorgeous.
A popular activity in Huay Xai is the Gibbon experience, which gives you a chance to be the king of the jungle, ziplining your way from hilltop to hilltop and staying the night in your own tree house high above the ground. You may even be lucky enough to spot a family of gibbons when you’re there. If not, you’ll certainly hear them. If you want to have the jungle to yourself and watch gorgeous sunrises and sunsets from the balcony of your treehouse, then this experience is for you.
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