Luang Prabang literally meaning “Royal Buddha Image”, is a city in north central Laos, consisting of 58 adjacent villages, of which 33 comprise the UNESCO Town Of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. It was listed in 1995 for unique and “remarkably” well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The center of the city consists of four main roads and is located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. Luang Prabang is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the city’s major landmarks is Mount Phou Si; a large steep hill which despite the constrained scale of the city, is 150 meters (490 ft) high; a steep staircase leads to Wat Chom Si shrine and an overlook of the city and the rivers.
The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. It had also been known by the ancient name of Xieng Thong. It was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos, until the Pathet Lao takeover in 1975. The city is part of Luang Prabang District of Luang Prabang Province and is the capital and administrative center of the province. It lies approximately 300 km (190 mi) north of the capital Vientiane. Currently, the population of the city as a whole is roughly 56,000 inhabitants with the UNESCO protected site being inhabited by around 24,000.
Places to Visit:
Ban. Xangkong Handicraft Village
Phou Si Hill
Alms Giving (5:30AM)
Bear Rescue Center
Sunset Cruise on the Mekong
Phonsavan (population 37,507) is the capital of Xiangkhoang Province of Laos.
Phonsavan is the provincial capital of Xiangkhouang Province. The countryside is dominated by green hills and pine forests. Villages consist of colourful wooden houses. Cattle raising is one of the main agricultural activities and Hmong cowboys with brown and violet cowboy hats are a common sight. During Hmong New Year there are bullfights in the city. Phonsavan was built in the late 1970s and replaced the old Xiangkhouang (today: Muang Khoun) which had been destroyed during the Second Indochina War.
Phonsavan’s most famous attraction is the nearby Plain of Jars, which has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. The main economic activity in Phonsavan is based on government administration, mining companies from China and Australia, tourism, and the work of NGOs related to clearing unexploded ordnance.
Things to See:
Plain of Jars 1
Plain of Jars 2
Plain of Jars 3
Ban Napai Spoon Village
Phou Keng Jar Quarry Site
Vang Vieng is a tourist-oriented town in Laos in Vientiane Province about four hours bus ride north of the capital. The town lies on the Nam Song River. The most notable feature of the area is the karst hill landscape surrounding the town.
Places to Visit:
Tham Jang Cave
Blue Lagoon 1
Sunset Cruise Long Nam Song river
Kaeng Nyui Waterfall
Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1573 due to fears of a Burmese invasion but was later looted then razed to the ground in 1827 by the Siamese (Thai). Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic center of Laos. The city had a population of 820,000 as at the 2015 Census.
Vientiane is noted as the home of the most significant national monument in Laos: That Luang, which is a known symbol of Laos and an icon of Buddhism in Laos. Other significant Buddhist temples in Laos can be found there as well, such as Haw Phra Kaew, which formerly housed the Emerald Buddha.
The city hosted the 25th Southeast Asian Games in December 2009, celebrating 50 years of the Southeast Asian Games.
Things to see:
Pha That Luang (Golden Temple)
One of, if not the most popular waterfall in the country, Kuang Si Falls is located about 20 miles south of Luang Prabang.
With a drop of nearly 200 feet, the fall is powerful and impressive, and a great place to reconnect with nature.
Don’t worry if you forgot to get up early and pack tuna sandwiches and Fritos, because industrious locals have set up stalls selling all manner of tasty treats at the fall’s base, so you won’t go hungry.
There’s also a bear rescue center nearby, if you’d like to get a good look at some local animals that have been saved and are being rehabilitated.
As with many waterfalls the world over, Tad Sae was formed over eons as coursing water cut its way through the surrounding limestone, forming wonderfully aesthetic cascades and pools.
Located near Luang Prabang, the fall is accessible enough to make it a favorite spot of locals and tourists looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The fall dries to a trickle in the dry season, but during the rainy season, the inviting water is cool and refreshing.
There are plenty of seating areas and chairs from which you’ll be able to relax and watch the fall in perfect harmony.
The Tad Fane Waterfall in Don Hua Sao National Protected Area in Champasak Province is a must-see if you happen to find yourself in southern Laos.
At nearly 400 feet tall, the fall is majestic, and comprised of two watercourses that come together before flowing from the crest to the pool below.
Located in Lao’s Champasak Province about 50 kilometers from Pakse, the park in which the Tad Yuang falls resides is a bit on the touristy side.
On the other hand, it’s a great place to see a picturesque waterfall, and after you’ve had your fill of Mother Nature you’ll be able to stroll among the restaurants and vendor shops near the parking lot.
The water flow can be downright forceful in the rainy season, limiting swimming access, but if you happen to be there when the water is neither too abundant nor scarce, you’ll be able to swim above or below the falls.
Located in the 4,000 Islands region in the south of Laos, Khone Phapheng Waterfall is a natural wonder located on the Mekong River, which is the heart of many Southeast Asian countries like Laos and Cambodia.
By volume, the fall is the largest in the region, and is the primary reason that it’s impossible to reach China via the Mekong.
The highest of the fall is nearly 70 feet high, and unleashes a powerful torrent of whitewater, especially in the rainy season.
The object of much local lore, it’s believed that the rushing waters of Li Phi greedily collect the spirits of animals and people who didn’t lead virtuous lives.
Though there’s no official confirmation of whether or not this is true, it’s why in the local language the fall’s name means ‘Spirit Trap.’
Located on the Mekong River, the fall’s swift water and slippery rocks can be treacherous.
It’s located in the 4,000 Islands area of Lao’s southern border with Cambodia, and it’s possible to make trips into Cambodia from there if you’ve never been.
Located just outside the borders of the Nam Ha National Bio-Diversity Reserve in Laos’ Xiangkhouang Province, Nam Kat Waterfall is about an hour drive from the town of Oudom Xai in the country’s north-central region.
Located in Ba Chiang, Tad Pha Suam Waterfall sports a rickety old bamboo bridge that seems to have been around since the beginning of time.
Don’t worry though, bamboo is extraordinarily tough, and the bridge will give a great view of the falls. You may get some cool mist in your face too.
Due to its remoteness and the difficulty of getting to it, it’s off the radar of most tourists, so if you’re inclined put in the effort, your reward will be a magnificent falls that may seem like your own private park.
Also in Champasak Province, the Nam Tok Katamtok falls is a relatively easy drive from the town of Paksong, making it an alluring day-trip option for those staying in the area.
At more than 300 feet tall, the falls is one of the largest in the area, and located on the Huay Katam River in Lao’s Bolaven Plateau region, which is famous for its highland ecosystem and plentiful coffee plantations.
The falls is only a short hike from the road, and its sheer size is more reminiscent of waterfalls you’d expect to find in Africa.
Named after the village of the same name nearby, the Tad Lo Waterfall is about 85 kilometers from Pakse in Lao’s Bolaven Plateau region.
The fall is comprised of 3 distinct tiers: Tad Hang, Tad Lo and Tad Suong.
The cataracts are particularly forceful and dangerous during the rainy months, and the area is known for its elephant tours, which will certainly be an adventure you’ll never forget.
Located in Laos’ south in the region surrounded by Vietnam and Thailand to the east and west respectively, and Cambodia to the south, the Tad Somphamit Waterfalls is a wonderful place to stop when transitioning from one country to another in this region with so many exotic choices.
There’s a small fee to enter the park, and during the rainy season, there’s a lot to do besides gaze at the falls, such swimming in the swimming pool or trying your hand at ziplining.
Though the park is open during the dry season, the falls and amenities aren’t too impressive then.
If you’re staying on Det or other nearby islands, it’s about 7 kilometers to the falls.
At about 35 kilometers from Pakse, Pha Suam Waterfall is closer than the aforementioned Tad Lo Waterfalls, making it an easy day trip from the town.
Shaped like a U, the fall is distinct in that the water doesn’t dry up in the dry season, although the flow can be reduced significantly.
At about 20 feet high, the fall is on the Houai Champi River in Lao’s Salavanh Province.
Located in Nong Khiaw, 100 Waterfalls is one of the amazing waterfalls in Laos that you’re not likely to forget.
As you may have guessed by the name, the area is home to countless waterfalls, and if you’d like to experience as many of them as possible, consider hiring a guide before you go.
The guides usually save the largest fall for last. It’s the most majestic and resembles a temple, and if the water flow is just right you may be able to push through the mist at the fall’s base on a canoe made from bamboo.
More resort-like than many of Laos’ waterfalls, the Nahm Dong falls and surrounding area are home to stunning natural beauty, architecture left over from the French Colonial days, and plenty of amazing things to see and do.
The steps to the falls will get the old heart pumping, and there are different seating and swimming areas, some of which are suitable for families due to their shallowness and low flow.
Attapeu is a province of Laos in the southeast of the country. To the north it is bounded by Sekong, to the west by Champasak Province. To the east, the Annamite Mountain Range separates Attapeu from Vietnam. It borders Cambodia to the south. It has five districts, Samakkixay, Xaysetha, Sanamxay, Sanxay, and Phouvong, covering an area of 10,320 square kilometers (3,980 sq mi) with a population of 127,285. Its capital city lies at Attapeu (Muang Samakkixay).
It was known as the “land of heroism”. There are two biodiversity areas: Dong Ampham Forest (200,000 ha) and Xepaine Forest. A large part of the province is managed by the Dong Ampham National Biodiversity Conservation Area.
Champasak is a small town in southern Laos, on the west bank of the Mekong River about 40 km south of Pakse, the capital of Champasak Province.
The town was once the seat of the Kingdom of Champasak, an independent Lao state which was abolished by the French in 1945 when they created the Kingdom of Laos, but the last King of Champasak had his palace in Pakse. Today the town is very small, consisting mostly of guesthouses along the riverbank, catering to tourists visiting the Wat Phu temple ruins some 10 km away.
Don Det used to be a really off the beaten track place only five to ten years ago. However, since the changes to the tubing scene in Vang Vieng in 2012 which saw the majority of bars closed down, the young party crowd has moved here. Don Det has many cheap guesthouses and bars catering to the lower budget tourist and is now very much on the backpacker trail. Don Det recently acquired 24 hour electrical supply which will most likely lead to increasingly more services and development.
Don Det is somewhat of a mecca for backpackers and is comparable with the Vang Vieng prior to the changes made to improve its safety record. Tourists, mostly in their 20s and 30s, come to this island to party, drink, and relax. Some stay a day or two, some for weeks and a few have decided to stay for good.
Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area is a national protected area in Champasak Province in southern Laos. This forested park rises from the Mekong river lowlands eastwards into the Bolaven Plateau. It is an ecotourism destination.
Ban Houayxay is the capital of the Lao province of Bokèo, on the border with Thailand.
The town lies on the Mekong River opposite Chiang Khong in Thailand. The Fourth Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge at Ban Houayxay, which opened in December 2013 and replaced ferry service across the river, is now the northernmost road border crossing between the two countries. Asian Highway 3, which runs through Ban Houayxay, extends north to Yunnan Province of China and south to Chiang Rai Province of Thailand.
Houayxay has a domestic airport with regular flights to Vientiane (capital of Laos) and Luang Prabang (depending on the season). Probably the most popular means of transport are boats (speed and slow boats, freighters, luxury cruisers for tourists and others) running down the Mekong to Pakbeng, Luang Prabang and other destinations.
Fort Carnot, an ancient French fort in ruins, is situated on a hill overlooking the town and the Mekong river.
Tham Kong Lo or Kong Lor Cave is a karst limestone cave in Phu Hin Bun National Park, in Khammouane Province, Laos. It is located roughly 130 kilometers (81 mi) north of Thakhek, on the Nam Hin Bun River, which flows into the cave. The karst formation is dramatic and the cave has been cited as a “one of Southeast Asia’s geological wonders”.
The cave is deep (lasting about 7 kilometers (4.3 mi)) and wide and as high as 300 feet in parts. The locals in recent years have set up vendors at the location to provide to tourists. Inside the cave is a pool which glows a bright emerald color which locals hold as sacred, believing it to reflect the skin of the Hindi god Indra.
Long Tieng is a Laotian military base located in Xaisomboun Province. During the Laotian Civil War, it served as a town and airbase operated by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. During this time, it was also referred to as Lima Site 98 (LS 98) or Lima Site 20A (LS 20A).
At the height of its significance in the late 1960s, the “secret city” of Long Tieng maintained a population of 40,000 inhabitants, making it the second largest city in Laos at the time, although it never appeared on maps throughout this period.
Louang Namtha, is the capital of Luang Namtha Province in northern Laos. The city lies on the Tha River (Nam Tha).
Luang Namtha is a popular tourist destination, and a base for treks, biking to the surrounding hill tribe villages. The Luang Namtha Museum is in the town.
This trip takes more than 6 hours through the breath taking mountains.
Stops along the way:
SaLa Phou Khoun Viewpoint
Lao War Memorial
Vietnam War Memorial
Muang Ngoi Neua is a Lao town along the Nam Ou in Louangphrabang Province. It is part of Ngoi district 170 kilometres North-East of Luang Prabang. The current population is about 700, and of Lao Loum ethnicity. The town is an old Tai Mueang and was heavily bombed during the Laotian Civil War.
Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area (NPA) is a protected area in northern Laos, covering 5,959 km2 in three provinces: Houaphan, Luang Prabang, and Xieng Khouang. The park includes a 3,000 km2 core area where human access and wildlife harvest is prohibited and a 2,950 km2 buffer area where pre-existing villages are allocated land for subsistence living.
The park consists mainly of mountains and hills, with elevations ranging between 336 and 2257 meters. The area is the source of many rivers. It is named after the Nam Et River and Phou Louey Mountain (‘Forever Mountain’). The area has a high level of biodiversity and endangered species including tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, Asian golden cat, marbled cat, civet, gaur, Sambar deer, white-cheeked gibbon, sun bear, black bear, Asian elephant, dhole, horn-bill and three species of otter.
Villagers living in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park include Tai Dam, Tai Daeng, Tai Kao, Tai Puan, Tai Lue, Tai Yuan, Khmu, Hmong Kao, Hmong Lai, and Yao.
Viengthong, a small town in Houaphan Province, is the site of the Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA headquarters and visitor centre, where tours into the park can be organised. The town has basic accommodation and a handful of restaurants. There are many biking and walking trails, as well as hot springs.
Nong Khiaw is a village in the Luang Prabang Province of northern Laos. It’s on the Nam Ou River, where tour boats and kayaks travel. Close by, narrow footpaths wind through jungle and ascend steep limestone cliffs for expansive views. Tham Pha Thok is a series of limestone caves that served as a shelter during the Second Indochina War. Small villages dot the nearby forested mountains and rice fields.
Oudomxay is a province of Laos, located in the northwest of the country. The province capital is Muang Xai.
Oudomxay Province covers an area of 15,370 square kilometres (5,930 sq mi). The province borders China to the north, Phongsali Province to the northeast, Luang Prabang Province to the east and southeast, Xaignabouli Province to the south and southwest, Bokeo Province to the west, and Luang Namtha Province to the northwest. The topography of Oudomxay is mountainous, between 300–1,800 metres (980–5,910 ft) above sea level.
Oudomxay has deposits of salt, bronze, zinc, antimony, brown coal, kaolin and iron deposits. Attempts to control poppy cultivation in the province have been made through the Narcotics Crop Control Project, formulated in the 1990s. Besides rice, important crops are corn, soybeans, fruits, vegetables, cassava (maniok), sugarcane, tobacco, cotton wool, tea and peanuts. In 2004, approximately 10,000 tons of sugarcane and 45,000 tons of corn were produced.
Pak Beng is a small village in Laos, on the Mekong River about halfway between the Thai border at Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, Laos. Pak Beng is connected by a sealed road with Oudomxai along the Nam Beng River.
Pakse, “mouth of the river”; is the capital and most populous city of the southern Laotian province of Champasak, making it the second most populous city in Laos. Located at the confluence of the Xe Don and Mekong Rivers, it has a population of about 88,000. It also served as the capital of the Kingdom of Champasak until it was unified with the rest of Laos in 1946. International Airport
Phongsaly Province is a province of Laos in the extreme north of the country. The capital of the province is the city of Phôngsali. Phongsaly is between Yunnan (China), and Điện Biên Province in Vietnam. Its culture has thus been historically heavily influenced by China.
Phongsaly Province covers an area of 16,270 square kilometers (6,280 sq mi), out of which 77% has forest cover. The province borders China to the north and west, Vietnam to the east, Luang Prabang Province to the south, and Oudomxai Province to the southwest. The highest mountain in the province is Phou Doychy with an elevation of 1,842 meters (6,043 ft) Protected areas in the province include the Phou Dene Din National Biodiversity Conservation Area and Nam Lan Conservation Area. Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of the province. Phongsaly is the primary trade gateway between Laos and China, exporting lumber and importing several types of finished goods.
Sainyabuli Province is a province in northwest Laos. Sainyabuli town is the capital of the province. Sainyabuli is the only Lao province that is completely west of the Mekong River. (Champasak Province also has several districts west of the Mekong River including Mounlapamok, Soukama, and Phontong Districts.)
Savannakhet, officially named Kaysone Phomvihane is a city in western Laos and the capital of the Savannakhet Province. With a population of 120,000 (undated), it is the second-largest city in Laos, after Vientiane. The city is the birthplace of Kaysone Phomvihane, the first leader of Laos after the dissolution of the Kingdom of Laos from 1975 to 1992, and was named after him in 2005. Although the old French colonial quarter of the town, along the Mekong River-front, is depressed and crumbling, the town’s proximity to Thailand’s booming economy has brought about new commercial development in the northern part of the town, near both the river crossing and the bus terminal.
Like all Lao cities, Savannakhet has a mixed population of Lao, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese, as well as minority peoples from the Lao interior. It has a large 15th-century Buddhist temple, Wat Sainyaphum, a Chinese temple, the Catholic Co-Cathedral of St. Therese and a mosque. The Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge over the Mekong connects to Mukdahan Province in Thailand. The two-lane, 12-metre-wide (39 ft), 1,600-metre-long (5,250 ft) bridge opened to the general public on 9 January 2007.
5 Hour Drive
Tad Lor Waterfall
Tad Yeuang Waterfall
Tad Fane Waterfall
Thakhek is a town in south-central Laos on the Mekong River and facing Nakhon Phanom across the river in northeastern Thailand. It is the capital of Khammouane Province.
The city has many French colonial style official buildings, villas and shops. Western scientists first encountered the Laotian rock rat – kha-nyou (Laonastes aenigmamus) in Thakhek’s market. Remnants of the abortive Thakhek – Tan Ap railway can be seen in and near the town. The railway would have run between Thakhek and Tân Ấp Railway Station, Quảng Bình Province, Vietnam through the Mụ Giạ Pass. In 1943, 85% of the population of Thakhek were Vietnamese due to French policy of encouraging Vietnamese immigrants to Laos.
Construction of the Third Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, linking Thakhek to Nakhon Phanom, started in 2009 and was commemorated on 11/11/11.
The population is 85,000 people according to 2012 census data.
Vieng Phouka, is a town in Luang Namtha Province, northeastern Laos, approximately 50 kilometers southwest of the town of Luang Namtha. It is the capital of Viengphoukha District. The town was affected by the 2007 Laos earthquake, the epicenter only being several kilometers to the southwest.
Vieng Xai (also Vieng Xay, Vieng Sai) is a district and town in Hua Phan Province. The town is located on Rte 6, 30 km from Sam Neua (provincial capital) and 55 km from the Vietnam/Lao border in Na Meo.
The biggest attraction of the town is the caves. The former Pathet Lao (PL) Revolutionary headquarters of Vieng Xai sit in a striking valley of fertile hills and limestone cliffs riddled with caves, several of which were used to shelter PL officers during the second Indochina War.
During the 1960s, political developments in Laos were influential in the future of this whole region. The US believed that Laos was crucial in the prevention of communist expansion, so this small country became caught up in the conflict between the US and the North Vietnamese. In 1964, the US began intensive bombing of the Lao communist movement’s, Pathet Lao, base area in Xieng Khouang. The Pathet Lao moved east to Vieng Xay and these limestone karst cave networks sheltered their headquarters during their struggle with the US-backed royal Lao government.
In these caves the Pathet Lao established a “hidden city” which supported around 20,000 people. During nine years of almost constant bombing, they sheltered in caves and the surrounding jungle. Most of their daily lives was conducted under cover of darkness. Schools, hospitals, and markets as well as government ministries, a radio station, a theater, and military barracks were all hidden in the caves.
In 1973 a ceasefire stopped the bombing and the new town of Vieng Xay was established as the capital of the liberated zone. On the 2 Dec 1975, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was declared, and the capital city was transferred to Vientiane.