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Eleven Amazing Reasons to Visit Laos

Quietly tucked away in between two of the most famous tourist destinations in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Vietnam), Laos remains a hidden gem, unfamiliar to most travelers, raising the question “is Laos worth visiting?”. We have found the answer to be: absolutely yes! The reasons to visit Laos are endless, but 11 of them are just too hard to ignore.

A country with turquoise waterfalls, misty mountains hiding ancient monasteries, lazy rivers to cruise for days, laid-back atmosphere, delicious street food, and the most amazing people, awaits for a visit from those who are looking for an off the beaten path adventure, on an easy-on-the-wallet paradise.

Get ready to add this beautiful country to your bucket list after reading this travel guide on the top reasons to visit Laos.

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1. Meet Laotian People

Laos is famous for its unparalleled warm hospitality, which is bound to leave a lasting mark on your heart. With their gentle demeanor, genuine smiles, and good grasp of the English language, Laotian people are always ready to share their table, toast to your health, start a conversation, and laugh all night long with a stranger who will depart as a friend.

Laos carries a complex political past, from which it is to this day trying to recover. Only in recent decades has the country opened up to the outside world and begun to reform its economy. This is the reason why Laos is less touristy than its neighboring countries, making the presence of travelers something of great importance. Whether you are backpacking in Laos or attending a business conference in the capital, Laotian people will be more than happy to welcome you to Laos and share their culture.

group of kids in blue lagoon 3 in vang vieng
people one of the reasons why you must visit laos

Laos hasn’t been the luckiest, which makes you treasure its people even more. Despite declaring a neutral position during the Vietnam War and wanting nothing to do with it, Laos remains the most bombed country in the world per capita. Unexploded ordnance remains a problem in many areas due to the proximity to Vietnam during the war.

Before you visit Laos, familiarize yourself with basic words and expressions so you can break the ice around locals:

Sabaidee - Hello

Khop chai - Thank you

Kop chai lai lai - You are welcome

Sok dee - Good luck/Best wishes (friendly way to wish someone well)

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2. Discover Laos Natural Beauty

One of the main reasons to visit Laos is to explore its impressive untouched nature. Not a surprise when a country is referred to as “Land of a Million Elephants”.

cows in must visit vang vieng in Laos
couple near a river in off the beaten path natural surrounding in Laos

Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, but what it loses in ocean beauty, it wins in lush greenery and off the beaten path exploration. Cascading waterfalls invite for a cold dip, towering mountains challenge you for a hike, lush jungles and hidden caves test your sense of adventure, and the mighty Mekong River serving as the perfect backdrop for some of the most beautiful places in Laos.

If you like an adventure, consider renting a motorbike and doing one of the several loops or routes available in the country. You will witness the most scenic landscapes and a wide range of ecosystems, with zero tourists around.

3. Sample Laos Cultural Heritage: Luang Prabang

Laos is worth visiting for Luang Prabang alone! Luang Prabang is a timeless gem with French colonial influence, beautiful Buddhist temples and extremely rich culture, born from its diverse population of Laotians, Khmers, Chinese and Tai Lue. This UNESCO World Heritage city is without a doubt one of the main reasons to visit Laos.

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Every morning starts with a alms giving ceremony, where hundreds of saffron-robed monks walk in line down the streets of Luang Prabang, silently collecting alms. Alms giving in Laos as a tradition is very much alive, and can be witnessed across the country, but Luang Prabang is by far the most magical and photogenic scenery for it. The perfect spot to watch it from is in front of Wat Xieng Thong, one of Luang Prabang’s most beautiful and important temple complexes.

restaurants in UNESCO Luang Prabang
must visit temple in Luang Prabang Laos
man sitting in best Luang Prabang viewpoint

You can respectfully join an alms giving ceremony in Laos, but make sure to follow the religious etiquette and purchase quality rice as an offer. You will see local vendors selling rice and sweets to tourists during the ceremony, but these are often not cooked properly or are expired, and monks can get food poisoning from it. You can purchase freshly cooked rice in the morning market prior to the ceremony.

While getting lost in the beautiful streets of Luang Prabang which is in itself an amazing experience, remember to explore the surrounding natural gems of Phou Si Mountain, Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si Falls. Finish your nights in the warm and captivating atmosphere of the night market, where you can taste delicious local delicacies, among friendly locals and travelers.

Must visit city Luang Prabang in Laos

Where to Stay in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang has beautiful accommodations, from hotels in the Mekong River front, to Old Town charming french colonial houses. If you are looking for where to stay in Luang Prabang, here are some of our top recommendations:

La casa hostel the best budget hotel in luang prabang
pearl hotel best hotel in luang prabang laos
sofitel luang prabang best luxury hotel in luang prabang

4. Learn About Laos Buddhist Heritage

In Laos Theravada Buddhism is the predominant faith but also a cornerstone of the culture. Its presence extends far beyond the walls of religious spaces such as Vat Phou in Champasak or Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang.

must see monks alms giving in Luang Prabang
Buddha statue in a cave in Laos

Inside the beautiful temples and monasteries you spot along the green landscapes of the country, you will find a deeply ingrained tradition in Laotian Buddhism: the “kid monks”, or “samaneras”. They are boys between the ages of 7 and 19, who are sent to monasteries for a period of time by their families. There they are provided with an education, taught discipline, and moral values.

It is common to see samaneras going around the streets of Luang Prabang trying to start a conversation with travelers to practice their English. If you get the opportunity, have a chat with one of them, you will not only help them practice but also learn about a unique life experience.

man in off the beaten path temple in Laos
traditional child monk in Luang Prabang Laos

While this is a way for their families to guarantee they get the chance to study and get fed, the reality is they do not need to pursue a monastic life when they grow older.

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5. Visit Laos Most Beautiful Waterfalls: Kuang Si Falls

Looking for a breathtaking waterfall with several tiers of natural pools of an unreal turquoise color, surrounded by a lush tropical forest, where you can swim and relax for hours? Welcome to one of the most beautiful places in Laos: Kuang Si Falls.

most beautiful waterfall in Laos Kuang Si Falls

Laos boasts several stunning waterfalls, such as Tad Fane, Tad Sae, Khone Phapheng, and Tad Yuang. However, due to its unique beauty and proximity to Luang Prabang, you simply can’t miss Kuang Si Falls. The entrance fee of 25,000 Kp includes a golf cart ride (yes, you read that right😅) to the beginning of the trek to the waterfalls. Oh! But before you reach your destination, there's one more surprise: bears! On your way to Kuang Si Falls you will encounter some moon bears as part of the Free the Bears rescue initiative.

rescued lunar bear sleeping near Kuang Si Falls in Laos

Perhaps the golf carts were a bit of a giveaway, but this is no longer a hidden gem. Nevertheless it is one of the best maintained waterfalls we have ever visited and one of the top reasons to visit Laos. Arrive before 10 am if you wish to visit one of Laos highlights without the tours and crowds.

Choose one of the many turquoise pools to go for a swim or keep walking up to see the star of the show, the main waterfall of Kuang Si Falls. If you were still wondering “is Laos worth visiting?”, by now that question has answered itself.

man at must visit in Laos kuang si falls

For the more adventurous, follow the path on the left side of the main waterfall to keep going up. It slips quite a bit so it is better if you are not in flip flops like we were. You will eventually get to the top of the waterfall from where it starts cascading down. There, expect way less people even during busy periods, and you can swim in shallow pools that hide under the shade of trees.

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6. Laos Bucket List Worthy Hot Air Balloon Ride

A hot air balloon ride at sunrise (or at sunset, let’s not be too picky…) surrounded by the most idyllic landscape is an experience on many travelers' bucket lists. If this is the case for you, you've just found another reason to visit Laos.

vang vieng landscape with hot air balloons

Vang Vieng is a popular destination for this amazing activity, not only because of its dramatic karst cliffs, lush rice paddies, and winding rivers that provide an incredible backdrop for a flight, but also for its very competitive prices. Laos is the cheapest country where to enjoy a hot air balloon ride.  

must do activity in Laos hot air balloon
affordable hot air balloon ride in Vang Vieng Laos

Don’t miss out on one of Laos highlights, and book your ride with a local tour operator or at your hotel in Vang Vieng. Prices typically range between €85 and €150 per person.

7. Indulge on Delicious Laos Cuisine

If you have visited Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam before, some of the authentic Lao dishes might sound weirdly familiar. But we are not here to get into a fight over who created which dish, we are here to make sure you leave with a full tummy, and you understand why eating counts as one of the top reasons to visit Laos.

Laos cuisine is fresh, herbaceous, and umami-rich, with a balance of salty, sour, spicy, bitter, and sweet flavors. To which you might think “Wow, thanks, that narrows it down to pretty much everything”😂. So let’s get into the needy-greedy: what are the Lao dishes you MUST try.

red and green chillies
must try street food in Laos

First of all, you better like sticky rice (khao niew) as it is a staple in Laos cuisine and is eaten with almost every meal. Larb (spicy meat salad) is delicious, tam mak hoong (green papaya salad) is fresh and fiery, gaeng som (sour and spicy curry) for the curry lovers, Lao sausage (sai oua) has different ingredients depending on the region, but always super yummy. Don’t forget to end your meal with a dessert, like kao lam (sticky rice cooked in a bamboo tube) or khao niew ma muang (sticky rice with mango).

One of our Laos highlights was a food tour we took in Luang Prabang. It is one of our favorite ways to explore a new cuisine. If you want to join a food tour in Laos, click here for a good one*.

best laos traditional food

8. Experience Adventure in Laos: Vang Vieng

Nestled amidst breathtaking limestone karst landscapes, Vang Vieng is a paradise for those who seek adventure in Laos. It is a picturesque town with affordable and amazing restaurants, lovely locals, and endless rental shops for both scooters and buggies to explore the surrounding area.

bridge in vang vieng

Visit Vang Vieng with a full adventure mindset, as there is adrenaline to be found everywhere. Drive with caution as not all roads are paved, there are a lot of wildlife crossing the road, and the bridges in the city center are quite lacking in maintenance.

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Think blue lagoons, emerald-green rivers, enormous caves and lush countryside! Now add some extra flavor to it with outdoor activities like kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking to the most stunning viewpoints. What more can one ask for? Oh maybe a scooter “parked” on top of a 400-meter high viewpoint? Yeah they have that too!

visit caves in Vang Vieng Laos
man in must visit Blue lagoon 3 in Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng has six famous Blue Lagoons, the lower the number, the closer it is to the city center, and as a result, the more popular and touristic. If you are looking for a more secluded spot try number 3 or 4.

Thanks to this combination of adventure, laid-back atmosphere, natural beauty and affordability, this town has become a vibrant hub for backpackers in Laos. Associated with it, an increase of activities such as tubing took place, but not all local businesses are focused on this type of tourism, which makes it an area worth visiting for backpackers and non-backpackers alike.

nature one of the many reasons why you must visit Laos
must visit Vang Vieng from above

Where to Stay in Vang Vieng

From luxury resorts by the riverside to budget friendly hostels with a great atmosphere, Vang Vieng has the perfect accommodation for you. If you are looking for recommendations on where to stay in Vang Vieng, we had a great time in these places:

maylay guesthouse best budget hotel in vang vieng
confetti garden resort best hotel in vang vieng
riverside boutique resort best luxury hotel in vang vieng

9. Laos is Safe & Affordable

Let’s push the elephant out of the room and address the most common question people pose: “is Laos safe?”. To which the answer is yes! However, it's important to acknowledge that not everything is rainbows and butterflies. Laos continues to face consequences from its political landscape, and there are off the beaten path areas that tourists should avoid. Nevertheless, locals are not to blame for these issues. It is a vast country with much to offer, and we didn’t feel unsafe in Laos for a single moment.

Vang vieng nature perfect for adventure travelers

Hand-in-hand with safety questions, come the affordability ones. Laos is renowned for being a budget-friendly destination, with affordable accommodations, food, and transportation. However, as with any other country, your experience will depend on your preferences. For reference, average backpackers in Laos can easily manage with a €30 daily budget. This is one of the main reasons to visit Laos before it gets too popular.

vang vieng river with boats along the shore from above
man sleeping inside a traditional transportation in Laos

Is safe and affordable to travel in Laos, but long distance journeys tend to take longer than expected. Flights and the new fast train are fantastic options to go far, fast! Compare prices, journey lengths, and purchase tickets here*.

10. Laos 4000 Islands: Si Phan Don

The perfect unhurried atmosphere in which to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of modern life is found in the serene Mekong River archipelago of Si Phan Don, commonly known as Laos’s 4000 Islands.

Enjoy the beauty of the rocky shores, waterfalls, and deep pools of the Four Thousand Islands either by taking it slow and relaxing on a hammock in a riverfront bungalow for a few days or packing all the adventure into a one-day trip. Take a river cruise to enjoy the scenic views and explore riverside villages.

For many years, one of the main reasons to visit Laos was to spot the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. The Four Thousand Islands was a famous place for this, but unfortunately, there seems to have been no presence of the species in Laos since 2022.

Where to Stay in Four Thousand Islands

For a laid-back atmosphere and backpacker vibe stay in Don Det, explore the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia (Khone Phapheng Falls) in Don Khone, or make the most out of an authentic Laotian experience in Don Khong. Accommodations in Four Thousand Islands are scarce and offer humble amenities, but the beautiful location and welcoming atmosphere make up for it. Here are some accommodation suggestions for where to stay in Four Thousand Islands:

Dokchampa guesthouse room one of the best budget hotels in 4000 islands
Souksan Sunset Guesthouse best budget friendly hotel in four thousand islands
moon by night travel budget hotel for 4000 islands laos

11. Laos Big City Life: Vientiane

Usually, 10 is the sweet spot for this type of list, but Laos is special, so let’s wrap up this 11 reasons to visit Laos guide with a bit of city hustle and bustle.

Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is a charming combination of French colonial architecture and Buddhist temples, amidst fast-paced streets and night markets. This city is not everyone’s cup of tea and is quite different from anything else you will experience in Laos, but logistically speaking, chances are you will spend at least 1 day in Vientiane, so let’s make the most out of it.

couple in front of the must visit monument Patuxai in Vientiane Laos

Visit the temple of Pha That Luang, one of the most famous landmarks in Laos, get a taste of the French influence with a visit to Patuxai (also known as Vientiane’s Arc de Triomphe), and at sunset stroll, down the riverside promenade of Vientiane. Enjoy the reflection of the fiery sky on the Mekong River and explore the area, which has a number of restaurants and cafes, or head towards one of the city’s many night markets, such as Talat Sao Night Market.

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Where to Stay in Vientiane

Find a nice accommodation in the center if you want to be in the heart of the action, or relax by the riverside in a luxury hotel before heading into your next destination. Vientiane has accommodations for all budgets, and here are some suggestions for you:

Phongsavath Boutique Hotel best budget hotel in vientiane
Green park boutique hotel best hotel in vang vieng laos
crowne plaza Vientiane best luxury hotel in laos

Planning Time

If you are ready to start planning your next trip, here you have all the usefull links you need to make it happen! By using them you are supporting our work as we might get a small fee from it. But hey! You pay the same (or might even get a discount), so is a win-win situation!

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