Must see attractions in Laos

  • Top ChoiceSights in Luang Prabang

    Wat Xieng Thong

    Luang Prabang's best-known monastery is centred on a 1560 sǐm (ordination hall). Its roofs sweep low to the ground and there's a stunning 'tree of life' mosaic set on its western exterior wall. Close by are several stupas and three compact little chapel halls called hŏr. Hŏr Ɖąi, shaped like a tall tomb, houses a standing Buddha. The Hŏr Ɖąi Pha Sai-nyàat, dubbed La Chapelle Rouge – the Red Chapel – by the French, contains a rare reclining Buddha.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vieng Xai

    Vieng Xai Caves

    Joining a truly fascinating 18-point tour is the only way to see Vieng Xai's seven most important war-shelter cave complexes, set in beautiful gardens backed by fabulous karst scenery. A local guide unlocks each site while an audio guide gives a wealth of first-hand background information and historical context. The Kaysone Phomvihane Cave still has its air-circulation pump in working order and is the most memorable of the caves.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Wat Phu World Heritage Area

    Wat Phu Champasak

    Bucolic Wat Phu sits in graceful decrepitude, and while it lacks the arresting enormity of Angkor in Cambodia, given its few visitors and more dramatic natural setting, these small Khmer ruins evoke a more soulful response. While some buildings are more than 1000 years old, most date from the 11th to 13th centuries. The site is divided into six terraces on three levels joined by a frangipani-bordered stairway ascending the mountain to the main shrine at the top.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Luang Prabang

    Phu Si

    Dominating the old city centre and a favourite with sunset junkies, the 100m-tall Phu Si (prepare your legs for a steep 329-step ascent) is crowned by a 24m gilded stupa called That Chomsi. Viewed from a distance, especially when floodlit at night, the structure seems to float in the hazy air like a chandelier. From the summit, however, the main attraction is the city views.

  • Sights in Vientiane

    Wat Si Muang

    The most frequently used grounds in Vientiane are those of Wat Si Muang, the site of the lák méuang (city pillar), which is considered the home of the guardian spirit of Vientiane. The large sǐm (ordination hall; destroyed in 1828 and rebuilt in 1915) was constructed around the lák méuang, and consists of two halls.

  • Sights in Hin Namno NPA & Around

    Tham Lot Se Bang Fai

    The most impressive, and yet least visited, cave in Khammuan is the amazing Tham Lot Se Bang Fai. Located in Hin Namno NPA, the cave results from the Se Bang Fai river plunging 6.5km through a limestone mountain, leaving an underground trail of immense caverns, impressive rock formations, rapids and waterfalls that have been seen by only a handful of visitors.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vientiane

    COPE Visitor Centre

    Laos has the dubious distinction of being the most bombed country on earth, and although the American War in neighbouring Vietnam ended more than 40 years ago, unexploded ordnance (UXO) continues to wound and kill people. COPE (Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise) is the main source of artificial limbs, walking aids and wheelchairs in Laos. Its excellent Visitor Centre, part of the organisation's National Rehabilitation Centre, offers myriad interesting and informative multimedia exhibits about prosthetics and the UXO that sadly makes them necessary.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vientiane

    Pha That Luang

    Svelte and golden Pha That Luang, located about 4km northeast of the city centre, is the most important national monument in Laos – a symbol of Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. Legend has it that Ashokan missionaries from India erected a tâht (stupa) here to enclose a piece of Buddha's breastbone as early as the 3rd century BC.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Si Phan Don

    Khon Phapheng Falls

    More a glorified set of rapids than a waterfall, but oh, how glorious it is. The largest and by far the most awesome waterfall anywhere along the Mekong, Khon Phapheng is pure, unrestrained aggression, as millions of litres of water crash over the rocks. While pricier than the similar Tat Somphamit, this place, with its gardens and walking paths, is more attractive. You can also get down closer to the rapids.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vientiane

    Xieng Khuan

    Located 25km southeast of central Vientiane, eccentric Xieng Khuan, aka Buddha Park, thrills with other-worldly Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, and was designed and built in 1958 by Luang Pu, a yogi-priest-shaman who merged Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, mythology and iconography into a cryptic whole. It's a bizarre, delightfully dilapidated compound that's great for a wander and a photo op. Bus 14 (8000K, one hour) leaves Talat Sao Bus Station every 20 minutes for Xieng Khuan. Alternatively, charter a tuk-tuk (250,000K return).

  • Sights in Luang Prabang

    Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham

    Wat Mai is one of the city's most sumptuous monasteries, its wooden sǐm (ordination hall) sporting a five-tiered roof in archetypal Luang Prabang style, while the unusually roofed front veranda features detailed golden reliefs depicting scenes from village life, the Ramayana and Buddha's penultimate birth. It was spared destruction in 1887 by the Haw gangs, who reportedly found it too beautiful to harm. Since 1894 it has been home to the Sangharat, the head of Lao Buddhism.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vientiane

    Kaysone Phomvihane Memorial

    The former home of Kaysone Phomvihane, the first leader of an independent Laos, has been made into this quirky but worthwhile museum. The house is inside the former USAID/CIA compound, known as 'Six Klicks City' because of its location 6km from central Vientiane. It once featured bars, restaurants, tennis courts, swimming pools, a commissary and assorted offices from where the Secret War was orchestrated. During the 1975 takeover of Vientiane, Pathet Lao forces ejected the Americans and occupied the compound. Kaysone lived here until his death in 1992.

  • Sights in Attapeu

    Tat Sae Pha

    One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos, Tat Sae Pha, about 40km from Attapeu, is way off the beaten track and pretty well impossible to access in the rainy season, but in the drier months it's well worth the journey. Cascading down 20m in a broad horseshoe shape, the falls form a spectacular sight. It's possible to get close to the water and there are small pools for a refreshing paddle. Contact the Attapeu tourism office for an update on current travel options.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vientiane

    Wat Si Saket

    Built between 1819 and 1824 by Chao Anou, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Vientiane, Wat Si Saket is believed to be the city's oldest surviving wat. And it is starting to show, as this beautiful temple is in need of a facelift. Along the western side of the cloister is a pile of Buddhas that were damaged during the 1828 Lao Rebellion.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Luang Prabang Region

    Tat Kuang Si

    Thirty kilometres southwest of Luang Prabang, Tat Kuang Si is a many-tiered waterfall tumbling over limestone formations into a series of cool, swimmable turquoise pools; the term 'Edenic' doesn't do it justice. When you're not swinging off ropes into the water, there's a public park with shelters and picnic tables where you can eat lunch. Don't miss the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, where wild Asiatic moon bears, confiscated from poachers, are given a new lease of life.

  • Sights in Luang Prabang Region

    Laos Buffalo Dairy

    Set up by some Australian pioneers with no prior experience in farming, the Buffalo Dairy is now producing a range of delicious cheese and dairy products. Visitors can tour the working farm with English-speaking guides, learning how to milk a buffalo, help wash the pampered 'Ferdinand' and meet the resident rabbits. Ice cream and cakes are also on sale here, as well as a cheese platter. It is located 23km from Luang Prabang on the road to Kuang Si.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Don Det & Don Khon

    Tat Somphamit

    Now billing itself as the Don Khone Somphamit Waterfalls Park, vast Tat Somphamit (also called Li Phi) is a gorgeous set of raging rapids. Recent developments include clear walking paths and the Mekong Fly zipline. While local fishers risk their skin edging out onto rocks, don't try this yourself – the rapids are extremely dangerous, and there have been deaths.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Paksong Area

    Tayicseua

    There are seven significant waterfalls (none of them named Tayicseua) and several smaller ones at this remote but easily accessible private nature reserve. Some sit right near the restaurant-parking area while others, such as postcard-worthy Tat Halang (aka Tat Alang), are down in the forest along a good set of trails, which you can walk without a guide. It's in the early stages of growing into a proper resort but, for now, crowds remain rare.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Luang Namtha

    Nam Ha NPA

    The 2224-sq-km Nam Ha NPA is one of Laos' most accessible natural preserves and home to clouded leopards and possibly a few remaining tigers. Both around and within the mountainous park, woodlands have to compete with pressure from villages of various ethnicities, including Lao Huay, Akha and Khamu. Since 1999, an ecotourism master plan has tried to ensure that tour operators and villagers work together to provide a genuine experience for trekkers while ensuring minimum impact on local communities and the environment.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Paksong Area

    Tat Fan

    Tat Fan is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Laos. Twin streams plunge out of dense forest and tumble down more than 120m to form the Huay Bang Lieng. Early morning and late afternoon have the best sunlight, but the falls are often shrouded by fog. The viewing point is at Tad Fane Resort, a jungle lodge atop the cliff opposite the falls, and it's a near-mandatory stop for anyone in the area.