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Laos Travel guide & Map

Known as the ‘Land of a million elephants’ Laos is a sparsely populated country finally enjoying peace after nearly 300 years of war.

Most visitors travel to the capital city Vientiane and then head north to enchanting Luang Prabang. With plenty of sightseeing, activities, and traveler facilities it is no wonder that these two cities continue to draw the most visitors. However, the rest of the country should not be left unnoticed.

The size of Laos and the poor quality of roads in the rural areas mean travel time is long, but those who venture out will be well rewarded! Not only is the land scape beautiful at the destination, but there is not a single stretch of road in rural Laos that does not have stunning views.

 

The country is best described by its geographic divisions: the mountainous north, the flat plains in the center, and the water-filled south. Northern Laos is home to the majority of Laos’ ethnic minorities and is a trekker’s paradise. The town of Luang Nam Tha is a popular starting point for adventure travel. In the southern part of the country, a wealth of natural wonders await - the cool highlands of the Bolavan Plateau, the 4000 Islands of the Siphandon region, and magnificent waterfalls.

Travellers to Laos are unanimous in their admiration for this country. Many have found it to be a major highlight of their South-East Asian journeys.

 

When to go to Laos?
From November to February the weather in Laos is cool and dry while March to June sees temperatures soaring in to the high 30s (Celsius). July to October tend to be very rainy, washing out some roads thus making rural areas inaccessible. The Lao are very sociable and if you happen to be in the country during one of their festivals, you are sure to get caught up in the lively
atmosphere!
Pii Mai, Lao New Year, is in April and the celebrations include parades and water fights. The magnificent That Luang Festival falls in November and thousands of people and monks travel from remote villages to participate in the religious celebration. Several times a year Vientiane has boat racing competitions, where long wooden boats are raced up and down the Mekong River.

 

Top Highlights in Laos


Vientiane:
Laos largest city lies alongside the Mekong River and most hotels, restaurants, government buildings and historic temples are located in Chanthabuli, near the river. The main shopping streets are Thanon Samsenthai and Thanon Fa Ngum.
 



Highlights in and around Vientiane:
Wat Si Saket temple with over 2000 silver and ceramic Buddha images; Xieng Kuan (Buddha Park) is a collection of Buddhist (and Hindu) sculptures that lie in a meadow beside the Mekong River; Phat That Luang (Great Sacred Reliquary or Great Stupa) is the most important national monument in Laos; Ang Nam Ngum is a vast artificial lake, 90 kms north; the Patuxai, a large monument reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, with four archways - take the stairs to the top for a view over the city.
 

 

Luang Prabang:
The mountainous region of Luang Prabang province is where you will find the countries highest peaks and waterways. The city is known for its historic temples (around 32 of the originally 66 are still standing) and its setting, about 700m above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan and the Mekong River.
 


The city is a mix of crumbling French provincial architecture and gleaming temple roofs. A walking tour is the best way to explore the town, not to be missed are: Talat Dala market area; Wat Wisunalat (one of the city’s oldest temples); Wat Thammothayalan (monastery); the Royal Palace Museum; Wat Pa Huak (murals) and finish with a climb to Phu Si (for views over the town). The road journey between Luang Prabang takes a day .The famous Pak Ou Caves are located about 25kms from Luang Prabang, and reached by boat along the Mekong River. The two lower caves facing the river are crammed with Buddha images of all styles and sizes. Remember to take a flashlight!
 

 

Plain of Jars:
A large meadow-like area extending around Phonsavan from the south-west to the north-east where huge jars of unknown origin are scattered about in over a dozen groupings. The largest of the sites is south-west of Phonsavan and features 250 jars that weigh from 600kg to one tonne each. The jars have been fashioned from solid stone, apparently carved from solid boulders of varying sizes, which explains the different sizes and shapes. Guesses to their uses have included - used as a sarcophagi, or as wine fermenters or for rice storage - but to date not proved.
 

 

Vang Vieng:
About three hours north of Vientiane on the drive to Luang Prabang is the small town of Vang Vieng. This small village is surrounded by limestone karsts and the beautiful Nam Song River. Its position between the country’s two main destinations means that Vang Vieng has emerged as a popular stop-over for tourists wishing to kayak or go caving.
 

 

Pakse:
The main town of Southern Laos, Pakse, is a great starting point for travelers. It is serviced by an international airport and is not far from the Thai border. Although an interesting town, most travelers do not choose to spend much time there as there is not a lot to see.
 

 

Boloven Platueau (East from Pakse):
Here, in the cool highlands, Laos’ delicious coffee and tea is grown and harvested. The area is also filled with great waterfalls and is an ideal trekking destination for light day hikes.
 

 

Champassak (South of Pakse):
Situated on the Mekong River Champassak is a blend of English and French colonial buildings and traditional Lao houses. This tranquil area is also home to the splendid Wat Phou. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos.
 

 

Si Phan Don (Four Thousands Islands):
This area is one of the jewels of the Mekong, where the river stretches over 14km wide and has thousands of islands between the river banks. The water flows around the islands and forms rapids as it runs down to the Cambodian border. Siphandon is a unique and breathtaking place with a laidback atmosphere.

Spending a night or two on Don Daeng Island at La Folie Lodge is a real treat. The lodge is in a spectacular location: facing the hills of Wat Phou and surrounded by the Mekong River.
 


The 4000 Islands are one of the remaining homes of the Irrawaddy Dolphin, a freshwater dolphin on the verge of extinction. Staying on the islands of Don Khone, Don Khong, or Don Det one is likely to spot these elusive animals.

Also in this area, on the way to the Cambodian border, there are the Lippi and Khone Phapheng waterfalls. The Phapheng falls are the largest falls in Laos and also the only section of the Mekong that is not navigable by boat. Lippi falls hold a sort of mysticism for the Lao people who believe they capture evil spirits.

 

More Highlights:
- Phu Khao Khuay National Park;

- Savannakhet;


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