1. Bokeo Nature Reserve
The Bokeo Nature Reserve was created to protect its population of the black-cheeked gibbon, rediscovered in 1997, which was previously thought to be extinct. A visit to Bokeo Nature Reserve is not complete without a stay at the Gibbon Experience, an eco-tourism conservation project. Guests stay in tree houses and travel by zip line through the forests in search of the Black Gibbon. Besides the elusive black gibbon, visitors to the reserve may also see elephants, bears, tigers and wild buffalo. The GibbonExperience also works to rehabilitate and return to the wild animals that were captured by poachers.
2. Nong Kiau
Nong Kiau, sometimes called Nong Khiaw, is a popular tourist destination in Luang Prabang Province because of its many walking, mountain climbing, and biking opportunities. A must-see site is a bridge across the Nam Ou River that was built by China. The bridge connects the two parts of Nong Kiau and is a good place to see stunning views of the river and mountains. Nong Kiau is a rustic village, so visitors shouldn’t expect truly luxurious accommodations. Spelunkers may enjoy exploring the Pha Tok Caves that are located about a mile from town. The caves housed villagers during the Second Indochina War.
3. Tham Kong Lo
Tham Kong Lo, also known as Kong Lo Cave, is a limestone cave in Phu Hin Bun National Park. Located on the Phu Hin Bun River, the cave has been described as a geological wonder of Southeast Asia. The karst cave is more than 6.5 km (4 miles) long and up to 91 meters (300 feet) high. It contains an emerald-colored pool that locals believe is sacred, saying it reflects the skin color of Indra, a Hindi god. Previous cave visitors praise a boat ride through the cave, calling it a grand adventure. Staying in a private home is easy to arrange for those in need of overnight accommodations.
4. Luang Namtha
It is a destination popular with backpackers, many of whom stop here while hiking from China to Laos. It is a good place to start treks into the hills to visit ethnic hill tribes. Renting a mountain bike or motorcycle is a good way to travel to nearby villages and waterfalls. After a day’s ride, visitors can relax with an herbal sauna. Night markets offer an opportunity to sample a wide variety of local foods cheaply.
5. Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don (meaning 4,000 islands) is set against the Mekong River in Southern Laos. The Mekong is impassable to river traffic here due to the Khone Falls, a series of rapids that stretch 9.7 km (6.0 miles) of the river’s length. The Mekong below the falls has a small population of the highly endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins. The three principal islands that cater to tourists are Don Det, Don Khon, and DoneKong. Most of the lodging available consists of simple, family run bungalows.Bikes and kayaks can also be rented here.
Phonsavan, a name that means“hills of paradise,” is a good place to experience the U.S.’s Old West, only with Laotian characteristics. Since cattle raising is one of the city’s main businesses, it’s not uncommon to see Hmong “cowboys” wearing violet and brown cowboy hats. The city even hosts bullfights during Hmong New Year. Phonsavan is a good place to visit the Plain of Jars with its ancient megalithic structures that resembles jars.
The Laotian capital of Vientiane, located on the Mekong River, was a French colony at one time, so visitors can expect to see traces of French influence, including street signs in French. The most popular tourist attraction in this city, also known as “the city of sandalwood,” is a Buddhist stupa, Pha That Luang, which dates back to 1586. The stupa stands 49 meters tall and is believed to contain relics of Buddha. Wat Si Muang, another popular site, is built on the ruins of a Khmer Hindu shrine. The city is a good place to buy silk.
8. Luang Prabang
The most popular place to visit in Laos, Luang Prabang is a historic city that once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Laos. Located at the confluence of the Mekong and NamKhan rivers, the city has numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries, with monks walking through the city collecting alms in the morning. There are several waterfalls nearby, some of which offer elephant rides to visitors. A night market at the end of the town’s main street is a good place to buy souvenirs.Adventuresome eaters might want to try fried Mekong River moss, which is a local delicacy.
9. Kuang Si Falls
The beauty of Luang Prabang is not limited to Mount Phousi; Kuang SiFalls is another exceptional gift of nature given to the region. The waterfall is located 29 kilometers south of the city, and is the largest waterfall in the province, with the highest drop reaching 50 meters. Given the tropical weather of Laos, diving into the streams and swimming excitedly in the cool, aqua water here are very popular activities to partake in at Kuang Si Falls.
10. Vat Phou
Vat Phou is the second inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List of Laos. Vat Phou, meaning ‘mountaintemple’ in English, are the ruins of a Khmer Hindu temple dated back to the 5thcentury. Blended into the surrounding nature, the remains of Vat Phou are dotted charmingly all over the mountain top and the waterfront. In the ruins of the temple visitors here can follow the traces of the Khmer Empire from a thousand years ago, with inscriptions and altars still clearly visible. The opening hours are daily 8am-6pm.