Landlocked Laos is not the easiest to get to in Southeast Asia. Most travelers arrive here on land border crossings from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

But don’t miss it if you want to avoid crowded cities, enjoy extremely laid-back countrysides, and see pristine natural sights.

Go north if you want to visit Laos’ popular tourist spots including sacred Buddhist temples, old French-colonial heritage districts, and gorgeous riverside scenery.

Make your way down south for majestic waterfalls, spectacular caves, and thousands of river islands where you can experience life in the countryside.

Inspire trip in Laos with these must-visit places and top things to do for first-time travelers.

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1. Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang in Northern Laos is the country’s most popular tourist attraction. This laid-back town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its exquisite Buddhist temples, French colonial buildings, and riverside setting. There’s also a lot to do and see in the area like waterfalls, caves, hiking, and slow boat cruises.

How to go — The quickest way to get to Luang Prabang is by plane. Luang Prabang International Airport (LPQ) serves flights from Kuala Lumpur (3h 5m flight duration), Bangkok (1h 45m), Singapore (3h 25m), Siem Reap (2h 15m), Hanoi (1h 5m), Chiang Mai, Kunming, Haikou, and several domestic destinations including Vientiane (45m) and Pakse. Flights are served by AirAsia, Lao Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, Vietnam Airlines & SilkAir.

Most travelers arrive here by land from the North Thailand-Laos border crossing or from the capital, Vientiane. The land journey from Vientiane takes 10 to 12 hours, usually on overnight buses. Meanwhile, the slow ferry from Huay Xai, the northern border town, usually takes two days.

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2. Muang Ngoi & Nong Khiaw

If you want to go deep into the cultural and natural landscapes, go off-the-beaten-path in Northern Laos. Nong Khiaw is one beautiful place to enjoy the riverside scenery dominated by monolith karst cliffs. Go farther down the river onboard a local slow boat to Muang Ngoi Neua and go trekking around off-the-grid farming villages.

How to go — Nong Khiaw is about a 4-hour drive north from Luang Prabang. To get to Muang Ngoi Neua, go on a scenic local ferry ride up the river. Travel time takes only 1 hour.

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3. Bolaven Plateau & Champasak

Champasak Province in Southern Laos is the place to go if you love to see nature! The Bolaven Plateau is worth visiting for its majestic waterfalls, some of the most beautiful in Laos and maybe even Southeast Asia. Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) is another popular place in Champasak but only go there for serious riverside relaxing. For a change of scenery, Vat Phu located near Pakse (the main city) is worth a peek for its ancient temple ruins.

How to go — The quickest way is to fly to Pakse, the capital and most populous city in the southern province of Champasak. Pakse International Airport serves direct flights from Ho Chi Minh, Vientiane, Luang Prabang & Savannakhet. Flights are served by Lao Airlines. Vientiane-Paske flights take around 1 hour and 15 minutes.

You can also reach Pakse on overnight buses from Vientiane. Travel time is around 10 hours. Or, from Cambodia. Not including the time spent for the border crossing, travel time is around 12 hours from Phnom Penh and 14 hours from Siem Reap.

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4. Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is infamous as a major party town, but even if you don’t go there to party, the natural scenery is worth at least a day of sightseeing. Take a bicycle and follow the village roads that pass through rice paddies surrounded by steep jungle-covered limestone karst formations.

How to go — Vang Vieng is easy to reach from Vientiane. The drive north to Vang Vieng takes around 3.5 to 5 hours.

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5. Vientiane

Vientiane is probably the most laid-back capital city in Southeast Asia. This is a good thing if you want to relax while enjoying the convenience of the big city. If you have a day to spend in Vientiane, check out the Patuxai Victory Monument and Pha That Luang (National Symbol of Laos). Or, simply watch the sunset along the peaceful Mekong riverside.

How to go — Vientiane is the primary flight hub of Laos. Vientiane-Wattay International Airport (VTE) serves flights from Kuala Lumpur (2h 45m), Bangkok (1h 15m), Phnom Penh (1h 25m), Hanoi (1h), Seoul (4h 45m), and Busan. Flights are served by AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Lao Airlines, Thai Airways & Vietnam Airlines.

You can also reach Vientiane by land from Bangkok, Thailand via the Nong Khai-Thanaleng border crossing. Travel time by train from Bangkok to Nong Khai is around 12 hours. From Thanaleng, the land journey to the center of Vientiane is another 1 hour.

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Places to visit in Laos

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

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