Must-Visit Tourist Attractions in Laos
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The latest Global Visa Restrictions Index released by the residence and citizenship planning firm Henley & Partners found that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or Laos, has visa-free access to 48 countries in the world. Some of these countries include most nations in the Southeast Asia region, as well as other non-Asian countries like Gambia, Ecuador, and Dominica.
While this encourages Laotians to travel out of their country, it is without a doubt that Laos is also a growing global tourist destination on its own, and here are the top 10 must-visit tourist attractions in this country:
1. The Plain of Jars in Phonsavan
Phonsavan translates to “hills of paradise”—this holds true, as the city’s topography consists mostly of hills and grasslands. On one certain area of the city is the Plain of Jars, a wide stretch of land where thousands of jar-like stone structures are scattered about. The Plain of Jars is one of the most significant prehistoric sites in Asia. A lot of people believe that the jars date back to as early as 500 BC.
2. Nam Ha National Protected Area in Luang Namtha
Laos is the only landlocked country in the Southeast Asian region, and it has several mountains that are ideal for trekking and hiking. The Nam Ha National Protected Area is an ecotourism destination with an area more than 2,000 square kilometers, with a peak of more than 2,000 meters above sea level. The park is home to various species of birds, gaurs, and elephants, to name a few.
3. Buddha Park in Vientiane
Just like Myanmar, the dominant religion in Laos is Theravada Buddhism. The Buddha Park, located in the capital city Vientiane, is just one of the few sites dedicated to the religion. As suggested by the name, this park contains several statues of Buddha that are all unique. Statues of other religious figures can also be seen in the park.
4. Lao National Museum in Vientiane
Another tourist destination that you should visit while in the capital city is the Lao National Museum. The building that houses the museum was built in the 1920s as the French governor’s residence, so the infrastructure itself tells a lot about the history of Laos. Some of the artifacts showcased in here include WWII firearms, sculptures, and exclusive photos of historical Laos.
5. Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang
This three-tier waterfalls in Luang Prabang City is arguably one of the most beautiful in Asia. The main falls requires tourists to trek a relatively challenging trail, but there are also bridges and shallow pools where guests can hang out and swim on. This place gets especially crowded during March.
6. Kuang Si Falls Butterfly Park in Luang Prabang
The Kuang Si Falls Butterfly Park is something you will chance upon when you are on the way to the waterfalls. This is a park you shouldn’t miss, even if you’re eager to swim on the shallow pools of the Kuang Si Falls. Inside this park is a café near the creek, where you can have a nice cup of coffee with the butterflies before proceeding to the falls.
7. Pha That Luang in Vientiane
This golden stupa is one of Laos’ greatest national symbol. It is believed to be constructed as early as the 3rd century and has undergone several reconstructions ever since. The complex that houses the Pha That Luang is massive, and contains several smaller temples. The stupa itself is best viewed just before or during the sunset when it glows its most brilliant shade of gold.
8. Elephant Village in Luang Prabang
Laos is also known as the “Land of a Million Elephants”. Of course, the term “million” would be an exaggeration, but you will be happy to see several of our gentle giant friends in the Elephant Village in Luang Prabang. Here, you can get a ride on an elephant’s back for a fee. This park, which was established in 2001, was founded by Markus Peschke, who wanted to have an elephant sanctuary.
9. Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang
Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang is a 100-meter high hill that houses Buddhist shrines like the Wat Tham Phou Si, and the Wat Chom Si. These temples house several statues of Buddha. The paths are guided by staircases which will lead you to one temple to another. If you go out early enough the summit, you can chance upon the beautiful view of the sunrise.
10. Wat Phu in Champasak
Wat Phu, or Vat Phou, translates to “mountain temple”. This site houses a temple, a sanctuary, two palaces, and a library. This sanctuary is covered in very green grasses and trees, and the path is lined with stone structures that will guide your way. This is oftentimes considered as the most important archeological site in Laos. In 2001, UNESCO designated Wat Phu as a World Heritage Site.
Laos Travel Guide and tips:
1. The months of March to May are the hottest. Meanwhile, the months of June to October are usually the rainiest. November to March are the drier months, and is the ideal time to travel to Laos unless you’re specifically waiting for summertime.
2. Laos has signed the Protocol for Bilateral Visa Exemption with 25 countries. Filipino travelers would be glad to know that both ordinary and diplomatic/service passport types are granted visa-free access to Laos for up to 30 days. To see if your country is exempted, Lao Airlines has the complete list of the 25 countries in their official website. (http://www.laoairlines.com/?contentkey=pages&id=67)
3. The Internet speed in Laos is slow, if present. Make sure to finish all your online errands beforehand!
4. If you are going to meet or greet a local, slightly bow your head and put your palms together. This is how Laotians greet each other. Handshaking is not a norm in Laos.
5. When visiting stupas, make sure to dress properly. Women, in particular, should not wear shorts or revealing clothes, nor are they allowed to touch monks. Shoes and socks should be removed when entering a temple. Before taking a photo of monks, make sure to ask for permission first.