5 Riverside Places to Visit in Laos
Content: Maybe it’s the landlocked nature of the country. Maybe it’s the ease of travel and the protein-rich fish they provide. And perhaps it's the life-giving water itself that's used to irrigate the fields of the country. But the rivers of Laos seem to be held in reverence by the country’s citizens. We're listing five of the most beautiful and exciting riverside places to visit in Laos. Some of the most serene and idyllic small towns and villages of Laos lie along the country's rivers, apart from the capital city of Vientiane. While Vientiane is beautiful and exciting, it's certainly not small. Let's start off our journey in the city where some of the best hotels offer sweeping views of the main river in Southeast Asia, the vast Mekong River.
The waterfront in Vientiane is always bustling with residents as the day ends. It’s a favorite place to stroll and relax for office workers, families, school friends and couples. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset with a snack or a drink you’ve purchased in the nearby Vientiane Night Market. The city has catered to the resident’s love of the river by creating a wide promenade along the city’s riverfront and relocating the Night Market to the waterfront area. With some of the city’s most popular restaurants and hotels also located right along the river, The Vientiane riverfront is one of the must-see places to visit in Laos.
Luang Prabang is probably the second most popular destination in Laos, and it’s easy to understand why. This UNESCO world heritage site is quite significant in area and population. But it seems like a small village in its atmosphere. Visitors love to simply pull up a chair at a café along one of the town's many charming streets, order a cup of coffee and watch the world go by. For the more adventurous, visit the Pak Ou Caves with over 4,000 Buddha icons in a cliff overlooking the juncture of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. Or take a hike up Mount Phousi to get a birds-eye view of the town and surrounding hills. This is one of the most charming places to visit in Laos and one that tends to relieve you of any stress.
Si Phan Don – 4,000 Islands
The next must-see place in Laos is a large riverine archipelago at the southernmost tip of Laos. Si Phan Don, or 4,000 Islands, is just as it sounds. Many small islands occupy this area of the Mekong River, almost begging to be explored. And there are guesthouses on some of the islands that can provide you with a room for the night. Life moves slowly in Si Phan Don, and many visitors are content to just watch the river flow by with a cold drink in their hand. But there are kayaks, bicycles and four-wheelers available to rent for the more intrepid visitors to travel on and around the islands. This area is also home to one of the world’s rarest freshwater pink dolphins, the nearly extinct Irrawaddy Dolphin.
The reputation of this village was somewhat tarnished by the hordes of backpackers who turned this peaceful village into a non-stop party destination. But this is still a lovely village surrounded by breathtakingly dramatic limestone karsts. The stunning visuals have kept Vang Vieng on the must-see list of places in Laos. Get a room in the picturesque town and rent a motorbike. Then set out to tour the areas around the karsts and the eerie but exciting caves within the karsts. There is so much natural and agricultural beauty surrounding the town that you'll soon forget about its party reputation.
This is one of the largest cities in central Laos. It’s one of the popular places to visit in Laos for people interested in the history and the arts and crafts of the country. It’s also situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Xe Don Rivers. After spending numerous nights in guesthouses in the smaller riverside towns and villages, Pakse offers a variety of genuine quality hotels to book a stay. Although Pakse is a good-sized city, it still retains a small-town feel. To see the history of Pakse, visit the Champasak Historical Heritage Museum. The museum features ancient bronze Dong Son Drums and other musical instruments from the past. It also houses detailed stone carving found at the nearby Bolaven Plateau. Pakse also prides itself on the jewelry and handicrafts produced by the indigenous people of the region. There are several galleries you're invited to browse through that feature textiles, jewelry, carvings and basketry.
Tour More of the Towns and Villages of Laos
These destinations are just a fraction of the stunningly beautiful locations to be found along the country's rivers. With the people of Laos having a unique appreciation and an exacting eye for natural beauty, some of the must-see places of Laos are guaranteed to take your breath away. A tour of the riverside towns and villages of Laos is both a spectacular and idyllic way to spend a week or two.