The first country I visited in South-East Asia, Laos remains an unforgettable memory and the one that opened my heart and eyes to another world.

Ten days is of course never enough time to discover a country, but it does give you time to visit certain parts of Laos.

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Visa

  • e-visa: less than 30 days, $50
  • embassy or consulate: 30 days and can be extended by the Lao immigration office.
  • visa on arrival: limited international border checkpoints (link here)

Best time to go

With its tropical climate, Laos has two distinct seasons: the monsoon, from May to mid-October, and the dry season, from mid-October to April.

If you’re like me and want to visit the country with fewer tourists, and aren’t afraid of the rain, you can certainly leave just before the start of the rainy season.

Luang Prabang (days 1-3)

Located in Northern Laos, the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

Luang Prabang is nestled between two rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Khan, and was once the capital of the powerful kingdom of Lane Xang (kingdom of a million elephants).

One of the largest cities in Laos, famous for its architecture and temples, the city actually has a lot to offer. From the Tak Bat ritual, where every morning monks walk in the streets collecting alms (usually rice), to the waterfalls, let yourself be carried away by its peaceful atmosphere.

Kuang Si Waterfall/Tat Kuang Si

Kuang Si Waterfall in Laos

Location: 29km to Southern Luang Prabang
Cost: 25,000 kip per person
What to bring: definitely your swimsuit and good hiking shoes

After renting motorcycles, we decided to visit the majestic Kuang Si Falls with some friends we’d met at my hostel.

Less than an hour from the town, we found ourselves in the middle of a major tourist attraction, and I can see why.

Ticket in hand, and after passing some Asiatic black bears (actually part of a rescue center), you’ll finally arrive at the falls.

Kuang Si falls in Laos

Tat Kuang Si is a multi-level waterfall, the highest of which, at 60 metres, tumbles over small pools of turquoise water.

If you decide to continue on your way to the top, take care on the slippery path and use your hiking boots. Once at the top, you won’t regret it, whether you want to have fun with the swing or simply admire the view while eating.

Royal Palace Museum/Haw Kham

Palm trees and monument in Laos

Location: in Luang Prabang
Cost: 30,000 kip per person
What to wear: you should dress respectfully (no bare shoulders, no shorts or short skirts)
Sarong are also available to rent

Built in 1904 for King Sisavang Vong and his family during the French colonial era, the palace will take you back in time to the country’s history as a monarchy.

Explore the many rooms and exhibits to better understand the past that shaped the country that is Laos today.

Street Food

A must-see, in my humble opinion, in every Asian city you visit, markets are an excellent way to discover local dishes. Let yourself be tempted by an Or lam or a Mok pa.

The first is fish steamed in banana leaves, combined with various spices and other ingredients, including lemongrass.
The second is a stew containing meat, spices, vegetables and other ingredients such as lemongrass, garlic and honey.
There are so many dishes to try that I’m sure you’ll find one to your liking!

Nong Khiaw (days 4-6)

How to get there: you can take one of the buses from Luang Prabang
Cost: 70,000 kip per person
Duration: 4 hours

When I first went to Nong Khiaw in 2018, hardly anyone knew about this part of Laos; my friend and I were pretty much the only tourists there. Since then, a lot has changed, the town has become renowned enough to escape the hustle and bustle of the surrounding towns.
All in all, I enjoyed the city, even if we didn’t do much. Remember, when traveling, sometimes it’s about pausing and appreciating what’s unfolding before your eyes.

Getting lost in the town

In Nong Khiaw in Laos

It’s quite easy to walk around the city, as the center is quite small, and it’s the best way to discover a new environment too.
Stop at the bridge over the Nam Ou River and admire the scenery, or join in the fun with the kids who are flying paper airplanes like us.

Pha Thok Cave

Pha Thok Cave in Laos

Location: 35mns walk from the city centre
Cost: 10,000 kip per person
What to bring: torch, water and good shoes (can be slippery so better not to wear flip-flops)

History has it that the Pathet Lao (Lao People’s Liberation Army) even used it as a hideout during the Second Indochina War.

It’s an interesting place, steeped in history and not really touristy.
After crossing rice fields and climbing stairs, you’ll finally arrive at the cave entrance. Put on your headlamp and let the adventure begin!

And if you’re interested in this one, you should also check out the Pha Kuang cave!

Watching the sunset

Sunset in Laos
Photo by Giuliano Gabella on Unsplash

Whether on the banks of the Nam Ou River or from one of the viewpoints, sunsets are always a welcome sight and the perfect way to end the day.
Have a drink and/or a bite to eat in one of the local restaurants, and don’t forget to wear mosquito repellent!

Vang Vieng (days 7-8)

How to get there: you can take the bus from Nong Khiaw
Cost: 200,000 kip per person
Duration: 10 hours

I vividly remember the journey from Nong Khiaw to Vang Vieng: long, uncomfortable and tiring.
I hope you don’t get car sick, as the drivers can be a bit like race car drivers here.

I have to say that when I arrived in Vang Vieng, I could see straight away that I wouldn’t like the town. Too touristy and not being much of a party girl, I knew that to enjoy my stay, I’d have to get away from the center.

Cave tubing and kayaking

Cave tubing in Laos

Location: Tham Xang et Tham Nam
Cost: about $20
What to bring: swimsuit, towel, change of clothes, sunscreen and mosquito repellent

Tubing in a cave was, against all odds, a lot of fun! You have to make your way through the Tham Xang and Tham Nam caves by pulling on the rope, sometimes in very narrow, low-ceilinged passages.

Don’t worry, it’s all very safe – the guides keep a constant eye on you, and you’re bound to them and the group for the duration of the trip. What’s more, they’ll give you helmets as well as headlamps!
You should be aware, however, that there are plenty of cobwebs and/or spiders and you may encounter some along the way….

I guarantee you’ll have a great time all the same. Plus, it’s a different and interesting way to explore a cave!

Included in the price, you can also take a kayak cruise on the Nam Song River. What’s more, you’ll be treated to a good local lunch with a view.

Pha Ngern Viewpoint

Location: 4.5kms from the centre
Cost: 10,000 kip per person
What to bring: a LOT of water, hat, sunscreen, snacks

A friend and I chose to go for a walk, and when I say walk, it will take you between 45 minutes and 1 hour in the heat. If you want, you can also take a moped or a bike and save yourself the ordeal.
I don’t regret it though, as we took full advantage of the scenery and its animal population.

Animals on the road to Pha Ngern in Laos

In fact, once we got to the foot of the viewpoint, that’s when the real obstacle began. I’m a big fan of hiking, but here the safety wasn’t up to scratch, and at times it felt more like climbing than hiking. Having to lean on a wooden railing and make your way through the rocks was something else.

But what’s worthwhile is usually hard to attain, so when we finally reached the top after losing our breath several times and sweating profusely, the reward was everything I’d hoped for.

View from Pha Ngern in Laos

Vientiane (days 9-10)

How to get there: you can take the bus from Vang Vieng
Cost: 150,000 kip
Duration: 3 to 5 hours

Coming back to a city was a little disorientating, but what I found most confusing was that the capital is actually quite easy to live in.
Vientiane being a necessary step for my friend and I to get our visa for Vietnam, we opted for a stroll around the city.
It wasn’t much of a day, but we still managed to see a few monuments and eat grasshoppers as a snack.

Patuxai Victory Monument

Patuxai Victory monument in Laos

Location: in the heart of Vientiane
Cost: free

Built between 1957 and 1968, the Patuxai Victory Monument is a war memorial dedicated to those who fought for independence from France. Decorated with motifs from Laotian mythology, including Hindu symbols and various other creatures, this monument is one of the capital’s most famous.

That Luang/ The Great Stupa

That Luang in Laos
Image by 41330 from Pixabay

Location: 3kms from the city centre
Cost: 10,000 kip to enter the inside area + 50,000 kip to get there by tuk tuk
What to wear: you should dress respectfully (no bare shoulders, no shorts or short skirts)

Known as the most sacred monument in all Laos, the unique architecture and gold stupa make it a dazzling sight.
It has been rebuilt several times due to the country’s many invasions, with the most recent reconstruction in 2017.
Perfect for a day trip, why not include it on your list?

Final thoughts

Travelling in Laos has proved to be a valuable experience where I’ve learned that people eat insects as snacks and the locals are as warm as the smiles on their faces.
It’s a country with a rich culture and landscapes I’d never seen before, and which deserve to be discovered.
Its slow lifestyle and serenity won me over as soon as I stepped out of the plane.

🎯 Would you like to go straight to my recommendations?

πŸ›Œ Hostel:
Luang Prabang: Sa Sa Lao
Nong Khiaw: Khamphan Guesthouse
Vang Vieng: Champa Inn Hotel
Vientiane: Sailomyen Hostel

πŸ—ΊοΈ Recommended Tours:
Kuang Si Waterfall by Minibus
Tubing Adventure in Vang Vieng
Vientiane Main Attractions Tour

🚞 Transport:
Book tickets and plan your trip

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2 Comments

  1. Wow, I’ve always wanted to visit Laos and this just makes me want to come even more. Sounds so beautiful and the temples look amazing. Thanks for sharing.

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