Quiet and not yet discovered by mass tourism, Laos is one of Southeast Asia’s most rewarding destinations.
Patuxai at Night © fischerfotos
Often overlooked by tourists, most of whom opt for more convenient Thailand or up-and-coming Cambodia, Laos offers a unique experience that combines stunning scenery with a relaxed and slow-paced way of life.
Beautiful colonial cities, fun adventure destinations and some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Southeast Asia make Laos a destination that deserves plenty of attention.
With two weeks to spend in Laos, you’ll be able to see the remote, UNESCO-preserved city of Luang Prabang, spend several days exploring the adventure of Laos, wine and dine in capital Vientiane and explore some of the country’s less well known but equally rewarding locations.
Our two-week Laos itinerary is aimed at travellers that want to travel at a slightly slower pace and see Laos from a perspective that most visitors never witness. If you’re pressed for time, it could be worth using our One Week in Laos itinerary to plan your holiday instead.
Note: Have you prepared a budget for Laos. Use our guide, How Much Money Do I Need in Laos?, to work out how much you should set aside for each day of your trip, from hotels and guesthouses to dining, drinks and activities.
Day 1: Arrive in Luang Prabang
Sunset on the Mekong, Luang Prabang © lemerou
Our two-week itinerary for Laos uses a different route from our one-week itinerary. Instead of flying into Vientiane, you’ll get the best experience by flying directly into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang.
Ranked one of Wanderlust’s top cities for travellers several times (most recently in 2015), Luang Prabang is a tiny city with a lot to offer.
Despite its small size, Luang Prabang has an international airport, with direct flights from nearby cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Singapore and Siem Reap. There are also frequent flights from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, which are ideal if you’re already in Laos.
Day 2 to Day 4: Relax and Explore Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang Temple © mark_lehmkuhler
The centre of Luang Prabang sits on a peninsula between the Nam Kham and Mekong Rivers, giving the city a relaxed feel and excellent views over the water. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its beautiful colonial architecture and traditional Lao temples.
The main sites and attractions in Luang Prabang are easy to see in a day or two, making this a great place for relaxation. A good way to schedule your day is to do sightseeing in the morning before relaxing beside the Mekong or in the charming Old Town during the afternoon.
Our quick guide to Luang Prabang includes a complete list of things to do, places to eat and drink and accommodation options in Luang Prabang. Below, we’ve listed some of the city’s highlights:
- Alms Giving Ceremony
If you’re not too tired from your flight, one of the best ways to start your trip in Laos is to wake up early and offer alms to the city’s monks. The monks pass through the city along Sakkaline Road, starting at 5:30am and continuing until just after dawn.
- Mount Phou Si
Mount Phou Si is a small hill (referred to as a “mountain”) that rises about 100 metres over the centre of Luang Prabang. The hill’s location near the Old Town makes it an excellent viewpoint with a spectacular view of the city and its surroundings.
Climbing Mount Phou Si is a good way to get your bearings and quickly learn the layout of the Luang Prabang Old Town. There are two impressive temples on the hill, with Wat Chom Si at the summit. Both temples require conservative clothing and closed-toe shoes.
- Royal Palace Museum
Once an official residence of the Lao royal family, the Royal Palace was taken over during the revolution in 1975 and sat unused for several years. Today, it’s a museum to Laos culture and history, with a variety of photo exhibits documenting the country’s recent and distant past.
Since the Royal Palace Museum is located close to the centre of Luang Prabang, it’s a great second stop for the day after visiting Mount Phou Si in the morning.
- Luang Prabang Old Town
One of the best things to do in Luang Prabang is to relax and enjoy the stunningly beautiful Old Town. Built during the French Indochina period, the Old Town’s gorgeous buildings and variety of cafés and restaurants make it the perfect place to chill out and enjoy a great book.
- Morning Market
If you’re an early riser, visiting the Morning Market is one of the best ways to start your second or third day in Luang Prabang. This small market has few products of interests for visitors, but offers a great look into the daily life of the people of Luang Prabang and its nearby villages.
- Luang Prabang Night Market
The Luang Prabang Night Market opens in the Old Town just before sunset and runs until late at night, with a variety of vendors selling cheap clothing, souvenirs, local handicrafts and a variety of other souvenirs.
The Night Market is undeniably aimed at tourists, so you’ll need to haggle at least 20-30% off the price of most items to get a fair deal.
- Kuang Si Falls
Located just under 20km from Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Falls are a spectacular series of waterfalls that drain into a beautiful blue swimming hole. Best visited by tuk-tuk, you can also get to the waterfalls by renting a scooter and making the short trip on your own.
Day 5 to Day 7: Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng © 96006271@N05
Just a few years ago, Vang Vieng was Laos’ backpacker and party capital. Today, it’s one of Southeast Asia’s best adventure destinations, offering a variety of exciting activities from river tubing and kayaking to mountain biking, ATV adventures and hot air ballooning.
Vang Vieng’s biggest asset is its incredible natural surroundings. The small town, which barely covers more than a few blocks, is located in the middle of stunning limestone mountains, giving it some of the best views in Laos and the ideal setting for adventure sports.
The only way to get to Vang Vieng is by bus or minivan, which depart from both Luang Prabang and Vientiane every few hours. From Luang Prabang, it takes about six to seven hours to reach Vang Vieng through some of Southeast Asia’s most incredible mountainous scenery.
If you prefer rest and relaxation to adventure, you can skip Vang Vieng and spend a few more days in Luang Prabang by flying directly to Vientiane. You can also fly to Vientiane early for an extra day or two in the capital.
For a full list of things to do in and around Vang Vieng, be sure to check out our quick guide to Vang Vieng. We’ve also included a few recommended activities below:
Located right beside the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is a great destination for river tubing. The town’s tubing was once infamous for its danger — most participants got seriously intoxicated on the trip and injured themselves on slides and rope swings — but tour operators and bar owners have since cleaned up their act, making tubing a fun way to fill an afternoon. River Tubing Vang Vieng and Tham Nam Water Cave are two operators you could check out.
If you prefer to top on top of the water rather than in it, exploring the Nam Song River by kayak is a fun adventure. Guided kayaking tours for beginners and experienced kayakers are available from several tour operators in Vang Vieng, including VLT Natural Tours and Kanhya Tours.
- Mountain Biking
Cycling through the countryside around Vang Vieng is a great way to explore the area and get a feel for the lives of the locals. Bikes are available from several rental providers in Vang Vieng, as well as guided tours around the area.
One of the best ways to enjoy Vang Vieng’s amazing surroundings is to rent a bike and travel to local swimming holes, riverside bars and other fun hangouts.
- Rock Climbing
The limestone mountains that surround Vang Vieng are perfect for climbing, with a wide variety of routes for beginners and experts alike. Climbing schools like Adam’s Rock Climbing School and Central Climbers offer lessons and group climbs for beginners and expert climbers alike.
Day 8 to Day 11: Vientiane
Victory Gate © 26781577@N07
After spending a few days in Vang Vieng, it’s time to head to Vientiane. Laos’ capital is quieter and more peaceful than the large cities you’ll find in nearby Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, making it a great place for quiet, relaxing sightseeing.
Because of Laos’ history as part of French Indochina, there’s a noticeable French influence in Vientiane that extends to its cafés and restaurants. If you’re a fan of French food, fresh coffee and excellent baked goods, you’ll find a lot to like about Vientiane’s dining and café scene.
Like Luang Prabang, the best way to enjoy Vientiane is to do your sightseeing in the morning and enjoy the afternoon and evening with a good book beside the Mekong.
Our quick guide to Vientiane includes a complete list of the best things to do, places to eat and accommodation options in Vientiane. We’ve also included several of the city’s highlights major highlights below, all of which are ideal for filling a three-day itinerary:
- Bike Tours
Vientiane’s slow pace of life and relaxed traffic (by Southeast Asia standards) makes it one of the region’s best cities to explore on a bicycle. Half-day bike tours of Vientiane let you see the city’s most important historical temples while getting a great view of daily life for locals.
- Wat Si Saket
Located nearby Vientiane’s main tourist and commercial centre, Wat Si Saket is the capital city’s oldest temple. Built in 1818, the temple contains Laos’ largest collection of Buddha images, with more than 2,000 statues made from materials such as ceramic and silver.
Because Wat Si Saket is fairly close to Vientiane’s main accommodation area, it’s best visited on your first morning in the capital. Note that Wat Si Saket, like other Lao temples and stupas, has a conservative dress code — make sure you wear long trousers and closed-toe shoes.
- Vientiane City Pillar Shrine
Located three blocks south of Wat Si Saket, the Vientiane City Pillar Shrine is a small Buddhist shrine built on the same land as hundreds of 4th century stone city fragments. The shrine isn’t quite as impressive as Wat Si Saket but is still worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Patuxai is a large war monument built to honor Laos’ independence from France. Constructed in the 1950s and 60s, the monument obviously takes inspiration from Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, but also features several images of several deities such as Vishnu and Brahma.
- Pha That Luang
Constructed in the 16th century, Pha That Luang is a 45 metre Buddhist stupa wrapped in over 500 kilograms of gold. The temple is located about 15 minutes from the centre of Vientiane by tuk-tuk, making it best to drop in after you’ve explored the riverside area.
- COPE Visitor Centre
Established to assist people affected by the massive amount of unexploded ordinances that are distributed throughout Laos’ countryside, the COPE Visitor Centre is a great place to learn about the history of Laos in the Vietnam War and the effects mass bombing have on the country today.
- Buddha Park
Known as “Xieng Khuan” in Lao, Buddha Park is a statue park located south of Vientiane. The park, which has been open since the 1950s, contains hundreds of statue of Hindu and Buddhist deities, bodhisattva and objects of Buddhist art, including a 40 metre reclining Buddha statue.
Day 12 to Day 13: Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars
Jars, Laos © 92094658@N00
One of Southeast Asia’s biggest historical mysteries, the Plain of Jars is a megalithic area that covers parts of Laos’ Xiangkhoang Plateau. The plain is home to thousands of large stone jars and ancient Chinese paintings that date back to the Iron Age.
While the Plain of Jars is less than 200 kilometres from Vientiane as the crow flies, the heavily mountainous landscape means it takes more than 10 hours to travel into Phonsavan and the surrounding area by bus from Vientiane.
The best way to get to the Plain of Jars is to fly into Phonsavan — the provincial capital of Xieng Khouang province and nearest city — from Vientiane. Flights to Phonsavan depart six days per week on Lao Airlines during the high season, with four flights every week during the low season.
- Plain of Jars
By far the biggest attraction in this part of Laos is, as you’d expect, the ancient jars. Tours of the sites are available from several companies in Phonsavan, all of which are easily booked through your hotel.
Although unexploded ordnances are still a major problem in Laos, the sites visited by tourists in this area were all swept by UNESCO in 2004.
You can also rent a small motorbike and visit the sites independently. Most visitors to the area go to Site 3 first, which is one of the furthest from Phonsavan and sits close to spectacular rice fields, before visiting sites two and one on the way back to Phonsavan.
- MAG Visitor Information Centre
The MAG Visitor Information Centre is a free centre in Phonsavan that explains the extent of the unexploded ordnance problem in Laos. The centre also provides information on the “secret war” in Laos during the 60s and 70s and its effects on the local area and the country as a whole.
Day 14: Back to Vientiane and Home
On day 14, it’s time to head back to Vientiane and prepare to return home. Flights to Vientiane depart from Xiang Khouang Airport on a daily basis during high season. In the low season, you might need to travel back to Vientiane a day early due to the less frequent flight schedule.
Your last day in Vientiane is a great opportunity to visit the capital’s best cafés and restaurants, enjoy a relaxing drink beside the Mekong River and spend some time shopping for souvenirs, gifts and other items to remember your time in Laos.