Mysterious and cut off from the rest of the world for many years, Laos is justly proud of its contrasting landscapes, dotted with caves, waterfalls and temples. Welcome to the Land of a Million Elephants!
1. Wat Pa Huak frescoes, one of the treasures of Luang Prabang
A mythical city for 19th c. explorers, the capital of the kingdom of a Million Elephants, Luang Prabang, is the jewel of Laos. This sacred, frangipani-scented city, strewn with Buddhist monasteries and temples, is frequently the scene of silent processions of bonzes. Among its many marvels, don’t miss Wat Pa Huak, a small, little-restored shrine that is home to striking murals which are both highly original and masterfully executed.
2. Tham Konglor, the most beautiful cave in the Thakhek region
Some 1km/0.6 mi long, Tham Konglor is one of the most impressive caves in the Thakhek area. Some 150 m/490 ft of the cave are open to the public and a series of concrete staircases and paths take you through different chambers, where the stalactites are lit with coloured neon lighting. A boat trip goes to a waterfall. Beware, it is very busy at the weekends.
©M. Wright/DanitaDelimont.com/Danita Delimont Agency/age fotostock
3. The Plain of Jars near Phonsavan
The mystery of these 1-3 m/5-10 ft-high, megalithic sandstone jars weighing in at between 600kg/1 320 pounds to 6-7 tons, that litter the plain of Phonsavan, continues to fascinate us today. Estimated to be between 1 500 and 4 000 years old, the jars stand upright, half buried, singly or in groups…
4. Tad Kuang Si, spectacular falls near Luang Prabang
Some 30 km/18 mi south of the sacred city of Luang Prabang, the magnificent Tad Kuang Si waterfall drops from a height of 50 m/165 ft into a series of natural swimming pools, whose crystal-clear, refreshing, turquoise water is impossible to resist. Don’t forget your swimsuit and towel!
5. Wat Phu Khmer temple
On the west bank of the Mekong, 40 km/25 mi south of Pakse (10 km/6 mi southwest of Champasak), Wat Phu temple is quite simply the most spectacular Khmer temple of Laos. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, it is set in stunning natural scenery. Earlier than Angkor Wat, this shrine on the west bank of the Mekong was dedicated to Shiva in the early 11st c. and is still a site of worship today.