Published on January 18, 2023
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic—also known as Lao PDR or Laos—is a mountainous nation tucked into the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula. Known for its pristine stretches of untouched wilderness and its awe-inspiring history and culture, Lao PDR is a fascinating place to visit. Its natural wonders are unmatched, including everything from extensive cave systems to breathtaking archipelagos.
Originally the kingdom of Lan Xang, one of the largest in Southeast Asia, the land that is now Lao PDR was united under French rule for half a century until it gained its independence in 1953. The country is thus rich with Lan Xang’s history and legacy, which pairs brilliantly with the beauty of its natural landscape.
Here are five of the most incredible natural wonders of Lao PDR.
Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si Falls | Visit Southeast Asia
Serene beauty tucked into a lush tropical jungle: that’s what visitors will find at Kuang Si Falls. Located 29 kilometers south of Luang Prabang, a former capital city of Lao PDR, Kuang Si Falls is a must-visit destination. The falls are unique for their shallow cascading effect and the gorgeous pools around them. A series of well-maintained walkways and footbridges can reach it.
The clear, turquoise natural pools surrounding the 60-meter-tall waterfall are shaded by vegetation, and there is also a nearby trail leading up to the top of the mountain. Kuang Si Falls is a popular place to take a dip—there’s even a nearby changing room for visitors to don their swimwear!
Interestingly, Kuang Si Falls is named after an old myth. ‘Kuang’ means deer, and ‘Si’ means to dig in Lao. According to folklore, an older man was digging into the ground in search of some water and, in doing so, summoned a beautiful deer who built a home under the newly flowing water, thus creating the waterfall.
This story—and the natural beauty of the waterfall—make it the perfect destination for a daytime excursion.
Kong Lor Cave
Kong Lor Cave | Visit Southeast Asia
Intrepid travelers will find Kong Lor Cave a destination of unparalleled adventure and fascination. This limestone cave on the Nam Hin Bun River is an off-the-beaten trail spot perfect for those who love exploration. The cave is seven kilometers long, and a 20-meter-wide river flows through its length.
This remote cave can be accessed by a daily bus from Vientiane, the capital of Lao PDR, and boats are available to ferry visitors through the cave. A one-way trip through the cave takes about 30 minutes, but boat drivers will stop in the middle for some exploration, so the overall experience takes a little under two hours. Kong Lor Cave is also home to a deep emerald pool, which locals believe is sacred.
This wondrous cave—one of the geological wonders of Southeast Asia—is a magical place to visit. The cave’s interior is both beautiful and, at times, spooky, with pitch-black water and torch-lit stalactites, but seeing it will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience.
Tad Fane Waterfall Bolaven Plateau | Visit Southeast Asia
The Bolaven Plateau, in southern Lao PDR’s Champasak Province, is famous for its astonishing sights, spectacular waterfalls, ethnic villages, and high-quality coffee. The plateau’s elevation ranges from 1000 to 1350 meters above sea level, allowing for cooler climates and panoramic views of the land.
Though this area is home to many stunning waterfalls, the most famous include the Tad Fane, Tayicseua, and Tat Soung. Tad Fane, in particular, unique for its two diverging streams of water, is considered one of the tallest waterfalls in the country, at over 100 meters in height. Bolaven Plateau, in general, is also home to an extreme diversity of wildlife, including leopards, tigers, monkeys, and more.
The region’s famed coffee is a product of French colonization; in the early 20th century, when the French first settled Lao PDR, they planted coffee across the plateau. Local farmers continued cultivating the coffee crop even once the French left in the 1950s, resulting in the high-quality coffee visitors can find in Bolaven today.
This natural attraction is unique for its unsurpassed scenery and delicious coffee, making it an excellent destination for those interested in Lao PDR’s history and nature.
A small village in Vang Vieng | Visit Southeast Asia
Outdoor adventure meets a remote sanctuary in Vang Vieng, a lush riverside town an hour’s drive north of Vientiane. Buffeted by the Nam Song River and limestone mountains, this beautiful town is a lively destination full of breathtaking sights and dozens of activities. Popular sports in the region include kayaking, ziplining, and caving, and many backpackers also venture here for trips up nearby mountains.
This high-energy town is perfect for younger visitors and those looking to meet new people on their travels. Tourists looking to flex their physical abilities flock here to hike, explore, and more. Caving is also one of the area’s best activities: nearby Tham Nam Cave, Tham Phu Kham Cave, and Pha Poak Cave are favorites among those looking for an adventure.
In Vang Vieng, the area’s geological wonders make for the perfect activities for visitors—as if the earth itself is an amusement park. It’s no wonder Vang Vieng remains one of the natural wonders of Lao PDR.
Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don in the Mekong River | Visit Southeast Asia
At the widest point of the sinuous Mekong River, Si Phan Don emerges. Translating to ‘four thousand islands,’ this natural marvel is an archipelago within a river, spanning almost 14 kilometers. The fascinating sights of Si Phan Don range from waterfalls that seem more like white-water rapids to implausible islands to colorful farmland.
Si Phan Don has several principal islands, including Don Khon, the archipelago’s largest, and Don Som, Don Det, and Don Khon. The area also borders Cambodia. This part-watery terrain is excellent to explore—it feels like the land out of a science-fiction novel. The river is also home to Irrawaddy Dolphins, an endangered species that tend to hang around in the water near the islands.
The peaceful oasis of Si Phan Don lives up to its name in sheer geographical absurdity. It is one of the most extraordinary natural wonders in Lao PDR, possibly in all of Southeast Asia.