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With a population of just 450,000, Vientiane is by far the largest city in Laos. The other urban centers scattered around the country are little more than small towns and villages. This gives everywhere in Laos a laidback feeling. Ethnically diverse, the country is a mix of lowland Lao farmers, traders in the valleys, and tribal groups in the highland villages.

Laos Cities and Towns


Pushed up against the Mekong River, Vientiane is an enchanting mix of French colonial architectural gems and modern Asian shophouses. A stone’s throw from Thailand, and connected by the Friendship Bridge, Vientiane is booming thanks to business investment from Thailand and China.

Luang Prabang

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the glories of old Luang Prabang have been protected and restored. Founded in the 14th century, this beautiful riverside town has a unique ambience with some of the finest Buddhist temples in Asia and French colonial architecture from the 1900s.

Luang Namtha

Located in the northern region of Laos, Luang Namtha is an ordinary small town, but it sits on the edge of the Namtha National Park. A haven for wildlife, the mountainous terrain is covered with primary forest and attracts many eco-tourists. The town makes an excellent base for trekking, rafting, and exploring hill-tribe villages.


The capital of Xieng Khuang province, this busy market town in the central north is home to the mysterious Plain of Jars. It was also the most heavily bombed area in the United States’ secret war against Laos in 1969.

Sam Neua

Reaching this remote northeast town close to the Vietnamese border on a winding mountain road requires considerable effort, but it’s worth it for the superb views of the surrounding countryside. The fascinating town attracts many hill tribes to its vibrant morning market.


Situated on the banks of the Mekong and linked to Thailand with a new Friendship Bridge, the ramshackle provincial capital of Savannakhet has many interesting temples and crumbling French-colonial buildings.


A bustling little town and the capital of Champasak Province, Pakse is benefiting from border trade due its close proximity to eastern Thailand. Served by an international airport, the town makes a great base from which to explore the Bolaven Plateau and the ruins of Wat Phu. It also has a vibrant morning market and good restaurants on the banks of the Mekong River.


This laidback town on the banks of the Mekong River is famous for the nearby temple ruins of Wat Phu. The town makes an excellent base for exploring the southern region; boats travel downstream to Si Phan Don.

Don Khong

This small town is at the heart of area known as Si Phan Don, or Four Thousand Islands, close to where the Mekong spills into Cambodia. In the dry season the massive river recedes to reveal the islands. A visit to the area provides the chance to witness a simple rural way of life, see several impressive waterfalls, and, if you’re lucky, view endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.

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