With spectacular limestone karst scenery, rice paddies and rugged forested hills fringed by waterfalls, sleepy Laos is home to both indigenous tribes and countless natural wonders. Its borders were closed until the 1970s, hence Laos remains relatively undiscovered and untouched by development, especially compared with neighbouring Thailand and 
Vietnam. In the far north, the traditional way of life continues. Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, typifies the tranquil atmosphere of this beautiful country.


Buddhism reigns supreme here, so Laos trips should include a visit to a Tak Bat, an alms-giving ceremony where meditating monks collect offerings from local people at dawn. Or try Baci, a sumptuous vegetarian feast and bracelets-tying ceremony that blesses people with a healthy life. After a day spent visiting pagodas and temples, head to one of the bustling night markets in Vientiane, the capital, which come to life with an assortment of food stalls and bars jostling for prime position.

GEOGRAPHY

Total: 236,800 sq km

Land: 230,800 sq km

Water: 6,000 sq km

Country comparison to the world: 85

Border countries: Burma 238 km, Cambodia 555 km, China 475 km, Thailand 1,845 km, Vietnam 2,161 km

Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)

Climate: Tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)

Terrain: Mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus

Elevation

Mean elevation: 710 m

Lowest point: Mekong River 70 m

Highest point: Phu Bia 2,817 m

Natural resources: Timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones

Land use: Agricultural land: 10.6% Forest: 67.9% Other: 21.5% (2011 est.)

PEOPLE & SOCIATY

Population: 7,126,706 (July 2017 est.)

Country comparison to the world: 101

Ethnic groups: Lao 53.2%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 9.2%, Phouthay 3.4%, Tai 3.1%, Makong 2.5%, Katong 2.2%, Lue 2%, Akha 1.8%, other 11.6%

Languages: Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages

Religions: Buddhist 64.7%, Christian 1.7%, none 31.4%, other/not stated 2.1% (2015 est.)

Best of Laos

Hidden Hills of Vietnam and Laos

Cambodia & Laos Highlights