Laos is a Southeast Asian country traversed by the Mekong River and known for mountainous terrain, French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries.
The official name of the country is the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
The official language is Lao.
As of 1 January 2016, the population of Laos was estimated to be 6,857,505 people.
It is the 82nd largest country in the world by area with 236,800 square kilometers (91,400 square miles).
Vientiane, the capital and largest city of Laos, mixes French-colonial architecture with Buddhist temples such as the golden, 16th-century Pha That Luang, which is a national symbol.
Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia.
Laos is a mountainous country, especially in the north, where peaks rise above 2,800 meters (9,000 feet). Dense forests cover the northern and eastern areas. The Mekong River, which forms the boundary with Burma and Thailand, flows through the country for 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of its course.
Phou Bia is the highest mountain of Laos at 2,819 meters (9,249 feet) above sea level.
The country is being deforested and only 42 percent of Laos is still forested, where once 70 percent of the country was forested.
Laos has 21 National Protected Areas that covers almost 14% of the country.
The Mekong River is vital as a transportation route for cargo and passengers, a source of electricity at dams, a water supply for crops, and a home to fish which are an important food in the diet of Laotian people.
Laos has 2 UNESCO world heritage sites.
Luang Prabang is a city in north central Laos, consisting of 58 adjacent villages, of which 33 comprise the UNESCO Town Of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. It was listed in 1995 for unique and “remarkably” well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Vat Phou is a ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex in southern Laos. There was a temple on the site as early as the 5th century, but the surviving structures date from the 11th to 13th centuries. The temple has a unique structure, in which the elements lead to a shrine where a lingam dedicated to Lord Shiva was bathed in water from a mountain spring. The site later became a centre of Theravada Buddhist worship, which it remains today. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Pha That Luang is a gold-covered large Buddhist stupa in the centre of Vientiane. Since its initial establishment, suggested to be in the 3rd century, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions as recently as the 1930s due to foreign invasions of the area. It is generally regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol.
Wat Xieng Thong is a Buddhist temple (wat), located on the northern tip of the peninsula of Luang Phrabang, Laos. Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional art. There are over twenty structures on the grounds including a sim, shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to its gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees.
The Pak Ou Caves are located north of Luang Prabang on the Mekong river and can be reached by road or river boat. The caves are famous for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of very small and mostly damaged wooden Buddhist figures are laid out over the wall shelves. They take many different arrangements, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana).
The Kuang Si Falls is a three tier waterfall about 29 kilometers (18 miles) south of Luang Prabang. The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside. These lead to the main fall with a 60 meters (200 feet) cascade.
The Lao people migrated into Laos from southern China from the 8th century onward. In the 14th century, the first Laotian state was founded, the Lan Xang kingdom, which ruled Laos until it split into three separate kingdoms in 1713. During the 18th century, the three kingdoms came under Siamese (Thai) rule and, in 1893, became a French protectorate. In 1953, the French made Laos fully independent .
Laos is one of the poorest countries on Earth. Although the Lao have few possessions beyond their food, their Buddhist beliefs help them to find happiness through a simple life. Most of the people live in small rural communities near the river.
Lao food is traditionally eaten with sticky rice using fingers. In the countryside, people all eat as family style, sitting on the floor, sharing a few dishes. Lao traditional food is dry, spicy and very delicious based on fish, buffalo meat, pork, poultry and especially herbs.
Lao New Year, called Songkran is celebrated every year from April 13/14 to April 15/16. It is the liveliest holiday of the year. The official festival lasts for three days from April 14 to April 16 (although celebrations can last more than a week in towns like Luang Prabang).
The national animal of Laos is Indian elephant.
The national flower of Laos is Plumeria rubra.
One of the world’s most dangerous snakes, the king cobra lives in Laos.
The oldest modern human fossil in the world, dating between 46,000 and 63,000 years ago was found in a cave in North Laos.