Harvard Laos

Laos is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. Its strategic location along the Mekong River has played a crucial role in shaping its history and culture.


Laos’ geography is characterized by rugged mountains, dense forests, and meandering rivers, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.


The climate in Laos is tropical, with distinct wet and dry seasons. The wet season typically lasts from May to October, bringing heavy rainfall and lush greenery to the landscape. The dry season, from November to April, is marked by sunny days and cooler temperatures.


Laos is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including elephants, tigers, gibbons, and a variety of bird species. The country’s national parks and protected areas provide important habitats for these animals, as well as opportunities for ecotourism and conservation efforts.

Longest Rivers

The Mekong River is the longest river in Laos, stretching over 1,800 kilometers from its source in the Tibetan Plateau to its delta in Vietnam. Other major rivers in Laos include the Nam Ou, Nam Khan, and Nam Ngum rivers.

Highest Mountains

Phou Bia is the highest mountain in Laos, standing at 2,819 meters (9,249 feet) above sea level. Located in the Annamese Cordillera in northern Laos, Phou Bia is part of the country’s rugged mountainous terrain.


Laos’ history is shaped by centuries of influence from neighboring kingdoms, colonial powers, and regional conflicts, resulting in a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions.


Evidence of human settlement in Laos dates back tens of thousands of years, with archaeological sites revealing early hunter-gatherer communities. The region’s fertile valleys and abundant natural resources attracted ancient civilizations, including the Khmer Empire and the Lao kingdoms.

Ancient Period

Laos was part of the Khmer Empire during the Angkorian period, with the city of Vat Phou serving as an important religious and cultural center. The decline of the Khmer Empire in the 13th century led to the rise of Lao kingdoms, such as Lan Xang, which established control over much of present-day Laos.

Colonial Era

Laos came under French colonial rule in the late 19th century, as part of French Indochina. The colonial period brought significant changes to Laos, including the introduction of Western education, infrastructure, and administration. However, it also led to exploitation and resistance from the local population.


Laos gained independence from France in 1954, following the First Indochina War. The country initially experienced political instability and conflict as various factions vied for power. In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao movement seized control of the government, establishing the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Modern Age

Since the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Laos has pursued a policy of socialist development, focusing on economic growth, social welfare, and political stability. While the country has made progress in areas such as education and healthcare, it still faces challenges related to poverty, infrastructure development, and environmental conservation.


Laos has a population of approximately 7.5 million people, with a diverse mix of ethnic groups and cultures.


The majority of Laos’ population belongs to the Lao ethnic group, which is closely related to the Thai people. There are also significant populations of ethnic minorities, including the Hmong, Khmu, and Akha, who inhabit the country’s mountainous regions.


Buddhism is the predominant religion in Laos, with the majority of the population adhering to Theravada Buddhism. The country’s temples, or wats, play a central role in Lao culture and society, serving as places of worship, education, and community gatherings.


The official language of Laos is Lao, a member of the Tai-Kadai language family. French is also widely spoken, especially among older generations and in urban areas, due to the country’s colonial history. Additionally, ethnic minority groups speak their own languages and dialects.


Laos’ culture is deeply influenced by Theravada Buddhism, with traditional beliefs and practices intertwined with religious rituals and ceremonies. Festivals such as Pi Mai (Lao New Year) and Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) are celebrated with great enthusiasm across the country, showcasing Lao music, dance, and cuisine.

Administrative Divisions

Laos is divided into 17 provinces (khoueng) and one prefecture (kampheng nakhon), each with its own administrative authority.

List of Administrative Divisions with Population

  1. Attapeu Province – Population: 120,000
  2. Bokeo Province – Population: 160,000
  3. Bolikhamxay Province – Population: 260,000
  4. Champasak Province – Population: 730,000
  5. Houaphanh Province – Population: 320,000
  6. Khammouane Province – Population: 390,000
  7. Luang Namtha Province – Population: 180,000
  8. Luang Prabang Province – Population: 430,000
  9. Oudomxay Province – Population: 330,000
  10. Phongsaly Province – Population: 180,000
  11. Saravan Province – Population: 370,000
  12. Savannakhet Province – Population: 1.1 million
  13. Sekong Province – Population: 150,000
  14. Vientiane Province – Population: 430,000
  15. Vientiane Capital – Population: 820,000
  16. Xaisomboun Province – Population: 40,000
  17. Xekong Province – Population: 140,000
  18. Xiangkhouang Province – Population: 250,000

10 Largest Cities by Population

  1. Vientiane
  2. Pakse
  3. Savannakhet
  4. Luang Prabang
  5. Thakhek
  6. Xam Neua
  7. Phonsavan
  8. Muang Xay
  9. Phonsavan
  10. Vang Vieng

Education Systems

Education in Laos is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14. The country has a network of primary and secondary schools, as well as vocational and technical institutions. National University of Laos and Souphanouvong University are among the top universities in the country, offering a range of academic programs in various fields.


Laos has a developing transportation infrastructure, with efforts focused on improving road networks, expanding public transportation options, and enhancing connectivity with neighboring countries.


Laos has several international airports, including Wattay International Airport in Vientiane and Luang Prabang International Airport in Luang Prabang. These airports serve as gateways to the country, connecting Laos with major cities in the region and beyond.


Laos currently does not have a railway network, although plans are underway to build a high-speed railway linking the country with China and Thailand, which would significantly enhance connectivity and facilitate trade and tourism.


Laos has a network of highways and roads connecting major cities and towns across the country. The total length of highways in Laos is approximately 23,000 kilometers, with major routes such as Route 13 and Route 1 linking Vientiane with other key destinations.


Laos is a landlocked country and does not have any major ports. However, the Mekong River serves as an important transportation route for goods and passengers, connecting Laos with neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Country Facts

  • Population: 7.5 million
  • Capital: Vientiane
  • Language: Lao
  • Religion: Buddhism (Theravada)
  • Race: Lao (majority), Hmong, Khmu, other ethnic groups
  • Currency: Lao Kip (LAK)
  • ISO Country Codes: LA
  • International Calling Code: +856
  • Top-level Domain: .la