The pre-Angkor temple of Wat Phou
Built between the 5th and 12th century and easily the most evocative Khmer ruin outside Cambodian borders, the romantic and rambling hilltop temple complex of Wat Phou is reason enough to venture down to southern Laos.
Designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2001, the site dates back to the 5th century, predating the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia - the latter was built in alignment with Wat Phou. Whilst the origins of Wat Phou are largely unclear, it is believed that the original temple was built by the Khmer Hindus who eventually made Angkor Wat their capital.
Wat Phou is the location of an important yearly festival that occurs on the full moon of the third month on the lunar calendar (which falls sometime in February, on the Gregorian calendar). The festival celebrates two sermons that Buddha preached to his disciples on the same day, 45 years apart.