In recent years, Laos has developed a small but steady tourism industry, drawing visitors to the rich array of natural wonders in the country’s mountains, rivers and caves. Moreover, you can discover chic French-feeling colonial towns and the exotic colour of gilded wats, Buddhist monks and bustling markets. However, possibly due to its lack of coastline, Laos remains relatively undiluted by the mass tourism that has seeped into Thailand and, more recently, Vietnam. As such, this is still an authentic and captivating country to explore.
In northern Laos, including Luang Prabang and Vientiane, November to mid February is dry and quite warm, an ideal time to visit. Mid February to May is hot and dry; the rainy season is May to late October, so expect hot, humid and wet weather.
Travelling around Indochina can be stressful. To make sure you don’t find yourself up the Mekong without a paddle we have partnered with on-the-ground experts who can help with as much or as little of your trip as you like. You choose which places you’d like to visit and roughly how long you’d like to spend in each; they’ll not only advise on where to stay and how to travel around, but also book tour guides and hotels, and arrange payments. Better yet, they’ll probably suggest a few gems you hadn’t thought of, too.
If you’re happy to find and book your own places to stay, read on for boutique hotels and our top tips for travelling in Laos…
Sitting at the sacred confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, UNESCO-protected Luang Prabang is considered by many to be the heart of Laotian culture. The town’s friendly ambiance and charms – including a multitude of former royal palaces, golden wats, crumbling French architecture and Gallic cuisine – contribute to it having become one of the most visited provinces in Laos.
Beyond Luang Prabang’s history and heritage, you’ll find the aquamarine waterfalls, outstanding natural beauty, and hazy green mountains of Laos’ tranquil north. Not to be missed.
This former rice warehouse on the banks of the Nam Khan river has been beautifully transformed into a cool little restaurant-with-rooms, just one block away from Luang Prabang’s main street. The large open-plan restaurant overflows with colour and style: silk lanterns hang from the ceiling, leather stools wait at the bar and seriously good food emanates from the kitchen. The simple colonial-style bedrooms have high ceilings, sumptuous beds and doors opening onto private terraces.
Rooms start at £41 per night based on 2 people sharing
Satri House sits gracefully amongst lush gardens, within easy walking distance of Luang Prabang’s famous night market and Buddhist wats. Its understated splendour is reminiscent of its royal past; in the early 1900s it was the residence of Prince Souphanavong, and the main building is a Unesco-listed Heritage House. Today it is one of Laos’ most enticing small hotels. The bedrooms and suites are spacious and luxurious, with four-poster beds, billowing white curtains and polished wood floors.
Rooms start at £100 per night based on 2 people sharing
The capital city is a draw for anyone wanting to know more about Laos’s culture. Vientiane’s historic old quarter beguiles with glittering temples while the National Museum offers a viewpoint on the region’s more recent history. For souvenir hunters, markets – open morning, noon and night – provide the opportunity to bargain for local delights and handicrafts. The city has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, an abundance of Buddhas (including 2,000 at Wat Si Saket alone) and some of the country’s best food. It’s also a stop-off on Mekong river cruises to Luang Prabang – these can be an interesting and slightly hairy experience, depending on where you stop, the condition of the boat and the state of the river!
To arrive at Green Park is to retreat into a world of calm, order and comfort. With traditional architecture and overhanging tiled roofs, Green Park is one of the few hotels in Laos’ capital to retain its original style. The grounds are full of lush palms and climbing bougainvillea whilst tinkling fountains create a peaceful soundtrack. Bedrooms have gorgeous beds, antique furniture and balconies. Step out to look over the shimmering pool surrounded by frangipani trees that drop fragrant flowers into the jade water.
Rooms start at £104 per night based on 2 people sharing