Laos is one of the few truly exotic destinations left in the world with beautiful countryside and pristine rainforests. At its heart is the mighty Mekong River which forms a large part of the border with Thailand. One of the hallmarks of Laos is the diversity of its people, with religious art and architecture forming the cornerstone of its rich cultural heritage.
Vientiane is Southeast Asia’s smallest capital city. Located along a bend of the Mekong River in the north-west of Laos, it exudes a laidback atmosphere and old world charm with its mix of Chinese shop houses, French colonial architecture and tree-lined boulevards. It is full of fascinating sights from the Morning Market – which offers excellent shopping for silver jewellery and hand-woven textiles – to the statues in Buddha Park and the Mekong riverside. Low traffic density makes the city an ideal place for walking and exploring ancient temples and pagodas including WatHo Phakeo, a former royal temple, and Wat Sisaket, one of the capital’s oldest which houses hundreds of small Buddha images.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang is a colourful town nestled in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers. The scarlet flowers on the trees, the saffron robes of the monks, the gleaming gold of the temples and the heady perfume of frangipani all mingle to assault the senses. According to legend the Buddha smiled when he rested here for a day during his journey, prophesying that it would one day be a rich and powerful capital. Today Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture with the colonial influences of the 19th and 20th centuries. Its beautiful and well-preserved townscape is perfect for exploring by bicycle or on foot, with few obstacles other than groups of chattering monks as they make their way to and from prayer.
The small dusty town of Phonsavan in north Laos is the capital of Xieng Khuang province. The main attraction of this region is the Plain of Jars. These gigantic stone jars are to Laos as Stonehenge is to England – an enigma. While there are many theories, nobody really knows why hundreds of huge stone jars are scattered across several sites on a barren Laotian plain. They are between 2,500 and 3,000 years old, and again no one knows why they were made. Carved from solid rock, most of these containers weigh from 600kg to a tonne per piece with the largest weighing six tonnes. The jars are set amongst beautiful scenery of rolling hills which are covered with a smattering of pine trees and green grass during the wet season.
The country experiences a tropical climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons, influencing the best time to travel to Laos.
Laos has two main seasons:
Dry Season (November to April): The dry season is the most popular time to visit Laos. It spans from November to April and is characterized by sunny days, low humidity, and minimal rainfall. The weather is generally pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 30°C, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and exploration. The dry season is perfect for visiting Luang Prabang and Vientiane as well as engaging in activities like trekking, cycling, and river cruises on the Mekong River. Additionally, the cooler and drier weather allows for a more comfortable visit to Laos’ many temples and cultural sites.
Wet Season (May to October): The wet season in Laos spans from May to October, and it is characterized by higher humidity and more frequent rainfall. The weather during this time can be hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 35°C. The rains often come in the form of short, heavy showers or afternoon thunderstorms, and the countryside turns lush and green. While the wet season is considered the off-peak tourist season, some travelers may still find it enjoyable.
The best time to travel to Laos largely depends on your preferences and tolerance for heat and rain. If you prefer drier and more comfortable weather, the dry season from November to April is the ideal time. This period allows you to explore Laos’ attractions without worrying about heavy rain and humidity. However, if you don’t mind rain showers and seek a quieter and more affordable experience, the wet season can be a great option.