Until the 1990s, Laos remained shut off from the outside world, and largely unknown to Western travellers. Since then, more and more visitors have come to discover that this landlocked country offers some of Southeast Asia’s most enchanting natural landscapes and a fascinating diversity of cultures.
Although Laos still much less developed than neighbouring Thailand, the country’s accommodation options have expanded considerably in recent years, whether you want to splash out on a plush resort or discover a peaceful budget getaway. To celebrate the release of the new Rough Guide to Laos, we’re sharing six of our favourites.
Set on a broad curve of the Mekong, Vientiane, the low-rise capital of Laos is a quaint and easy-going place. In the two decades since Laos became accessible to foreign visitors, the city has evolved remarkably quickly. Today, with foreign investment continuing to pour in, Vientiane is growing fast. And along with new shopping malls and luxurious high-rise developments, the city has some excellent places to stay. The Settha Palace Hotel, a palatial 1932 building close to the centre of Vientiane, is our pick. This carefully restored relic of the colonial-era is filled with French period furniture. Its 29 rooms have all the mod cons, including mini-bar and safe, while outside you’ll find an outstanding pool and beautiful landscaped gardens.
Head 50km northeast of the capital, Vientiane, and you’ll reach Ban Pako, where the rustic Ban Pako Eco Lodge is atmospherically sited on a curve in the Nam Ngum River. Opened in 1993, they claim to be the first eco-lodge in the country. There’s room for just 22 guests here, but if you manage to bag a bed, you could easily while away a couple of days soaking up the laidback atmosphere. Besides lounging in your detached river-view bungalow or in the open-air restaurant overlooking the river, there are a slew of outdoor activities: tubing, swimming, birdwatching and hiking to nearby villages to name a few. Self-guided nature trails also fan out from the resort, on one of which is a herbal sauna near a refreshingly cool spring.