Best time to visit Laos

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Laos is a small land-locked country, with two main distinct weather seasons: dry and wet. To help you plan when to go to Laos, take a look at our Laos climate information below.

When is the best time to visit Laos?

No matter what time of year you travel to Laos, you’ll find that each season paints the country in a different colour. And with attractions year-round, there’s no wrong time to go, as such. However, for dry, warm weather and for getting the best out of the activities on offer, broadly speaking, the best time to visit Laos is November–January.

At this time of the year temperatures range from an average 14–26°C, and there’s little to no rain. Balmy days make this an ideal time for adventurous treks, bike tours, and boat rides. This is also a good time for exploring the Mekong River, as water levels from the previous months’ rainfall makes river travel pleasant, safe and easy. You can also go swimming and tubing in waterfalls and rivers, as well as explore mystical Buddhist shrines and mysterious caves.

Typically, the climate is at its coldest in the northern and eastern parts of the country during this period. In regions higher up, including Luang Namtha and Phongsali, temperatures can get as low as 5°C in the evenings. So carry extra clothes when visiting these parts. Vientiane and Luang Prabang witness temperatures around 24°C, while Pakse and other parts of Laos’ southern region soar to around 30°C.

Weather in Laos

Laos has a tropical climate, with a hot and wet season from May–October and a dry, cooler season from November–April.

For most of the dry season – until February – the weather in Laos is mild, although the south is hotter (hitting 31°C at times, compared with highs of 27°C in Luang Prabang and just 22°C in the far north). March and April are considerably warmer.

August sees the highest humidity levels and greatest rainfall.

Note that the climate in some northern areas – notably Phongsali and Hua Phan (Sam Neua) – can be surprisingly temperamental, even in the hot season, so you could have one scorcher of a day, followed by a cold, wet day that’s enough to convince you you’re no longer in Southeast Asia.

When is the monsoon in Laos?

The monsoon season falls between May and October. At this time, Laos experiences moderate rainfall with short, sharp bursts of showers that usually last no longer than a few hours. Places in the north of the country receive more rainfall than their southern counterparts. Whilst the rain doesn't last for long, the wet weather can make travel difficult, particularly in rural areas. During the monsoon, the weather is marked by high humidity with temperatures ranging from 20–25°C.

When is the best month to visit Laos?

December is arguably the best time to visit Laos for all-round favourable weather. The pleasant and dry conditions are ideal for various outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, exploring caves and river travel. It’s also a good time to visit religious and cultural sites.

When to visit Laos in winter

The winter months from December to February are dry and warm – an ideal time to visit Laos for sightseeing and for exploring outdoors. It is also an eventful period in the country with a flurry of festivities bringing sleepy towns to life.

Visiting Laos from December–February

This is a good time to visit Laos, particularly the lowlands. Daytime temperatures are agreeably warm, evenings are slightly chilly and the countryside remains green and lush after the rains. Bear in mind though that higher regions are significantly cooler, sometimes dropping to freezing point. In February temperatures in Laos start to rise.

These are the months for doing a bit of everything, from sightseeing, to river travel, to exploring the countryside. Dry conditions on land make it a perfect time for outdoor pursuits, such as rock-climbing, cycling and hiking in the north – and the scenic waterfalls of the southern highlands are not to be missed.

Other enjoyable activities during this period include meeting the genial giants at elephant camps, visiting coffee plantations, indigenous markets and ethnic villages, and enjoying the slow pace of life on the picturesque Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) archipelago.

The dry season inevitably attracts greater visitor numbers though, so don’t expect to have the place to yourself when visiting well-known attractions.

When to visit Laos in spring

Laos experiences quite a change from the beginning to the end of spring: temperatures rise rapidly until its searingly hot and then the country sees the start of the rains.

Visiting Laos from March–May

Temperatures climb as the dry season continues, reaching a peak in April, when the lowlands are baking hot and humid. During this time, the highlands are, for the most part, equally hot if a bit less muggy than the lowlands. But there are places, such as Paksong on the Bolaven Plateau, that have a temperate climate year-round. Water levels in rivers are at an all-year low by April, disrupting river travel.

Due to slash-and-burn agriculture, much of the north, including Luang Prabang, becomes shrouded in smoke from March until the beginning of the monsoon, which can at times be quite uncomfortable, and of course doesn’t do your photographs any favours.

The dry season segues into the start of the rainy months by May, when Laos is both hot and humid. Trekking can be difficult as trails become slippery, but you can still enjoy excursions to cultural sites and Si Phan Don if you’re willing to brave the heat.

When to visit Laos in summer

Laos is hot, wet and humid during the summer months, and the weather conditions quite literally dampen tourism. The rain affects the condition of Laos’s network of unpaved roads, some of which become impassable and the monsoon hinders certain activities, especially those outdoors.

On the other hand, rivers which may be too low to navigate during the latter months of the dry season become important transport routes after the rains have caused water levels to rise. And the thirsty landscape comes to life: rice fields turn a shade of emerald and tumbling waterfalls are surrounded by vibrant greenery.

Visiting Laos from June–August

Most of Laos sees rain In June, but it doesn’t usually last long, and the rain tends to bring the heat down a notch – meaning sightseeing can still be on the agenda.

By July, the rains reach a steady tempo and the temperature hovers around 30°C. The weather is somewhat cooler in southern regions, especially at the Bolaven Plateau.

August sees rainfall reach a crescendo in August, with showers at their heaviest and lasting longer and humidity high. Wet and muddy walking trails make hiking difficult, if not impossible, while roads can be slippery and hazardous – with flooding a real possibility. Remote areas and caves can be off limits as well as other popular attractions, such as the Kuang Si waterfalls. Tubing in Vang Vieng also becomes dangerous.

Pack an umbrella and light moisture-wicking apparel for when the weather gets too clammy.

When to visit Laos in autumn

The best time to visit Laos in autumn is November. It’s no longer wet but rivers are still full from the recent rainfall, making this a good time for travel along many of the country’s waterways. You can enjoy outdoor activities, such as trekking, tubing and swimming. Besides, the temperature is significantly cooler than during the summer months, making sightseeing, temple-hopping and general moseying around, more pleasurable.

Visiting Laos from September–November

Whilst it rains consistently for most of September, you can enjoy bright, sunny weather again towards the end of the month, with landscapes at their most picturesque.

By October, the dry season is back, with only the odd smattering of rain now and then. And with temperatures knocking around the mid 20˚s, this is a great time to visit Laos. Outdoor activities are back on the cards and you get to enjoy the delights of Laos before the throngs return during peak tourist season.

The cool, crisp, dry air melded with the scent of lush flora, and gloriously full rivers make for an unforgettable visit in November. Added to which, the weather is ideal for almost every tourist activity – from trekking to hiking, to swimming below waterfalls.

Festivals in Laos

Laos festivals are an explosion of colour, where parades, games, music and dancing are all accompanied by copious amounts of lào-láo. If you happen to be in a town or village that is gearing up for a festival, consider staying in the area for a bit longer to enjoy the festivities. In rural areas especially, a festival can transform an entire village into a wild, week-long party.

Because the Lao calendar is dictated by both solar and lunar rhythms, the dates of festivals change from year to year and, even just a few days prior to a parade or boat race, there is sometimes confusion over exactly when it will take place. For the local people this is not really a problem, as the days leading up to and immediately following large festivals are equally packed with celebrations.

The Makkha Busa Buddist Holy Day - February

The Makkha Busa Buddhist holy day, observed under a full moon in February, commemorates a legendary sermon given by the Buddha after 1250 of his disciples spontaneously congregated around the Enlightened One.

Lao New Year - April

Lao New Year, or Pi Mai Lao, is celebrated all over Laos in mid-April, notably in Luang Prabang, where the town’s namesake Buddha image is ritually bathed.

Bun Bang Fai - May

During Bun Bang Fai, also known as the rocket festival, crude projectiles are made from stout bamboo poles stuffed with gunpowder and fired skywards. It’s hoped the thunderous noise will encourage the spirits to make it rain after months of dry weather.

Lai Heau Fai, The Festival of Light Boats - October

Lai Heau Fai, on the full moon in October, is a festival of lights; the celebrations are especially lively in Luang Prabang. In the days leading up to the festival residents build large floats and festoon them with lights.

That Luang Festival - November

In the days leading up to the full moon, the great That Luang stupa in Vientiane comes to resemble the centrepiece of a fairground, with street vendors setting up booths in the open spaces around it. The week-long That Luang Festival then kicks off with a mass alms-giving to hundreds of monks.

Bun Pha Wet Festival - December–January

Bun Pha Wet, which commemorates the Jataka tale of the Buddha’s second-to-last incarnation as Pha Wet, or Prince Vessantara, takes place at local monasteries on various dates throughout December or January. In larger towns, expect live bands and dancing.

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Rough Guides Editors
8/29/2020
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