When people think of Laos, they often think of destinations such as Luang Prabang, the Plateau of Jars or the capital Vientiane. However, did you know that in the centre of the country lies a peaceful town that is considered to be the second largest city in Laos? This is Savannakhet – an interesting city rich in religious culture, with some of the country’s most sacred temples, offering an immersive experience of the past. But that’s not all: the city also boasts some magnificent natural scenery.
In this article, we’ll take you through all aspects of Savannakhet and give you the best advice for making the most of your trip to this peaceful city.
Savannakhet – the city of paradise
Savannakhet is a town in south-west Laos, founded in 1905. The name “Savannakhet” has a special meaning in Laotian, as it literally translates as “the city of paradise”. It is considered to be the country’s second largest city, after the capital Vientiane.
It is a dynamic city with a rich and diverse natural environment, surrounded by mountains and hills and crossed by numerous rivers. The city is also famous for its vast agricultural plains, producing rice, maize and tobacco in particular… Savannakhet is also known for its French colonial architecture and its famous Buddhist temple.
Perhaps you’re wondering what activities and attractions Savannakhet has to offer? Find out below.
Travel to Savannakhet – What to see and do?
Heuan Hinh stone house
- Map: Kaysone Phomvihane village, Sayaphoum district
- Opening hours: Every day from 8am to 5pm.
- Entrance fee: 10,000 Lao kips (approx. USD 1) per person.
The next must-see destination in Savannakhet Laos, is the stone house of Heuan Hinh, located around 65km south of the city. Although most of the original carvings have disappeared and the structure is in poor condition, the Heuan Hinh stone house is well worth a stop if you’re travelling on the outskirts of Savannakhet.
Built in the style of Angkor architecture, this unique work of architecture dating from 553 BC is one of 121 rest houses built during the reign of the Khmer ruler, Jayavarman VIII. It is built from monolithic blocks in the shape of a temple, testifying to the skill and expertise of the ancient Khmer civilisation.
This captivating destination offers an off-the-beaten-track experience in Laos. Travellers from all over the world will be amazed and curious about the birth and existence of this strange house, which bears witness to the region’s rich and fascinating cultural heritage.
That Ing Hang temple
- Map: Ban Thad Village on Route 9, Savannakhet
- Opening hours: 8 am – 4.30 pm
- Entrance fee: Free
That Inhang is a place of great cultural and religious significance located 12km north-east of Savannakhet. This 12th-century Buddhist pagoda is an important pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. Topped by a stupa over 12 metres high, it is considered to be the second most important pilgrimage destination in Laos.
Built in the traditional Laotian style with a touch of Thai influence, the pagoda is surrounded by magnificent gardens featuring Buddha statues and sculptures, as well as fruit trees. Visitors can take part in the regular religious ceremonies held in the pagoda and enjoy the peaceful, spiritual atmosphere of the site.
Wat Xayaphoum Temple
- Map: on the banks of the Mekong River, Savannakhet 13000
- Open: 5:30 am – 6 pm
- Entrance fee: 10.000 LAK (1,20 USD).
Wat Xayaphoum is a Buddhist temple in the town of Savannakhet, Laos. It was built in 1542 and is considered to be one of the most important temples in the town. The temple’s name, Xayaphoum, means “golden city” in Laotian and reflects the wealth and prosperity of the region at the time.
During your visit, you will be amazed by the temple’s original architecture. The walls and ceilings of the main structure are adorned with magnificent murals and sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Buddha and other important religious figures.
Another temple not to be missed is Wat Sainyaphum. Founded in the 16th century, this temple has undergone several renovations and extensions over the years. Today, it is one of the largest and most important Buddhist temples in the region. The temple complex is set in beautiful natural surroundings and consists of several sacred buildings.
- Map: corner of Chantha Khoumane Street and Route 9 Street
- Opening hours: 8am – 4pm, closed Saturday and Sunday.
- Entrance fee: 20,000 Kips (around US$2) per person.
The Savannakhet Museum was built in the 1930s and is housed in a magnificent historic building that was once the office of the French administration.
The museum exhibits historical and cultural artefacts relating to the architecture, arts, crafts, religion and folk culture of the city and surrounding province. Visitors can admire a wide collection including Buddhist sculptures, traditional textiles, weapons and ritual objects.
Savannakhet Dinosaur Museum
- Map: Kaysone Phomvihane city, Savannakhet
- Open: 08am – 11.30 am / 1 pm – 6 pm
- Entrance fee: 10000 Kip ~ 1$
Don’t be amazed when you hear that there is a Dinosaur in Laos. Located at the mighty Mekong, from the outside, Savannakhet Dinosaur Museum looks impressive, make you curious to find the story inside. Since the 1930s the museum has been exhibiting fossils found around Savannakhet, including the skeletal remains of four dinosaurs, prehistorical mammal remains, and meteorite fragments.
Sainte Therese Church
Sainte Thérèse church located in the town of Savannakhet in Laos, is a remarkable example of French colonial architecture. Built during the period of French Indochina, this church is a testament to French influence in the region.
It was built in 1932 by French colonists in the neo-Romanesque style. The church of Sainte Thérèse has an impressive interior with colourful stained glass windows, pointed arches and biblical murals. The altar is adorned with statues of saints and angels, and the carved wooden chairs add a touch of sophistication.
It is an important historical monument that bears witness to the rich history and culture of the region.
- Map: Visoukan Road, Kaisone Phomvihane District
- Open: 6 am – 5 pm
Savanxay Market is located about 100m from the central bus station and is a popular shopping destination for tourists. As well as items commonly found in fresh produce markets, visitors can discover Lao culinary specialities. The market is also known for its wide variety of souvenirs, including sophisticated handicrafts such as textiles and brocade garments, as well as cotton threads featuring traditional designs unique to Laos.
Stroll along the Mekong River
Savannakhet is a city on the banks of the Mekong River. So you can make the most of your trip by strolling along the river, sampling local food or drinking a bottle of beer in a restaurant overlooking the river. It’s an interesting and authentic experience.
Savannakhet cuisine and gastronomy
Savannakhet’s cuisine is famous for its variety of succulent and tasty dishes, which reflect influences from Lao, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. The city is located on the banks of the Mekong River, offering an abundance of fresh fish such as catfish, carp, snakehead and many others, which are used in many dishes in the region.
One of Savannakhet’s most popular dishes is Khao Piak Sen, an aromatic and spicy rice noodle soup served with chicken or beef, vegetables and fresh herbs. Another popular dish is Thum Mak Houng, a spicy and sweet and sour green papaya salad, which is often served with sticky rice.
Here are 5 typical Lao dishes you can try on your trip to Savannakhet:
Khao poon: This is a spicy rice noodle soup made with coconut milk and chicken or fish. It is usually served with fresh herbs, vegetables and rice noodles.
Kha nom: These are steamed rice cakes served with a sweet coconut sauce and toasted sesame seeds. They are a popular sweet for breakfast or dessert.
Ping kai: These are chicken kebabs marinated in a spicy coconut milk and lemongrass sauce, then grilled over a charcoal fire. It’s a tasty and popular dish for meals with family and friends.
Lap: This is a salad of minced meat (pork, beef or chicken) mixed with fresh herbs, lime juice and spices. This is a Laotian speciality that cannot be missed.
Tam mak hoong: This is a salad of grated green papaya mixed with tomatoes, green beans, roasted peanuts, lime juice and crushed chillies. It’s a spicy and refreshing dish that’s very popular in summer.
Savannakhet’s night market is a great place to try these delicious street foods. Located in the heart of the city centre, the market comes alive every evening with a variety of stalls offering delicious local dishes. Visitors can also enjoy a lively atmosphere for a memorable experience.
Best time to visit Savannakhet
With its tropical climate, Savannakhet’s weather is divided into two distinct seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. In general, the temperature in this city follows a seasonal pattern. The hottest period of the year is April, with an average temperature of 29.5°C, while the coldest period is December, with an average temperature of around 21.7°C.
The best time to visit Savannakhet will depend on individual preferences.
The dry season, which runs from November to April, is generally considered the best time to travel to this part of Laos. During this period, temperatures are mild, rainfall is low and the skies are often clear, providing ideal conditions for exploring the town and its surroundings.
The rainy season, which lasts from June to October, can be less favourable for travel due to heavy rains and the risk of flooding. However, the verdant scenery and lower prices for accommodation and activities can make up for these disadvantages for some travellers.
How do get to and around Savannakhet?
If you’re planning travel to Savannakhet, you have several options for getting there. Depending on your budget, time and travel preferences, you can choose from several means of transport. Here are 2 of the most popular options for getting to Savannakhet:
By plane: The city of Savannakhet has its own airport (Savannakhet Airport) which serves several cities in Laos, including Vientiane and Pakse. Domestic flights are also available from Bangkok, Thailand. Once you arrive at the airport, you can take a taxi or shuttle bus into the town centre.
By bus: The bus is a practical and economical option. The city is well served by regular bus services, linking it to other cities in Laos, Thailand and even Vietnam.
Once in Savannakhet, there are several options for getting around the city. Visitors can opt for public transport services such as minibuses, buses or tuk-tuks, which are very common. In particular, it is advisable to try tuk-tuks, a very authentic and interesting mode of transport in South-East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Tuk-tuks are motorised tricycles that can carry several passengers at a time and are often decorated in colourful and original ways.
Where to stay in Savannakhet?
Choosing the right accommodation is an important factor during your stay. In Savannakhet, you will find a wide variety of hotels, guesthouses and accommodation of all categories, to suit all budgets and preferences.
Prices may vary depending on the category of accommodation, the season and demand. Here is a list of some of the top-rated hotels in Savannakhet, based on traveller reviews on popular hotel booking sites:
Pilgrim’s Kitchen & Inn
Villa Thonglor Savan Resort
As well as hotels and guesthouses, there are also homestay options, which offer travellers a more authentic experience and the chance to discover local life.
All in all, Savannakhet is a captivating destination that offers an authentic, off-the-beaten-track experience in Laos. From fascinating Buddhist temples to historic stone houses and tasty local food, there’s plenty to explore in this town. Don’t hesitate to book your next trip to Laos now!