Savannakhet is located in the central region of Laos and is the second largest city in the nation, after Vientiane. It is also the most populous city in Laos with about 15% of the total population living there.
Although the city is not yet a popular travel destination, it has much to offer: a Buddhist temple, a Catholic cathedral, a former French Concession, tribal villages, a nature protection area, battlefield relics, a dinosaur museum… You don’t need to travel to several different places to find attractions as you will find them all in Savannakhet.
The Best Time to Visit Savannakhet
The best time to visit Savannakhet is between November and February, when the weather is warm and dry.
From March to May, the temperature goes up along with the moisture level, making the region very humid. You should be cautious of heatstroke.
It is the rainy season in the region from June through to October, when the weather is wet and cool. It is possible to travel around the city, but not safe to go into the wilderness.
How to Get to Savannakhet
Savannakhet Airport (ZVK) offers domestic flights from Vientiane and Pakse in Laos, as well as international flights from Bangkok, Thailand, and Da Nang in Vietnam.
The shuttle buses travelling between Vientiane and Pakse go through Savannakhet. It might be a tiring journey by bus though as it will take you more than 8 hours from Vientiane and 5 hours from Pakse. You can book your bus ticket at your hotel 1 day in advance.
The Top Things to Do in Savannakhet
If you are traveling on your own, the Tourist Information Center in Savannakhet might be the first advisable place to visit. They provide free tourist maps with places to see in the city, as well as information on day trips.
Another possibility would be to read about out some of the top things to do in the city, list what you might like, and then let us customize a hassle-free tour for you.
1. Visit Wat Sainyaphum and Wat Rattanalangsi
Wat Sainyaphum is one of the largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Laos, dating back to the 15th–16th century. Near the river, there is a workshop with a small production line of Buddha statues that are finished with real gold paint.
The temple is also the site for the Lao New Year celebrations in mid April and the Boat Racing Festival in mid October.
If you are interested in Buddhist culture, also visit Wat Rattanalangsi. Built in 1951, the temple is not only a place for prayer, but also a primary school for local young monks. The modern sermon hall and a 15 meters’ long Buddha statue are worth a visit.
2. Walk Around the Former French Concession
The area around the center of Savannakhet used to be the French Concession. After most of the colonists left in the mid 20th century, some of the French architecture fell into disrepair.
The Co-Cathedral of St. Therese is one exception having been well-preserved, and painted in its reassuring white color. The cathedral embodies Laos's policy of religious freedom. If you are a Catholic, don’t skip it.
3. Learn Local History in Savannakhet Provincial Museum
If you are a history lover and want to gain some knowledge about the local history, then the provincial museum is the place for you.
Most of the exhibits are warfare related — you can see battlefield relics, weapon remnants, and examples of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Since the war ended, countless UXO have taken the lives of over 20,000 Lao.
4. Visit the Dinosaur Museum with Your Kids
Do your kids love visiting Buddhist temples and ancient buildings? If not, the Dinosaur Museum may light up their eyes, as real dinosaur fossils that have been unearthed in Laos are exhibited!
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.
The descriptions are in Laotian and French, but the English-speaking staff offer easy-to-understand narrations.
5. Join the Worshiping Ceremony at That Ing Hang
That Ing Hang is one of the most honored pagodas in Laos. Standing 9 meters’ high, the pagoda is said to have been built in the mid 16th century. The site is located about 12 kilometers northeast of the city center and you can take a tuk-tuk there.
Every December, believers from all over Laos and Thailand visit the pagoda with offerings of flowers and little pagodas made from banana leaves for the Buddha. In return, nuns around the site tie cotton string around the believers’ wrists as a blessing.
6. Try a Local Snack by the River, or Enjoy French Cuisine Instead
Built by the Mekong River, the city has many restaurants with a good riverside view. Near Wat Sainyaphum, you can also find riverside snack and drink vendors offering barbecues, local snacks, and Beerlao (the name of a range of beers).
Although the city is no longer a French Concession, the French food has remained. Some of the best French restaurants are located in the square near the Co-Cathedral of St. Therese.
There is not much nightlife in Savannakhet, but you can still find bars. In recent years, more and more bars have opened in the city and these have become fashionable among the local youngsters.
7. Visit Tribal Villages in Dong Natad Forest
Dong Natad is a nature reserve 15 kilometers from the city.
The best way to enjoy this natural area is by hiking and, if you are lucky, you might spot some wild animals and rare plants. There is a beautiful lake in the center of the area, where you can take photos of the wild birds.
There are two small tribal villages which have lived in harmony with the forest for over four centuries. Depending on the season in which you visit, you can see the villagers collecting mushrooms, wild fruits, honey, and maybe insects to eat.
8. Trekking in Dong Phu Vieng National Protected Area
You can book a 2- or 3-day trek at the Tourist Information Center to explore Dong Phu Vieng NPA, if your physical condition allows. The trekking tour includes round-trip transportation and the service of a guide.
Follow your guide through rainforests and bamboo forests, and along rocky paths and streams, where you may spot rare plants and animals. You can also observe the totem poles of local tribal villages.
If you are seeking a more advanced trekking experience, book a tour to Phu Xang Hae NPA. This is a more desolate forest with the option of a 5-day trek.
Sync with Indochina's Heartbeat
9. Visit the Old Battlefield in Sepon
Sepon was a battlefield in the 2nd Indochina War. The transportation route called the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Sepon was one of the hardest bombed areas in the world. Today, there are still collapsed houses and tank wreckages by the roads, as well as countless unexploded ordnances (UXO) hidden in the forest.
About 20 kilometers east of Sepon, many war-related relics are collected and exhibited in Ban Dong Village’s War Museum. The way to the museum is also part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
10. Try Laos’s Herbal Sauna
Although the hot and wet weather may last for over half of the year in Savannakhet, the locals still enjoy a sauna.
There are several shops that provide a special herbal sauna, as well as a Laos massage. This is a good way to wash away any tiredness after visiting.
Visit Savannakhet with Us
If traveling on your own and booking everything yourself is not for you, why not consider using our hassle-free service? We help to customize your itinerary and confirm all the bookings. You will just enjoy smooth traveling with an English-speaking guide and a professional driver.