Three days in Vientiane is enough time to discover the city, explore a bit of the surrounding countryside, and delve more deeply into Lao food, handicrafts, and culture. You can pedal through sleepy villages, watch the sun sink into the Mekong, relax in a Lao sauna, hike country parks, and feast on the nation’s finest food. Here’s how.
Day 1: Monks and Demons
Start your Vientiane adventure by orienting yourself in the city. Besides historic temples such as Wat Si Saket, Ho Phra Keo, Wat Sok Pa Luang, and Wat Si Muang and landmarks such as Patuxai (Victory Monument), take the time to get educated on the Vietnam War’s devastating consequences at landmine charity COPE. Spend the afternoon at Buddha Park, south of the city, where giant concrete sculptures of deities and demons from Hindu and Buddhist mythology pay tribute to a mystic’s vision. Watch the sun set over the Mekong with a cold Beer Lao in hand, then discover local cuisine at a riverside restaurant.
Day 2: Villages and Lakes
It’s in Laos’ tiny villages, home to literally hundreds of different ethnic groups, that the soul of the country lies, so spend your second day in Vientiane exploring the countryside with a guide. A cycle trip is a great way to discover traditional villages, tranquil rice fields, and unspoiled forests. Alternatively, head to Nam Ngum Lake for a scenic cruise; many tours include stops at the Vang Xang ruins, a salt factory, and Hmong villages. Or head out to Phou Khao Khouay National Park to hike the slopes of Buffalo Mountain. Consider an overnight trip where you can mingle with locals in a simple homestay here. Assuming you’re not staying overnight, wrap up the day with a traditional Lao sauna followed by a street-food feast at Ban Anou Night Market.
Day 3: Culture and Cuisine
Many visitors will want to use their third day in Vientiane to see even more of the countryside around the city. Alternatively, take the chance to immerse yourself in Lao culture. Consider discovering the nation’s rich weaving traditions on a tour of workshops including Carol Cassidy Lao Textiles; go deeper into the world of food with a hands-on cooking course; or shop for handicrafts and fabrics at bustling street markets and intimate boutiques. Finish with an evening that harks back to the nation’s rich past, perhaps with dinner and a show in a colonial mansion, or fine French fare at a fraction of the price you’ll pay in Paris.