Laos is the only Selective Asia destination that doesn’t have any seashore, but this laid-back country still has a few aces to play if you’re seeking waterside relaxation. Our Laos Specialists have shared their favourite beach alternatives to make your Laos holiday complete... and just in case you can’t live without that salty breeze on your face, they’ve recommended a few real beaches that are easily reached on a morning flight from Luang Prabang or Vientiane.
For Lionel, the obvious place for some waterside R&R is La Folie Lodge, a delightful heritage guesthouse on Done Daeng Island in the Mekong River. Due to its spot in the broad slow-flowing river, Done Daeng is surrounded by flat sandy beaches, despite being nowhere near the sea. The Mekong laps by at a languid pace, and life here is similarly laid back. Leisurely cycle rides are the order of the day; the little island is entirely car-free, and you’ll have plenty of time to explore villages, visit temples and snack on ripe local fruit. For a cultural day-trip, head to the UNESCO World Heritage ruins of Vat Phou, an Angkor Wat contemporary which can be found just across the river. As for La Folie, all rooms have a river or beach view, and the elegant riverside pool is perfect for a refreshing dip.
Lionel also recommends Nong Khiaw, a riverside town on the Nam Ou River, three hours drive north of Luang Prabang. Sitting on the riverbank amongst impressive forest-covered crags, the town is the perfect base for light adventure; climbing, caving, treks and watersports are all easily arranged. We like to explore the river on a slow-paced longtail boat trip, or under our own steam in kayaks. The relative remoteness and glorious setting make you feel like you’ve genuinely escaped daily life, and we can recommend some gorgeously comfortable ecolodges hidden away where you can relax in true peace.
If you’re visiting Laos with family and you’re just as happy with a pool than a beach, Stephen suggests settling into a relaxed Luang Prabang hotel for an extended period of time. The sacred city sits on the sandy banks of the Mekong River, and boasts some fabulous resorts with excellent facilities. You’ll have easy access to the town and its temples and restaurants, with a nice place to chill out with the kids by the pool in between excursions. Nearby waterfalls make for a refreshing day trip, and there are boat trips and cruises available along the Mekong River.
Also known as 4,000 Islands, Si Phan Don is a delta-like area near the border between Laos and Cambodia. Here, the Mekong River fans out through flat sandy territory for a while before reconvening with itself further south, and the result is a web of little riverlets that flow between islets and islands. The larger islands offer a chilled out ambience that’s all about riverside cycle rides, river cruises, and enjoying sunset outside local cafes. There are sandy beaches to relax on, and also opportunities for light adventure, with river rafting and trekking among our favourites. Si Phan Don’s waterfalls are amongst the most spectacular in Laos, and you’ll also be well placed to explore famous sites such as the Bolaven Plateau.
Gemma tells us that Vietnam, despite being right next door, is not the best option as a beach add-on to a Laos holiday due to awkward flight schedules. Thailand is much better, as you can catch a short morning flight to Bangkok from Vientiane or Luang Prabang, and hop to Phuket, Koh Samui or Krabi in time to spend the afternoon with your toes in the sand.