Savannakhet Travel Guide

Savannakhet (commonly shortened to 'Savan') is the capital of Savannakhet Province in Southern Laos and is located alongside the Mekong River across from Mukdahan, Thailand. Kaysone Phomvihane - its capital province was named to honor the greatest leader of Laos (its former name was Khanthabouli). This second-largest city of Laos with an estimated population of 120 thousand is an important hub between West (Mukdahan, Thailand) and East (Vietnam), and between North (Vientiane) and South (Pakse) and home to several ethnic groups including Laotian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and more.

The city's name - Savannakhet nearly means to "Golden Land", and while it was considered as a prosperous, promising land for the French colonialists and the Vietnamese and Chinese merchants who followed them, the city has moved on from that long-gone golden age.

It doesn't look like to be on the travel plan of many tourists these days. Most foreign visitors to Savannakhet are for obtaining a visa at the Thai embassy. Though there are not many tourist attractions in Savannakhet, the draw is the city itself, the historic downtown being the highlight. Thus, you can enjoy all the best things to do in Savannakhet city in just one day, and it's worth a stopover if you're heading north or south.

Best time to visit Savannakhet

The best time of the year to visit Savannakhet is the dry season between November and March. Temperatures are usually a bit cooler and walking or biking around the old town is more pleasant. Remember to put a long sleeve or jacket in your bag for the nighttime, especially if traveling in December and January. The wet season starts at the end of April and goes on until October, with August being the most not-recommended month to visit.

You should not miss the annual racing boat festival if you're traveling during mid-October, at the end of the rainy season. This is a celebration of the importance of the river in the city life which is held concurrently on both the Lao and Thai banks of the Mekong.

Things to see and do in Savannakhet

That Ing Hang (or Ing Hang Stupa)

That Phonh Stupa is a shrine tower in Phonethat Village, about 45 km northeast of Savannakhet Province. It was built over a long period between AD 557 and 700 by the King Marukhanakhone to commemorate the Buddha's visit to the site in the past. This is a sacred stupa and served as a shrine for offerings made to Shiva and other Hindu Gods. It is an important place for Buddhists and is recorded as a National Treasure of Lao PDR.

Women are required to wear a traditional Sin (Lao Skirt) to enter this holy site. These are available next to the entrance. You need to pay for the entry fee, it's open daily from 8 am to 6 pm.

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That In Hang, Savannkhet, Laos

Wat Xayaphoum (Vat Sayaphum) Temple

Vat Sayaphum locates on the banks of the Mekong River in Ban Xayaphoum Village. This is one of the most beautiful temples in Savannakhet, built-in 1542 BC. It has been substantially improved since the beginning of the 20th century and acted as a school for Buddhist novices and monks.

Visit the temple to see well-preserved red and gilded wood shutters feature floral carvings. You can also observe an onsite workshop where local artisans craft handmade sculptures of Buddha. The major Buddhist festivals and ceremonies, including Pi Mai Laos (New Year) in April and the Boat Racing Festival in October, are hosted at Vat Sayaphum as well.

Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

Laos, Savannakhet, Wat Xayaphoum, Laos Travel Guide
Wat Xayaphoum, Savannket, Laos

Bungva lake

Bungva is the largest freshwater lake located in the outskirts of the Savannakhet – just 12km eastwards from the city.

It is a perfect picnic spot for hanging out, enjoying meals, and having some cold beers during weekends and holidays for the locals while enjoying fascinating scenery around.

The lake is well-maintained, with several restaurants and shops running along. It is one of the worth visiting spots for tourists while in Savannakhet to enjoy a relaxing walk or to have a bike ride, to witness some sunset or sunrise, or go boating.

Laos, Savannakhet, Bungva Lake, Laos Travel Guide
Bungva Lake, Savannakhet, Laos

The Savannakhet Dinosaur Museum

Savannakhet Dinosaur Museum holds some Savannakhet's prehistoric period exhibitions. Despite its compact size, the hall displays a collection of dinosaur fossils or big lizard bones excavated in the 1930s from Tang Vay Village, Xonbouly District.

The museum displays skeletal remains of 4 dinosaurs and early mammalian remains from 200 million years ago. You can even see fragments of a meteorite that fell to earth over 100 million years ago. Descriptions are in Laos and French, but the museum has guided tours for English-speaking visitors. The museum is an ideal place for families with kids to visit. The information here is also helpful to learn more about dinosaurs.

Open: Daily from 8 am to 11.30 am and from 1.30 pm to 4 pm

Laos, Savannakhet, Savannket Dinosaur Museum, Laos Travel Guide
Savannkhet Dinosuar Museum, Savannakhet, Laos

Eglise Sainte Thérèse

The Eglise Sainte Thérèse, also called St. Therese Cathedral, is the Roman Catholic Co-Cathedral located at the end of the main square which closes to the night market makes for a great photo opportunity.

Though it's a small and non-imposing church but is worth checking out while biking around the city.

Shopping in Savannakhet

Savanxay Market

Located 100 meters to the east of the main bus station, Savanxay market is one of the largest marketplaces and an interesting place to visit as well. Besides selling fresh greens and meats, tourists can also find dozens of vendors sell handicrafts, food items, and textiles at affordable price.

In the morning, when locals go shopping for fresh produce and household items, the market usually becomes busy. Coming to the Savanxay Market, you can also enjoy authentic Lao, Vietnamese and Thai food.

Open: Daily from 6 am to 5 pm

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Vendor in Savanxay Market, Savannaket, Laos

Dao Heuang Duty-Free Shop

You can find chocolates, liquor, cigarettes and cigars, and even some basic household electricity products as well here at reasonable prices. The shop offers a wide variety of Dao Coffee products - the largest coffee company in Laos.

There is a small collection of handicrafts, hill-tribe products, silverware and jewelry sold at the shop.

Singapore Market

This four-storey market belongs to a Singaporean merchant and is the biggest market in Savannakhet. You can find vegetables, fresh fish and meats, locally famous pork sauces, and household products in this market. But not like the name, most of the goods here are imported from Thailand, Vietnam, and China.

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