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Perched on the steep, forest-blanketed banks of the Mekong in northern Laos, the sleepy village of Pakbeng gives you an authentic glimpse into rural life along the river. It’s typically a short stopover destination for those cruising between Huay Xai, close to Thailand’s Golden Triangle, and the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang. As such, there’s not a great deal to do once there other than soak in the verdant valley views and take a stroll around the quiet village streets.

Pakbeng’s hotels cling to the rocky banks just above the river, giving you the ideal vantage spot for watching the sun rise and set over the water. For a simple stay with breakfast views of elephants bathing below, we recommend Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge. However, if you want to unwind in luxury, Le Grand Hotel offers a more exclusive retreat where you can admire the river meandering into the horizon from the hotel’s hillside infinity pool.

Rural Laos relaxation

The slow pace of life here invites you to put your feet up and enjoy unspoiled countryside views before heading further along the Mekong. But, if you do venture out of your hotel’s grounds and walk around the village, you’ll experience a sliver of Laos’ rural culture.

Nestled among the rolling hills and poles of palm trees are tightly clustered houses and shops lined with wooden balconies. One street houses most of the village’s restaurants, and at the end is a sheltered market where villagers buy and sell fresh produce, such as mushrooms, bamboo shoots, pineapples, and tamarind, as well as snails and frogs.

Mekong River cruise between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang

Whether you’re journeying to or from Luang Prabang, this two-day leisurely boat trip offers sweeping views of lush forests, huddles of stilted hillside villages, and water buffalos resting upon sandy banks. Near Huay Xai, the river acts as a natural border between Laos and Thailand, so for a short while, you’ll have one country directly to your right and the other to your left.

Pak Ou CavesIn addition to Pakbeng, you’ll also stop off at the Pak Ou Caves, etched into towering limestone cliffs. Yet, the geology of these caves isn’t the only fascinating thing about them. As you walk in, you’ll notice thousands of Buddha statues lined up one after the other, from miniature wooden figurines to much larger ones tinted in a golden hue, marking the caves’ spiritual significance.

Every April during Lao New Year, this religious site becomes a gathering place where local people worship, tend to the statues, and wash in the water below.

While most cruises along this stretch are shared with other passengers, we can arrange a private long-tail boat for a more peaceful journey. Alternatively, if you want a more experiential trip, we can book you a room aboard the Anouvong. This indulgent boutique vessel has ten traditionally decorated bedrooms, each with their own riverside balconies.

During your trip, you can enjoy a soothing massage at the on-board spa, an evening of Lao cultural traditions, and carefully sourced cuisine that perfectly captures local tastes.

Best time to visit Pakbeng

The best time to visit Pakbeng is from November to January, when the weather is mostly dry and warm and the water levels are high enough for cruising. During this time, temperatures average around 18°C (64°F) to 20°C (68°F), peaking at 25°C (77°F) in November.

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Audley Travel specialist Hayley

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Suggested itineraries featuring Pakbeng

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Pakbeng, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Pakbeng

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    Places near Pakbeng

    Our expert guides to exploring Pakbeng

    Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Pakbeng, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Pakbeng at its best.

    • What to do in Laos: our highlights guide
      Mekong River

      What to do in Laos: our highlights guide

      What to do in Laos: our highlights guide

      Still very much untouched by mass tourism, Laos offers the visitor much to see and do, from watching monks perform daily rituals or taking a night safari in a national park, to learning to cook Laotian food or taking a relaxing cruise down the Mekong River.

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