Phonsavan Travel Guide

Discover Phonsavan, Laos with our comprehensive travel guide that includes things to do, places to visit, food to eat, where to stay, and more!

Introduction to Phonsavan

Phonsavan is a small city located in Central Laos, in the Xieng Khouang Province, known for its intriguing history, stunning natural scenery, and vibrant cultural traditions. The city is situated on the famous Plain of Jars, a unique archaeological site that features thousands of ancient stone jars scattered across the landscape.

Phonsavan is also the gateway to a wealth of outdoor activities, from trekking and cycling to exploring waterfalls and hot springs. Whether you’re a history buff, culture vulture, or outdoor enthusiast, there’s something for everyone in Phonsavan.

List of Places to Visit in Phonsavan

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Plain of Jars Archaeological Site: Considered the city’s most important attraction, this site is home to thousands of mysterious stone jars, believed to date back over 2000 years. Visitors can observe these unique relics and tour the visitor center to learn more about the site’s history and significance.
  • MAG (Mines Advisory Group) Center: This informative museum focuses on the humanitarian effort to reduce the impact of mines, unexploded ordnances, and bombs in Laos. Visitors can learn about the history of the Secret War in Laos and the ongoing efforts to clear the land of these dangers.
  • Xieng Khouang Provincial Museum: This fascinating museum showcases the history and culture of the province, from prehistoric times to the present day. Exhibitions here include traditional costumes, weapons, jewelry, and other cultural artifacts.

Natural Attractions of Phonsavan: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Phou Khoun Viewpoint: This stunning viewpoint offers a bird’s eye view of the scenic Phou Khoun Valley, the Nam Theun River, and the surrounding mountain range. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunrise or sunset.
  • Nong Tang Lake: This tranquil lake is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a peaceful place to relax after a day of sightseeing. Visitors can rent a paddle boat or spend time fishing in the lake.
  • Tad Lang Waterfall: Located about 30km from Phonsavan, this picturesque waterfall is a great place to cool off on a hot day. Visitors can take a dip in the refreshing pool beneath the falls or hike along the nearby nature trails.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Phonsavan

  • Plain of Jars Trekking: This popular trekking route takes visitors through the scenic countryside, past rural villages and stunning landscapes. Visitors can hike to some of the lesser-known jar sites, away from the tourist crowds.
  • Phou Khoun Biking: This biking route takes visitors through the scenic Phou Khoun Valley, passing by rice paddies, farms, and cultural sites. It’s a great way to get a closer look at the local way of life and the natural beauty of the area.

Best Things to Do in Phonsavan: Activities and Tours

  • Plain of Jars Tour: A guided tour of the Plain of Jars site is a must-do for visitors to Phonsavan. Knowledgeable guides can provide insight into the site’s fascinating history and cultural significance.
  • Hot Springs Tour: A relaxing soak in the nearby hot springs is a great way to unwind after a day of exploring. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the area and learn about the region’s geology and local plant life.
  • Trekking Tour: The scenic countryside surrounding Phonsavan is perfect for trekking, and there are plenty of guided tours available that cater to all fitness levels and interests.

Week-Long Itinerary for Phonsavan

Day Activities
Day 1 Explore Plain of Jars Archaeological Site and MAG Center
Day 2 Trekking tour to surrounding jar sites
Day 3 Visit Xieng Khouang Provincial Museum and Tad Lang Waterfall
Day 4 Biking tour of Phou Khoun Valley
Day 5 Explore Nong Tang Lake and nearby villages
Day 6 Hot springs tour and relaxation
Day 7 Depart Phonsavan

Food and Drink Scene of Phonsavan

Must-Try Dishes

  • Lao Beef Salad: This staple Lao dish features marinated beef, sliced vegetables, and a tangy lime dressing.
  • Lao Lao: This popular local drink is made from fermented rice and is often enjoyed with spicy Lao cuisine.
  • Khao Poon: A spicy and flavorful rice vermicelli soup that is a Lao favorite.

Local Beverages

  • Beer Lao: This is the beer of choice in Laos and is widely available throughout Phonsavan.
  • Lao Coffee: Laos is known for its delicious and aromatic coffee, which can be found at many local cafes and restaurants.

Where to Stay in Phonsavan: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Auberge Sala Inpeng: A charming, locally owned guesthouse with cozy rooms, delicious breakfast, and a central location.
  • Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel: A comfortable and well-appointed hotel with onsite restaurant, bar, and pool.
  • Phouphadeng Hotel: This modern hotel offers spacious, well-equipped rooms, a rooftop bar, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

What to Buy in Phonsavan: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Handwoven Textiles: Xieng Khouang Province is known for its traditional weaving patterns and techniques, and visitors can find a variety of beautiful handwoven textiles at local markets.
  • Bamboo Products: Local artisans craft a variety of beautiful and functional products from bamboo, including baskets, mats, and utensils.
  • Silver Jewelry: Phonsavan is known for its intricate and unique silver jewelry, which is often made using traditional techniques passed down through generations of artisans.

Local Culture and Customs of Phonsavan

Phonsavan has a rich cultural heritage that has been shaped by both its ancient past and more recent events such as the Vietnam War. Visitors to the area should be respectful of local customs and traditions, including dress codes at cultural and religious sites, and should also take care when visiting sites that may still contain unexploded ordnances from the conflict.

Best Time to Visit Phonsavan

The best time to visit Phonsavan is during the dry season, which typically runs from November to May. During this time, the weather is dry and sunny, perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing. However, visitors should be prepared for cooler temperatures in the evenings and early mornings, especially in the mountainous regions surrounding the city.

Do’s and Don’ts of Phonsavan


  • Dress modestly when visiting religious and cultural sites.
  • Embrace the local culture and try new foods and activities.
  • Respect the environment and take care not to damage any natural or cultural sites.


  • Touch or move any unexploded ordnances if you encounter them during your visit.
  • Disrespect local customs or beliefs.
  • Be dismissive of the impact of the Vietnam War on the area and its people.

Safety and Health

Safety in Phonsavan

Phonsavan is generally a safe city to visit. However, visitors should exercise caution when exploring outside of the city limits and should take care not to stray from established paths or roads, particularly in areas that may still have unexploded ordnances from the Vietnam War.

Health in Phonsavan

Visitors to Phonsavan should take necessary health precautions such as bringing mosquito repellent, wearing long-sleeved clothing to avoid insect bites, and making sure to stay hydrated in the hot and humid climate.

Getting to Phonsavan: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Phonsavan

  • Luang Prabang International Airport: The nearest international airport to Phonsavan, located 262km to the west.
  • Wattay International Airport: The main international airport in Laos, located in the capital city of Vientiane, approximately 359km to the south of Phonsavan.

Bus Stations Near Phonsavan

  • Luang Prabang Southern Bus Station: Buses depart regularly from here to Phonsavan and other destinations within Laos.
  • Wattay International Airport Bus Station: Buses also depart regularly from this station to Phonsavan and other destinations within Laos.

Other Options

  • Private Car or Taxi: It is possible to hire a private car or taxi to take you to Phonsavan from other destinations within Laos.

How to Get Around in Phonsavan

The best way to get around Phonsavan is by hiring a motorbike or bicycle, which can be easily rented in the city. Tuk-tuks and taxis are also available, although they can be more expensive.

Where to Go Next from Phonsavan: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Luang Prabang: A historic city and UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 8 hours by bus from Phonsavan.
  • Vientiane: The capital city of Laos with a mix of old and new architecture, located about 9 hours by bus from Phonsavan.
  • Vieng Xai: A nearby town famous for its network of caves used as shelter during the Vietnam War.


With its unique archaeological sites, stunning natural scenery, and vibrant cultural traditions, Phonsavan is a must-visit destination in Laos for any traveler looking to explore the country’s rich history and natural beauty. Whether you’re a history buff, culture vulture, or outdoor enthusiast, Phonsavan has something for everyone.