97/5 Sakkaline Road
Tel: 856 71 253 888
The restored 1957 Mercedes sedan that picks you up at the airport only hints at the colonial grandeur awaiting you at 3 Nagas. Expect four-poster beds draped in mosquito netting in the hotel's 15 rooms, which occupy a pair of century-old mansions just a few minutes' walk south of Wat Xieng Thong. Once home to a royal courtier, the newer (1903) building holding rooms 8–15 is quieter, and has views of the auberge's private garden and the Nam Khan River, a Mekong tributary. All of the Wi-Fi–equipped quarters average at least 450 square feet, with vaulted ceilings and Indochine flair. Handmade soaps and shampoos are another nice touch, but the bathrooms need a good renovation.
Unit 4, Ban Mano
Old Prison Road
Tel: 856 71 260 777
The city's former prison is now a pleasurable place to be locked up. Transformed into 23 smartly designed suites, this hotel has a central pillared courtyard and an elegant colonial feelwhitewashed walls, wilting eaves, shuttered windows in gunmetal gray. Only the two corner watchtowers suggest a penitentiary, though there is a whiff of institutional austerity. Standing a couple of blocks out of town, the Alila works better as a refuge rather than as an immersive urban Lao experience, although the hotel embraces vernacular architecture in the restaurant, cooking school, and spa, which are built of dark wood and raised on stilts. Its suites are well-proportioned and unfussy, but the private little lawns with each suiteseven those with their own plunge poolcan feel hemmed in by the high walls. Guests may prefer to spend time by the courtyard's shimmering pool or lounging amid the shrubs and palms. An enthusiastic international young staff join the soft-spoken Lao team, who can escort guests on bicycle trips to Buddhist temples or on kayaking excursions on the Mekong.
55/53 Kingkitsarath Road
Tel: 856 71 860 333
A clever conversion of Luang Prabang's old provincial hospital has created the most luxurious property in the country. A sweeping driveway brings guests to a colonial-style lobby (the former X-ray room) beneath a low-slung red-tiled roof. Inside, it's pare -down to the point of austere, but in a soothing contrast to this tropical town of gilded temples and extravagant carvings. Twenty-four cream suites surround a shady centerpiece garden and expansive pool. Behind the dusky-green French shutters, the hotel has a slight sanitarium feel, with long corridors and tiny wardlike chambers. Smaller suites are more cozy; the bigger ones have private pools and en suite spa treatment rooms. Decor is without fuss: simple Southeast Asian wood furnishings, an embroidered silk throw, black-and-white photographs of Buddhist monks in meditation. What Amanresorts always does best is the anything-is-possible service, and that is no exception here. On call are the town's experts in Theravada Buddhism, traditional arts, and ethnology, which means stellar evening lectures and exclusive access to, for example, a photographic archive of monastic life dating back to the 1880s. A member of the former royal family is on hand to discuss Lao fine arts, and there are guided walks away from the main sights to explore abandoned temples.
Road No. 13
Tel: 856 31 212 263
This splendid wedding-cake hotel, the largest in Pakse, is the former residence of Prince Boun Oum na Champasak, heir to the Champasak Kingdom. (Legend has it he needed a palace of this size to accommodate his many concubines.) Caught on the wrong side of history, the prince fled the country before his home could be finished. Remodeled by a Thai company, it now offers some of the most comfortable lodging in southern Laos: 114 rooms and suites on five floors, all with AC, phones, TV, and minibars/refrigerators. The restaurant serves Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, and Western cuisine.
Ban Ngoyhai , Oudomxai Province
Tel: 856 20 603 2365
There are quiet, out-of-the-way resorts—and then there is Kamu, a remote lodge located nearly 30 miles up the Mekong River from Luang Prabang. It's as off-the-grid as can be: solar-powered lights and solar-heated showers, no Internet, no cell phone reception, and accessible only by boat. But with 20 large, sturdy tents; attentive staff (hailing almost entirely from adjacent Ban Ngoyhai, a small farming village of ethnic Kamu hill-tribers); and a dining pavilion set amidst verdant rice paddies; it's not exactly a hardship posting, especially since the cook can stir up bamboo shoots stuffed with minced pork, fried egg with black mushrooms, and strips of dried buffalo meat (not unlike a teriyaki-flavored beef jerky). This is an excellent opportunity to ditch the crowds and try out traditional rural life along the Mekong, including fishing and gold panning. And where else can you hone your crossbow skills? The three-hour cruise upstream usually includes a stop at the caves of Pak Ou.—Christopher Cox
63 Samsenthai Road
Tel: 856 21 218 800
One of the country's newest and largest hotels, the Lao Plaza offers 142 rooms, including executive and presidential suites. If you've been backpacking in the jungle and are desperate for some Western-style luxury, this is the place. Rooms have all modern conveniences, including satellite TV and Wi-Fi, and with food, shopping, and entertainment on hand, you scarcely need to leave this air-conditioned haven. Dine at either of the two restaurants (one is a 24-hour deli-bakery serving superlative pastries), purchase silk or antiques in the hotel's shops, and then take a stroll down to the nearby Mekong River.
Phou Vao Road
Tel: 800 237 1236 (toll-free)
Tel: 856 71 212 194
After watching the sun set over Mount Phousi from the plush daybeds on your private verandah, you may never want to go inside. Reflecting ponds, lush gardens, and a shimmering infinity pool make the prospect even more difficult. But pond-sized bathtubs built for two and the understated decor of La Résidence's large, airy rooms just may do the trick. This luxurious hotel commands 14 acres on a tranquil hillside one and a half miles east of the historic district, and has drawn the likes of Mick Jagger with its sensual ambience and quite good spa, which offers treatments based on traditional herbal remedies, such as a Hmong steamed-indigo compress.
Rue Chao Fa Ngum
Tel: 856 71 254 609
This property has it all: Location, history, and style. A five-minute stroll south of the old town, the former compound of Prince Souvannaphouma now holds a sumptuous 24-room boutique hotel. Four large, bathtub-equipped suites occupy the old royal residence; rooms in the 20-unit Garden Wing bear Indo-chic touches such as silk pillows and hand-loomed fabrics, but the pebble-paved rain showers are a bit cramped. The quietest chambers, rooms 101105, are at the end of the Garden Wing and look out onto serene grounds. There is a swimming pool and Angsana Spa's four outdoor tents to work out the kinks, though traffic on nearby Chao Fa Ngum Road can be a buzzkill. The in-house restaurant, Elephant Blanc, offers Western and Lao dishes, including several old royal recipes resurrected by executive chef Vanhxay Picknock.
Royal Sakkarine Road
Tel: 856 71 212 267
Five minutes from the Mekong River in the heart of Luang Prabang's World Heritage site, the 120-year-old residence of Princess Manilai is decorated in simple French colonial style, with rosewood furniture, Lao silks, and antiques. The 25 rooms are clean and large, with fresh fruit delivered daily, and the hotel's popular Princess Restaurant serves outstanding Lao food. In 2002, the owners added the 52-room Villa Santi Resort & Spa amid rice fields four miles south of the old quarter. The on-site spa and pool complement the more rural setting, but a shuttle van relieves isolation with frequent runs into town. The staff at both places speak at least a few words of English, and are skilled at arranging tours for guests.