Hidden in a hillside on the outskirts of the city, Rosewood Luang Prabang tames its wild surroundings with a blend of Indochinese elegance and Laotian splendour. The sumptuous interiors are the work of world-famous hotel designer Bill Bensley, who’s combined French colonial furniture with bold colours, carved wall panels and safari-esque finishes – a cultural medley entirely fitting of the former royal capital. Choose from the riverside suites, waterfall villas or hilltop tents that sit flush with the treetops, where you’ll be serenaded by exotic birds as you watch the sun rise over moss-green mountains.
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A three-course dinner for two at the Great House restaurant (excluding drinks)
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £397.81 ($495), including tax at 17 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast, which includes many ingredients sourced from local farms. Choose from the Continental, full, Laotian or healthy menus, or mix and match individual items like French toast or shirred eggs.
If you find yourself falling in love with the Lao cuisine, book onto the hotel’s royal Laotian cooking class. Culinary director Sebastian Rubis will accompany you to the organic farm and local market, where you’ll seek out the best ingredients for your dishes.
Nestled among the trees above the hotel, the hilltop tents have the best of the views. They’re a short walk away from the main buildings, ensuring plenty peace and privacy, but those who like to have everything within arms reach may prefer a villa or suite closer to the heart of the resort. Riverside villas are within earshot of the gurgling water; waterfall villas have large sun decks and private pools.
The oval pool is in the gardens at the centre of the resort, overlooking a natural waterfall on the Nam Dong River. There are stone benches beneath the surface on one side, where you can sip cocktails while staying cool. There are loungers, parasols and tented cabanas on the surrounding lawns.
Sense spa is made up of several tents nestled in the trees, bringing you close to the lush greenery and burbling streams that meander down the mountainside. The treatments draw on traditional Laotian medicine and folk culture, using organic plants, herbs and fruits from the hotel’s own garden. Try a traditional Lao herbal poultice, a gauze pouch of steamed camphor, crinum lily, Vietnamese coriander and white butterfly bush that was used by farmers to banish back pain after long day working the fields. If you really want to immerse yourself in the local culture, try a Hmong treatment with the hotel’s native healer, Mr Xong, who’s been tending to the local community for more than 25 years.
Bring a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting wet. There are several waterfalls within a short drive, some with pools that you can jump and swim in.
The hotel’s on hilly ground and many buildings have stairs at the entrance, making it unsuitable for wheelchair users.
Pets up to seven kilos can stay for free. They’ll get a dog bed, bowls and a menu of savoury snacks. Dogs aren’t allowed in the pool area or restaurant, and must be kept on a leash while on the grounds. See more pet-friendly hotels in Luang Prabang.
All ages are welcome, and Rose Buds, the kids club, has plenty to keep little Smiths entertained. Babysitting is available from US$12 an hour; a day’s notice is needed.
One of the tables on the terrace, which overlook the pool and waterfall.
Cool, casual threads with a touch of French elegance.
The Great House, the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant, is in an open-sided building with decorative archways and a dark-wood ceiling with emblems painted in a regal gold. Take your pick from one of the leather cocktail chairs or high-backed sofas clustered around tables set on mock-ivory tusks. When creating the menu, culinary director Sebastian Rubis delved deep into the traditions of royal Laotian cuisine, reviving ancestral cooking techniques and uncovering regional recipes, ensuring the restaurant supports the community that work the surrounding land. The chefs make regular trips to the local markets, changing the menu depending on their finds of the day. Order a portion of khao kai noi, the classic Laotian sticky rice, and pair with dishes like khanab paa (grilled river fish stuffed with pork) and oor lam gnoua (braised water buffalo with bitter leaves, aubergine and sakkan roots).
Once a working bridge used by elephants crossing the Nam Dong river, Elephant Bridge Bar pays homage to the mighty mammal with 210 hand-carved elephant statues, an elephant wall panel and tables propped on faux tusks. House specials include the Beer Lao Margarita and the Rim Khong, a fruity blend of Mekhong Whisky, peach cream, mango, basil and coconut syrup.
Breakfast is served from 6.30am to 10am; lunch from 11am to 4pm; dinner from 5pm to 11pm. Elephant Bridge Bar opens at 4pm and serves until 11pm.
The hotel is in a wooded valley 10 minutes’ drive from the centre of town.
Luang Prabang’s airport can be reached directly from Bangkok, Singapore, Chiang Mai and Hanoi. It’ll take about 10 minutes to drive to the hotel; return transfers are included in your rate. The Smith24 team can arrange your flights, too.
The town is fairly remote, so arriving by car will mean a long journey – 10 hours if you’re coming from the capital Vientiane. It’s much more convenient to fly, then take tuk tuks and taxis once you arrive.
Slow boats cruise up and down the Mekong, connecting Luang Prabang with Huay Xai on the Thai border. Speedboats make the trip, too, but aren’t the safest option.
Worth getting out of bed for
Once you’ve explored the gardens and basked in the spa, get out and explore. A former royal capital filled with gilded temples and faded French villas, Luang Prabang is one of the brightest jewels in the whole of Southeast Asia. The unique fusion of Laotian and French architecture gives it a regal atmosphere, but the small town feel and effusively friendly locals lay on charm thick and fast. It’s also a photographer's paradise – every morning, hundreds of monks in saffron robes make their way through the streets, heading for gilt-roofed temples like Wat Mai and Wat Chomsi, which are packed with cultural treasures. Early risers will relish a rummage around the morning market that springs up in the lanes surrounding Wat Mai, where you’ll be able to sample all sorts of fresh local delicacies. In the evening, a large section of Sisavangvong Road is given over to the night market, where hundreds of traders peddle everything from traditional jewellery to vintage Air France posters. There’s plenty in town to keep you occupied, but do make time for the mountainous landscape that that looms beyond the city limits. The hotel can arrange hikes to the Kuang Si Falls, a three-tiered waterfall that feeds a set of jade-green pools, and the Pak Ou Caves, which are packed with Buddha statues.
The interplay between the French and local cuisine has made Luang Prabang one of the country’s culinary hotpots – and it's only getting better with time. For a casual brunch, try Bouang, a friendly, mod-Laotian eatery with a menu full of local specialties that have been given a creative rethink. Another excellent place to acquaint yourself with the local cuisine is Tamarind, which also runs cooking classes. Try one of the sharing platters, which are full of regional classics made with the best local produce the chef can find. Come evening, book a table at Manda de Laos, where you can dine amid floodlit palms on the edge of a vast lily pond. The staff are utterly dedicated to their craft, and the menu has been developed from recipes passed down from the owner’s mother and grandmother, so there’s no shortage of heritage either. If you’re looking to pull out all the stops, there’s the genteel dining room at Amantaka, the local Aman outpost. Prime yourself with a makkam (tamarind juice, vodka, lime, ginger and lemongrass) at the bar before moving next door to sample their sumptuous small plates.
Sleek, modern and moodily-lit, 525 Cocktails & Tapas are experts in all things shaken and stirred. Try a New Old Fashioned, a cinnamon-spiked take on a classic, or the Asian G&T, a refreshing medley of London Dry Gin, lemongrass, Thai basil and tonic.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this hillside hotel in Luang Prabang and unpacked their hand-painted trinkets from the night market, a full account of their city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Rosewood Luang Prabang in Luang Prabang…
Once the capital of an ancient empire, Luang Prabang has a beguiling blend of royal Laotian and Indochinese architecture that makes it a photographer's delight. But for all its golden Buddhas and arched roofs, the city wouldn’t be half as beautiful without the green-swathed mountains that frame it. Thankfully, Rosewood Luang Prabang gives you the best of both worlds. If you’re a stickler for a mountain view, you’ll fall hard for the luxurious hilltop tents, which have oversized balconies looking out across the hills. Those who prefer the life aquatic will find home in the waterfall villas, within earshot of the hotels own cascades and have private pools, too. There’s a spa inspired by ancient Hmong healing rituals, a restaurant that supports local farmers and a bar in what was once an elephant bridge. Hop in a tuk tuk, however, and you’ll soon leave your hillside retreat behind, reaching the royal palace, Sisavangvong Street and Wat Mai in as little as 15 minutes.