Laos has a number of seasonal festivals throughout the year, which locals refer to as boun that are typically Buddhist in nature. A good opportunity to see traditions and religion being practiced, make sure you have a good understanding of the cultural norms before attending (appropriate clothing, footwear, etc.).
Lao New Year (Boun Pi Mai)
Lao New Year is celebrated under the Buddhist calendar and takes place annually around April. This is an important celebration for the Lao people with colorful parades and visits to the wats (temples) to give offerings. Similar to the Thai New Year, throwing water has become popular so expect to get wet!
Taking place during the dry season in May, the Rocket Festival is a call for rain. This celebration takes place nationwide, with people heading out to rural areas to launch home-made rockets. There are many contests for projectiles that fly the furthest.
Boun Khao Padabdin
An important religious festival in Luang Prabang, Boun Khao Padabdin sees Lao people visit the temples to honoring dead ancestors with offerings. Taking place in September every year, it’s also a major attraction for visitors as it includes the famous dragon boat races on the Nam Khan River.
Usually at the end of October, the Boat Races on the Mekong River in Vientiane take place at the same time as the Buddhist Ok Phansa festival. Lao people will dress up in their best traditional costumes and got to temples to make sacrifices.
Also called Mekong lights, there is an ancient belief that fireballs can be seen flying out of the Mekong River once a year in the Bolikhamxay province. Thousands of Lao and Thais attempt to see the sight in late October, which do not always materialize. It is almost impossible to find accommodation during this festival, so bring your own tent and sleeping bag.
Tat Luang Festival
Considered to be one of the biggest festivals in Vientiane, the Tat Luang Festival attracts Lao people from all over the country to the main temple in the capital. This three-day event takes place in November during the full moon. Market stalls, food vendors and amusement rides are set-up all around Tat Luang in celebration.
The best venue to see a wide range of handicrafts, this annual event is held at the ITECC convention center in Vientiane in November. It’s a great place to see a range of goods and gifts all in one place to do your souvenir shopping.
Hmong New Year
This celebration usually takes place in early December and is a colorful display of traditional Hmong costumes. Visitors can see the playing of traditional music, ox races, top spinning, and teenagers play a ball toss game – a kind of match-making ceremony. There are great photo opportunities in Xiengkong or Udomxay.