The UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang might be small in size, but its blessings are as grand as they come. Each season, the town captivates travelers with its laid-back lifestyle and glimmers of old-world charm, and many insist that the time to visit is now. It’s expected to shoot to the top of must-see travel lists very soon when word of its astounding beauty inevitably spreads. There are so many great things to do in Luang Prabang — go now before the crowds come!
In the days of the Kingdom of Laos, when the nation was still a monarchy, Luang Prabang held the title of Royal Capital and you’ll see echoes of this former status everywhere. Combine this history with its soul-centering Buddhist traditions, its French Colonial influences, its magical waterfalls, forests, and wildlife sanctuaries, and you’ve likely got an image in mind that has you aching to visit. We don’t blame you!
Here are some of the top Luang Prabang attractions:
Check out Wat Xieng Thong
There is no shortage of beautiful temples in Luang Prabang, but many would argue that Wat Xieng Thong, also known as the Golden City Temple, is the one to put at the top of your list. This impressive temple is, without a doubt, the most historically significant and architecturally stunning in town. Situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, this religious site is considered the most prized temple in all of Laos, not just in Luang Prabang. Your trip would not be complete without seeing Wat Xieng Thong. Put it on your itinerary right now!
Cool off at the stunning Kuang Si Falls
This three-tiered waterfall is famous for its magical turquoise pools surrounded by lush jungle. Many travelers who have seen it in person claim these cascading falls were the highlight of their trip to Luang Prabang. Kuang Si is just a 30-minute drive from the center of town, a trip easily made by tuk-tuk, taxi, or minivan. After paying a modest entrance fee of 20,000 kip ($2.30), a short 15-20 minute hike will bring you face-to-face with this surreally stunning waterfall. Guests are allowed to swim in all pools except for one, so make sure to bring swimwear and a towel if you’d like to take a dip.
Now, an important note. Many travelers who visit during the year are surprised when what they see in person is different from what they’ve seen in photos. Remember, like most beautiful waterfalls in the world, Kuang Si Falls changes appearance over the course of the year. If you’re hoping to catch the falls and pools in their famous turquoise hue, you must come during the dry season from November to May.
Visit the Kuang Si Bear Sanctuary
On your hike up to Kuang Si Falls, you’ll inevitably pass the Kuang Si Bear Sanctuary, a rescue center for Moon Bears and Asian Black Bears saved from poachers. Entry to the sanctuary is included in your entrance fee for Kuang Si Falls. We strongly recommend stopping by to say hello to the bears! The sanctuary is highly lauded by travelers who come through, many of whom are pleasantly surprised to see how well the bears are taken care of. Peek into their large enclosures and you’ll see the bears swinging in their hammocks, playing with tires, and generally lazing about! Funding for the sanctuary comes from donations and T-shirt sales, so please consider supporting this wonderful cause.
Discover the spiritual site of the Pak Ou Caves
Cruise up the Mekong river and you’ll reach the ancient pilgrimage site of Pak Ou Caves. For hundreds of years, people have journeyed to these limestone caves to see the thousands of Buddha icons inside them. It’s believed these 4,000 figures were left there over the centuries by locals and pilgrims. One of Laos’ most magnificent spiritual sites, it’s no wonder this half-day trip is so popular with tourists. We recommend pairing Pak Ou Caves with Kuang Si Falls. Laos Group Tours offers a full-day trip to see both for just $40+ per person!
Check out the Gorgeous Panoramic Views from Mount Phousi
Climbing Luang Prabang’s sacred hill, Mount Phousi, is an absolute must-do on your trip. For a small entrance fee of 20,000 kip ($2.50), you can climb the steps of Phousi to, inarguably, the best view in all of Luang Prabang. This 360° panorama allows you an unmatched and complete view of the stunning beauty of the area. If you’re a photographer, this is an ideal spot for you. For the best experience, try doing the climb at sunrise or sunset. Phousi is also home to many little temples and shrines devoted to a prominent Naga deity.
Watch A Phra Lak Phra Lam Performance
A few nights a week, the captivating Lao dance Phra Lak Phra Lam is performed at the Royal Palace Museum. This spectacular dance is the Lao adaptation of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, and over the centuries, its story has greatly influenced the Lao arts. Follow dancers and a live orchestra back through time to remember Lane Xang, the South-East Asian kingdom from ancient times. Performances take place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Ticket prices cost between 100,000-150,000 kip ($11.50-17.50) and can be booked online.
Enjoy Sunset on the Mekong River
Luang Prabang is surrounded by water, namely the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and it’ll be impossible to miss them during your stay. But what many visitors forget to do is make time to marvel at the sunset over the iconic Mekong. Watching sunset fall over the river is a magical experience and one we advise you to stop and appreciate. You can enjoy the sunset from any of Luang Prabang’s many viewpoints, but if it suits your budget, book a trip on a sunset cruise. Companies such as Sa Sa Sunset Cruise offer slow-boat sunset cruises for 85,000 kip ($9.80), with cocktails and snacks available on board.
Shop at the Night Market
Cheap and delicious food, one-of-a-kind art, handmade crafts, and fantastic souvenirs; Luang Prabang’s Night Market has all of the above and much, much more. Travelers that visit the market are pleasantly surprised at, not just the great prices, but the high quality of all goods. Stalls set up at 5 PM every evening, so at the very least, be sure to stroll through and admire the unique Lao crafts. The food at the market is also some of the best you’ll find in town, and it’s low prices are unmatched elsewhere. Expect to find a great meal for under a few dollars!
Rise early to witness the Almsgiving Ceremony
Every morning, as the sun rises in Luang Prabang, about two-hundred Buddhist monks fill the streets, gathering their meals for the day from kind locals. This is a highly sacred ceremony, and all who wish to make food offerings to the monks are expected to sit or kneel quietly and present them with rice, fruit, or other snacks. Spectators are expected to keep a distance from the proceedings and not disrupt the ceremony in any way. Whether you decide to offer food or not, this special ceremony should not be missed! Believe us, it’s worth the 5 AM wakeup.
Visit the The Royal Palace Museum
Once the residence of the King of Laos, the Royal Palace is used today as a museum. If you’re interested in learning more about Luang Prabang’s history and culture, then add the museum to your trip itinerary. Apart from being a beautiful structure, the Palace Museum holds fascinating artifacts like a gold Buddha and the car collection of the last King of Laos. Like most attractions in Luang Prabang, the entrance fee is 20,000 kip ($2.50), but please note that it is completely free to enjoy the surrounding gardens! If the museum sounds like your cup of tea, remember to dress conservatively when you visit. Avoid showing your bare shoulders, chest, and legs above the knee.
Check out The Kuang Si Butterfly Park
Just five minutes from Kuang Si Falls is Luang Prabang’s much-loved Butterfly Park. While you’re in the area, stop by to admire the hundreds of Laotion butterflies flitting about this beautifully landscaped garden. A low fee of 30,000 kip ($3.50) grants you entrance, after which you can enjoy not only the winged creatures in the garden but the beautiful koi pond. To sweeten the experience, the Butterfly Park also serves excellent coffee and cake, a bonus which continues to pleasantly surprise visitors. With so many travelers claiming it’s the best Butterfly Park they’ve been to in South-East Asia, how can you possibly miss it?
Sample durian at the Morning Market
While the Night Market is most known for its local crafts and mouth-watering street food, the Morning Market is where locals buy their groceries. The Morning Market does not cater to tourists quite as much as its nighttime counterpart, but you’ll find this glimpse into local life fascinating. Wander through and see its marvelous, vast array of produce, fruit, spices, and meat. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not have a taste of South-East Asia’s many unique fruits? This is the ideal place. If you’re not feeling so daring, try a rambutan or mangosteen. But otherwise, go straight for the King of Fruits – the durian!
More information about things to do in Luang Prabang
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