As one of the destination that Anthony Bourdain had traveled to, Luang Prabang is a kind of destination visitors should never skip in your trip to Laos. Yes, Luang Prabang is that destination – exotic, authentic and just simply inspiring. This town is a Buddhist paradise where Buddhism influenced so deeply in the life of people here, from architecture to the culture to the way of life. From 33 glimmering wats to the azure swimming pools of Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang is the town not just for traveling but also for spiritual inspiration. If you’re thrilled to go on a trip to this beautiful destination, check out our list of top incredible things to do in Luang Prabang.
Things to do in Luang Prabang
1. Kuang Si Waterfall
The most famous attraction in Luang Prabang is no doubt Kuang Si Waterfall with its other-worldly beauty. Visitors can’t help to be entranced by the incredible appearance of the fall – a cascade with 50m drop into spectacular azure pools before flowing downstream.
Kuang Si Water Fall or known as Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls is located 29 kilometers south of Luang Prabang. You can visit the fall every day from 8:00AM to 5:30PM, paying an entrance fee of 20,000 kip.
The best thing to do in Kuang Si is taking a dip in the alluring swimming pools. However, not every pool is available to swim. Take note of the sign saying no swimming in certain areas which are often considered as sacred by local people.
There’s a wooden bridge that offers stunning views of the main waterfall – the perfect place to take pictures of the falls. If you want to wander further, get to the top of the falls. The way leading there is hidden on the left of the wooden footbridge. The hike takes no longer than 15 minutes, the road is not too steep. Once on top, you’ll be rewarded by the breath-taking views of Lao countryside and the water dropping into turquoise pools. Kuang Si Waterfall is also a great place to have a little picnic while enjoying waterfall view. There’re plenty of picnic tables on the lower levels for a short snack stop before heading back.
2. Mount Phousi
Peaked at the height of 150 meters above the centre of town, Mount Phousi is the must-visit site for those who want to take 360-degree panoramic pictures of the beautiful and peaceful valley of Luang Prabang, especially when the sun sets.
You’ll have to climb via either one of the two stairways on each side of the hill with 300 stairs each. Phousi translates to ‘scared mountain’ where Wat Chom Si sits at its submit as symbol of Buddhism in Luang Prabang. That Chomsi is a symbol of the town of Luang Prabang – a must-see site for all travelers. The golden stupa of the temple only can be reached after climbing 300 steps on the route combined of various temples, beautiful shady trees and a beautiful view of the river. Especially in the evening, you can see the whole scene of Luang Prabang sparkling.
– Entrance Fee: 20,000 kip (pay halfway up)
– Opening hours: 5:30AM until after sunset
Dress code: because Mount Phousi is a sacred mountain to Lao people, please dress as modest and appropriate as possible.
3. Pak Ou Caves
Lying 25 kilometers upriver from Luang Prabang in a cliff 15 meters above water, Pak Ou Caves complex should be included in your trip to Luang Prabang no matter what. Once the pilgrims left the caves, they left behind a Buddha idol, as time went by, the caves now are filled with thousands of Buddha images in different styles and sizes.
The complex is consisted of two caves – upper cave which is Tham Theung and lower cave which is Tham Ting. The lower cave is well lit but the upper is the cave that shelters thousands of Buddha images.
By river, the trip to Pak Ou Caves take about two hours from Luang Prabang. Or you can get to the nearest village then board a boat to the cave’s entrance.
– Entrance Fee: 20,000 kip (5,000 kip charge to use the bathroom)
4. Wat Xieng Thong
Luang Prabang is recognized by UNESCO mostly for its cultural fusion between traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in 19th and 20th centuries. The 33 Wats in Luang Prabang represent the quintessence of Laos’ Buddhism architecture, of which Wat Xieng Thong outstands from others with its symbolic characteristics and features of Luang Prabang Style.
In front of the Wat is an elaborate tree of live mosaic together with the intricately carved walls, rare Buddhist deities and 12m high funeral carriage.
Built in 1560, Wat Xieng Thong is famous for being the place for the coronation of Lao kings and important gathering place for significant annual festivities. Nowadays the Wat is one of, if not, the most important tourist site in Luang Prabang.
– Location: on the banks of the Mekong at Xieng Thong village, Sakkalin Road
– Opening hours: daily from 8:00-17:00
– Entrance fee: 20,000 Kip/person
5. Royal Palace Museum
Luang Prabang’s Royal Palace Museum welcomes you with beautiful Lao style garden. The palace is located just off one of Luang Prabang’s main boulevards, offering insights into Lao history and culture.
The exhibits of the museum dated back several centuries to the days of Lane Xang kingdom and colonial era through to the present day. The building itself was originally the residence of the king, designed in French Beaux-Arts style, with many subtle Lao traditional elements.
After 1975, the royal palace turned into a museum open to public visit and was faithfully kept. You can visit the place in early morning to beat the crowds.
– Opening hours: 8:00AM – 11:30AM and 1:30PM – 4:00PM every day except Tuesday
– Location: Thanon Sisavangvong in the city centre, just opposite the steps leading up to Mount Phousi.
6. Tad Sae Waterfall
Another nature wonder in Luang Prabang besides Kuang Si Waterfalls that any traveler should skip. Like any waterfall, Tad Sae Waterfall changes into a land that only exists in fairy tale. Tad Sae is not as high as Kuang Si, the more famous waterfall but it has more streams of water which make a thunderous sound of water flowing.
The azure water drops down a many-level stair made of limestone formations before flows into a large pool at the foot of the rock setting. There is a wooden bridge leading to the top of the fall, offering a picturesque scenery. Tad Sae can only be reached by boat after a quite adventurous trip. The fall is a wonderful getaway from tourist crowds especially from August to November.
– Opening hours: every day from 8:00-17:30
*How to get to Tad Sae:
Get a tuktuk for 200,000kip including waiting time and the journey back. Local tour operators offer mini-van to the fall for 50,000 kip per person. The boat across to the fall costs about 10,000 kip.
7. Attend Tak Bat – Alms Giving Ceremony on Soukkaseum and Sakkaline Streets
The mornings of Luang Prabang are not invaded by the noise of modern city life, instead, they start by a quiet, sacred tradition of giving Alms, attended mostly by the local people and the Buddhist monks from the 33 active temples (wats) around the city.
Tak Bat (Alms Giving) dated back to 14th century ago and still is being practiced to this day. Every morning, local Laotians rise to prepare food offerings just briefly before the monks go out to gather their only meal for the day.
This ceremony is truly exotic and sacred to even non-Buddhists to witness this humbling and beautiful interaction in Luang Prabang. Alms Giving Ceremony are open for foreign tourist to observe and join but only with the highest respect. Here are some tips on how to be respectful during Alms Giving Ceremony:
– Watch from afar: don’t come to close to take pictures or stand in the way of the monks
– Don’t make loud noise: since the ceremony is conducted in absolutely silence and considered as a state of meditation for the monks, so be very careful not to make loud noises.
– Only participate if the ceremony is significant to you personally
8. Stroll Luang Prabang’s Night Market
Luang Prabang Night Market is a nightly event that takes place between 17:00 and 23:00 on the roads of Wat Mai, Siangvangvong and town center.
No vehicles will be allowed in the area where hill-tribe traders display their various handicraft products from apparels, ceramics, bamboo, lamps, blankets, bed covers and silk scarves. The atmosphere of the market is absolutely amazing to enjoy at night. For those who are keen on shopping and want to bring home pretty Laos souvenirs like embroidered bags, purses, ‘Beer Lao’ T-shirts, paper lanterns…. Night market certainly is one of the things to do in Luang Prabang you can’t miss!
*Quick Tip: Remember to haggle the prices down before paying because the sellers often tell you much higher prices.
9. Enjoy Lao Street Food on the Buffet Street
Located very near the night market, the buffet street is the dream of every food enthusiast where you can eat to your heart’s content. This buffet street is just off the night market, filled with local tasty food from fish and meat to vegetarian dishes. You pay for a plate for 10,000 kip then you can choose what you want, coupled with few Beerlao then you’re ready to dig in. Nothing is better than eating good food at cheap price and share your stories with other travelers.
– Location: Sisavangvong Rd.
– Cost: 10,000 -20,000 kip per person
10. Nightlife at Utopia Bar
After a full day trip around Luang Prabang, there is nothing better than resting and relaxing at Utopia Bar – the most highlighted spot of the city’s nightlife. Set on the Nam Khan riverbank, this bar is the wonderful place to enjoy the peaceful natural scenery from their tropical gardens or bamboo river decks. Activities you can enjoy at Utopia include beach volleyball, shisha pipes, live music and movies.
Opening hours: 8:00-23:30
Location: Phousi Road
11. Be a farmer for a day at Living Land Company
Located just outside of Luang Prabang, Living Land Company is a perfect place to become a rice farmer for one day. This experience will give you so even more insights into the life of Lao people and Lao culture. You can participate in all 13 stages of rice production, crushing sugar cane for juice, forging tools, weaving bamboo with the real farmers. One of the best experience is to plough a field following a buffalo while the mud comes up to your knees. This experience is not only fun but also very educational. If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss visiting Living Land Company.
– Location: Kuangsi Road, Luang Prabang.
12. Learn to cook Lao dishes
If you are ready for your food adventure in northern Laos with its capital of cuisine Luang Prabang, we bet you’re thrilled to take a cooking class to enjoy the fullest the delicious, local ingredients based cuisine here. And it’s not a coincidence that there’re many cooking class you can choose to bring home some Lao recipes to make it yourself.
– Bamboo Tree Restaurant: Ban Watsan, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR
– Indigo Farm: North 13 Road, Ban Pakou District, Lang Prabang
– Tamarind Restaurant and Cooking School: Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang
– Tamnak Lao: Sakarine Rd, Ban Watsene, Luang Prabang
>>> 5 Days to discover Luang Prabang in-depth, from just $2474:
Luang Prabang Day Trips
Located only 141km north of Luang Prabang, Nong Kiaw is a beautiful town on the Ou River surrounded by limestone mountains. Come to Nong Kiaw, you have the chance to trek to Pha Tok Caves, waterfalls and hike to the top of Phadeng Peak to watch stunning sunset. Or come to Jungle Fly Ziplining to enjoy kayaking and mountain biking.
Whiskey Village – Ban Xang Hai
Much closer than Nong Kiaw, Ban Xang Hai is another alternative for an interesting day trip from Luang Prabang. Called as the whiskey village, Ban Xang Hai is the place you can find the most staple drink in Lao – the rice wine lao-lao. But not only lao-lao, the village also sells a whole wide range of other whiskey featuring different kinds of snakes, scorpions and lizards which have various medical benefits according to locals. Besides alcohol drinks, you can also find hand-woven items like scarves, skirts and other items…
How to get from Vientiane to Luang Prabang
Vientiane is about 340km away from Luang Prabang on land, traveling by bus or plane.
By bus, there are many options for you. A bus ride would take 9 hours and to be honest, quite a bumpy ride. The road is winding and difficult to speed up when going uphill. The bus will stop many times for food and bathroom breaks. Lao drivers is not every patient drivers so be prepared for a faster downhill ride.
Get to Northern Bus Station which is about 10 kilometers outside of Vientiane to catch buses to Luang Prabang. Bus will drop you off at Luang Prabang South Bus Station which is one kilometer from downtown.
By Van, the driver will take you from the Vientiane city center to Luang Prabang.
By Plane, there are two airlines operate flights from Vientiane to Luang Prabang: Lao Skyway and Lao Airline. It would take you about 50 minutes, daily flights between two cities are available.
Vientiane Airport: Wattay International Airport, 3km from the city’s center.
Luang Prabang Airport: 4km from downtown, the distance can be done by taxi or tuktuk. Haggle the price before getting on.
From all the things to do in Luang Prabang above, why not let us choose the very best ones to create a Luang Prabang trip that is just for you. Contact our travel experts to start planning your best trip to Luang Prabang today!