Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage city located in northern Laos, is renowned for its well-preserved architecture, vibrant culture, and stunning natural surroundings. For those considering things to do in Luang Prabang, exploring the historic Wat Xieng Thong, a Buddhist temple known for its intricate mosaics and golden facades, and witnessing the daily alms-giving ceremony, a longstanding tradition where monks collect offerings from locals, are top activities.
The city’s night market offers a colorful array of handmade textiles, crafts, and street food, providing a taste of Lao culture and an opportunity to pick up unique souvenirs. Nearby, the Kuang Si Falls, a multi-tiered waterfall with turquoise blue pools, offers a refreshing escape and a chance to connect with nature.
Beyond its cultural and historical attractions, Luang Prabang is also known for its commitment to sustainable tourism, with numerous eco-friendly initiatives and responsible travel experiences available. For those seeking the best places to visit in Laos, Luang Prabang’s blend of ancient traditions, natural beauty, and community-focused tourism makes it a compelling and responsible travel destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Luang Prabang, Laos
1. Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi stands as the spiritual and literal heart of Luang Prabang, offering panoramic views of the entire city and the Mekong River. A pilgrimage site for locals, the climb to the top is marked by various shrines, leading to the gilded stupa of Wat Chom Si.
Travel Tip: Go early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat and crowds, and stay for the sunset if you can.
2. Royal Palace Museum (Haw Kham)
The former Royal Palace, now known as the Royal Palace Museum, showcases the history of Laos and the royal family. Its rooms are preserved and display a collection of personal artifacts of the royal family, including the Prabang Buddhas from which the town takes its name.
Travel Tip: Remember to dress respectfully (covered shoulders and knees) as it is considered a sacred site.
3. Kuang Si Falls
The Kuang Si Falls is a three-tiered waterfall about 29 kilometers south of Luang Prabang, known for its striking blue waters and idyllic tropical setting. It’s a perfect spot for swimming, picnics, and hiking.
Travel Tip: Bring swimwear and arrive early to enjoy the tranquil setting before the crowds arrive; the water is typically cooler in the morning.
4. Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty, and traditional art. It features a classic Luang Prabang style roof and intricate mosaics, including the famous “tree of life” glass montage on the rear temple wall.
Travel Tip: Visit during the morning to see the monks receiving alms and observe the daily rituals.
5. Luang Prabang Night Market
The Night Market is a daily event that takes over the main street of Luang Prabang, offering a multitude of handicrafts made by local and hill-tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang.
Travel Tip: It’s an excellent place for souvenirs, and bargaining is expected; start by offering about half the asking price.
6. The Living Land Company
The Living Land Company is a community enterprise offering interactive rice farming experiences that teach visitors about traditional Lao methods of rice cultivation and organic farming.
Travel Tip: Book in advance for the opportunity to experience rice farming firsthand, and wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
7. Pak Ou Caves
Located upstream from Luang Prabang, the Pak Ou Caves are a sacred site filled with thousands of gold-lacquered Buddha statues. They are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River.
Travel Tip: Combine the visit with a Mekong River cruise for a scenic journey to the caves.
8. Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre
This museum is dedicated to the ethnic cultures of Laos, providing insight into the diversity and richness of the country’s indigenous peoples.
Travel Tip: They close during lunchtime (12:00-13:30), so plan your visit around these hours.
9. Elephant Village Sanctuary
The Elephant Village Sanctuary provides a haven for rescued elephants and an opportunity for visitors to learn about these magnificent creatures.
Travel Tip: If you wish to interact with the elephants, choose a sanctuary that promotes ethical treatment and does not offer rides, ensuring your visit supports their welfare.
10. Tad Sae Waterfall
A lesser-known but equally stunning natural site compared to Kuang Si, Tad Sae Waterfall offers multiple cascades and natural pools for swimming. It’s best visited in the rainy season when the water levels are higher.
Travel Tip: You’ll need to take a boat to reach the falls, so factor in the extra time and cost.
FAQ About Things to Do in Luang Prabang, Laos
What are must-visit temples in Luang Prabang?
The town is renowned for its numerous Buddhist temples. Must-visits include the ornate Wat Xiengthong with its classical Laotian architecture and the peaceful Wat Visoun, known for its Watermelon Stupa.
Can I witness the almsgiving ceremony in Luang Prabang?
Yes, the daily almsgiving ceremony is a profound cultural experience. You can observe or participate early in the morning as locals give offerings to a procession of monks. Remember to do so respectfully.
Is the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang open to the public?
Yes, the Royal Palace (now the National Museum) is open to visitors. It offers a glimpse into Laos’s royal history with its well-preserved interiors and collection of artifacts.
What is there to do on the Mekong River?
A boat trip on the Mekong is a quintessential Luang Prabang experience. You can visit the Pak Ou Caves, filled with Buddha statues, or enjoy a sunset cruise with stunning views of the lush landscapes.
Are there any natural sites to visit near Luang Prabang?
Certainly! The Kuang Si Falls is a breathtaking tiered waterfall with clear, turquoise pools perfect for swimming. The Tad Sae Waterfall is another natural beauty, especially during the rainy season.
Can I learn about traditional Laotian crafts in Luang Prabang?
Absolutely. The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre showcases the diverse cultures of Laos. You can also visit local villages known for silk weaving and paper making.
What are the best markets to visit in Luang Prabang?
The Night Market is a must-see, offering a variety of handicrafts, textiles, and street food. For a more local experience, visit the Morning Market, where you’ll find fresh produce and traditional Lao food items.
Are there any cooking classes available in Luang Prabang?
Yes, Luang Prabang is a great place to learn about Lao cuisine. Many restaurants and cooking schools offer classes where you can shop for ingredients at the market and learn to prepare traditional dishes.