Luang Prabang has all the ingredients to become your new favorite destination in Southeast Asia. Check out the best things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos.
The moment we arrived in Luang Prabang, we knew it was a special place. With its historical buildings, and a eefling of calm and quietness that pervades the city, Luang Prabang is one of those places we just know that we’ll visit again and again. We loved spending a few days wandering around its streets, visiting its attractions in town and the beautiful waterfalls, and we didn’t have enough. Check out our guide to Luang Prabang.
The 16 Best Things To Do in Luang Prabang
In Luang Prabang, there’s enough to do to keep you occupied for a few days. From temples and palaces, to markets and breathtaking waterfalls (one of the best I’ve visited in the world!), here it’s a guide to what to do in Luang Prabang.
1| Visit The Temples of Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is home to more than 30 beautiful Buddhist temples or wats, which house monks and novices, and are very welcoming to visitors. Conservative clothing is required to visit the temples – make sure your knees and shoulders are covered, or bring a scarf to cover yourself.
Pick a number of them to explore, including the forest monastery – Wat Phon Phao, That Chomsi – at the top of Mount Phousi, and Wat Xieng Thong – built in the 1500s and used as a royal temple until 1975.
2| Let the Kuang Si Waterfalls Take Your Breath Away
Visiting Kuang Si Waterfall may well be the best decision you will make on your journey through Luang Prabang. Seriously, you can’t leave Laos without visiting these falls – they are some of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen in the world.
This magnificent turquoise blue, 50-meter water chute flows into pools made of limestone from the jungles above, and it’s a scene so beautiful that almost looks unreal.
However, I feel I need to say this. Please be considerate and follow the rules. On Instagram, you might have seen a trillion photos taken at Kuang Si Falls… in places where you are not supposed to go swim. There are certain pools where it’s allowed to swim and others in which you are not allowed to enter, so don’t enter. It’s that simple. You can still take beautiful pictures.
You can also take a 20-minute climb up to the top of the falls, but pay attention where you put your feet. The stairs have water on them and are extremely slippery, plus while we were climbing a snake appaeared and blocked the road, forcing us to run down the stairs again… till I feel and I got covered in mud from head to toes. Yeah, fun. Not. It was good laugh for Fran though!
Most tours stay for just a couple hours, but this is really a place to spend a whole day. I recommending hiring a driver for the day and bring stuff for a picnic. Between swimming, taking pictures, and walking the trail behind the falls, the day will pass by quickly.
Kuang Si is open from 8:00 am – 5:30 pm and costs 20,000 Kip to enter.
3| Wander Around the Luang Prabang Night Market
The Sisavangvong Road transmogrifies into the Luang Prabang Night Market every night beginning at 5 pm. As if from nowhere, traders come out to set up their stalls on the street; bringing with them clothes, household items, food, souvenirs and more. Foreigners can come here to buy things, eat, and hang out with the locals.
If you’re looking for some cheap and good street food, I can recommend going up the alley where you can find all the food stalls. In particular, there is one where you can fill a big bowl with vegetarian food from a vast buffet for less than $2 per person.
4| Witness the Alms Giving Ceremony
The temples of Luang Prabang house many monks and novices, and they are cared for by the people of Luang Prabang who ceremonially give alms to the monks every day. Visitors can participate in the ceremony by arriving downtown early in the morning (I suggest to be out by 5 am otherwise you risk missing it).
Please be considerate: this is a religious ceremony. Knees and shoulders need to be covered. Sit quietly on the sidewalk on the main read and stay silent while you see the procession of the monks. There are women selling rice to tourists, but this is not a circus. I suggest you refrain from participating in the offering, and you just watch the locals carrying food offerings to give the monks who graciously accept and offer blessings in return.
After you’ve seen enough, I suggest you try and wander around the streets away from the main one. You might be able to see the offering ceremony without any other tourists in sight.
5| Climb Mount Phousi For the Views
Mount Phousi sits 150 meters above the center of Luang Prabang and is the spiritual and geographical heart of the city. Known as the home of the powerful deity, Naga, the mountain is freckled with temples and little shrines all around it.
Visitors can take the 300 steps all the way to the top to make a spiritual pilgrimage at any of the shrines, or simply come up to enjoy the views of the sunset and the city below. If you come for sunset, make sure you bring appropriate clothing and mosquito repellent – there are thousands of them!
Mount Phousi is open for exploration every day from 5.30 am till after sunset.
6| Reflect at the UXO Luang Prabang Center
Likewise the UXO Center in Vientiane, the UXO Center in Luang Prabang is a testament to the ills of war and the long-standing effects it can have on the citizens of a land. Between 1964 to 1973, the US unloaded more bombs on Laos than they did through the second world war. There are still many fields in Laos that are contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO), and the visitors to the center can learn about all this and more for free by viewing the artifacts on the walls and watching the documentaries shown.
The UXO Luang Prabang Center is open from Monday to Friday between 08 am – 11.30 am and 1 pm – 5 pm.
7| Have Dinner at Khaiphaen Restaurant
Khaiphaen Restaurant is a training restaurant and vocational school that is named after the delicious staple meal that most people from Laos enjoy. Located between the French Institute and the Mekong River, it is owned by Friends-International, a Laos-Cambodia-based NGO that focuses on training and empowering marginalized children to take control of their lives and be productive members of society. We visited another restaurant owner by Friends in Phnom Penh and it was so good, that we immediately decided we were going to visit this one too.
Diners can decide to sit indoors or outside as they feast on the finest of Luang Prabang cuisine; including fried Khaiphaen, Lao pork sausages, Chicken Laap, and River Fish with Monkey Mushroom Dumplings.
The cost of meals at Khaiphen Restaurant is higher than other places, but it’s for a good cause. The restaurant is open from Monday till Saturday, between the hours of 11 am and 10.30 pm.
8| Take a Cooking Class
Learning to cook the delicacies of a foreign land is one of the best ways to experience and imbibe its culture. In Luang Prabang, there are a number of cooking schools waiting to take food lovers on a journey into the culinary heart of Laos.
➤ The Traditional Market Tour and Private Cooking Class teaches attendants the art of preparing delicious and very traditional Laotian dishes that have been passed down for generations.
Students begin by accompanying the guide to tour the morning market and pick up ingredients, then head to a local home for the hands-on, interactive class. At the end of the cooking class, the chefs-in-training will sit for lunch, where they can enjoy the delicious work of their hands and take pictures for the ‘Gram. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ At the Bamboo Experience, initiates of the culinary arts will learn about the bamboo culture in Laos. Following a visit to a local market and an introduction to bamboo and its importance, students will be taught to weave simple bamboo mats using century-old techniques, and then to make fun dishes like steamed bamboo shoot in banana leaf, bamboo shoot dip and bamboo shoot soup. At the end of the cooking experience, students will sit on the pavilion terrace to enjoy their meals and the views all around. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
9| Visit the Royal Palace Museum
The Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang was built in 1904 and opened in 1909 and was the home of King Sisavang Vong and his family. The palace is on the other side of the road from Phousi Mountain and is within walking distance from the major guest houses and hotels. The exhibition rooms of the museum contain fascinating items like the Golden Throne used by the Supreme Patriarch of Laos Buddhism, a golden rendition of Airavata, the three-headed elephant ridden by the Hindu God Indra, and statues of the last three Laotian Kings.
Also known as “Haw Kham” or “Golden Hall“, the palace was built with a blend of Laos and French styles and was eventually converted to a museum in 1995.
The Royal Palace Museum is open every day from 8.30 am to 11.30 am and 1.30 pm to 4 pm. The only exception to this is Thursday, when it closes at 3.30 pm.
10| Chill at Utopia Bar
Utopia Bar is rated as one of the best bars and restauranst in Southeast Asia, and is one of the top spots to experience in Luang Prabang. Situated on the banks of the River Nam Kham, Utopia is a lodestone for travelers from all over the world, and people can often be seen trading their backpacks for well-made drinks as they congregate and get to know each other in a relaxed environment.
Backpackers can enjoy an expansive variety of Eastern and Western Cuisine. The bar also offers free Wi-Fi, board games, and a volleyball court where guests can throw down after a long day and work up a healthy appetite.
Utopia Bar is open between 8 am and 11.30 pm every day.
11| Explore the Pak Ou Caves
25 kilometers north of Luang Prabang, there are two groups of caves which are set on a limestone cliff, overlooking the Mekong River. Known as the Pak Ou (meaning “Mouth of the River”) caves, the Tham Ting (lower cave) and the Tham Theung (upper cave) are beloved by tourists and contain thousands of old and damaged miniature Buddhas that have been left in them by the locals over hundreds of years. These mini Buddhas are sculpted in a variety of positions including rain, teaching, reclining (Nirvana), meditation, and peace.
To get to the Pak Ou Caves, visitors usually join a tour.
➤ Why not visit the Kuang Si Waterfalls and Pak Ou Caves all in one day? Take a boat to the Pak Ou Caves in the morning, and then head to the waterfalls after lunch for a swim. → BOOK HERE the Pak Ou Caves & Kuang Si Waterfall Day Tour.
The Caves are typically open every day between 8 am and 5 pm, and each visitor is required to pay 20,000 Kip for admission.
12| Be a Rice Farmer for One Day
In a foreign land, learning how to handle food the way your hosts do is always a good way to become one with them. In the rice fields of Luang Prabang, tourists can be like the locals and experience life as a rice farmer for 24 hours. Wannabe farmers will learn how to process rice from seed to table.
13| Experience the Pi Mai Festival
In April, the citizens of Luang Prabang take to the streets to welcome the Lao New Year in a festival filled with fun and waterworks. First, the locals spend some time cleaning Buddha figurines everywhere and going to baci ceremonies.
Then, for the three days of Songkran (another name for Pi Mai), locals and foreigners alike get hold of buckets, hoses, water-balloons, and water-guns. Properly armed, they proceed to douse anyone and everyone around them in a city-wide water fight to cool bodies and spirits as everyone makes the transition into the Buddhist New Year around what is typically the hottest period for Laos. I haven’t experienced this festival in Laos, but I did experience it in Thailand and it was a lot of fun!
The Pi Mai Festival typically holds between the 13th/14th to the 15th/16th of April every year.
14| Donate to the Luang Prabang Library
The Luang Prabang Library does not only function as a place where people can go to learn, but also works to help people who live in places where learning is difficult. Many of the children in the villages around Luang Prabang do not have access to books, and as a whole, Laos is very short of educational material.
The Luang Prabang library buys books and allows the local children to come and learn and take books to the communities where there are no schools, traveling by boats and using the boats as floating libraries, which the local children can gather around to borrow books. Each boat carries about a thousand books and is accompanied by volunteers who teach the local children in place of regular school teachers.
Individuals who want to help keep it going can do so by buying maps and souvenirs or simply donating funds, all on the Library’s website.
The Luang Prabang Library is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm.
15| Go on a Food Tour and Sample Laos Delicacies
In Luang Prabang, there are many ways for visitors to entrench themselves in the food culture of the land. On a guided food tour, street food connoisseurs can spend some time roaming the streets of Luang Prabang and sampling the various street delicacies.
Where To Stay in Luang Prabang
A Full Review of Burasari Heritage Luang Prabang
When we first arrived to Burasari Heritage Luang Prabang, we were pleasantly surprised by the antiquities and the overall vintage style of the lobby. The check- in process was smooth and we were quickly directed to our room, after being served a refreshing welcome drink and gifted a leather notebook.
Since the moment you walk inside the room, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Forget the digital key cards – a heavy wooden door from ancient times locks the room.
White wooden panels cover the wall, and all the furniture has a vintage feel, that goes well with French colonial style of Luang Prabang. Lots of windows line the wall, and a window door opens up to a small private terrace with a table.
Don’t worry though. There are thick curtains on every window to give you privacy, and at night you can close the wooden blind for some extra darkness. The king-size bed is very comfortable, the room is spacious with an open closet to hang your clothes (or the robes that come with the room).
The toilet is enclosed in a small separate space, but all the rest is part of a big open plan. Because of this, the hotel mostly caters to couples. The shower design doesn’t allow for much privacy – you can pull the blue thick curtains around it, but you would be showering in complete darkness.
One thing we really liked were the bathroom amenities. The products come from the Burasari Spa next door, and they are all made with virgin coconut. They smell so good you are tempted to eat them! They were the same products we loved while staying at La Seine hotel in Vientiane, another hotel of the group, and we were pleased to find them here again. The hotel also provides guests with a natural insect repellent which I highly advise to use – there are so many mosquitoes in Luang Prabang!
We liked that the hotel offers a complimentary minibar, replenished daily. Here you can find sodas, beers, and a couple of snacks.
The breakfast is a combination of buffet and a la carte. You’ll be given a paper menu to fill in with your choices regarding eggs, vegetables, Asian dishes, muesli, yogurt and fruit, and beverages. You can have your eggs scrambled, fried, or opt for an omelette, Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine.
At the buffet table, you can serve yourself with pancakes or muffins, fresh juice and pastries. Oh, the croissants were so good!! It’s clear that Luang Prabang has a French past, they really know how to bake their pastries.
On our last night in town, we tried out Burasari’s restaurant, The Terrace. You can seat in the main dining room or in the terrace by the river on the other side of the river, and we went for this second option. The river views are beautiful from here! If you book a room package that includes one dinner, you’ll be asked to choose from 4 different menus consisting of an appetizer, a soup, an entrée and dessert. We really liked the food, and would definitely recommend it. Non-guests can also dine here.
The hotel also features a high-end spa, Spa Burasari. We didn’t try any treatments so I can’t speak for experience, but the spa has won the award for Southeast Asia’s Best Boutique Wellness Spa so it must be good!
The hotel also offers complimentary bikes to use around Luang Prabang, and rides from/to the airport on a vintage Mercedes Benz.
All in all, we would recommend this hotel, especially to couples who are looking for a boutique hotel with a vintage feel – which is perfect for a historical town like Luang Prabang!
Rates at Burasari Heritage Luang Prabang start at $115 a night for a Superior Room.
➤ Check out AVAILABILITY & RATES for Burasari Heritage Luang Prabang.
We were hosted by Burasari Heritage Luang Prabang, but the opinions expressed in this post are exclusively our own.
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