Luang Prabang is an incredible town in Northern Laos nestled between the PhouThao and PhouNang mountain ranges. With the Mekong River on one side and the Nam Khan River on the other, this peninsula town is full of beauty, charm, and culture. And the best part is, there are so many incredible things to see and do in Luang Prabang that you won’t be bored. Below you’ll find my top recommendations for visiting Luang Prabang.
1. Visit Kuang Si Waterfall
One of the best things to do in Luang Prabang is take a day trip to the nearby Kuang Si Waterfall. This impressive, three-tiered waterfall is located about an hour’s drive southwest of Luang Prabang and has a bear sanctuary and butterfly park. Depending on the time of the year you visit, you can swim at designated swimming spots, which is a unique way to experience this waterfall!
For more information about visiting Kuang Si Waterfall including how to get there, how much it costs, and what to bring with you, read: What You Need to Know About Visiting Kuang Si Waterfall.
2. Watch Sunset from Phousi Hill
One of the more popular things to do in Luang Prabang (and for good reason) is to make the climb up Phousi Hill for sunset. Phousi Hill is considered a “sacred hill” with temples and statues of Buddha on the way up. There’s quite a bit to see during the climb so I suggest starting early to walk around and also get a good spot for sunset.
When you get to the top, where you can watch the sunset, you’ll have to pay 20,000 LAK.
3. Learn About Lao Textiles at Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Centre
“Ock Pop Tok” translates to “east meets west” and its purpose is to support women and Laotian textiles to preserve Laos traditions. Ock Pop Tok is a more off-the-beaten-path activity and not only can you watch women work and make beautiful textiles, but there’s also a boutique shopping store and a great restaurant on site called Silk Road Cafe.
4. Take a Boat Ride Along the Mekong River
Seeing Luang Prabang from the Mekong River is a fabulous way to experience another side of the city. The best way to do this is to simply walk to the Mekong River and you’ll find tons of people there offering to give you a ride. I had the most luck getting a ride near Wat Xiengthong. And remember, Luang Prabang can get very hot during the day; I recommend a sunset cruise so that it’s a bit cooler out.
5. Learn About Lao Folklore at Garavek Storytelling
Gravek Storytelling is located in the heart of Luang Prabang and is run by two guys – one who plays music, and the other who tells Laotian stories and folklore (in English). The show runs every night from 6:30-7:30 pm and this is a great activity to learn more about Laos. The show costs about 100,000 LAK/person and you’re able to purchase alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks when you arrive.
6. Wake Up Early for Alms Giving Ceremony
The Alms Giving Ceremony is sacred in Luang Prabang and is the same as the Tak Bat ritual in Thailand. Each morning, around sunrise, monks walk the street, and locals (and tourists) sit outside to give food to the monks. Locals believe that they will gain good fortune by giving food to the monks. If you do choose to participate, make sure to be respectful. Don’t take photos of the monks and don’t look them in the eye.
7. Visit Wat Xiengthong
Out of the 30+ temples in town, Wat Xiengthong was my favorite. This Buddhist temple was built in 1559 by King Setthathirath. Slow down to appreciate the beautiful, ornate, glass mosaics built on the outside of the temple; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
To visit, you will need to have your knees and shoulder covered. If you aren’t dressed appropriately, there is an opportunity to buy/rent clothes at the entrance. The cost to enter is 20,000 LAK.
8. Learn About Lao Royalty at the Luang Prabang Royal Palace
Built in 1904 for King Sisavang Vong, the Royal Palace now serves as a museum for guests to visit and learn about the royalty in Laos. When you visit the Royal Palace, the cost to enter is 30,000 LAK, and you will need to have your shoulders and knees covered (you can rent clothing if you aren’t dressed appropriately). Not only can you tour the former residence of the King, but you can also tour the Haw Pha Bang temple.
9. Eat Like Locals at the Night Market
The night markets in Luang Prabang are popular amongst locals and tourists. It’s open every night from 5-10 pm and there are tons of stalls to grab local food and drinks and tons of tables to sit at. There is a whole guide to experiencing the Laos market. The Night Market not only serves great food and traditional home-made crafts, but it’s also a great place to watch people! The market is outside so if it’s raining, I’d avoid it.
10. Try Traditional Laotian Food
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to eat the local food. Luang Prabang has so many great local restaurants that serve incredible Laotian food. You’ve got so many options like Jaew, Or Lam, Khao Piak Sen, and Sai Oo-ah just to name a few. These dishes are delicious and a perfect menu for any foodies out there. Some of my top recommendations include Dyen Sabai Restaurant, Manda de Laos, and Bamboo Garden Restaurant.
11. Learn About the Different Ethnic Groups in Laos at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC)
TAEC is a great museum to visit to learn more about the ethnic groups found in Laos. The museum is small, so you won’t spend a lot of time here, but you’ll be able to see clothing displays, and different tools each ethnic group uses. This museum was built in 2006 and it costs 25,000 LAK to enter.
12. Learn About UXOs at UXO Lao Visitor Centre
At this free museum, you can learn about the “unexploded ordnances” in Laos, which is the most bombed country in the world per capita. Not only is it an eye-opening look at what the Laotian people face day to day, but it also serves as a reminder that what one country does to another, has lasting implications for decades to come.
13. Get a Traditional Laos Massage
Massages in Luang Prabang are incredibly affordable; it’s a great place to experience a traditional Laos massage! A traditional Laos massage is a dry massage that focuses on stretching the muscles and reducing tension. A great (and affordable) place to try a traditional massage in Luang Prabang is Silver Naga Spa & Beauty.
14. Learn How to Cook Laotian Food at a Cooking Class
By joining a cooking class, not only do you get to learn how to cook different Laotian dishes, but you’ll also get to meet locals, meet other tourists, and take home a “life skill”. There are tons of great cooking classes in Luang Prabang, but I recommend taking a class from Tamarind Restaurant & Cooking School. Make sticky rice, Mok Pa (steamed fish), and Laap (meat salad).
15. Visit the Pak Ou Caves
Another great day trip to take outside of Luang Prabang is to the Pak Ou Caves. The Pak Ou Caves are north of Luang Prabang and you can get there by motorbike, tuk-tuk, car, or boat (I suggest taking a boat). The easiest way to book a boat tour to the Pak Ou Caves is to ask your hotel/hostel to assist you.
As I mentioned earlier, there are so many incredible things to see and do in Luang Prabang. I hope that this list helps get you started so you can dive into the Laotian culture, try local food, and experience local aspects of what it’s like to live in Luang Prabang!
This article originally appeared on The World Overload. Featured Photo Credit: Kylee Nelson