Living under the shadow of its neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, Laos is often overlooked by backpackers traveling through South East Asia. Now that you’re here, take my words, visit Laos, you’ll love it so much you wished you could’ve stayed longer. Planning a backpacking trip to Laos? Luang Prabang, located at Northern Laos is a perfect starting point. Here you have it, 3 Days in Luang Prabang itinerary to get you going.
A Little About Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is once the capital of Laos until 1975 when the government decided to move it to Vientiane. It is, in my opinion, the cleanest city in Laos. The air is free of dust pollution, the streets are clean, people are nice, and it’s easily navigable around the city.
Do you know Luang Prabang is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Home to more than 3 dozens of Buddhist temples, Buddhism influences can be felt from any corner of the city.
Why did I say that Luang Prabang is a perfect starting point of backpackers in Laos? It’s because there are only two international airports in Laos – Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
If you’re planning a backpacking trip through entire Laos you want to start at Northern Laos instead of the central part. This saves you a lot of time getting around the country. Starting at Luang Prabang, you’ll only have to travel south all the way, unless you’re planning a visit to Luang Namtha, which is further north of Luang Prabang.
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Getting Around in Luang Prabang
The main ways of getting around Luang Prabang are by tuk-tuks or motorcycles.
Tuk-tuks are the most common in this city because they’re literally everywhere, and the rental fee for a motorcycle in Luang Prabang is relatively more expensive. I’m not saying tuk-tuks are cheap though, it could still be expensive especially if you’re going out of town, like Kuang Si Falls.
Stepping out the doorstep of your hostel, you’ll have tuk-tuks stopping by the roadside, asking if you want a ride.
Negotiation is a part of the culture here, I mean, by foreigners. Tuk-tuk drivers always quote a higher price and expect some nego, so don’t be afraid to slash the price, as long as you’re not going overboard.
If you want an estimation, it cost us 50,000 Kip per person to get to Kuang Si Falls and return. Or 200,000 Kip for 4 people in 1 tuk-tuk.
For motorcycles, from what I found, rental shops don’t offer half-day rentals here. So, a full-day rental cost you around 80,000 Kip per day. Unlike Vang Vieng where you can rent from 7 am to 8 pm for 35,000 Kip, I couldn’t find this option in Luang Prabang.
If you’re planning to ride out of town for multiple days, renting a motorcycle is a great way to explore around. For visiting Luang Namtha, riding a motorcycle is probably the most intriguing way to do it.
Luang Prabang is not that big, so if you’re planning to explore the city on foot, it’s totally doable. The weather is also friendly enough for you to do so.
Excited? Let’s dive into this 3 Days Luang Prabang Itinerary!
Luang Prabang Itinerary – Day 1
Arrival in Luang Prabang
Arriving in Luang Prabang airport will leave you questioning whether it’s the smallest airport you’ve ever seen.
I recommend getting your SIM Cards here at this airport. There are not many English-speakers in Laos, so you’ll have a hard time purchasing one outside the airport. Plus, it’s not really that expensive there.
Stepping out the airport, you’ll have several taxis waiting at the gate. If you prefer tuk-tuks, which are slightly cheaper, walk out of the airport and you’ll find them right outside. If you’re not into both, like I did, it takes an hour to walk all the way from the airport to the city center.
I sure enjoyed the walk, it exposes me to the way of life of the locals in Luang Prabang, first-hand. Kids playing around, I also noticed Lao people loved BBQ a lot!
Read on and see what to do in Luang Prabang after checking into your hostel!
It’s your first day in your Luang Prabang itinerary, so you probably wouldn’t want anything too time-consuming or extreme. Temples visiting might sound boring for most but it’s a different experience in Luang Prabang. It’s the reason why this city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With over 40 Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang, it’s overwhelming to visit all of them. So here are two temples that I think you should pay a visit to – Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham.
During your visit, make sure you respect the rules and don’t wear exposing shirts or pants into the compound. Ask the monks before you take photos of them, and always talk softly.
The entrance fee for Wat Xieng Thong is 20,000 Kip (around $2.50). For Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, it’s 10,000 Kip (around $1.25).
Watch Sunset in Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi is the exact destination in Luang Prabang where you’ll experience over-tourism first-hand. It’s one of the most famous things to do in Luang Prabang. Every evening, foreigners in this city will gather around this little peak on Mount Phousi to enjoy the sunset together.
It’s almost empty in the morning and afternoon because there is nothing much to see up here, other than the miniature temple. Mount Phousi is mainly visited for sunset, as it’s the only hill in Luang Prabang city.
The best time to visit would be after 5 pm. If you want, you could hike up earlier to secure yourself a nice seat to watch the sunset near the deck. If you’re doing this, know that there are no shades up there, so you’ll need to take the heat in exchange for a ‘hot seat’.
The entrance fee is 20,000 Kip ($2.50).
Editor’s Note: Check out this 3 days Vang Vieng itinerary too!
Dinner in Luang Prabang Night Market
The entrance to Mount Phousi is in the middle of the Luang Prabang night market. So, you’ll get to enjoy one of the best night markets in Laos right away after the sunset view!
Luang Prabang Night Market is the second-largest night market in Laos, second only to Vientiane, which is a whole lot bigger. You’ll find all sorts of gifts, souvenirs, handicrafts, clothing, foods and beverages stalls here. Pretty much everything you expect from a Southeast Asian night market.
I’ve found that this night market has the most variety of food stalls, from BBQ pork sticks to soup noodles, and even vegetarian buffet dinner. The food stalls are all concentrated in a small alley, which is quite ‘uncomfortable’ to dine in, because of the smell from the drains.
Bars are everywhere along this street too, so it’s a great spot to spend your whole night in.
Luang Prabang Itinerary – Day 2
Watch Morning Alms Giving Ceremony (Tak Bat)
The Morning Alms Giving Ceremony, also known as Tak Bat is one of the most well-known attractions in Luang Prabang city. This holy ceremony is being conducted every morning when the sun rises.
Every morning, monks from all temples around the city walked out into the streets to collect their food of the day from the citizens. This ceremony is very well-respected by the locals, but unfortunately, ever since the tourists start coming in, problems start to arise.
People start walking right in front of them to take photographs, using flash for photos, giving unhealthy or unfresh food, and more. So, if you’re planning to join the ceremony, be sure to consult the locals or do it alongside them. Ask your hostel manager or anyone around.
Here’s an article if you need more information.
Visit Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si Falls is probably one of the most famous waterfalls in Laos, standing alongside Khone Phapheng Falls in Si Phan Don, or 4000 Islands. It will also definitely be one of your highlights in your Luang Prabang itinerary.
This waterfall is located 40 minutes drive from the city center. If you’re taking a tuk-tuk, prepared to pay around 50,000 Kip (around $6.00) for a return trip. The driver will wait for you at the entrance. You pay after the whole trip so don’t worry about the driver driving away when you’re visiting.
The first stop inside the park is a Bear Sanctuary, where the bears are rescued after years of torture for bile juice in bile farms. There is also an information center, along with a merchandise shop, which you can support the project financially.
The turquoise blue water is caused by the calcium carbonate being washed away from the limestone when the water flows through it.
It’s ok to swim in the waterfall, but only in designated parts. Changing rooms are available there too. The best time to visit Kuang Si Falls would be in the morning before the crowds come and take over the pools.
There’s a hiking trail which will bring you to the top of the waterfall too, don’t miss it!
Unlike the Blue Lagoons in Vang Vieng, there are no facilities like zip-lines, floating rafts, etc, which is great!
The entrance fee is 20,000 Kip per person. Sometimes, your tuk-tuk driver will take the fee from you and help you pay it. Maybe they earn some commission, who knows.
Royal Palace Museum
You’re probably not gonna spend your whole day in Kuang Si Falls, so pay the Royal Palace Museum a visit after you got back. Of course, if you’re not planning to head back to the hostel for some afternoon nap.
Also known as ‘Haw Kham’, the Royal Palace was built in 1904, fusing the Laotian and French architecture. After the revolution in 1975, the government took over the palace and eventually made it into a museum in 1995.
The museum showcases the history of the city as well as some historic collectibles. Photographing is not allowed in there, neither is your shoes. There’s a locker at the counter to keep all your belongings. And of course, no exposing outfit like bare shoulders or short pants.
Pay a visit to the Royal Cars Exhibition beside the museum too. You’ll find the cars used by the royal family decades ago, which are still perfectly preserved.
The entrance fee for the museum is 30,000 Kip per person. The Royal Palace Museum opens from 8 am to 11.30 am and 1.30 pm to 4 pm every day except Thursday.
Dinner in Riverside Restaurants
For dinner, head over to Khem Khong Street. You’ll find a dozen of riverside restaurants there, right by the Mekong River. Almost all of them have a viewing deck with tables for the customers. The views on Mekong River when the sun is going down the horizon is quite promising.
Of course, you pay for what you get. Expect the dishes to be much more expensive than those you find in Luang Prabang Night Market.
All sorts of cuisines are available here – Laotian dishes, Vietnamese food, Thai food, Western cuisines, Indian dishes, and more.
Luang Prabang Itinerary – Day 3
Visit Pak Ou Caves
If you think Kuang Si Falls is far enough from Luang Prabang city, Pak Ou Caves will change your mind. Located even further from the city, Pak Ou Caves is often skipped by visitors who have limited time in the city.
Pak Ou Caves is located at the intersection point where Nam Ou River meets Mekong River. It’s one of the most respected holy sites in Laos with thousands of years of history. There are over 4,000 Buddha icons, left behind by the people hundreds of years ago.
There are two caves in Pak Ou Caves – the upper cave, Tham Theung and the lower cave, Tham Ting. Most of the attractions are found in the upper cave, which is accessible by stairs.
To get here, you either take the tuk-tuk, motorcycle, or the boats from Khem Khong Street, which will take 2 hours one-way. With a boat, you’ll get to enjoy a spectacular view on the nearby limestone karsts on the world’s 12th longest river.
The trip back to Luang Prabang city takes a little less than an hour due to the river current. Boats leave at 7 am onwards, for 65,000 Kip (around $8) per person.
Relaxing in Utopia Bar & Restaurant
Utopia Bar & Restaurant is the perfect place to sit back and relax after visiting all the attractions in Luang Prabang. It’s probably the most famous bar among foreigners and is often full.
Grab some drinks here, read your books, or simply get to know other backpackers traveling in Laos!
They open every day from 8 am to 11.30 pm. An excellent place to refresh yourself before moving on to the next destination!
Ready For Your 3 Days in Luang Prabang Itinerary?
So that’s it for your 3 days Luang Prabang itinerary! What do you think about it? Let me know if you’re visiting Luang Prabang soon, or that you’ve finished visiting this wonderful city. Looking forward to your thoughts in the comment sections below! Not sure where to go next? Here are 9 Amazing Things to do in Si Phan Don. As usual, happy traveling and enjoy Laos!
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