Luang Prabang, once the capital of Laos until 1975, is probably the cleanest and most lively city in Laos. Lying between Mekong River and Nam Khan River, Luang Prabang had been inhabited for thousands of years. With dozens of Buddhist Temples, the Buddhism influence can be felt from every corner of the city. Many travelers include myself chose Luang Prabang as the starting point of our backpacking trip in Laos. So if you’re one of them, here are the top things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos to get you excited and ready for adventures!
Fun Fact: Did you know Luang Prabang is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
For this post, I’ll include all possible missing pieces of information on the internet which gave me a hard time while planning the trip.
So, are you ready for the top things to do in Luang Prabang?
- 1 Immerse In The Beauty of Kuang Si Falls
- 2 Catch The Sunset in Mount Phousi
- 3 Pak Ou Caves
- 4 Watch Morning Alms Giving Ceremony (Tak Bat)
- 5 Renting a Motorbike And Explore Luang Prabang City Outskirt
- 6 Wat Hopping
- 7 Shop And Dine In Luang Prabang Night Market
- 8 Learn The History In Royal Palace Museum
- 9 Watch Mekong River Sunset From Riverside Restaurants
- 10 Sit Back & Relax in Utopia Bar & Restaurant
Immerse In The Beauty of Kuang Si Falls
You’re probably expecting this. Of course, Kuang Si Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Laos and is always swarmed by tourists and travelers alike. The waterfall is just stunning from every angle of view and there are plenty of activities you can do on the way to the waterfall.
Right after the entrance, there is a bear sanctuary awaiting your visit on your way to the waterfall. If you think this is something like a zoo, that’s not the case. The bears in this sanctuary are rescued from the ‘bile farms’, where they spent most of their lives in a cage, with their bile juice continuously extracted. It’s inhumane, which leads to the existence of this sanctuary. If you wish to contribute, there are merchandise sales and donation boxes there.
Remember to bring some swimming attire there as you’ll be attracted to swim in the tiffany-blue lakes. There are changing rooms for visitors too. Check below for the best time to visit, with the least people swimming alongside you in the waterfall.
A lot of people talk about the secret pool in Kuang Si Falls but that’s no longer a secret. The entrance to the secret pool was quite obvious.
On your way there, make a stop in Buffalo Dairy, where you can buy ice-creams made from buffalo milk and feed the buffaloes. It’s a great way to support the local farmers as well! Just tell your tuk-tuk driver that you want a stop there.
Other than that, Kuang Si Butterfly Farm is also a great stop point for those who’re interested as well!
Entrance Fee: 20,000 Kip (around $2.50)
Best time to visit: Early morning until before 1 pm.
How to Get There?
Tuk-tuk is the best way to visit Kuang Si Falls unless you want to rent a motorbike and ride all the way there. I wouldn’t recommend going by motorbike if you’re not used to riding it because the roads are quite bumpy and holes here and there.
A two-way tuk-tuk will cost you around 200k Kip. The driver will wait for you outside the entrance until you finish your visit. The payment is usually made after you got back to Luang Prabang city. Get more people to split the cost if possible!
Editor’s Note: Check out this 3 Days Luang Prabang Itinerary to save some time on trip planning!
Catch The Sunset in Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi, located in the center of Luang Prabang peaks around 100m and offers one of the best sunset views in town.
Since watching the sunset in Mount Phousi is one of the fun things to do in Luang Prabang, you’ll have to expect a lot of tourists and travelers. Unlike Kuang Si Falls, where visitors visit anytime throughout the day, visitors in Mount Phousi mainly visit for sunset only. It’s like all visitors in Luang Prabang gather at Mount Phousi for sunset every day.
When I was there, it’s easily more than a hundred people swarming the peak. If you’re there to enjoy a quiet sunset view, then Mount Phousi might not be the wisest choice. Continue reading for a better choice for a more quiet sunset view.
Entrance Fee: 20,000 Kip (around $2.50)
Best Time to Visit: Visit around 5 pm and watch for the sunset there, after securing yourself a good spot. There are benches and shady trees up there so there are no harms in getting up there earlier if you have nothing else to do. You’ll need to visit earlier during the dry season when there are fewer daylight hours.
Location: Mount Phousi (Google Map)
How to Get There?
Mount Phousi is easily reachable from any hostels in Luang Prabang. The best way is to walk there and hike up.
Editor’s Note: Thinking of climbing one of the limestone hills? Then Pha Poak Viewpoint in Vang Vieng should be in your bucket list!
Pak Ou Caves
Pak Ou Caves is located in the opposite direction of Kuang Si Falls from Luang Prabang city. Comparatively, it’s further from the city than Kuang Si Falls.
Pak Ou Caves is located at the intersection point of the Mekong River and Nam Ou River. In fact, the word ‘Pak Ou’ translates to ‘the mouth of Ou 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 in the caves, left behind by local peoples hundreds of years ago.
There are mainly two caves in Pak Ou Caves, with the lower cave being Tham Ting, and upper cave Tham Theung. Most of the Buddhist statues are located in Tham Theung, so remember to bring your torch as it’s pitch black in there. The upper cave is accessible by stairs. Be ready for some adventure!
Pak Ou Caves will be very busy during April on Laos New Year as it’s a popular pilgrim site for the locals.
Entrance Fee: 20,000 Kip (around $2.50)
Best Time to Visit: Early morning but it’s not that important because there aren’t as many tourists as other attractions in Luang Prabang like the previous two.
Location: Pak Ou Caves (Google Map)
How to Get There?
The most interesting way is by boat, which takes 2 hours from the city to Pak Ou Caves, with spectacular views over the limestone cliffs and Mekong River. The trip back to the city takes a little more than an hour. You’ll be able to buy tickets along the riverside road in Luang Prabang, where most of the restaurants are located. Boats leave around 7 am onwards, with 65,000 Kip (around $8) per person. You can also charter your own boat for 300,000 Kip.
The alternative way is by tuk-tuk. It’s the most straightforward way to get there because tuk-tuks are abundant in all cities of Laos. A return trip to Pak Ou Caves costs around 150,000 Kip depending on your bargaining skills.
Watch Morning Alms Giving Ceremony (Tak Bat)
One of the most controversial attractions in Luang Prabang and Laos. The Alms Giving ceremony, also known as Tak Bat is a ceremony where monks collect their foods for the day from the public in the early morning. It’s a holy ceremony, well-respected by the locals but was recently abused by foreign tourists.
Read about that here.
So if you’re going for the Tak Bat ceremony, make sure you know the rules. Watch the ceremony from a distance where you won’t disturb them unless you’re joining the locals and contribute the foods to the monks. Even so, you’ll have to know the rules. And please, never use flash photography. It’s an extremely rude behavior. If you need more tips, ask your hostel manager about that. Locals know it best.
Where to Watch Morning Alms Giving Ceremony?
Tak Bat Ceremony takes place all over Luang Prabang town but the best place to watch it is in the entrance of the night market. Visit around 5.30 am and wait for the monks there. You’ll find a lot of people there, just follow the crowds.
For more details, I hope this article will be useful to you.
Renting a Motorbike And Explore Luang Prabang City Outskirt
The landscape surrounding Luang Prabang is one of the best in Laos, second only to Vang Vieng, in my opinion. With all the skyscraping limestone hills, renting a motorbike is the best way to explore outside of the city.
However, to my surprise, renting a motorbike in Luang Prabang can be quite expensive compared to other cities. The average rental price for a whole day is around 80,000 Kip (around $10), and there are no options for hours basis. Some motorbike rental shops also offer motorbike tours, including single-day and multi-day tours.
Motolao is one of the best-reviewed rental shops in Luang Prabang. Renting a motorbike in Luang Prabang also gives you the option to visit Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves by yourself. I’ve seen plenty of travelers riding all the way to Kuang Si Falls.
At the end of the day, it’s still your call. But remember to practice caution and always be careful while riding a motorbike around Luang Prabang city!
Traffic police aren’t that strict there so…
But get an international driving license to be safe. If you’re planning to rent for one day, make it a memorable day trip from Luang Prabang!
Some people love it, some hate it, but all the Buddhist Wat’s here are the reason why Luang Prabang thrived as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Buddhist influence here is so strong you can feel that on every street you walk in.
There are over 40 temples in Luang Prabang alone, feel free to explore every each of them. Though I would skip most and visit the popular ones, like Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham. The architectures of the temples are similar, with the mentioned two temples being more architecturally impressive.
When you’re visiting the temples in Luang Prabang, make sure you respect the rules. Never wear shorts for both genders, no singlet or tank tops and keep your volume to the minimum. Respect the monks there, and ask before you take a photograph.
There tend to be dogs in most temples, actually the whole Laos. Dogs in Laos can be very adorable and friendly during the day, but be careful when you approach them in the night. Some dogs might get aggressive when you step into their territory. My friend and I almost got ganked by dogs when we’re cycling to catch the sunrise in Don Khon.
Must-Visit Temples: Wat Xieng Thong & Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham
Entrance Fee: Wat Xieng Thong – 20,000 Kip (around $2.50), Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham – 10,000 Kip (around $1.25)
Opening Hours: 8.00 am – 5.00 pm for both temples.
Shop And Dine In Luang Prabang Night Market
The highlight and the best thing to do in Luang Prabang – Luang Prabang Night Market. The night market is so huge and it seconds only to the night market in Vientiane. And guess what, the variety of street foods there is abundant. I wouldn’t suggest visiting for just one night if you wish to try every food.
Souvenirs and gifts can be found all along the night market street, even though most of them are the same. You’ll find different prices for the same items in different shops, so be sure to ask several stalls before buying anything. Bargaining skills can be useful here, and it’s a fun thing to do. Just remember not to go overboard.
Most of the street foods there are grilled and smoked meats. If you’re vegetarian, there are several stalls with buffet vegetarian foods for 20,000 Kip ($2.50) as well! Street food prices in Luang Prabang Night Market aren’t too expensive as you might expect, but foods in Laos are much more expensive compared to their neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand.
I would say spend at least one full night here to take everything in.
If you’re going for some souvenirs or gifts, the Vientiane night market has them at cheaper price tags. So if you’re going to Vientiane after Luang Prabang, consider buying them in the Vientiane night market.
Entrance Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 5.00 pm to 11.00 pm
Best Time to Visit: After 5.30 pm when all the stalls are completely set up.
Location: Night Market (Google Map)
Learn The History In Royal Palace Museum
Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang, also known as ‘Haw Kham’, was built in 1904, fusing both Laotian and French architecture. The building was taken over by the government after the revolution in 1975 and opened to the public as a museum in 1995.
If you’re going to visit the museum, this information will help you a little. Photographing is not permitted inside the museum, all bags must be left in the lockers after you purchased your entrance ticket. There are no guides available inside the museum, and the information on the displayed items might not be as detailed as expected. Take off your shoes before entering the museum. No short pants and or bare shoulders.
Take note of the opening hours below, as the museum will be closed during lunch hours.
There is a Royal Cars Exhibition room right beside the Royal Palace, which I recommend as a side trip. Free entrance for that.
The compound surrounding the Royal Palace is well maintained and spacious, with lots of shady trees, tables, and benches. We chilled under a shady tree for over an hour because the atmosphere there is just relaxing.
Entrance Fee: 30,000 Kip (around $3.75)
Opening Hours: Royal Palace Museum opens every day except Thursday. Opening hours are 8 am to 11.30 am, and 1.30 pm to 4 pm.
Best Time to Visit: Early morning for a less crowded visit. Noon is also a great time for those who want to escape the heat outside.
Location: Royal Palace (Google Map)
How to Get There?
Royal Palace Museum is located in the city center, at the night market street. Reaching there on foot is possible for travelers living inside the city.
Watch Mekong River Sunset From Riverside Restaurants
Watching the sun sets over the 12th longest river in the world, Mekong River is definitely one of the best Luang Prabang attractions. Since Luang Prabang is built along the Mekong River, there is no better place to do it.
Head over to Khem Khong Street, the street along the river. There are plenty of restaurants of your choice, offering cuisines from all over the world. Most of them have a viewing deck for dining customers, where you can watch the sunset while enjoying your meals.
Of course, the meals will cost more than what you get from the night market. Menus are available outside the restaurants so check them out before entering.
A great alternative way to escape the crowds and watch the sunset in Luang Prabang other than Mount Phousi.
You’ll find several tour service providers offering boat services to some attractions, like Pak Ou Caves as well here.
Sit Back & Relax in Utopia Bar & Restaurant
Overlooking Nam Khan River, Utopia Bar & Restaurant is undoubtedly the most popular bar among travelers who’re looking for an escape from the crowds. While sightseeing during the day can be exhausting, grab some beverages, and relax in Utopia with other travelers!
The atmosphere can easily make you spend the rest of your day there. Watch this video on YouTube to get a rough idea of how Utopia looks like. Great place to rewind in this underrated Luang Prabang highlight.
Opening Hours: 8 am to 11.30 pm every day.
Location: Utopia Bar & Restaurant (Google Map)
Ready to Explore Luang Prabang?
So here are the 10 top things to do in Luang Prabang which will definitely make your trip in Laos memorable. I hope the details can be useful to you while planning your travel. If there’s any information missing, feel free to comment below! Check out my other blog posts about Laos if you will, like this 3 days Vang Vieng itinerary and these amazing things to do in 4000 Islands. As usual, happy traveling.
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