Pak Ou Caves Luang Prabang
The Pak Ou cave is one of the top attractions of Luang Prabang. Located just 25 km northern the city, it is a historic and sacred site attracts both Laotians and foreign visitors.
In the cave, there was over 4 thousand Buddha statue. Enjoy the relaxing time on the boat along Mekong river and get to know the history dating back thousands of years…
Highlights of the caves
Pak Ou Caves are home to thousands (4000+) Buddha statues, located on the rocky cliff with faces overlooking to the Mekong river. Those Buddha images follow various of positions such as meditation, peace and nirvana. Most of the statues were made of wood; and the rest of them were made of resin and even earthenware and animal bones. Then, they are painted in red or black and covered with gold.
The cave is actually combines of 2 smaller caves which are full of pretty small statues. From the river, you can see the lower cave. It’s called Tham Ting and houses 2500+ images. There is an altar inside where offerings of flowers and incense are made.
The upper cave – Tham Theung, is a bit larger and darker. You need to climb up some stone steps to reach it for about 10 minutes. There are thousands of statues there too and some of them well hidden in the dark. To the left of the entry, there’s a wooden water channel where the local people wash their household Buddha statues every April (at Lao New Year).
History of the caves
Laos people believe that their ancestor entered the caves the first time in the middle of the 8th century. At that time, Buddhism wasn’t prevalent in the country, so the Pak Ou Caves were used as a shrine to the river spirits.
By the 16th century, the royal family adopted Buddhism as a national religion. Every year, King and worshipers from Luang Prabang would go on a pilgrimage to the Pak Ou Caves at New Year’s Day. Then they left Buddhist statues inside the caves. The thousands of Buddhist statues today are a result through hundreds of years of visits. You can find statues from various centuries which made from all kinds of materials and having plenty of different poses.
How to get there?
The Pak Ou Caves are not in walking distance from Luang Prabang town. It is around 25 kilometers far from the town center. There are few ways to explore the caves: by boat, tuk tuk or organized Laos day tours.
Traveling by boat is totally an interesting journey to relax and enjoy the scenic views along Mekong River. You can join shared boats with other people or charter a boat.
There is a public boat which departs at 8.30AM from Luang Prabang boat pier. The trip to the Pak Ou caves takes about 2 hours with a 10 minutes stop at the Lao Lao whiskey village. You will have about 30 minutes to explore the cave before going back. The journey back is just one hour as you travel downstream. You can get a boat ticket from the pier right in front of the Saffron Cafe. Pier opens around 8:00 AM and the ticket costs 65.000 Kip (7 USD). There is no food provided on the boat.
There is another option which is a bit more luxurious and comfortable. Nava Mekong offers 4-hour lunch cruise which departs at 10.00AM. During the cruise, Nava cruise will stop at Pak Ou cave for sightseeing. Price is US$ 25 per person including lunch. You should book at least one day in advance.
It is the best option to visit the caves. Private boats give you the flexibility and privacy. You can leave when you want, stay as long as you like and choose whether to visit the Whisky Village or not. The boats are the same as the shared ones, and the journey is at the same length. Price to rent a whole boat is about US$ 40. One boat can accommodate up to 25 passengers.
For private boat, you should book in advance. You can easily meet boat owners along the riverside to discuss and bargain for your trip.
It’s super easy to hire a tuk-tuk taxi driver to take you to Ban Pak Ou village at the cost around 200,000 Kip (US$ 26). The village opposites the caves on the other side of the river. So, you need cross the river by boat at 10,000 Kip (US$ 1.30) per person. However, this option is less charming as you will miss the gorgeous scenic part of boat cruise. Besides, the ride can be bumpy.
By the organized tours
If you do want to save time while you are traveling, booking an organized tour is the way to go. Laos Travel will have everything done before you set your foot in Laos. So, you no need to worry about preparations, timetables and stuff.
There are numerous tour options which include Pak Ou Caves. You can book a half-day Pak Ou Caves tour which includes a stop at the Whisky Village. If you book full-day tours, we will combine with other activities, such as a visit to main attractions in town or swimming in the turquoise waters of the Kuang Si Falls afterward. In private tours, you will be picked up and dropped off at your hotel. You’ll have a local guide explaining to you every detail about the places you visit.
Opening hours and Entrance fee
Opening hours: The Pak Ou caves open daily from 8 am until 5 pm.
Entrance fee: Admission is 20,000 Kip (US$ 2.60) per person.
Tips to visit
- As most of tourists will come to the caves in the morning, you should visit in the afternoon to get more space.
- It is very dark in the upper cave, so bring the torch if you wish to visit it.
- You should wear flat sandals or shoes as you need to step out from the boats and hike up to the caves.
- Wear respectfully as it is Buddhist cave: Cover yourself from shoulders to knees.