Things to do in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is the most well – known destination in Laos. It is an ancient town filled with Buddhist temples, vibrant nightlife and stunning nature. As the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town itself offers more than what you can imagine. Please find out the awesome things to do in Luang Prabang in this article.
- Explore ancient town
- Witness Alms Giving ceremony in early morning
- Climb Phousi Mountain for sunset
- Join cooking class
- Interact with elephant
- Take a boat trip to Pak Ou Cave
- Swimming at Khuang Si Waterfall
- Visit night markets
- Kayaking on rivers
- Learn how to cultivate rice
- Cycling around Luang Prabang
- Walk across the bamboo bridge
- Learn how to weave at Ock Pop Tok
- Take part in an Orange Rope Tour.
Explore ancient town
Luang Prabang town is a mix of distinctly Laos, French and Chinese architecture. Just simply take a stroll around town to enjoy its charm and discover Laos culture. The first thing you should do is hitting a temple. There are over 30 temples of note within walking distance around the city centre, plus many smaller shrines. Two of the most significant temples to visit are: Wat Xieng Thong & Wat Winsunala.
The town also offers multiple attractions: Royal Palace where learn about the country’s rich history, the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre Learn which presents the country’s complex ethnic groups and their enduring traditions, or Garavek Theatre where you can listen to traditional music and folk tales. Finally, the walking trip could end by a cup of coffee in one of lovely cafes in town.
Entrance fees: you’ll be required to pay an entrance fee at some key sites
Wat Xiengthong: 20,000kip (2,5 USD)
Wat Winsunala: 20,000 Kip (2,5 USD)
Royal Palace: 30,000 Kip (3.8 USD)
Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre: 20,000 Kip (2,5 USD)
Witness Alms Giving ceremony in early morning
The Alms Giving is one of the most significant activities in Laos’ culture. Each day, the monks in bright orange robes walk barefoot to collect daily offerings from the locals. They start their walk before dawn and walk in single file throughout the city.
However, this traditional Buddhist ritual has in recent years succumbed to crowds of tourists hungry for a photo opportunity. So, if you do choose to attend, please follow the government’s guideline
- – Don’t use flash lights and don’t get in the way of monks’ procession
- – Keep distance at least 3 meters away from monks when taking a photo
- – Dress appropriately: shoulders, chests and legs should be covered.
Climb Phousi Mountain for sunset
Located at 100 meters above the old town, right on the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, the hill offers up 360-degree views of the town. This explains a reason why it becomes very popular spot to watch sunset. Due to this, it will be very crowded before the sun goes down, so be sure to come early to get nice position. Besides, to reach the top, you need to climb over 300 stairs that requires quite lots of effort. You should consider your health condition.
Opening hours: 5.30AM – 6.00PM
Entrance fees: 20,000 kip (2.5 USD)
Join cooking class
Although Laos cuisine is overshadowed by its neighbor countries such as Thailand, it is still packed full of flavor and ideal for sharing. A cooking class is the best way to understand which ingredients Laos people use and how they take simple ingredients to create multiple dishes filled with flavor.
There are many courses to choose from, but the best cooking class in the area is at Tamarind restaurant. Here visitors can sample and recreate various traditional dishes with sticky rice which are made with ingredients sourced at local markets and grown in the surrounding hillsides.
Opening hours: 11:00AM – 10.00PM Monday to Saturday
Day time class (8.30AM – 2.00PM): 290,000 kip (33 USD) including market tour.
Evening class (4.00PM – 8.30PM): 220,000 kip (25 USD) without a market tour
Interact with elephant
Interacting with elephants in an ethical manner is one of the top things to do in Luang Prabang. Mandalao Elephant Conservation offers the different experience to visiting a typical elephant camp in Laos or Thailand. Opened its doors in 2016, it is a sanctuary for elephants rescued from the logging industry and riding camps. There are no elephant rides, circus tricks or elephant dances. Visitors will trek through the jungle together with elephants naturally.
The 500-acre property is located about 30 minutes away from the town. Mandalao operates half-day and full-day tours for tourists to interact responsibly with the resident elephants. Return transfer and lunch are provided in the tours. If you love elephants, I highly recommend adding a visit to Mandalao to your list of things to do in Luang Prabang.
Opening hours: 9.00AM – 5.00PM
Half day tour: from 90 USD per person
Full day tour: from 130 USD per person
Take a boat trip to Pak Ou Cave
Pak Ou Cave is one of highlights in any trip to Luang Prabang. Lying 25 kilometers upriver from Luang Prabang in a cliff 15 meters above water, Pak Ou Cave complex is filled with thousands of Buddha images in different styles and sizes left by pilgrims.
By river, the trip to Pak Ou Caves take about two hours from Luang Prabang. A cruise upstream on the Mekong River will gives you a breathtaking view of the tranquil countryside. On the way, you have a chance to visit village of Ban Xanghai, where the local make the rice wine or Khop Noi art gallery
Entrance Fee: 20,000 kip (2,5 USD)
Boat trip: 50 USD (up to 25 passengers)
Swimming at Khuang Si Waterfall
Khuang Si Waterfall is also one of most popular tourist attractions but it will not make you disappointed. With just one hour drive out of town, you can see the waterfall which boasts a 50-metre cascading drop into three-tiered azure swimming holes.
Hike to the top of the cascades for the best views, bring your swimsuit and jump into serene tiered pools of turquoise. You can bring a picnic and enjoy it with backdrop of trickling streams and vibrant jungle.
Entrance fees:20,000 kip (2,5 USD)
Visit night markets
Night market is lively spot to discover the town after dark. The market is hectic and crowded but that makes it interesting. Located at the centre of the town, it’s filled with people from several different regions around Luang Prabang.
There are plenty of different items on sale depending on the season, ranging from simple wood carvings to ornate jewellery and trinkets. It is easy for you to pick up some souvenirs and practice your bargain skill. In case you don’t have any intentions of shopping, simply take photo of this amazing place.
Another thing that travelers should not is to enjoy street buffet which provides full of good authentic food.
Location: Sisavangvong Road
Opening hours: 5 PM – 11 PM every night
Kayaking on rivers
Luang Prabang is one of the best towns in Laos for kayaking. You can find different travel companies who offer energetic kayaking trips from half day to two days. Some tours include trekking in their itinerary as well.
In typical tours, you will paddle on Nam Ou River in the North or Nam Khan River on the South of Luang Prabang. Tour operators will provide roundtrip transfer between Luang Prabang town and bank of rivers where you start kayaking. You will paddle through spectacular mountains covered with jungle and traditional riverside villages which are inhabited by different ethnic groups as Hmong, Khmu… Picnic lunch will be eaten at river banks.
Water conditions vary widely with the season and water levels. Generally, you can expect approximately 2-3 hours kayaking with numerous sections of rapids.
Cost: from 63 USD per person for one day trip
Trekking is also popular thing to do in Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang town is located at the heart of a mountainous region in Northern Laos, so it is good base for trekking lovers. There are variety of hiking trails to suit all fitness levels. You can choose to pass spectacular waterfalls and indigenous wildlife or gain a fascinating insight into rural folk living in hill tribe villages. Trekking trips that range from a day up to 3 days.
Cost: from 70 USD per person
Learn how to cultivate rice
If you want to do something different in Luang Prabang, it’s possible to become a rice farmer at the Living Land Farm. This unique activity introduces you on an in depth and hands-on learning experience where you will be able to try your hand at every single step of making rice manually.
No modern machinery is used on the farm. You’ll be taught how to cultivate and grow rice in the traditional way: how to select the seeds, plant, plough with the help of the farms water buffalo and every other step until the last one… eating!
Rice is the ultimate foundation of everyday life in Asia including Laos and it is still a mystery for many visitors.
Location: Ban Phong Van, Luang Prabang Town, Luang Prabang Province. It’s about 5 km outside Luang Prabang on the road to the Kuangsi Waterfall.
Cost: 45 USD per person. If you book lunch, extra cost is 8 USD.
Cycling around Luang Prabang
Cycling is a great way to experience the beautiful Luang Prabang town and surroundings. There are many day tours to choose from. You can do leisure cycling around the town to visit the city’s major attractions. Adventurous riders might enjoy a more challenging tour on a special off-road route to remote villages, exploring the rural side of Luang Prabang. Most cycling tours in Luang Prabang take at least 4 hours and include an English speaking guide, lunch and cycling equipment.
There are also options for multi-day trips, which include an overnight homestay and the opportunity to experience rural life in Laos.
Cost: from 50 USD per person for one day trip.
Walk across the bamboo bridge
The bamboo bridges are one of the most iconic sites in Luang Prabang. They are built by a local family every year to make the journey from the old quarter of Luang Prabang to the main markets much easier. They are only existed for few months of the year, during the dry season from November to around March. When the rainy season comes (May to October), the bridges are removed and stored in a local forest because the high water levels will cover the bridges.
There are 2 brides: one is at the mouth of Nam Khan river and the other one is about 600m upstream, at the bottom of Mount Phosi.
Costs: 10,000 Kip (1.5 USD) to use the bridge. This money goes to the family that diligently build the bridges to maintain them
Learn how to weave at Ock Pop Tok
Ock Pop Tok is a social enterprise working primarily in the field of textiles, handicrafts and design. The Living Crafts Centre overlooking the Mekong is the heart of Ock Pop Tok. Set in a tropical Mekong garden, it serves as a resource centre for learning about textiles, crafts and culture. If taking a weaving class with Ock Pop Tok, you will can dye on your own and make a stylish souvenir to bring home.
Started in 2000 as a small social enterprise selling fair trade textiles, the sustainable business practices of Ock Pop Tok are part of its success, which has helped it grow to include two cafés, a shop on the main street, and a bevvy of workshops to keep visitors busy.
Cost: from 50 USD
Take part in an Orange Rope Tour.
If you love Buddhism, it is nice experience you should try. You will be guided by former monks and novices who have recently left the temple. They will teach you the valuable knowledge of Buddist culture and meditation experience. Temple tours and meditation each last one hour and provide visitors with an insight into daily life in the temple.
Cost: from 20 USD per person