Luang Prabang is often described as the jewel in Laos’ crown, and it is one of the most apt descriptions of a destination possible. It feels almost untouched by the steady march of modernization, instead preserving its ancient history through stunning architecture and a firm grasp of its religious and cultural heritage.
Able to be explored mostly on foot, this is the perfect city for those requiring a peaceful getaway while also catering wonderfully to adventure-seekers and experience-chasers. There is no end of things to do in Luang Prabang, but, to get you started, here are 10 of the best.
11 Conquer Mount Phousi
Rising 100 meters above sea level, Mount Phousi is Luang Prabang’s greatest spot for a panoramic view of the remarkable city and wild surrounds. Possibly the best place to soak in a sunrise or sunset in all of Asia, those who come fully surrender to the awe-inspiring sight of a bustling city set amongst the endless jungle and towering mountains.
The climb is fairly steep but able to be completed by most fitness levels, with several spots offering a comfortable rest before continuing the ascent. Whatever it takes, make sure you spend an evening atop this incredible peak during your time in Luang Prabang with a full camera battery and an empty mind.
10 Contribute To Elephant Conservation At MandaLao
One of the true joys of travel is the opportunity to do something you have never done before, and a walk through the vast jungle surrounds of Luang Prabang with majestic elephants leading the way is a transformative experience never to be forgotten.
MandaLao are the first and only non-riding elephant treks in Luang Prabang, with a mission to demonstrate respect and understand for elephants by providing an educational experience for all visitors. The peaceful pachyderms at MandaLao are not forced into any behavior and are treated with reverence at all times by the passionate staff. A day at MandaLao is a soul-nourishing experience that aids the progress of wildlife conservation in Laos and gives visitors a greater understanding of the natural world around them.
9 Turn Out The Lights In Pak Ou Caves
Crammed to breaking point with over 4,000 Buddha icons said to have been abandoned by locals thousands of years ago, Pak Ou Caves are set dramatically into a limestone cliff at the meeting point of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers.
Two caves here serve as shrines to the Buddha and spirits of the river, with both accessible by tourists and more than worth the tricky path that grants entry. Torches are required for some areas that fade to total black, providing an eerie atmosphere as you search for the intricate religious icons amidst the all-encompassing darkness.
8 Explore The Night Markets
Gracing the central area of Sisavangvong Rd every single night, the Luang Prabang night markets are a place that brings together locals and tourists with a community spirit and brings a smile to the face and a hunger to the belly.
Luckily, these vibrant markets feature not only locally-made items such as clothing, souvenirs, astounding art, and freshly squeezed juices, but also a huge array of traditional food cooked right in front of your eyes. Devour a whole fish on a skewer, tuck into fruit-infused sticky rice, bite into crunchy roast pork, or get your fill of vegetarian delights night after night at this unique and unbeatable night market.
7 Go Your Own Way On The Trekking Trails
The surrounds of Luang Prabang lend themselves perfectly to travelers looking to get their heart rate up through a mixture of strenuous activity and jaw-dropping views. There are hiking trails to suit all levels of fitness and no shortage of stunning waterfalls and wildlife to discover along the way.
Trek to local villages to see how rural Laos residents live their lives and feel their welcoming hospitality from the moment their beautiful homes come into view. Companies do offer hiking tours from the center of the city, but those feeling ambitious can feel safe talking to the trees themselves.
6 Dive Into Kuang Si Falls
A steady uphill walk to the huge Kuang Si Falls will take you past several smaller falls that also act as swimming holes for those willing to brave the chilly water temperatures. Lined all the way with lush jungle, the walk to the main waterfall is an experience all on its own, with an option to scale the entire 50-meter natural structure available as well.
From the top of the falls, it is easy to see where the stream feeds the dramatic drop, and there is even a chance to hire canoes and explore the stream for those seeking even more thrills. The best tip is to scale the length of the falls before taking to the crystal-clear water on the way back down to cool off from the sweaty climb.
5 Cross The Nam Khan River On A Bamboo Bridge
Channel Indiana Jones as you cross the old bamboo bridge that has provided a route across the picturesque Nam Khan River since the 1920s. Today, the bridge is in a state of decay that gives the impression of danger when crossing, but the small fee tourists pay in order to cross does go towards ensuring the bridge remains intact for many more years to come.
Once safely on the opposite shore, it is well worth it to wonder area an area that features several local cafes, a small school, and an insight into the way Luang Prabang residents live in the modern age. Make sure you have your return ticket safely tucked away though, as it is a long walk back without the use of the bridge!
4 Rise Before The Sun For The Alms Ceremony
There is no better place in the world than Luang Prabang to witness the alms giving ceremony, an ancient tradition in the Laos Buddhist culture. It takes place each day as the sun rises and begins to bath the city in its warm light. The ceremony starts on the main street before branching out to the side streets as the day rolls on.
Those wishing to take part in the festivities should purchase their food offerings in advance and find their spot on the street early, as you do not wish to cause offense by disrupting the ceremony. Standard offerings are rice, fresh fruit, and local snacks which serve as the monks one allowed meal of the day.
3 Cool Down With An Iced Coffee
Coffee lovers need not fear when they journey to Luang Prabang, as there are several options available for the caffeine-addicted traveler. One of the best options, given the warm and often humid nature of the city, is the local iced coffee that is available from most local vendors.
Often served in a plastic bag with just a straw and ice, the coffee is quite strong and comes with a generous dollop of condensed milk that gives the beginning of the day a sweet kick. Costing little more than a dollar in most places, it can be easy to overindulge in this local delicacy, but thankfully that is certainly not something you will regret.
2 Learn How To Take Luang Prabang Home With You
The food in Luang Prabang is so incredible that many who visit will not be able to leave without discovering just how to reproduce it at home. While the recipes here have taken generations to perfect, there are plenty of local guides that will pass on their secrets and have you creating your own delights in no time.
Learn the customs and styles that go right to the heart and soul of Lao cuisine thanks to the freshest ingredients, intriguing and unique flavors and plenty of surprises along the way. Most classes will take you to the local markets in search of the perfect elements to create your masterpiece, so, by the end of the day, you will have all the knowledge you need to wow your friends when you get back home.