Visiting Luang Prabang and wondering what to do in Luang Prabang Laos? Well, we have one epic list of what to see in Luang Prabang waiting for you here!
What To Do in Luang Prabang Laos
About Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang (translates to Royal Buddha Image) is an absolute must see when visiting Laos.
Luang Prabang itself is made up of 58 villages and of those 58 villages, 33 create the Old Quarter of the city of Luang Prabang. It is this Old Quarter of Luang Prabang that UNESCO recognized as a World Heritage site in 1995.
Why is Luang Prabang a UNESCO world heritage site? So glad you asked 🙂 Once you arrive, you’ll be blown away by how the French history and Laotian culture intertwine with each other.
Streets are lined with well-preserved French Colonial architecture with beautiful Laotian temples woven in between.
The mix of French colonial and Laos cultural and religious heritage mesh to seamlessly form the one and only, Luang Prabang.
Where is Luang Prabang Laos?
Located in Northern Laos, Luang Prabang is situated at the junction of two rivers – the Mekong and Nam Khan.
Located several hundred miles Northeast of Chiang Mai in Thailand and several hundred miles North of Vientiane in Southern Laos, Luang Prabang lies waiting for you!
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Luang Prabang and Laos in general is from October to April.
October to April are Laos’s dry season and the wet season falls during the months of May to September.
The heaviest part of the wet season happens generally in August & September. While March through June are considered to be hottest time of the year in Laos.
How To Get To Luang Prabang
FLY – LUANG PRABANG AIRPORT
Luang Prabang International Airport (Airport Code: LPQ) is located 4 kms / 2.5 miles from the city center of Luang Prabang.
The Luang Prabang airport is a small airport (one terminal) and one of the few international airports in Laos – the others being Pakse International Airport in Pakse, Laos and Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Laos.
BOAT – SLOW BOAT TO LAOS
One of the nicest and most popular forms of overland travel to Luang Prabang is the slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang.
The journey takes two days and costs around $40 USD (including your overnight stay). If you are looking for a unique experience, look no further than the slow boat to Laos!
For more information on the slow boat to Luang Prabang, read about our experience and get everything you need to know on the slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang, How Many Days?
At a minimum, you should spend two to three days in Luang Prabang. Two to three days is enough to see the highlights of the city, but if you are able to stay longer, do so!
Luang Prabang has so much more to offer and enjoy that the sites tourists flock to.
What To Do in Luang Prabang Laos
1) Eat At Street Food Alley
Yes, you read that correctly, street food alley! It’s a masterpiece to say the least.
Head into the old quarter and start at the intersection of Kitsalat Road and Sisavangvong Road.
Once there, head down Sisavangvong and the entrance to the street food buffet will be on your left.
It’s in alleyway so keep your eyes peeled. It’s only a few blocks in on Sisavangvong Road. This is off of the same street that the night market is hosted.
Once you’re in the alley, keep going! You’ll walk past delicious smelling stalls selling meals and snacks but you’re here for the main event our friends, the BUFFET!
You’ll have 2-3 buffets to choose from and you’ll know once you’re there because you absolutely can’t pass up the tables full of food and Laotians screaming “fill your bowl.”
And trust us, it’s a huge bowl and you can pack it full of food for cheap. Cheap, scrumptious food is heaven in our book.
2) Climb Up Mount Phousi
Get your butt up those steps and see the magnificent views of Luang Prabang below!
Popular at sunrise or sunset, Mount Phousi is easy to get to with it being centrally located in the old quarter. Yes, there are a lot of steps but the climb can be done by anyone in reasonable health.
Make sure you allow a few hours to get up and down as there are temples like Wat Chomsi and Wat Tham Phousi for you to make offerings at.
One can purchase flowers or even release a caged bird.
Once you reach the top, you will have 360 degree views of the city and MeKong River below. It really is quite beautiful.
If you are looking for a less crowded visit, we suggest sunrise.
3) Take A Swim at Kuang Si Waterfall
A beautiful, cascading multi-tiered waterfall. Do we have your attention?! Kuang Si Waterfall is a fairytale with its blue waters flowing into pools allowing visitors to take a dip to relieve themselves of that hot Laotian heat and humidity.
Kuang Si is a waterfall near Luang Prabang, about 29 kilometers (18 miles) away from the city center. A popular tourist attraction and rightfully so!
Our tip is get their early to beat the crowds and enjoy the beautiful nature and waterfalls of Laos!
Tired of the crowds? Want a little more of a quiet scene? Well, then read how to get to the secret pool of Kuang Si Waterfall.
4) Participate In Tak Bat (Alms Giving)
For over 600 years, the locals of Luang Prabang have been getting up before sunrise to line the streets to take part in “Tak Bat” or alms giving.
At dawn (5:30am or 6:30am depending on the season), the people of Luang Prabang will sit in complete silence, on the sidewalk, waiting for the monks to file out of their 35 monasteries that are located all over town.
The Monks make their way down the street to receive their alms from the awaiting devout Laotian people. The ceremony is done in complete silence.
The local’s respectfully place alms (food) into the bowls the monks are carrying.
The Lao people believe that by feeding the monks they receive good Karma for their future lives.
As the ceremony concludes, the monks offer a blessing to all those who have participated. Once the blessing is done, the ceremony is over.
The ceremony takes place on many streets but the most popular with tourists is in front of Wat Mai temple on Sisavangvong Road.
TIP: If you are going to go, please do NOT get up close and personal with the monks and the locals to take pictures. REMEMBER, this is a holy ceremony for those participating so please, be respectful and look on from a distance. If you choose to participate, do so because it means something to you. Come prepared with enough food, wear respectful clothing, do not touch the monks and nix the photos. If you want a photo, make sure a friend across the way is taking them for you.
5) Meander Through The Old Quarter
The old quarter of Luang Prabang is unlike any old quarter we’ve seen in Asia. It’s beyond charming with cafes and shops nestled along its streets.
The architecture is French Colonial with Buddhist temples scattered in between, a perfect blend of their two pasts living cohesively together.
Our recommendation on what to see? Walk. Just walk and stumbled into whatever place you see fit.
Word to the wise, things are a bit pricier here than in other places in the city but if you have the extra Kip to spare, grab a bite and a drink on a patio somewhere.
6) Shop At Luang Prabang Night Market
At night, Sisavangvong Road becomes filled with tents and locals selling trinkets, clothes and anything else you could possibly want.
The Luang Prabang night market is several blocks long with hundreds of stalls for you to peruse through.
A perfect place to get yourself or a loved one a souvenir from Laos.
7) Get Soaked During Songkran (Water Festival)
If you happen to be in Laos during their New Year, well, you’ve hit the jackpot!
Luang Prabang becomes a huge water fight as locals take to the streets with hoses, buckets, water balloons, water guns and basically anything they have to throw water on one another.
Cars and trucks circle the city packed with people throwing water on people they drive by.
It’s seriously one of the most amazing things we’ve been a part of! Head to a bar, grab a beer and drink the day away as you party with locals and soak complete strangers.
Fair warning, if you’re a tourist, you’re their #1 target so just expect that you won’t be able to walk anywhere without getting doused with water.
That being said, make sure your cell phones and/or camera are properly protected from water.
8) Eat Local at Bamboo Garden Restaurant
We are so happy we stayed down the street from this spot or else we for sure would have missed it. Bamboo Garden Restaurant served us the most amazing food in all of Luang Prabang!
We ate here at least once a day, every day we were in Luang Prabang and have no regrets about it!
The family that owns it cooks you homemade recipes out of their cozy little house.
Eat here. You won’t be disappointed.
9) Volunteer at Luang Prabang’s Mandalao Elephant Conservation
If you are looking for an ethical volunteer experience in Luang Prabang, look no further. Enjoy a day with Luang Prabang elephants at Mandalao Elephant Conservation.
Mandalao Elephant Conservation is a NO RIDING elephant sanctuary. You spend an entire day (or half-day) walking with elephants, feeding elephants and bathing them in the river. It’s the ultimate one-on-one experience 🙂
You see these amazing animals at their happiest and get to interact with these Luang Prabang elephants in their natural environment.
A once and lifetime experience if you ask us.
TIP: No matter where you go in your travels, please, please, please, DO NOT RIDE elephants. If you want more information on this topic, watch this video. The video is graphic but it will give you an idea of what elephants are put through for the sake of the tourism dollar.
Luang Prabang Nightlife & Bars
Luang Prabang oozing French Colonial charm and has a little quiet and quaint vibe to it, however, don’t let that quaintness fool you! There are a handful of great Luang Prabang bars where you can find a night cap and good time.
1) Luang Prabang Bowling Alley
Now the Luang Prabang Bowling Alley is no ordinary bowling alley, it an international backpackers hangout! Lane rentals cost around 15,000 KIP per person ($2 USD) before midnight and goes up to 20,000 KIP per person ($3 USD) after midnight.
Share a lane and beers and have a blast into the night making new friends and epic memories!
2) Lao Lao Beergarden
Oh Lao Lao Beergarden, how we love you. A great little open air bar that bring the all the cozy feels. From it candles to lush gardens that surround you, Lao Lao Beergarden in Luang Prabang brings all the good vibes.
From Lao Lao beer to cocktails to western and Laotian food, you’re in for a all around good time at Lao Lao Beergarden.
3) Utopia Bar
The ultimate backpacker bar in Luang Prabang is Utopia. A river side bar that offers a great atmosphere where you can lounge on cushions and share a drink and conversations with people from all over the world.
It’s surrounded by a lush environment with candles making it a cozy place to chill for the night.
Also, every morning Utopia Bar in Luang Prabang offers Yoga and serves western and Laotian eats during the day and night.
Luang Prabang Safety
Luang Prabang is actually an incredible safe city. However, no matter how “safe” a place feels, there are always things that can go wrong, right?
For instance, you may get approached to buy drugs. Just don’t. Sometimes it can be innocent but other times it can be an undercover cop that will slap a several hundred USD fine on you.
Another scenario is if you get sick, say from the food or water. A little stomach bug is one thing but if you are really, really, REALLY sick, our advice is to get our of Laos and head to Bangkok to get the proper care and treatment from a hospital.
If you want to come prepared, which in our opinion you should, the CDC recommends the following vaccinations for Laos.
Vaccinations for Laos:
- Hepatitis A
Be smart. Don’t leave your belongs out in your hotel/hostel room, keep your money out of site and just use common sense and BE KIND.
If you look like an easy target for theft well, then, you’re kinda asking for trouble are’t you?
For The Budget Conscious: From a pool to shared and private rooms and epic location, Little Freedom Friendlys Place is a a great spot to stay while in Luang Prabang.
For The Luxury Inclined: Maison Dalabua is surrounded by lotus ponds, has amazing Laotian-styled modern rooms and an exceptional staff. It’s impossible to not have an amazing stay while at Maison Dalabua.
For Something In Between: Location, location, location. Mekong Sunset View Hotel is walkable to all of Luang Prabang’s must see attractions. Also, not to mentions the rooms are great and some have balconies that overlook the river.
For more places to stay in Luang Prabang, you can check out the latest places and prices here.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)