Top 16 things to do in Luang Prabang
A UNESCO World Heritage Site with a French historic influence, Luang Prabang is unbelievably relaxing to just float through the little streets, soak up the beautiful scenery and get accustomed to the very laid-back lifestyle here. Please find the 16 best things to do in Luang Prabang below.
Table of Contents
- 1. Sightseeing in Luang Prabang
- 2. Tak Bat - Alms Giving Ceremony
- 3. Walking tour in Luang Prabang
- 4. Shopping
- 5. Taste incredible local food
- 6. Learn to cook Lao Style dishes
- 7. Biking
- 8. Night club
- 9. Cruise along Mekong River
- 10. Climb Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang
- 11. Visit the Kuangsi Waterfalls
- 12. Enjoy Spa in Luang Prabang
- 13. Elephant Riding
- 14. Trekking in Luang Prabang
- 15. Golf club
- 16. Kayaking and Rafting
Now you wonder what Luang Prabang has to offer? Believe it or not, the answer is A LOT! There is beautiful natural scenery to discover, the river to walk along and watch locals live their days, markets to peruse, temples to visit and more delicious food than you think is capable of consuming in the time you choose to spend there.
Luang Prabang Street Scene
Here are impressive and fun things to do for your perfect day(s) in Luang Prabang:
1. Sightseeing in Luang Prabang
With a great number of ancient Buddhist temples and French colonial buildings along its narrow streets, Luang Prabang is a charming and picturesque town. You can attend a Luang Prabang city tour to explore the highlights of the city. Make sure you will visit Wat Xieng Thong at the northern end of the old town peninsula as this is where royal coronations traditionally took place. One of the more opulent complexes in Luang Prabang, the temples are covered in gold and intricate mosaics and offer a fascinating insight into the Buddhist religion.
Wat Xieng Thong - Temple of the Golden City
2. Tak Bat - Alms Giving Ceremony
Luang Prabang is the perfect place to see one of the most sacred Lao traditions, the Morning Alms-Giving (tak bat). It's one of the most vivid images of Laos - from 5:30 in the morning onward, hundreds of barefoot monks in orange robes leave the monasteries, walk in single line through the streets to collect food from the local people. The devotees await the start of the ceremony on their knees either sitting on the floor; most common gifts include rice, fresh fruit and traditional sweet snacks. It would be meaningful for you to participate in the ceremony, remember to dress respectfully and give alms silently.
Attend an Alms Giving Ceremony
3. Walking tour in Luang Prabang
If you do not have a lot of time, spend a day on just walking around the old quarter, discovering the numerous temples, learning about the Buddhist culture and visiting the old royal palace. The walking tour is best started as early as possible in the morning. While visiting temple complexes, do not be shy of the monks, go and have a chat if they are not busy as many of them enjoy the opportunity to practice their English. Sightseeing walk includes temple walking tour, shopping tour, culture exploring tour, street food tour, etc.
Luang Prabang Night Market
The most popular shopping experience in Luang Prabang is the famous Night Market on Sisavangvong Road, where women from the surrounding villages have been coming to sell their hand-made and natural local products for years. Look out for the “Luang Prabang Handicraft Label” to find authentic Lao handicrafts. There are numerous gift shops around the town which are good for picking up couture-style textiles and quaint household objects. For fresh produce like meat, vegetables and herbs, drop into Phousi Market.
5. Taste incredible local food
There are many restaurants in Luang Prabang that serve a variety of food. Excellent traditional Lao or Luang Prabang style food, Thai, Indian, Chinese and European dishes are all available and excellent. Some local specialties to try are: 'aur lam' (a thick stew made with the forest herb), 'mai sakhan' (meat and eggplant), 'jeow bong' (a sauce made with hot chili and buffalo skin) and 'khai pan' (dried river weed lightly fried with sesame seeds and garlic).
This Place Was Made For Street Food. All You Can Eat, Eat Till You Drop!
The variety of locally produced food for sale on the streets of Luang Prabang is a wonder to see. Most of the street food in Luang Prabang is sold at the city’s night market where hundreds of stalls line a main street selling handmade wares and offering different types of savory street food. The vendors are genuinely lovely people and you can stroll through several times without the slightest bit of hassle.
6. Learn to cook Lao Style dishes
Cooking At Tamarind Cooking School
Luang Prabang is a good place to take Laotian cookery classes. There are number of restaurants with associated schools (Tamarind Garden Lakeside Cooking School, Tum Tum Cheng Cooking School, Tamnak Lao Restaurant and Cooking School…) and many hotels where classes can be taken in-house. Day classes typically begin with a visit to the fresh market for shopping and an introduction to all the herbs and spices essential to Lao cuisine. Participants then prepare four to six dishes and get the recipes in paper to take home.
Explore The Town By Bike
Biking is a very comfortable way to get around the town to explore its little side streets and its endless number of temples as if it is too hot for long-distance walking. It is safe because there are very few cars on the roads, and you are able to visit every corner of the town. Most hotels provide bikes free of charge, but if that is not available, the going rate is about 1,5 or 3 USD per day. If you love cycling, it could be great to experience the beautiful Luang Prabang countryside with a full-day biking tour taking you around the old town, across rivers to remote villages.
8. Night club
Luang Prabang is not a nightlife destination. However, a few small establishments that stay open past midnight where conversation and beer flow in harmony. Some popular nightclubs are Icon Klub, Dao Fah Night Club, Red Bul Bar, Utopia Bar.
Explore more about Nightlife Activities in Luang Prabang
9. Cruise along Mekong River
The Mekong is the lifeblood of Laos, especially for the rural villages along its banks which rely on it for both transportation and fishing. A boat trip is a perfect way to experience the heart of this magical land. A river excursion to the Pak Ou Buddha Caves, 25km north of Luang Prabang at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, is one of the best quick trips you can make out of the city. Pak Ou Caves have a history dating back thousands of years and filled with thousands of priceless antique Buddha statues. Numerous caves punctuate the limestone cliffs on both sides of the Mekong in this vicinity, but the two “Buddha Caves” of Tham Ting and Tham Phoum are the best known. As the caves are not far from Ban Xang Hai Village which is famous for wine production and the making of Lao wine earthen jars; it is suitable to see the Pak Ou Caves and the village on the same trip.
Pak Ou Caves
There are also luxury riverboats traveling on the Mekong in Laos between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai.
10. Climb Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang
Phousi, which means “sacred hill”, is a small mountain about 100m high; located in the center of Luang Prabang. The hill is popular as a place to watch the sunset over the Mekong River. From the summit, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and its surrounding landscape to the mountains in the distance. You can pray and make offerings at several temples along the way to the top. Also, you can buy flowers to offer for blessings, as well as caged birds. Lao people believe that if you set a bird free you will enjoy good luck and happiness in the future.
Enjoy The Panoramic View of The City And Its Surrounding Landscape
11. Visit the Kuangsi Waterfalls
Kuangsi Waterfalls - a cluster of various stunning waterfalls - is one of the most popular attractions of Luang Prabang. At the bottom of the falls, there are several pools of cool turquoise water and small cascades (3-5m high); some of the falls are multi-tiered. Most of the pools are open for swimming (one is closed as being a sacred site). Picnic benches are also available all around the park. The whole park area is shaded and cool which makes it perfect for a relaxing family outing and picnic. To get here, you can rent a tuk-tuk or book a private car with your own driver.
Kuang Si Waterfalls
12. Enjoy Spa in Luang Prabang
You can find numerous spas around Luang Prabang at very reasonable prices to affordable luxury (from 5 USD to 100 USD), depending on the comfort you would like. You will be able to choose between the Lao traditional massage, the Thai massage, body massage or head, or feet massage, oil massage, aromatherapy, sometimes associated with pedicure and manicure services, steam baths, etc.). If you are skittish about hygiene, bring your own towel and sarong.
13. Elephant Riding
In Elephant Park Project Area
Normally, elephant riding activities are usually a one-hour jaunt through the jungle and plantation parts as well as the Nam Khan river area. The Elephant Park Project Area is located in the middle of a mountainous surrounding about 15 km out of town. Easy 3-hour trekking will lead you out into a local Kamu village where you get an overview of the daily life and culture of this ethnic minority. All elephant activities can be combined with other activities such as trekking, hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking, or homestay programs. Especially, multi-day tours offer you wonderful experiences and village stays make it just a unique visit around Luang Prabang.
14. Trekking in Luang Prabang
Trek To The Remote Area of Luang Prabang
Trekking is an absolute must in Luang Prabang with a variety of treks to suit all levels. Not only will a trek be a nice change from Luang Prabang, but it will also allow you to learn more about this fascinating country and local people. There are a few companies offering trekking tours to explore areas reachable only by walks such as trek to Tad Sae Waterfall or Kuang Si Falls, trekking to hill tribe villages of H'Mong, and Khmu people. One of the more popular agents is Green Discovery who offers treks from one day to several days which are available all year round. Luang Prabang Fair Trek offers similar trips and also a hiking adventure to the Elephant Park Project which includes a visit to the beautiful Tad Sae Waterfalls.
15. Golf club
Luang Prabang is home to a championship golf course with a superb backdrop of the Mekong River, dramatic mountains, and views of the town. The club offering a challenging 18-hole course is situated a 10-minute drive from the town center and a 15-minute drive from the airport at Ban Houiphai in Khet Sangkhalok. There are an on-site pro-shop and driving range in addition to a restaurant serving Lao cuisine with a five-star standard.
16. Kayaking and Rafting
Luang Prabang is a fantastical location for rafting and kayaking, which can also be added to some trekking tours.
Kayaking on Nam Khan River
There are many choices of excursion including a trip starting north of Luang Prabang before heading to the Ban Huay Lo village of Khmu people than down to a Hmong village in Ban Mok Chung before traveling to Pha Peung to stay overnight with a H'Mong family. You can also join an energetic kayaking trip where you will see local tribes going about their daily river life, passing dramatic mountains along the way before taking on the intermediate-level rapids.
Another choice is paddling adventures that take you down rapids with a two-day kayaking trip which includes cliff jumping into the refreshing Nam Xeuang River and a night with some of the survivors of the Second Indochina War at a Khmu hill tribe village. They also have a gentle easy river ride for those who prefer a slower pace with a half or full-day kayaking down the Nam Khan River.
In closing, Luang Prabang is one of those places that you instantly fall in love with. You plan on staying just a couple of days but it quickly worms its way into your heart and you find yourself staying longer than anticipated. If you are looking for a different Luang Prabang travel experience, just take one of the many things to do in Luang Prabang and you will find that you have collected a memory so special and unique compared to the other thousands who venture through Luang Prabang the normal way.
Image Sources: Internet