Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang

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If you’re travelling in Laos, a visit to Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang would be a great trip to add to your must-do list.
The caves are around 25Km outside Luang Prabang and are fascinating for their history as a significant Buddhist site housing thousands of Buddha images and icons. A visit to Pak Ou Caves is also a lovely way to see a little more of Laos village life and the beautiful Mekong river.

Getting to Pak Ou Caves

Pak Ou Caves Luang Prabang Laos
The caves are on the far side of the river, your journey starts here.

If you don’t have your own transport, in the form of a hired motor scooter, you will need to book some sort of tour. It’s possible to reach Pak Ou by boat from Luang Prabang, or you can negotiate a price with a tuk tuk or songthaw driver to take you there and back. There are also travel agents along the main streets of Luang Prabang who will arrange visits for you, but you’ll probably pay more.

Once you arrive on the bank of the river, you will make the crossing in long, narrow boats for a small extra charge.

Boat to pak ou caves luang prabang

No, not the big boat.

river crossing tiny boat pak ou caves near Luang Prabang

This one

Entrance to Pak Ou Caves accessibility
Reaching the Pak Ou Buddha Cave entrance, the lower cave, is a little precarious too.

Pak Ou Caves

Pak Ou caves also called Buddha Caves, are a highly respected religious site in Laos, dating back thousands of years. There are two caves, the lower caves, Tham Thieng and the upper, Tham Theung. Today the caves house over 4000 Buddha Icons.

There are steep steps, if you have mobility issues this isn’t the place for you. Both caves were fine for our children.

The upper caves are long, dark and the floor is uneven. Bring your own torch or loan one at the door.

Pak Ou Caves Buddha statue

The lower caves are well-lit and shallow, the thousands of Buddha images, mostly wooden, occupy every possible shelf or crevice in the rock, forming an incredible and diverse gathering. Many of the wooden Buddhas are showing their age , which somehow adds to their mysterious appeal.

The upper caves are dark as night and you will need the torch provided to find your way, keep your footing and reveal hidden treasures.

Inside Pak Ou Caves Laos

Mysterious ancient writing in the picture below, near the ornate doors to the upper cave.

Ancient writing inscriptions pak ou caves Laos
Just outside the caves at Pak Ou you can see these ancient inscriptions. Or maybe graffitti?

Seeing a Little of Village Life Near Luang Prabang

Your driver may want you to stop at the tourist elephant or whiskey villages nearby. There are a number of elephant riding camps in the area and we passed tourist elephant convoys on the road.

We chose not to visit, but access to the caves is via a small village and we had opportunity to observe local craftsmen and women weaving and making Laos violins.

village near Pak Ou Laos
Shopping at market stalls at a little village on the way to Pak Ou caves.

Yes, we bought a Laos violin for Boo.

Crafts and shopping on pak ou day trip
Shopping for souvenirs on the way to Pak Ou Caves from Luang Prabang Laos

Hotels Near Pak Ou

There are a few hotels in the area and we’ll mention them below. Agoda dominates Asia as the best booking engine in the region. works for Asia, if it’s your favourite, go ahead, but Agoda often has more choice and better deals. Booking dot com is usually better for refundable deals.

The bulk of visitors to Pak Ou and Pak Ou Caves will make the journey from their hotel in Luang Prabang. Use the same online booking engines above to search.

hotel near pak ou caves laos

The lovely Nam Ou Riverside Resort (above) is just 5 km from Pak Ou and has excellent reviews. Its price is very moderate by Western standards ( <$100) and offers wi-fi and breakfast.

Overall, visiting Pak Ou caves is a great way to spend a day, the caves themselves are fascinating and being out in the countryside, rather than bustling Luang Prabang town, is a refreshing change. The first time we visited we did it by motor scooter, the second time, with kids, we took a driver and vehicle, arranged independently. Both were great. We still have one of those coconut shell ladles at home, bought way back in 2001. Laos keeps calling us back to revisit, it’s very special.

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

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