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Gorgeous Luang Prabang in Laos has been a tourist hot spot since the international airport was modernised and extended in 2011. Until then, difficult access meant this town was only visited by backpackers happy to sit for hours in crowded buses on stunning, but nausea-inducing, winding mountain roads, or the boats making their 2-day journey down the Mekong.
We’ve done both and they were fun but these days beautiful Luang Prabang is accessible to far more tourists and it’s a lovely destination, so what is there to see, do, eat and experience when you visit Luang Prabang? We spent 2 weeks there and 6 weeks in Laos, to find out and share with you on our travel blog
The old town centre is deservedly a UNESCO heritage site, French colonial buildings, fabulous wats and monasteries and the mighty Mekong river make this little town an unforgettably beautiful destination.
While you are in Luang Prabang, probably the best thing you can do is just wander and explore, but if you have more time there are some great trips out of town and no shortage of people happy to organise them for you.
Let’s have a look at some wonderful things you can do during your time in Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang, 9 Great Reasons to Visit
9 reasons, lots of images, hover over any of them to save to Pinterest.
The Early Morning Monks’ Alms Walk
The Tak Bat, or morning alms collection walk of the monks in Luang Prabang is a must-see, but one to handle with respect and care.
Silent streams of monks process from their monasteries to the town centre, each in a meditative state. Some of the monks are as young as eight years old, they walk in procession, oldest to youngest.
It’s a beautiful thing to see but the behaviour of some tourists is frankly shocking. I’ve watched young girls jostle for selfies with these boys and older tourists thrust cameras in their faces. It moved me to tears. Visitors need to be dressed correctly, with legs and shoulders covered and not intrude on the proceedings.
Please keep your distance and show due respect, this centuries-old ritual is in danger of ending, such is the impact of disrespectful tourists.
The Luang Prabang Food Markets
The variety of locally produced food for sale on the streets of Luang Prabang is a wonder to see. The vendors are mostly local farmers and smallholders, selling anything from a live piglet in a custom-made basket to that morning’s catch from the Mekong. You will see wild mushrooms, wasp grubs, honeycombs, chillies, herbs and fruits laid out on blankets in the street. It’s unlike most markets you will have seen before.
The Tourist Night Market
The Luang Prabang night market is vast, it closes 1km of the main street every evening, from about 4 pm to 10 pm. You will find locally produced textiles, hand-painted shells, silver jewellery and more bizarre souvenirs. This market is not to be missed we posted about this and the food markets in The Markets of Luang Prabang.
The Monasteries, Temples and Palace in Luang Prabang Laos
Just walk and get lost, head away from the river. You will find literally dozens of incredibly beautiful sites. Don’t miss the monks chanting in the early evenings at Wat Mai, this is the large monastery on the main street, just before the Royal Palace.
Walk to the top of Phou Si Hill for stunning views, more small temples and Buddha’s footprint in the natural rock. These steps drop back into town on the riverside and take you into the back of a monastery.
Caves Near Luang Prabang
Pak Ou caves are a highly respected religious site in Laos and one dating back thousands of years. Today the caves house over 4000 Buddha Icons. The caves are on the far side of the river, visitors cross in small boats, seen above, and enter the lower caves (Tham Thing). Walk on a little further and climb the stairs to Tham Theung. These upper caves are black as night, you will need the torches provided.
We now have a post dedicated to our day at Pak Ou Caves.
Waterfalls Near Luang Prabang
There are two main waterfall sights near Luang Prabang, Kuang Si and Tad Sae. Both make a great trip, but we visited Tad Sae, they are cheaper to reach and more popular with locals. We just grabbed a tuk tuk and driver for the day. You need to negotiate well, day trips out of Luang Prabang seem disproportionately expensive, and wealthy tourists make for high prices.
The river was in full flood when we visited but we were still able to swim and spend a lovely day at this beautiful jungle spot. Locals take a picnic or you can buy food at the waterfalls. There are zip lines and elephant rides available at Tad Sae. You will need to cross the river by boat, your driver will organise this for you.
The Food, Drink and Relaxation.
There are dozens of places to eat in Luang Prabang, fancy little cafés, bakeries, the baguette stalls or the street food vendors, take your pick. We posted about this in Food in Luang Prabang.
Our particular favourites were the noodle soup stall opposite Wat Mai, and bizarrely, an authentic Indian restaurant behind Dara Market.
Ock Pop Tock
Ock Pop Tock have shops in Luang Prabang. If you go along and ask for a tour, they will send their free tuk tuk shuttle to take your party to this free silk farm and weaving centre. It’s a fascinating place in a lovely setting on the river, enjoy a coffee, lunch or browse their beautiful shop.
I wrote a post about Ock Pop Tock when we were in Luang Prabang, back in the days when this blog was just a personal travelogue. I was sick and exhausted, sorry if I sound a bit grumpy, we really did love our visit here.
Number 9? Luang Prabang is in Laos
Laos is a beautiful and amazing country, full of warm, laid-back people. I can honestly say that it’s one of our favourite destinations in the world. We hope to return one day.
Luang Prabang Information and FAQs
Useful Luang Prabang information and FAQs.
How to Get from Luang Prabang Airport to Your Hotel?
If you like, you can pre-book a private transfer here.
Can you Book Luang Prabang Tours in Advance?
Yes you can. We are big fans of this site for booking all sorts of tours, classes and transfers. Organising tours like this allows you to pay online with your card, have the backup of a big company with guarantees, be sure your dates are available and avoid any local scams, rip-offs and haggling.
What Tours, Classes and Experiences are available in Luang Prabang?
You will find meditation classes, classes involving making something with local craftsmen, sunset Mekong tours and the more usual tours and experiences. You can even book a homestay in a Hmong village. Just try this company, we use them often and trust them.
Can you Make Dinner Reservations at Luang Prabang’s Best Restaurants in Advance?
I took a look at Open Table (a global restaurant reservation company) and they don’t seem to have any Luang Prabang restaurants currently listed.
What Hotels Can We Recommend in Luang Prabang?
The last time we were in Luang Prabang we stayed in a tiny guest house which has since gone. We suggest you look at Agoda or Booking.com to see what deals are available for your dates.
Can you Pre Book Transport to Luang Prabang?
Yes, you can such options as the bus from Vang Vieng, Vientiane to Luang Prabang by bus, Onward travel from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai by bus, can all be pr- booked using a company called 12 Go Asia. We’ve used them many times throughout Asia.
Best Time To Visit Luang Prabang
The dry season in Luang Prabang is generally from November to May. Probably the best time of year is November to January, when temperatures are more moderate. August is the wettest time of year, flooding and land slides are a possibility. It would be lovely to see the dragon boat races in Luang Prabang in September or October. For more on temperatures, rainfall and climate in Luang Prabang, see here.
We hope you get a chance to visit Luang Prabang, for many it’s a step into another world. Try, if you can to visit Vang Vieng and Vientiane too for totally different but still fascinating experiences. In Vientiane don’t miss the famous ” Monster of Concrete” nor the eye-opening Cope Visitor Centre. Laos has a lot to offer and thanks for visiting our Luang Prabang travel blog.