On the banks of the majestic Mekong, in the heart of Laos, lies a unique place. We talk about Luang prabang, the great jewel of the country and without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in all of Southeast Asia. Its streets and avenues intermingle buildings from the French colonial era with beautiful and colorful Buddhist temples. Those same streets, where uniformed monks in their orange robes march every morning, at sunset become lively markets, now full of backpackers. Do you want to know what this corner of Asia hides? Here we tell you 10 things to see and do in Luang Prabang without fail.
Before we start, let us give you a tip: if you have the opportunity, arrive by boat. We did it like this, from the silent and sleepy town of Muang Ngoi Neua and we can’t imagine a better way to start discovering this city. When, after navigating the last km through the mythical Mekong, we set foot in the “port” (if it can be called that) we knew that Luang Prabang was a special city.
Now yes, we start the virtual visit:
1. One of the best things to see and do in Luang Prabang is to charge yourself with energy (and water) to climb the steps to the top of the Phou Si Mountain, a mountain of about 100 meters that is located right in the center of the city. Once upstairs two things await you: the Wat That Chomsi temple and beautiful views of the calm Mekong River.
2. Another must-see experience is attending the alms ceremony, which takes place every day first thing in the morning. And when we say first thing in the morning we mean very first hour: neither more nor less than sunrise. And why should you wake up with the chickens? Because it is the moment when Buddhist monks begin a silent procession that dyes the streets saffron. It is a Buddhist tradition, the Tak bak, in which the inhabitants give the monks offerings (usually rice and fruit) in exchange for blessings. If you want you can participate in the ritual with this tour.
3. We already anticipate that Luang Prabang hides among its tree-lined streets a few Buddhist temples (more than 50). You will not be able to visit all of them, but at least these cannot be missed: the Wat Xieng Thong, probably the most beautiful of all with a spectacular golden facade; the Wat May Souvannapoumaram; the Wat Wisunarat; and the Wat Xieng Mouane that we personally love. But as we say, there are loads so take a whole day to go to temples. Be careful, some charge entry (€ 0.50-2).
4. Another site that you should visit is the Royal Palace, where the Laotian monarchy formerly resided when Luang Prabang was the capital. At present the enclosure houses the National Museum (entrance about € 2) with objects that belonged to the royal family or the throne room, which is spectacular, and the temple Wat Haw Pha Bang that guards the figure of the Pha Bang Buddha that gives its name to the city and that, according to legend, was brought from Sri Lanka. Both this temple and the rest of the exterior enclosure can be freely visited (the entrance is for the museum).
5. It would be unforgivable to go to Luang Prabang and not take a dip in the Kuang Si waterfalls. They are located about 30 km from the city and are a true Laotian must-see. As soon as you see the waterfalls and turquoise-blue pools of water, framed in a wild and natural environment, you will understand the reason for its fame. To get there, you can rent a motorcycle, hire transportation in one of the many local agencies or do it online here. If you want a much more complete excursion, take a look at is.
6. After a busy day, we propose a plan that will put the finishing touch to your stay: visit the Luang Prabang night market, on Sisavangvong Road. It is one of the liveliest in all of Southeast Asia: from stands of hats made of rice paper, you will see gentlemen who sell bottles of laolao that, if you look closely, they contain much more than liquor (do not be scared if you see a snake or a scorpion in the bottle).
An extra reason to visit the night market is that there are some beach bars and street stalls that are dedicated to tempting tourists and locals with an irrefutable offer: vegetarian buffet for 10,000 kips (€ 1 approx). If you add to this that for a few more euros you can get barbecued Mekong fish and a fresh Lao beer, well, we already have a cenote.
7. If you have just discovered that cooking is your passion, you have the time and desire to put your hands in the dough… literally… make a cooking class! It usually includes a visit to a local market to buy fresh produce, and the preparation of local recipes. We did it in several cities in Asia, like Chiang Mai, Kyoto or Singapore and the experience was always great. Sure there is no shortage of small local schools where to book it, although searching online we saw this Hmong vegetarian cooking class with good reviews.
8. Luang Prabang sits on one bank of the Mekong and on the other side is the tiny Kieng Men village: if you want to know it and enjoy a rural and quiet corner, you will only have to get on a little boat that for a few cents and in a few minutes will take you to the other side. On that other bank of the Mekong there are also interesting places to discover, such as the temples Wat Xiang Maen and Wat Tham Sakkalin (with a cave that you can visit) or the Wat Jom Phet high on a promontory with nice views of Luang Prabang.
9. To enjoy the best sunset go to “Sunset view point“This is how you will find it on Google. The best thing is to get an ice cold beer lao beforehand and sit on the stairs that face the river, or choose to go to a terrace-bar that you will find in the same street. As a third option (and perhaps the most attractive) we have a sunset cruise on the Mekong, the most romantic! You know, you can negotiate it there with a local boatman / agency or book it online here.
10. And finally, we advise you to do another excursion, this is traveling up the Mekong river. The one that will take you in a boat until Pak Ou caves, also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, because inside there are many statuettes, gifts from the pilgrims who came there. We propose you this complete excursion (with a stop at what is known as Whiskey Village for its famous production of rice whiskey laolao).
We hope you enjoy this charming Laotian city to the fullest and, by the way, if you know more things to see and do in Luang Prabang, we are all ears! We would not mind at all visiting her again in the future.
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