Located in Northern Laos, Luang Prabang is filled with lush landscapes, azure waterfalls, beautiful mountain views, and preserved Buddhist temples. It’s serene and tropical charm will draw you in while the blend of Lao and French cultural riches surround you — from the French colonial architecture, restaurants, and the slow-paced yet friendly vibe of the locals.
If you’re looking for a list of things to do while visiting Luang Prabang, look no further!
Soak in Kuang Si Falls
As you begin your hike through Kuang Si Falls, the winding paths will first lead you to the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre for Asiatic Black Bears. Several bridges, small streams, and natural azure pools will be next. The steep hike up the falls does require a little effort and depending on the time of year you visit, those “dips” along the way may come in handy. You can also opt to take a break at any one of the resting points to stop and take in the surrounding beauty.
Tip: Don’t forget your swimsuit, bring sunscreen and bug spray, make sure to leave those flip-flops at the hotel (you’ll need sneakers), and take note of the no swimming signs in certain areas, as some pools are considered sacred by the locals.
Shop and Eat at the Night Market
Held each night in the town centre (at Sisavangvong Road beginning at the post office and ending around the National Museum) each evening from 5-10 p.m., the Night Market comes alive via a bustling complex that will immediately invoke all senses. Like clockwork, more than 300 local traders set up on a closed-off street in pitched blue and red tents selling everything from ceramics, blankets, hand-woven fabrics, amazing art, and more. Towards the end of the road that seems to go on forever, food becomes the focus. Street vendors are selling Laotian cuisine (think baguettes, noodles, smoothies, dried buffalo skin, and various types of grilled meats) at prices you wouldn’t believe!
Tip: Everything is negotiable, but don’t haggle too much. Items are already sold at very low prices so a good “meeting in the middle” gives both parties a fair deal.
Take a Sunset Dinner Cruise on the Mekong
Sailing along the Mekong River on a sunset dinner cruise will be the highlight of your visit to Luang Prabang. Pair delicious cocktails, a multi-course dinner, and breathtaking 360-degree mountain views with a stunning sunset and you will be in for a memorable night. Dinner cruises take place on traditional riverboats that cruise for 2- 3 hours and some cruises even feature live entertainment so choose accordingly.
Tip: The drop off point is walking distance from the Night Market so head there afterward.
Pamper Yourself with Inexpensive Spa Treatments
It is no secret that Luang Prabang is an inexpensive city and that includes many services like wonderful massages, facials, and body scrubs. If you have ever booked a spa treatment back home you will come to appreciate the to-hard-to-believe $50 price tag that comes along with a 60-minute massage in Luang Prabang (this would typically run me at least $110 at any reputable spa in Houston). They are offered at many hotels around the city.
Tip: I enjoyed one of the best massages of my life at the 5-star Pullman Hotel in Luang Prabang in one of their personal spa houses. So, my suggestion, spend some time pampering yourself and get as many massages as your budget will allow!
Explore Over 30 Temples
Beautiful temples adorn the city and you could spend days visiting and learning about the history that surrounds each one. Luang Prabang itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, therefore, its palace and 34 temples receive that same designation. Start your day at the Royal Palace and Museum and make your way to the many preserved temples, including Wat Mai, Haw Pha Bang in Luang Prabang and the ancient Wat Xieng Thong, known for its low sweeping roofs.
Tip: If you are up for a hike to the top of Mount Phosi (328 steps to be exact), you’ll see That Chomsi along the way. Many rave about the magnificent views of the city, rivers, and forests.
Take a Dyeing, Batik or Weaving Class at the Living Arts Center
The Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre consists of a boutique featuring Lao textiles, a place where talented local women artisans handcraft beautiful pieces, a restaurant where you can enjoy an “east meets west” inspired menu, cocktails, and sunsets off the Mekong River from their beautiful treehouse. With an instructor to help guide, you can spend as little as a ½ day (or up to 3 days) in hands-on classes learning how to master natural dyeing, bamboo weaving, and batik techniques — and you get the take home the textiles you make!
Tip: After your class, end your afternoon with a cocktail and peruse the boutique to help support their cause to increase opportunities for Laos artisans. You won’t find these unique textiles at the Night Market.
Observe or participate in the Morning Alms
You’ll have to get up fairly early to take part in this morning ritual and must-see experience. Beginning around 5 a.m. saffron-robed and barefoot Buddhist monks walk along the streets to collect alms each morning. During Tak bat, or almsgiving, offerings of sticky rice are placed in the bowls of monks walking silently in a single-file line. You can observe as others offer flowers and incense in reverence or take part in the rice offering yourself (with the help of a guide if needed). The ritual is free to watch, and offerings can be purchased for a small fee.
Tip: As this is a sacred observance, you must be mindful not to be disrespectful. Do not disrupt to service and dress appropriately. As with visiting temples, your shoulders, legs, and chest should be covered.
Have you been to Luang Prabang or any other city in Laos? What did you love (or not love) about it?