What to do in Luang Prabang
I have put together a list of my personal recommendations for you. What to do and what to look out for in the most beautiful city of Laos, Luang Prabang.
There are maaany things!
Monks, temples, adventure activities, waterfalls, ethnic villages, cooking class, caves… are fun ways to spend your time here. If you like to get engaged with the locals and help out in the community or spend a bit of your time teaching English to the monks, I have listed the right places to see, too.
Here is my list – Top sights in and around Luang Prabang
Temples, temples, temples. If you are under time constraints do not miss the two most impressive: Wat Xieng Thong and the golden Stupa on Phousi Hill!
Attend the most beautiful ceremony in Luang Prabang. Alms giving to the monks. You will have to get up early with the monks at 5 am to find monks collecting food from locals. Tip for sleepyheads: book a convenient hotel to watch the ceremony from your balcony – ask the hotel if the monks pass it.
Walk up the stairs of Phousi Hill that will reward you with a panorama over the city on one side, as well as a romantic sunset view over the Mekong river on the other. On top you will also find the landmark of Luang Prabang, its golden stupa.
Visit the Luang Prabang’s Royal Palace and see the Buddha image from which the city derives its name.
Take a refreshing dip at Tad Se waterfalls or marvel at the impressive waterfalls of Kunang Si – followed by a bath.
Go on a ziplining adventure tour.
Visit the Pak Ou Caves filled with ancient Buddha statues.
Visit an ethnic village. Enjoy the hand crafted merchandise and support minorities through a small purchase.
Enjoy the Fashion Show at Hive Bar.
Attend a cooking workshop and create traditional Lao dishes.
Try sticky rice and exotic food at one of the best restaurants in Luang Prabang.
Have a meal at one of the fantastic restaurants in town and be treated like a king for a peasant’s price. Villa Santi has a free traditional dancing show every evening to accompany your meal!
Have an refreshingly fresh fruit shake from the street vendors or restaurants. Enter the fantastic world of fizzy-less drinks.
Try papaya shake at Tamnak Lao Restaurant.
Walk through the Night Market at dusk and shop for original handicrafts made by Lao locals. Asking for a discount is expected and bargaining accepted.
Visit beautiful boutiques with elegant cloths and clothes. Shopping is relaxing and a hassle free experience in Laos. No touts, no hassle, no pushy vendors.
Visit Pathana Boupha Antique House. A beautiful villa, owned by a Laotian family who turned part of the residence into a souvenir shop with antiques and ethnic silver jewellery.
Boupha Antique shop really stands out when looking for old, tasteful (and pricey) artefacts. The mother is running the shop and is a chatty and very straightforward person. Her daughter is a rising star in Laos. You will see, if you happen to meet them.
Luang Prabang is the main city of monasteries in Laos. Enjoy the enchanting sight of orange robed monks walking through the city.
Visit less popular temples. Laos is a very safe country. Get lost in this charismatic city and walk off the beaten track.
Walk the city at night and take in its ancient feel.
Bike around Luang Prabang. Bikes are 20.000 Kip a day (around €2).
Enjoy a mix of Asian and post colonial French architecture.
Find nice picture spots.
Watch the brown Mekong forming strong water swirls. We even spotted a green snake swimming across the river!
Have a relaxing slow boat ride on the river. Private tours are 400.000 kip.
Walk the banks of the Mekong.
Walk the old communist bridge over the Mekong.
Get thrilling experiences when stepping on the decaying wooden path.
Get a full body massage and drink some Laotian tea afterwards (made from the dried fruit on the plate called bael).
Enjoy a class of yoga.
Party the night away at Utopia – Luang Prabang’s most popular club/bar/restaurant/entertainment/beach volleyball/yoga place.
Donate a book which will be brought to children in rural areas of Laos.
Dedicate an hour (or more) of your time to increase or teach English conversation skills to Lao students, mainly monks.
Visit the Luang Prabang Library and its reading centre for info on helping out. Spot the funny yet unfortunate spelling mistake of the financial supporter of the reading centre – ‘Ameica‘.
You can also donate, teach and help out at the very open and friendly Big Brother Mouse centre.
Watch the feast of the cutest lizard at night! Bright lights are a good hunting ground for the quick gecko!
Feed one of the loving stray dogs. You can buy a bit of extra food at any food stall, take leftovers from your meal and give it to those faithful creatures in need. They are absolutely tame, most are afraid and prefer to have some food left close to them, so they can eat it when they feel safe.
(Do NOT book) ‘elephant riding’. Serious travel agents will not offer ‘bathing and caring for the elephants’ anyway, but they are a minority. It is up to you to encourage or end animal suffering. It is not true that those awful elephant camps are the only way to save them from extinction.
We have spoken to a travel agent in Luang Prabang why he doesn’t encourage elephant treks and he told us about the abuse these animals face to please tourists.
The elephants are closely chained and crammed in one place, from which they are made to reach bananas from the tourist. Their only time unchained is when they are forced to carry tourists – on seats tightly fixed to their back – which causes incredible pain and deforms the elephants’ spine. They are made to walk through the strong currents in the river – not able to see any under water obstacles that they can bump into and get injured. Elephants carry tourists on one boring route with no variation, nor room for their natural demeanour.
Every day it is the same for the elephants until they die or go crazy. In freedom, elephants walk their own paths for miles, play and take care of each other if not ‘guided’ (will-breaking is a terrible procedure for the elephant) by humans.
I have seen one of those places in Laos and was shocked how little space these highly intelligent mammals are given, how miserable they are. Their deformed backs, their deeply apathetic behaviour and repetitive movements to keep their body in motion… a disturbing sight. I am also shocked at how ignorant most tourists are.
Good travel agents will offer adventure tours that use the identical route of ‘elephant treks’, but you have the choice to ride boats, rafts, bikes or zip-lines. We did the boat and zip-line version and it was fantastic and more thrilling than anything else I have done!
Responsible tourist choices can end the suffering of elephants. By boat.
Finally, buy or bring an umbrella. The sun can be merciless in Laos.