19 Best Things to Do in Luang Prabang

What is Luang Prabang Most Famous For?

    Our list of things to do in Luang Prabang highlights the UNESCO-listed town’s natural and manmade attractions. Often described as the 'Jewel in Laos Crown', Luang Prabang has managed to preserve its longstanding tradition and charm, exuding a missed-out-on-modernization vibe.

    The majority of Luang Prabang’s sights (including 33 Buddhist temples) can be reached on foot, so you can take your time taking in the surroundings and observe the way of the Lao people and monks. Just outside the town center, you can explore lush jungles with miles of hiking trails leading to gorgeous waterfalls and limestone caves.

    What are the best things to do in Luang Prabang?

    1

    Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang

    Luang Prabang is one of the best places in Laos to witness the alms giving ceremony, which is a longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture. Almsgiving takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading out to all the side streets. You should buy your offerings (mostly food) in advance and arrive early as it’s considered offensive to disrupt the ceremony once it has commenced.

    Follow the locals by kneeling down to present your offering. Common gifts include rice, fresh fruit, and traditional snacks. The idea of giving alms for the Buddhist monks is to make merit and also to collect food for their 1 meal of a day.

    Location: Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang, Laos

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    photo by unkle_sam (CC BY 2.0) modified

    2

    Ban Phanom near Luang Prabang

    Ban Phanom is an artisan village, where locals practice traditional textile-making to provide goods for sale at Luang Prabang’s markets. The woven products are made with cotton and silk materials, together with intertwined threads to produce a shimmering effect.

    Some of the families work from their own workshops, with the entire village operating as a co-operative supplying to manufacturers in town. Prices are open to negotiation and very affordable, though you can still bargain for a lower deal. The area around Ban Phanom makes for a good place for cycling and visiting ancient temples.

    Location: Ban Phanom, Luang Prabang Province

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    3

    Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang

    Kuang Si Falls has 3 tiers leading to a 50-meter drop into shallow pools, before flowing downstream. The pools make great swimming holes – you can change into your swimwear at wooden huts close to the waterfall’s entrance.

    Surrounded by lush tropical jungle, the pools have cascades of up to 5 meters high. If you don’t fancy a swim, you can relax in the shade and watch others having fun jumping in and out of the water. There are trails leading to the top of Kuang Si Falls, where you can see the stream feeding into the falls. Wear proper footwear as the trails can rather get slippery, especially during the wet season.

    Location: Ban Long, Laos

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    4

    Luang Prabang Library

    The Luang Prabang Library offers a chance for you to give something back to the children of Laos. Many of the local children have limited access to books – in fact, some villages in Laos don’t even have schools. The library works towards providing reading materials to kids in some of the more remote areas by operating 2 library boats that deliver books to 75 different villages along the Mekong. 

    These boats stay overnight at the villages, with staff organizing active learning games during the day and operating as libraries for children to borrow books at night. Each boat carries 1,000 books, with about 100 titles are passed to primary schools.

    Location: Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang, Laos

    Open: Daily from 8am to 5pm

    Phone: +856 20 5567 0890

    photo by Clay Gilliland (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

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    Mount Phousi

    Mount Phousi, standing at 100 meters above sea level, is Luang Prabang’s highest hill. It’s popular as a place to watch the sun rise or set over the Mekong River. From the summit you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view across the city and its many temples, and over the surrounding landscape to the mountains in the distance.

    It takes about 300 steps to reach the top of Mount Phousi, but the climb is gentle enough for anyone with good health. There’s another set of steps down that will lead you to several temples – Visit Wat Chomsi where you can buy flowers to offer for blessings.

    Location: Luang Prabang, Laos

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    6

    Pak Ou Caves

    Pak Ou Caves are packed with over 4,000 Buddha icons believed to have been left in the caves by local people for thousands of years. The caves are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. There are 2 caves to visit: a lower cave called Tham Ting and the upper cave Tham Theung, both serving as shrines to the river spirit and Lord Buddha. 

    Tham Ting filters in some light but a torch is required for the pitch black Tham Theung. The upper cave is home to the majority of the Buddha statues and you’ll need to find your way in the darkness to the thousands of hidden icons.

    Location: Luang Prabang, Laos

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    7

    Royal Palace Museum

    The Royal Palace Museum of Luang Prabang once served as the residence of King Sisavang Vong and his family during the French colonial era. Designed in the French Beaux-Arts style with many tasteful accents of traditional Lao culture, the museum exhibits stretches back several centuries to trace the turbulent past of the Lane Xang kingdom and the colonial era, through to the present day

    The Royal Palace Museums is surrounded by a spacious, well-tended garden just off Thanon Sisavangvong. The museum is well worth a couple of hours of your time if you want to learn more about Lao history and culture.

    Location: 27 Ounheun Road, Luang Prabang, Laos

    Open: Monday–Wednesday and Friday–Saturday from 8am to 11.30pm and from 1pm to 3.30pm, Thursday from 8am to 3pm (closed on Sundays)

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    8

    Tad Sae Waterfall

    Tad Sae Waterfall is a spectacular natural wonder you can enjoy during the wet season in Luang Prabang. The cascades aren’t as high as Kuang Si waterfall, but it has many more streams of water pouring over unique limestone formations. You can also go for a swim in large pools below the falls. 

    Tad Sae is only reachable by boat, giving you an opportunity to retreat into nature. Locals often visit the falls over the weekend, so you’re better off visiting during the week if you’re avoiding the crowds. The best time to visit Tad Sae Waterfall is from August through November.

    Location: Luang Prabang, Laos

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    9

    Wat Long Khoun

    Buddhist temple Wat Long Khoun once served as a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual rejuvenation. Prior to a king’s coronation, he would retreat to the temple for 3 days for cleansing and meditation. Also known as the ‘Monastery of the Happy’, Wat Long Khoun features 18th-century Lao architecture, with 2 single level sections: the front part was extended in 1937 during the reign of King Sisavonvan – it features gilded columns and intricate wood carvings.

    The older section of Wat Long Khoun contains Jataka murals, which retain some of their original vibrancy telling the story of the 547 lives of Lord Buddha. The murals also feature local myths and legends that incorporate Buddhist morals of kindness and the importance of giving.

    Location: Luang Prabang, Laos

    Open: Daily from 6am to 6pm

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    10

    Traditional Arts & Ethnology Center

    The Traditional Arts & Ethnology Center of Luang Prabang is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the many ethnic groups existing in Laos. Located in a restored heritage building along Kingkitsarath Road, it is the only non-profit museum in Laos. 

    This cultural display of arts and lifestyles reflect a very diverse ethnic population. Permanent exhibitions feature traditional textiles and clothing, jewelry, religious artifacts, handicraft tools, and household objects. The museum offers visitors a rare glimpse into the life of Laotian people giving a greater understanding to their richly diverse culture with quotes, photos and videos bringing the exhibits to life. 

    Location: Kingkitsarath Road, Ban Khamyong Luang Prabang, 06000, Laos

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 9am to 6pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +856 71 253 364

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    photo by Rob Young (CC BY 2.0) modified

    11

    The Living Land Company

    The Living Land Company is a community-run organic farm supplying fresh vegetables, herbs, salads and rice to hotels and restaurants in Luang Prabang. You can take a day trip to the farm and experience the life of a farmer.

    There’s a beautiful Lao-style house overlooking rice terraces and the organic vegetable fields. The farm aims to offer an alternate to the current slash-and-burn farming methods which result in unusable land following harvest.

    Location: Ban Phong Van, Luang Prabang, Laos

    Phone: +856 20 55 199 208

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    12

    Wat Wisunarat (Wat Visoun)

    Wat Wisunarat dates back to 1513 and named after King Wisunarat (Visoun), who ruled Laos from 1501 until 1520. It’s the oldest Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang and served as the city’s Museum of Religious Arts. You can see religious artifacts and precious items related to Buddhism and the royal family.

    Wat Wisunarat features traditional Lao architecture – a unique landmark here is its unusually shaped stupa designed by the wife of King Wisunarat. While it’s supposed to resemble a lotus flower, locals often call refer to it as the ‘watermelon stupa’. Another distinguishing highlight is the European-style roof, which slopes in a manner not usually seen in Laos.

    Location: Luang Prabang, Laos

    Open: Daily from 6am to 6pm

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    Wat Xieng Thong

    Wat Xieng Thong is one of the largest temples in Luang Prabang. A symbol of great historic importance, its structure has characteristics of 16th-century Lao architecture, with an elaborate ‘tree of life’ mosaic, intricately carved walls, rare Buddhist deities, and a 12-meter-tall funeral carriage. 

    Wat Xieng Thong once oversaw the coronation of Lao kings – today, it's an important gathering place for significant annual festivities in Luang Prabang. The temple still remains in its original form, with repairs undertaken to the roof, gold leaf gilding and lacquering added to the walls and entrance.

    Location: Khem Khong, Luang Prabang, Laos

    Open: Daily from 6am to 6pm

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    14

    Trekking

    Trekking is one of the most popular things to do in Luang Prabang’s countryside. There are miles of hiking trails to suit all fitness levels, and you’ll likely pass spectacular waterfalls and indigenous wildlife, as well as gain a fascinating insight into rural folk living in hill tribe villages. 

    Descendants of the Mongolians, the Hmong tribe live on chillier, higher hills while the Khmu tribe is found in lower regions with treks to their villages taking you through the lush tropical jungle. There are a few companies offering trekking tours which you can book upon arrival. 

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    photo by Fraser Reid (CC BY 2.0) modified

    15

    Spas

    Spas in Luang Prabang make for excellent retreats after a day of sightseeing in the UNESCO-listed town. For a charitable massage, the Lao Red Cross Massage and Sauna Center offers full-body massages for about 40,000 kip and sauna access at 15,000 kip. 

    Traditional Lao herbs and locally sourced organic botanicals are combined for use in many traditional Lao body treatments. Try a local Kamu massage at the Kamu Spa, where oil and strong pressure is applied to really help loosen up stiff muscles and tension. 

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    16

    Luang Prabang Bowling Alley

    The Luang Prabang Bowling Alley is famed for being a late-night drinking hole and the town’s only 10-pin bowling venue. Loud Asian pop music, local whiskey, and Beerlao are as popular as the game, which costs 20,000 kip per person per game.

    The bowling alley is one of the few places in Luang Prabang where you can grab a drink after the strict midnight curfew. It’s located on the outskirts of town, so you might want to arrange for a tuk-tuk to pick you up. 

    Location: Highway 13, Luang Prabang, Laos

    Open: Daily from 11am to 2.30am

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    photo by Nick Hewson (CC BY 2.0) modified

    17

    Luang Prabang Golf Club

    The Luang Prabang Golf Club has an 18-hole course with a superb backdrop of the Mekong River, dramatic mountains, and the UNESCO listed world heritage town. It’s about 10 minutes by car from the center of town and about a 15-minute drive from Luang Prabang International Airport. 

    The par 72 championship golf course also has a pro-shop and driving range, as well as a restaurant serving Lao cuisine. Rates vary by time of visit, with special offers available for shoes and umbrella rental.

    Location: Southbank, Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos

    Open: Daily from 6am to 6.30pm

    Phone: +856 71 260 912

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    18

    Cycling

    Cycling is a great way to experience the beautiful Luang Prabang countryside, with day tours taking you around the old town, across rivers, through rural villages, and past mountains. Trips can be booked through travel agents in the town center, and are normally limited to 20 people per trip.

    Adventurous riders might enjoy a more challenging tour on a special off-road route to remote villages, exploring the rural side of Luang Prabang, crossing 4 rivers en route. Most cycling tours in Luang Prabang take about 4 hours and include an English speaking guide, lunch and cycling equipment. 

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    19

    Kayaking & Rafting

    Luang Prabang is one of the best towns in Laos for rafting and kayaking, with some tours including trekking in their itinerary. VietLong Travel offers an energetic kayaking trip where you get to see local tribes going about their daily life before passing dramatic mountains and rafting on intermediate level rapids. 

    Green Discovery Laos also offer paddling adventures that take you down rapids with a 2-day kayaking trip, which includes cliff jumping into the refreshing Nam Xeuang River and a night with some of the survivors of the Second Indochina War at a Khmu village. They also have half or full-day kayaking trip down the Nam Khan River for beginners or travelers who want to enjoy a slower pace.

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    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveler

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