Luang Prabang is a culturally diverse town in the country of Laos. Nestled in the valley between Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, it’s the first UNESCO site to be listed in the region.
This township offers a great selection of cultural, geographical and cuisine attractions that visitors can try out. Even walking around the streets alone will give you a glimpse of the interesting life here.
Here are the most interesting activities to do in Luang Prabang:
1. Take a Tour at the Royal Palace Museum.
This is probably the most remarkable temple in Luang Prabang. It’s found along Sisavangvong road and is filled with many prized artifacts and relics.
Also known as Haw Kham (Golden Hall) or the National Museum, this gallery sits in a nicely secured compound. It was originally built as an official residence for King Sisavangvong in 1904 but has since undergone major renovations to become what it is today.
Inside the museum, you’ll find brightly colored paintings in the main hall that depict Laotian lifestyle, not just presently but all through the years. These murals are a tribute to the patience and devotion of native Lao people.
2. Take a Boat Ride along Mekong River.
This pristine river cuts across the countryside over into the Pak Ou Caves. It gives visitors a great opportunity to check out local villages and waterfalls within its course.
You’ll admire the lush landscape of northern Laos zooming by as you chill in the boat, and even watch fishermen haul their nets as herds of wild buffalo graze along the river’s shoreline.
The Mekong is the lifeline of Laos, especially for rural communities that live along its bank. They rely on it for both fishing and transportation around the region.
A boat trip along this waterway will give you a perfect experience of how life is like in Luang Prabang.
3. Sample the Traditional Lao Cuisine.
There are many restaurants that serve original Lao dishes for tourists to try out. Also available are other more common foods like noodles and egg fried rice.
One of the best places to sample tasty buffalo noodles is Lao Lao Garden restaurant; you can as well check Tamarind Restaurant for some delicious platters. Their menu has been nicknamed the ‘food bible’ as it tells diners how to eat the different foods available and what they are.
Most guests relish the fried lemongrass and river-weed stuffed chicken. You’ll also enjoy balling up the staple sticky rice with your bare fingers.
4. Visit Traditional Buddhist Temples
Luang Prabang has dozens of religious temples that are welcoming to all visitors. Guests can stroll around the inner chambers so long as they are respectful to residents. It’s also a requirement to disguise yourself while inside the buildings.
Take time to visit Wat Xieng Thong temple at the northern border of old town peninsula. This is where royal coronations used to take place traditionally in Laos.
Most temple complexes in the region are covered in gold and detailed mosaics. These offer an amazing insight into the native Buddhist religion.
5. Visit the Night Market for Souvenirs
Laos’ night market experience offers a great shopping introduction for first-time visitors. The traders are genuinely jovial and you can walk around the streets several times without any hassles whatsoever.
Souvenirs can be bought at great discount rates, since most stall owners haven’t yet experienced mass tourism where visitors ignorantly agree to any exorbitant prices charged.
Remember to get yourself one of the unique handmade umbrellas on sale, or even an elephant statue made from bomb residues from the Vietnam War.
6. Climb the Kuang Si Waterfalls
Any trip to Luang Prabang is not complete without taking a tour to the Kuang Si Waterfalls. You can arrive there by various means like tuktuk, bicycle or even in a travel group.
Nevertheless, it’s best to visit during morning hours before it gets too busy later on in the day.
The falls are categorized into different stages starting with a hidden jungle cascading pool. This is at the very top but you can still climb to it.
At the bottom, there’s a series of crystal clear pools that you can actually swim in. Not to mention the impressive waterfall that sits between two of these pools. It’s often visited by temple monks who come to relax when the sun is high.
7. Participate in the Traditional Alms Ceremony.
The traditional monk procession
This traditional monk procession occurs early in the morning just before sunrise. It has gained a lot of popularity in the tourist community ever since people started participating in it.
However, guests are required to be respectful and courteous when partaking the activity, since it bears a lot of religious significance in the local community.
The best way to participate in the ritual of monk processions is by sitting quietly on the other side of the street, and from here you can receive their daily alms.
It’s also the perfect position to use your camera to take pictures. The monks’ bright orange robes blend well with the temple’s whitewashed exterior, making it quite a unique spectacle. The entire procession makes for a very memorable experience.
8. Climb Mount Phousi
Found at the heart of Luang Prabang town, Phousi isn’t technically a mountain but rather a large hill. To scale the top of this mount, you’ll have to climb a stairway comprising more than 300 steps.
At the very top is a temple known as Wat Chomsi. From here climbers can have a majestic view of the surrounding territory.
Additionally, take a short walk around the temple from all sides to catch a glimpse of Mekong and Nam Khan rivers which flow nearby. There’s also another entrance leading down to the back area of the mountain, with striking Buddha sculptures along the way.
Ideally, the best time to climb Mt. Phousi is just before sunset. This gives you the chance to see the town and its surrounding hills with the last straw of sunlight, and also watch as Luang Prabang’s skyline changes into diverse colors.
9. Visit the Old Quarter Buildings.
This part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It combines a mixture of French architecture and traditional old Laos temples.
The Old Quarter area is famous for its brick sidewalks, lovely temples and unique colonial buildings. Despite its popularity, it’s actually not a big area and visitors can stroll around it in just a few minutes.
You can get an even better sense of the surrounding atmosphere by exploring it on foot. Nevertheless, when entering any religious site always remember to disguise your bare legs and arms as a symbol of respect.
Take some time to visit all corners of this marvelous older section of the city. There are various nice shops to consider as well as Small cafes, restaurants and bakeries where you can stop over for a quick snack.
10. Cross the Bamboo Bridge.
When visiting Luang Prabang during its dry season, you’ll have the rare opportunity of crossing the Bamboo Bridge which remains usable briefly every year. At the start of the season, a local family erects the footbridge entirely out of bamboo parts.
It’s not possible to build this bridge during the rainy season when water levels on River Nam Khan are low. The bridge leads across to a couple of cafeterias and craft stores on the opposite side.
If you’re hungry and need some tasty but affordable meals, visit the restaurant directly to your left on the bridge’s end. Popularly known as Dyen Sabai, it provides a great atmosphere and serves well-prepared food. There’s also a great pizza spot further up the road.
Another place to find good local food is at Buffet Street. Here, the ordering concept is quite simple, just pay for a bowl and then fill up with as much food as you want. Next, give it over to the lady nearby so that she can prepare it all together for your enjoyment.
In Buffet Street, seating is done communal-style along picnic benches and tables in a small space. This is a fun way to eat cheap dinner that you’ll enjoy.
There’s so much to enjoy in Luang Prabang for those visiting for the first time. For the ultimate tourist experience you should ride a motorcycle across the streets to view its marvelous architecture.
The town has a laid-back traditional atmosphere that’s perfect for those looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
There are various natural features to visit such as Mount Phousi and Kuang Si waterfalls amongst many others. Not to mention the amazing restaurants where guests can sample local foods at affordable rates.
Additionally, there are attractive constructions like the seasonal Bamboo Bridge which is only built during the dry months. At its very end is a restaurant called Dyen Sabai, which serves Laos BBQ together with vegetable broth. The best time to visit is during off-peak tourist season when there aren’t too many people in the region. Rates are also considerably cheaper during this period.
Luang Prabang is the place to be.
Peter Hanson is a motorcycle enthusiast and expert on motorcycle travel. He loves to travel and has covered a lot of countries over the past eight years. In each country, he takes the time to record his impressions.