Couple of years ago we spent three months travelling through South East Asia, and Laos was one of our stops. We took a long boat from Northern Thailand and embarked on a two day journey to beautiful Luang Prabang. We only spent three days in Luang Prabang and one of my biggest regrets from the entire trip is that we didn’t have more time there. The place is truly magical, and anyone who has ever been there tends to agree. That’s why in this post, I’m going to share with you the Best Things to do in Luang Prabang. Hope my tips will inspire you to visit this beautiful place soon!
When is the best time to visit Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang is one of the main cities in Laos. It is located on the Mekong river, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The best times to visit is November to January (during the dry season), and summer months would be the wet season. Mind you, we were there at the end of June and the weather was beautiful. It needs to be noted that March normally is very humid and too hot and August is the wettest month, so those months would not be the best to travel to Laos.
Here are the Top 10 Best Things to do in Luang Prabang.
No.1 Climb Mount Phousi
Located right in the heart of Luang Prabang, Mount Phousi is a sacred mountain that has several Buddha statues along the way and a stupa on top. Definitely worth the climb of approximately 350 steps as the views of Luang Prabang and the surrounding rivers from the top are just incredible! This is a very popular tourist spot to watch the sunset, so be sure to get there early as the space on top is very limited and it gets crowded very fast. Alternatively you can go there at sunrise instead which is just as beautiful. Entrance fee to Mount Phousi is 20,000 Lao Kip (approx. $2.50 USD)
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No.2 Watch the Tak Bat ceremony
Every morning at around 6:00 AM Buddhist monks from the local monasteries walk around the city in a single file for what is called the alms giving ceremony (or Tak Bat). Monks are not allowed to work, so they rely solely on the locals giving them food. You can watch the ceremony for free, or you can also donate something. The only rule is don’t get into monks’ faces with your camera. They really don’t like that.
No.3 Learn to cook amazing Lao food
Lao food is quite simple but very delicious. What better way to spend an afternoon but to take a cooking class at one of the LP cooking schools and learning how to cook a few traditional Lao dishes. You get to eat what you’ve cooked afterwards, so that’s dinner sorted as well! The school at which we booked our class was Tamnak Lao, located on the main street of Luang Prabang. Our teacher was fantastic and it was a lot of fun to learn (even more fun to eat!). Other popular schools are Tamarind Café and Bamboo Tree. The prices for the cooking class is anywhere between $30 and $60 USD per person.
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No.4 Chill at Utopia bar
Chill at Utopia bar and then party like a local at a Bowling alley. Utopia is a really cool chill out bar, and kind of wild to find as you work your way through a few twisting roads and what seems like back alleys. It is this great location, looking out on the river. There are no tables or chairs, just lounging mats all over the floor. One thing to note, Laos is quite a conservative Buddhist country, so the bars shut down fairly early (no later than 11 PM or midnight in Luang Prabang). After that time the only place you can continue to party is a bowling alley located 15 or 20 minute tuk tuk ride away from the city. That’s where the tourists and some locals go when they are not quite ready to call it a night.
No.5 Visit Kuang Si Waterfalls
One of the most beautiful spots in Luang Prabag, Kuang Si Waterfalls are a must! They can be reached by hiring a truk tuk which would cost around 180,000 – 200,000 kip or $22-25 USD (the driver will wait for you at the falls to bring you back into town). Alternatively you can share a tuk tuk with 4-5 other people that are going there as well, in which case the ride will only cost you about 50,000 kip. You can also arrange a shared minivan with a travel agent which would cost about 60,000 kip.
The last two options are a bit slower since you have to wait for other people, and your time at the falls might be more limited. However, those two are the cheapest ways to get there. Last but not least, you can rent a bike for around $20 USD per day and ride to the falls. However, be warned that the “normal” rules of the road don’t really apply in Laos.
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No.6 Explore the Royal Palace
Built in 1905, the Royal Palace is a museum now since Lao is no longer a monarchy but a communist country. Even if you don’t go inside, the grounds alone are worth a visit.
No.7 Visit the Night Market
The Night Market is a vibrant temporary market with bright stalls that sell various goods that are mostly hand made by locals. It is put up every night right next to the Royal Palace. In contrast to the markets in the other Asian countries, the prices are fixed and very reasonable, so haggling is not as common as for example in Thailand. Similar to the bars, the market also tends to shut down quite early, with most stalls packing up by 9 PM.
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No.8 Try out Street Food
Try delicious street food at the buffet street. Like I mentioned earlier, Lao food is delicious and has a lot of varieties (sticky rice being main staple of Lao cuisine). The cheapest way to eat in Luang Prabang is street food at the market (restaurants can be touristy and quite pricey).
If you are at the Night market, you will see a small lane with a Vegetarian buffet that serves all you can eat food for only 10,000 kip (about a dollar). Stay away from that one as the food is really not that good, and I heard from some people that they got sick after eating there. Instead, walk a little bit further, and you will see an alley with stalls after stalls of various street food. The food there is fairly cheap as well and much better quality!
No.9 Explore Pak Ou Cave
See thousands of Buddha statues in Pak Ou Caves. You can get to the caves by boat (you can buy the ticket either at a travel agency or at the boat dock. The journey takes about two hours. It’s also possible to reach the caves in an hour by tuk tuk, though you’ll still need to board a boat to cross the river from the nearest village to get to the cave entrance.Be aware that in the high season the caves can become quite crowded.
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No.10 Visit Elephant Village Sanctuary
Spend some time with rescue elephants at Elephant Village Sanctuary. The Sanctuary focuses on rehabilitation of the elephants rescued from logging work. They have just completely phased out Howdah (the elephant riding seat), which allows for a much more humane and comfortable experience for the elephants. You can spend a full day or half day with the elephants or choose a one day or two day Mahout training. Visit their website for prices and information.
2 mins video to make you INSTANTLY see what Luang Prabang is really like!
About the Traveler
Natasha AKA The Russian Spy is a blogger and founder of adventuresofarussianspy.com. Originally from Russia, she moved to Ireland when she was only 18. Since then she has been living in Ireland, Canada, and travelling all over the world. Travelling is something she absolutely loves. There is nothing like the excitement of being in a new unfamiliar place, getting lost, exploring and learning something new every day.