Laos was a pleasant surprise for me. The former royal Capital of Laos in this amazing country in Southeast Asia is fast becoming a must-visit destination in Asia. Take a look at 10 best things to do in 3 days in Luang Prabang.
Laos is one of the best preserved countries in Asia and Luang Prabang is the great exponent of this experience. Rich in French colonial influences, the city was built around at the confluence of the rivers Mekong and Nam Kham. So charm and exceptionally well-preserved architecture made Luang Prabang a UNESCO world heritage site since 1995.
Luang Prabang is one of the largest cities in Laos, but has only 22,000 inhabitants. It is really a small city, but on the other hand, it has many things to do.
Best things to do in Luang Prabang
1) Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi is located in the center of Luang Prabang, it is one of major landmark in the city. And of course, up there has a beautiful city view and a Buddhist temple as well. Mount Phousi is a 150m tall hill, an excellent place to start your journey in Luang Prabang.
The staircase has 355 steps, it’s not that high, but with the heat and humidity of Laos the climb is a little hard in the middle of the day. But the 360-degree view of the city is a gift.
Luang is a small town, there are no buildings or skyscrapers. Only small houses in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, a lost jewel. From the top of Mount Phousi you can see the Mekong River on one side – one of the main rivers in Southeast Asia – and the Nam Khan River on the other side.
The best times to visit are the early hours of the morning and late afternoon to enjoy the sunset, which is really beautiful up there. The problem is going down the stairs in the dark, there is no lights on the way. And, of course, the mosquitos.
To climb to the top, an entrance fee of 10,000 KIPs is charged, around US$ 1.
2) Wat Pahouak
This is a small temple at the base of Mount Phousi, but what makes this place special are the paintings on the walls from 1800, and have never been restored. That’s the only one in this style in Laos. It’s a true time travel.
3) Alms giving ceremony
Jumping out of bed before 5 am it may not be acceptable to many people. But after watch the ritual of alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang will change your mind. The original name is Tak Bat, is a longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture. An ancient ritual that has been around since the 14th century and survived the wars and transformations in the country, from pre-communism to communism.
Hundreds of monks come out of the temples dressed in saffron-coloured robes early morning to collect some offerings like flowers and sticky rice from devout Buddhists along the streets.
In a quiet line, collecting donations before returning to their temples. You can join the ceremony, just buy some sticky rice in the local market, but remember to dress appropriately and be respectful.
4) Morning market
The Morning Market is a local street market in Luang Prabang, where you can buy everything from handicrafts to food. Including some absurd things, for exemple: all kind of live animals as goats, chicken, ducks… snakes. Not to mention the small live crabs, which are eaten as snacks without cooking, of course!. And some things that I don’t even I have no idea what they are.
The cool thing about the Morning Market is that despite being in the tourist spots and travel guides, it’s a local market and frequented by locals. It is a nice way to learn a little bit more about the habits of the inhabitants and the country.
5) National museum
The National Museum is just around the corner of Morning Market and in the opposite side of Mount Phousi. The place is the former Royal Palace of Laos, when Luang Prabang was a capital of the country, a fascinating displays of the pre-Communist Laos.
The palace was built between 1904 and 1909 by King Sisavang Vong and served as a royal residence until 1975.
The museum preserves all the rooms, furniture, royalty artwork and jewelry. I was impressed with the king’s reception room, the throne room and the royals furniture. Unfortunately I cannot show you because photographs are prohibited.
The National Museum of Luang Prabang is open from 8:30 am to 11:30 am and from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. Entrance costs 30,000 KIPs (US$ 3).
Outside the museum there is a huge garden, be sure to visit and there is also the Haw Pha Bang Temple, one of the most important Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang.
6) Night market
The Night Market took a place every night on the Sisavangvong Road in front of the National Museum of Luang Prabang. A perfect place to buy good souvenirs, typical items and street food. Great bread, cakes and pastries, a legacy from the time when Laos was a French colony. Eat their version of Croissants, it’s delicious!
7) Sunset cruise in the Mekong River
One of my favorite experiences in Luang Prabang is take a traditional lao boat to enjoy the incredible sunset on the Mekong River.
The tour itinerary takes 2 hours. The boat goes up the river about 1 km along the Mekong until a confluence with the Nam Khan River. The boat sails smoothly and atmosphere is great with an excellent music playlist.
Then the boat goes down 2 km on the way of the sunset, we cross Luang Prabang waterside one more time. As the sun goes down, the river becomes more and more golden. The only thing you have to do is relax and enjoy that unique moment.
The tour costs 65,000 KIPs (US$ 7) and includes one Mojito. The tour start at 5 pm at Khem Khong Street on the bank of the Mekong River.
8) Kuang Si waterfalls
Certainly the most popular attraction in Luang Prabang and the landscape that motivated me to include the Laos in this trip.
Kuang Si is a group of waterfalls famous for it incredible colors in shades of blue and green.
The waterfalls have this range or colours because of the large amounts of minerals in water.
Kuang Si falls is located inside a national park with a good tourist structure. The visit begins walking through a track in the middle of the jungle. We walk around natural pools and waterfalls until reach the last one, an incredible waterfall more than 60 meters high.
If you want to jump in the natural pools it is allowed, but water is very cold, despite the heat of Laos just a few brave visitors venture into the cold water.
In the same national park there is also a asian black bears sanctuary. These animals was rescued from wildlife trade and illegal poaching.
Kuang Si Falls is located approximately 30 km from Luang Prabang. You can take a shared tour to get there or rent a motorbike, that’s the perfect way to getting around.
The admission in the park is 20,000 KIPs (US$ 2). The tour in a shared car costs 50,000 KIPs (US$ 6) round trip. If you want to rent a motorbike, the price goes from $ 5 to $ 10 for a day’s use.
9) Bamboo bridge
Where else in the world can you cross a river by walking through a bamboo bridge? Only in places like Laos.
There are two bridges over the Nam Kham River in Luang Prabang, the bridges is open only in the dry months and washed away each year when the river floods in the rainy season and rebuilt again at the end of the rainy season.
10) Walk through the city
Luang Prabang is a very pleasant city to walk and discover every corner. Dozens of houses with French colonial architecture that host charming cafes and pleasant restaurants across Sisavangvong Road, the main street in Luang Prabang.
Or maybe a walk through Khem Khong, a beautiful street following the Mekong River. There are great local restaurants there, be sure to try Beerlao, the local beer and also eat a typical dish, the buffalo blood sausage is great! Didn’t like? The rice dishes are excellent as well.
You can also rent a bike and discover quiet streets smelling of patchouli incense and white lilies. Maybe find a new temple outside the travel guides, the city has more than 30 Buddhist temples, take a look at Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Xiengthong and the beautiful Wat Syrimoungkoun Xaiyaram.
How to getting around
There is no public transport in Luang Prabang, but the city is tiny and you can visit everything in the city by walk. As I mentioned before, you can rent a bike as well. But for longer journeys, you can take a tuk-tuk for a reasonable price, including to get to the airport.
If you want to expand your reach, to rent a motorbike it might be a good idea, the price goes from $ 5 to $ 10 for a day’s use.
Where to stay in Luang Prabang
I stayed at the Mekong Charm Riverside hotel, a small hotel but with everything you need to take a rest and have a nice dreams. The hotel had a spacious and comfortable room, a good bed, air conditioning, television, internet and breakfast included. My room also had a balcony overlooking the Mekong River.
Take a look at promotional prices here
Another good option is the The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel. The place is charming huge mansion with typical Indochina architecture on the banks of the Mekong River. The most charming and comfortable hotel I have stayed in Laos and the staff are extremely friendly.
Take a look at promotional prices here
If you can spend a little bit more, I recommend the 3 Nagas Luang Prabang. A spectacular hotel located on the street where the alms giving ceremony takes place. The hotel is comfortable and very charming.
Take a look at promotional prices here
But if you want to take a look at other hotels and hostels to stay in Luang Prabang, take a look at our list of accommodations: click here.