The small, ancient town of Luang Prabang is a picturesque beauty in northern Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang is brimming with Buddhist temples, surrounded by waterfalls and trekking opportunities, and home to a colourful night market and fantastic food. Whether you just want to soak up the laid-back vibes in town or take part in more adventurous activities nearby, you have lots of options. Here’s everything you need to know before you go and once you’re there.
Luang Prabang International Airport is just four kilometres from the city centre. From the airport, your best bet for getting into town is via taxi. Expect to pay a flat rate of around LAK 50,000. You’ll find the ticket counter by the exit.
Walking is a great way to take in the sights of beautiful Luang Prabang. Or if you prefer two wheels, numerous shops and some guesthouses rent bicycles for around LAK 15,000 to 30,000 per day.
If you don’t feel like exerting much energy, tuk tuks are a popular way to get around town. Expect to pay around LAK 20,000 per trip.
Whether you’re on the hunt for souvenirs or just love checking out markets wherever you travel, you have the option of both the morning and night markets in Luang Prabang. The morning market, a network of small lanes close to Wat Mai, offers a more local experience where you’ll find town residents stocking up on produce, spices, meat and fish from colourful stalls and tarpaulins laid out on the ground. The atmosphere is relaxed and there’s plenty of local dishes to tuck into if you’re hungry.
The night market runs every evening from around 5pm to 10pm, covering a main section of Sisavangvong Road that gets closed off to traffic. Hundreds of red and blue tents are set up, from which friendly vendors sell everything from clothing and jewellery to art, souvenirs and locally made handicrafts. And of course, being an Asian night market, there’s also loads of street food to fill up on while you shop.
About five kilometres outside of town, The Living Land Company offers the chance to experience the process of planting and harvesting rice. Each step of the process — from threshing the rice and cutting and bundling it, to ploughing the rice paddy — is demonstrated. And the best part is, you can participate in all of it yourself since the experience is hands-on (if you want to give it a try).
Temple-hopping Laos is easy to do and something you’ll want to add to your itinerary. Some well worth making time for include Wat Mai, the town’s largest monastery and one of its most ornate. Wat Xieng Thong, built in 1560 and considered one of the most historically important temple in town, is known for its stunning glass tile mosaics. Wat Chomsi, a renowned sacred site in Luang Prabang, is a 24-metre gilded stupa located at the top of Mount Phu Si. Climb the 300+ steps for seriously photo-worthy views of the town and Mekong River below.
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden is the first botanical garden in Laos and located across the Mekong. The garden is serenity at its best and makes for the perfect setting for a peaceful afternoon in nature. Here you’ll find traditional medicinal plants, palm and bamboo gardens, a limestone garden and much more. Your price of admission includes an orchid talk, herbal tea tasting and bamboo handicraft workshop making for a well-rounded and educational experience. The gardens can be reached via 15-minute boat ride from town.
Kuang Si Waterfall is a scenic place to visit for a half-day trip from Luang Prabang for hiking, admiring the large falls, and taking a dip in the crystal blue pools. Tuk tuks and vans for sharing cost about LAK 60,000 per person and regularly make the trip. Another option (if you’re feeling energetic) is to cycle there, which takes about two hours on hilly terrain. Renting a bicycle is about LAK 20,000 per day.
Get a taste for Luang Prabang’s highlights before you visit with a colourful video featuring an overview of the town.
Treat your ears to some traditional Laos music ahead of your visit as a way to get amped up for your trip.
Pick up a copy of Culture Shock! Laos: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Robert Cooper to get a better handle on the culture and customs before you visit.