On my visit there, I had a chance to explore and experience the best of Luang Prabang which is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, so here are a few things to do in Luang Prabang.
Things to do in Luang Prabang
Many of the things to do in Luang Prabang include exploring the beautiful natural landscapes in the area.
Luang Prabang Town in general
Explore this beautiful and well maintained town by foot to see the amazing heritage buildings in traditional Lao and Dutch designs which take you back in history. Hotels, restaurants, cafes and guesthouses utilize these buildings for their businesses around Luang Prabang Town and one can easily do all of this by foot. There are absolutely no modern buildings or anything above 2 floors in this unique town.
Pak Ou Caves
Or simply known as the Buddha Caves, this is a must-visit for all travelers as the 25 kilometer scenic river journey will be one to remember. Seeing everyday life along the great Mekong River on route to the caves is something special here. At the Pak Ou Caves, thousands of Buddha statues are placed inside the caves which is an amazing sight. Entrance fees are separate here.
This tour includes a visit to both Pak Ou Cave and Kuang Si Waterfall.
Luang Prabang Markets
There are 2-3 markets around Luang Prabang town but the most popular would be the daily night market which is another must-visit for everyone. Unlike the common markets we are used too, the Luang Prabang Night Market is filled with lots of craft and silverware. This is also your best place to get souvenirs. Alternatively, there is the Hmong Market in the day which is in town where you can also get some decent souvenirs too. For art lovers, do check out some of the local paintings sold around town.
Eat local Lao Food
Lao Food in Luang Prabang is relatively safe for everyone’s consumption. Try the local baguettes that are sold around town. Tasty and filling for a very decent price. Make sure you get it with the local Lao Coffee which is reputed to be one of the best in the world. Try various local Lao restaurants along the Mekong River roadside. For some fusion of French and Lao, try the upmarket L’Elephant Restaurant in town.
Known as Ban Xang Hai, this Lao village is on route to Pak Ou Caves where boats make a 30 minute stop here. You can also visit this interesting craft village via road from Luang Prabang town. Highlights here are the local whiskey or Lao Lao where all sorts of snakes, insects and bugs are fermented and mixed with the whiskey and sold in various shaped bottles. Lao Silk is also woven live in front of you by the locals. You can also buy fabrics and other crafts here.
Phu Si Hill
Also known as Chomsy Hill or Mount Phousi, this easy to climb hill serves as one of the best spots in Luang Prabang to catch the amazing sunsets or view the entire city. A temple is also located up top while there are two ways of getting up here. One from the main street in town while the other is a trail behind the Ethnic Museum in town. Best visited in the evenings just before sundown and there is a minimal entrance fee.
Temples and Wats
There are 30 or more Temples or Wats located around Luang Prabang Town so you can easily visit any of them by foot. The most popular of them would be Wat Mai which is on the main street of town where it was recently refurbished. A walk around town will also take you to various other temples and Wats there. Check out some of the temples with schools for the younger monks where they learn woodwork, painting and also English.
Tad Sae Waterfalls
For the nature explorers, various tours or trips are offered to this beautiful waterfall which is located in a park and about 13 kilometers from town. There is an entrance fee of KIP 8,000 into the park where restaurants and facilities are available. The best time to visit the waterfalls is after the rainy season. During the dry season, the waterfall often has not much water so you may be disappointed.
Wat Xieng Thong
The Golden City Temple probably one of the oldest and most important temple in Luang Prabang which was built in 1560. Entry fee of KIP 5,000 (US$0.50) into the temple grounds where you see fascinating architecture here. Check out the detailed work on the main temple structure while various wall paintings have been restored to look amazingly beautiful.
Elephant Riding and Trekking or Elephant Village
The Elephant Park Project Area is located about 15 km out of town and in the middle of a wonderful mountainous surrounding. Easy half day trekking (about 3-4 hours) will lead you out into a local Khammu village where you get an insight in every day life and culture of this ethnic minority.
Or, you can go trekking in Luang Prabang to the nearby hillside villages.