Luang Prabang is often listed as a favorite city in Southeast Asia. It’s a small town filled with spirituality, culture and natural beauty. Unlike other cities it was actually really easy to pick my top 10 in Luang Prabang because the highlights stood out so much to me. This post will introduce you to the things you must do in Laos’ most popular destination.
VISIT KUANG SI FALLS
Kuang Si Falls is a spectacular turquoise waterfall that will just completely blow you away. If you visit, don’t assume that the smaller, lower falls are the highlight because they’re not. They’re the perfect place to swim, but the uppermost section of falls is the most beautiful. Take a picnic, go for a dip or just enjoy the soothing sound of these falls. Oh, and don’t forget to stop in at the Bear Rescue Center.
Mount Phousi is probably the most popular destination in the actual city of Luang Prabang. Climbing to the top of the hill mean that you get a spectacular view of the city and the two rivers that surround it. In addition to the stunning views, you pass through statues of the Buddha, temple entrances and ending up at a Stupa that sits at the peak. Remember that this is an insanely popular spot for sunset, so if you plan to catch the sunset there, get there early for a good spot.
VISIT BUDDHIST TEMPLES
Luang Prabang is well known for its beautiful temples in the Old Town and all around the city. In fact, 34 of the temples (or wats as they’re known in Laos) are protected UNESCO- protected since the Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had a fantastic time popping in and out of them across the city. It’s a great way to spend an entire day! Don’t forget to do this respectfully!
TAKE A YOGA OR MEDITATION CLASS
Luang Prabang Yoga is an amazing yoga co-op that hosts classes in their two locations in LPB (Utopia and their own studio above Sena) as well as retreats in Nong Khiaw and even other countries! We enjoyed both a meditation class and a yoga class with Luang Prabang Yoga and greatly enjoyed both. It’s a great way to exercise, ground yourself or create focus in your life. The instructors are fantastic, they offer varied classes and, if you’re in the area for a while, you can join their loyalty program! Never tried yoga before? Don’t worry their classes are available for yogis of all levels.
LEARN ABOUT SAFFRON COFFEE
Saffron Coffee is a sustainable coffee company who works with local farmers to create organic, delicious coffee while promoting a legal, sustainable life for locals. Saffron Coffee has a cafe along the Mekong in Luang Prabang and it’s one of the best places to eat in the entire city. In addition to one of my favorite places to eat, they also offer coffee tours. You get to learn more about the process of growing, processing and harvesting their coffee. Then, to cap it all off you get to have a coffee tasting and try some of their baked goods.
SHOP + EAT THROUGH THE NIGHT MARKET
Luang Prabang has a fantastic night market filled with amazing goodies – trinkets, art and food! Matt and I found some really incredible works of art that we brought home for our future home. Not to mention all the foods. There are fresh smoothies, tasty baked goods and a massive vegetarian buffet that will leave completely satisfied. It’s so much fun to wander through all the different stalls. Definitely pick up a treat to enjoy while you shop!
UXO LAOS VISITORS CENTER
The UXO Laos Visitors Center is a museum/center that explains the issue with Unexploded Ordnance (think mines, bombs, etc) that were left from the Vietnam War. Many of these UXO are small and look like toys that children in villages mistake as toys, mines are accidentally detonated and more. This center teaches visitors about this issue. The donations from visitors work to help educate villagers about UXO and fund the programs who help dispose of the UXO to make Laos a safer place for its locals and its visitors.
EAT ALL THE DELICIOUS FOOD
The food in Luang Prabang is off the charts! Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Dessert… They have it all! Highlights for me can be seen on this list. You can find everything from beautiful baked goods to local delicacies and Western treats that you’ve been living without. A few treats that come to mind are veggie fried rice, brownies, queso and proper strawberry milkshakes! Dig in!
RESPECTFULLY OBSERVE THE DAILY ALMSGIVING
The daily almsgiving of Luang Prabang is world-famous. Because of this fame and the beauty of this daily tradition it’s often mistreated. There are rules to respectfully viewing this tradition: keep your distance, don’t follow the procession and remember this is sacred. If you choose to take part in this tradition dress modestly and buy your alms from the morning market, not people on the street. There’s definitely something magical about watching the monks spill out from the temples into the streets, let’s keep it magical and not behave badly.
SPEND TIME ON ONE OR BOTH RIVERS
Getting out on the rivers is a huge part of exploring this gorgeous city. It isn’t every city that sits between two rivers. There are opportunities to kayak, take a slow boat or travel down river to Pac Ou Caves. My first visit, I ventured to Pac Ou, but the second we took the slow boat. It’s such a gorgeous, mountainous area, so be sure to take the opportunity to catch this gorgeous landscape from one of the rivers.
THINGS ON MANY OTHER TOP 10 LISTS:
NATIONAL MUSEUM – This building used to be the Royal Palace. I visited this museum on my first trip to Luang Prabang, but I didn’t think it was necessarily a must-see unless you love visiting past palaces.
PAC OU CAVES – This is often advertised as a cave temples, however, its lower cave is a cave filled with hundreds of small Buddha figures that were “retired” or discarded from temples or homes. The upper cave was a cave temple but there isn’t much left at all.
HOSTELS/HOTELS WE RECOMMEND FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:
CHITDARA 2 This beauty is my favorite place to stay in Luang Prabang. The location is perfect because it is right along the Mekong and in the heart of old town. I really loved having the river view and the beds are unbelievably comfortable! We loved eating out so much that we opted out of the free breakfast and negotiated a discount.
VILLA MAHASOK This is Matt’s favorite. He loves the beds here (I agree they are great) and he loved its close proximity to his favorite places to eat. However, it sits just outside of Old Town which meant for a lot more walking. Its big draw for me is the daily free bottled water and the amazing shower!
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