Luang Prabang (ຫລວງພະບາງ) is located in the north of Laos. It has about 50,000 inhabitants and is considered one of the nicest cities in Asia. And it is absolutely right: Luang Prabang is atmospheric, beautifully situated between the hills and there is a lot to see and do. Most people stay here for a few days, some even a week. And all because of the cosiness, conviviality and the relaxed atmosphere. But where is the best place to spend the night? What is there to see and how do you get there? An overview of the most important information you need to know about Luang Prabang in this travel guide…
What would you like to know about Luang Prabang in Laos?
- Sightseeing – 7 interesting places in Luang Prabang
- Accommodation – Where to stay?
- Transport – How to get there?
Sightseeing – 7 sights in Luang Prabang
In and around Luang Prabang there is so much to do that you can easily stay here for a week. And a lot of tourists do that, if only to relax a bit and before going out. For some sights you depend on public transport or you can rent a motorbike to explore the beautiful surroundings. There are also many hostels that can arrange a mini-tour to the beautiful Tat Kuang Si Falls for a small fee. Below is a brief overview of the best sights of the city.
1. Tat Kuang Si Falls, the most beautiful in Laos?
The most beautiful waterfall in Laos? Even in Thailand people will send you to the Tat Kuang Si Falls if you say you are going to Luang Prabang! And indeed, it’s beautiful! Beautiful blue clear water and in some places it is even allowed to swim! The Tat Kuang Si Falls are located 25 kilometers west of Luang Prabang and are really beautiful. Before you reach the waterfall you walk past a shelter for bears. These bears have had a sad life behind them and at this centre they are allowed to be ‘bears’ again.
2. A walk through the old French centre
A nice walk through Luang Prabang? Go to the old center and enjoy the many colonial buildings that this city is rich. Enjoy a delicious lunch along the Mekong River and visit the Royal Palace or a number of temples such as the Wat Xieng Thong.
3. Wat Xieng Thong, a royal temple
The Wat Xieng Thong Monastery is located east of the Royal Palace and is the most famous sanctuary in the city. It was built in 1560 under the leadership of King Settharhirath (1534-1571) and was an important temple to the royal family. Several kings were crowned here. In addition, this temple is also characterized by beautiful mosaics of colored glass.
4. Royal Palace
Since 1904 this was the place where the royal family stayed during the French colonial rule. When the monarchy was overrun by the communists in 1975, the royal family was sent to a camp and eventually murdered. From 1980 the Royal Palace is a museum of which the interior is still reasonably intact.
5. Pak Ou Caves
25 kilometers northeast of Luang Prabang are the Pak Ou Caves. These caves lie along the Mekong River and are home to a large number of Buddha statues. In Laos, the Pak Ou Caves are called the Tam Ting caves, which means caves of the thousands of Buddhas. For a ticket by boat you have to be at the Mekong River in the old center of Luang Prabang. The boat stops along the way at a number of small villages, including ‘Whiskey Village’ for a Laotian alcoholic refreshment.
6. Phu Si Hill
For a beautiful sunset you go to Phu Si Hill. You will pass this hill several times for a visit to the old center of the city and you will have a beautiful view of the surroundings. On this hill are a number of small temples and at the top of Phu Si Hill you will have a beautiful sunset around 18 hours where you can enjoy.
7. UXO Laos Information Centre
Laos is the most bombed-out country ever in the history of mankind. At the time of the Vietnam War the Americans tried to block the road of the Vietcong, which ran through Laos, by bombing it. The UXO Laos Information Centre, 2 kilometers south of the city center, is free to visit and gives a glimpse into the Vietnam War and its consequences for the Laotian population today. People are still dying because they are standing on a mine or a bomb is still exploding.
Finally: In and around Luang Prabang there are a lot of different small temples. When you cross the Mekong River by boat and go to the right you will also come across a number of little temples, such as Wat Chomphet and Wat Xieng Maen.
Accommodation – Where to stay in Luang Prabang?
In Luang Prabang you can’t get away from it: the French influence of colonialism 100 years ago. French colonial houses are characteristic of the city centre. Nice eateries, cozy bars and nice accommodation finish it off!
The center (Xieng Mouane) is located on the Mekong River near the Royal Palace. A hotel or hostel around Phou Si Hill is therefore a good option. You can get a bed in a dormitory in this place from as little as 3 euros and in every price range you will find a nice place to stay.
Tip: In the morning there is a Morning Market in Luang Prabang and in the evening … you guessed it … a Night market. These markets are nice to visit once (or several times). For a good price you can buy exotic products, delicious Laotian food or nice souvenirs. Both markets are located west of Phu Si Hill and close to the Mekong River.
Transport – How to get to Luang Prabang?
By plane: Luang Prabang International Airport is located 4 kilometers northeast of the city center. Together with Vientiane airport it is the busiest airport in the country. It is mostly used for national flights, but daily flights also depart to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Japan and Singapore. There are no buses from the airport to the center, so you have to take a taxi or a tuktuk. Or ask the hotel for a pick-up!
Bus: Luang Prabang has a north and south bus station. The northern bus station is located west of the airport and is used for a number of destinations in the north and east of the country. The most used bus stations are the southern bus station and the nearby Naluang minibus station for destinations such as Vang Vieng and Vientiane, but also minibuses to the north, such as Nong Kiau.
By train: Luang Prabang does not have a train connection at the moment, but the Chinese are making a connection between Kunming (China) and Vientiane with a stop in Luang Prabang. This connection will probably be opened in 2022.
Boat: See yellow block below for the boat to Thailand!
By boat to Thailand?
A few kilometers northeast of Luang Prabang the boat leaves for Thailand on the Mekong River. Tickets can be bought at the quay and the boat leaves around 8 am. It is also possible to buy a ticket plus transport at your hotel or hostel (extra commission), but then you are assured of a place in the boat.
The boat takes about 8 hours to get to Pakbeng. Pakbeng is halfway the route and is a small town in Laos, but with a large amount of hotels, hostels and guesthouses. The next day you leave around 8 am and arrive in Huay Xai around 5 pm. From here you take a (mini)bus or taxi to the border with Thailand and then continue to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.
Costs for the boat for 2 days: +- 250.000 Lao Kip
Tip: Buy food and drinks in advance (there are noodles for sale in the boat) and possibly bring a pillow to sit on. The seats in the boat consist of old car seats and that can get a bit annoying after a while.
And what is your opinion about Luang Prabang? If you have any more tips and ideas, feel free to leave a message below!