Luang Prabang is one of the favourite places to visit in Laos, and spending three days will allow you to see the best things to do in Luang Prabang.
And some of the must-see places to visit are:
- Kuang Si Falls
- Luang Prabang night market for shopping and food
- Silversmiths at work
- The almsgiving dawn ceremony is not to be missed.
We chose to visit Luang Prabang and Laos with Intrepid Travel.
One of the main reasons to book with Intrepid was their two-day cruise along the Mekong River to Luang Prabang. You can read more about our trip here: Slow Boat Cruise on the Mekong River.
While Laos is becoming more popular as a travel destination, you will find travel between Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane with private or public transport can be a bumpy, long and tiring journey.
If you are short on time and can only visit one place in Laos, we suggest you visit Luang Prabang for your first experience of Laos.
You can read more about our experience travelling from Vang Vieng to Vientiane here.
15 Best Things to Do in Luang Prabang
1. Luang Prabang Night Market
The night market is colourful, with a variety of different locally made and imported handcrafted items.
The market is set up early evening along Sisavangvong Road from 5 pm to 10 pm. The pedestrian-only lanes make it easy to browse and enjoy what is on offer.
By purchasing items, you will be supporting local merchants who are always up for a chat. You will find lots of beautiful goods as souvenirs, and you can bargain without pressure to buy.
You can check out the local markets in Luang Prabang here.
2. The Nightlife of Luang Prabang
When you eat out in Luang Prabang, you are spoilt for options, and the flavours of Luang Prabang are fabulous.
So your options are:
- night market food stalls
- local restaurants in the old French quarter
- sunset dinner on the Mekong River
The group dinner after arriving in Luang Prabang was in the French Quarter at a local restaurant.
While waiting for our meals, some of us decided to try a local cocktail. And we have to say, the Pink Pinta Colada (not Pina Colada) was the best, although very potent, was a mixture of Malibu, Grenadine, Vodka and pineapple juice. There was a heck of a lot of alcohol in this potion, and it was thoroughly enjoyed 😀
For dinner, we both tried some local dishes of bamboo fritters, shrimp fritters and Mok chicken with sticky rice. Trying new foods is always interesting and a great introduction to a new country.
3. Luang Prabang UNESCO
When we read about UNESCO sites, it is a building or area.
So when we discovered 33 villages of Luang Prabang are the UNESCO site, we knew we had to discover more of this beautiful place.
With so many elements to the buildings and architecture in Luang Prabang, you get to see both the Lao style and the colonial French style.
Some of the colonial French buildings are made of brick, even though most are wooden, with temples made of stone.
4. Whiskey Shots with a Difference
Travelling in Asia, you will always come across items we, as Westerners, wouldn’t consider touching, let alone eating.
Walking along the riverbank, we found a shack where an enthusiastic elderly gentleman was selling Whisky shots with a difference. The jars contained snakes, scorpions, geckos and other unidentifiable items.
While it is tempting, we passed on this occasion.
5. Silversmiths of Luang Prabang
One of the things to do in Luang Prabang is to visit Thith Pheng Maniphone Silversmiths. This family was once the silversmiths for the Royal household of Luang Prabang and is one of the oldest workshops in Luang Prabang.
It was amazing to watch this old craft of decorating pots commissioned for special events like almsgiving or presenting gifts to the temple.
6. Silk Drying at Ock Pop Tok
Ock Pop Tok, alongside the Mekong River, is a silk and weave handicraft workshop.
Hanging on lines were silk bundles to dry, looms in progress in nearby buildings and ladies preparing natural dyes made from plant and wood extracts.
If you want a lovely place for lunch, Ock Pop Tok has a restaurant and a chill-out area with bean bags to sit, drink and enjoy the views of the Mekong River.
To learn more about Ock Pop Tok or to stay in one of their villas, click to learn more here.
7. Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang
The Kuang Si Falls is about a 30min drive from Luang Prabang, with a drive passing by farmland, rice paddies and small villages.
Arriving at the park, you will need to pay an entrance fee of about USD3 to enjoy the three cascading pools of Kuang Si Falls.
The bonus is part way up the trail you will pass by the bear sanctuary of moon bears. These Asiatic black bears are an endangered species as their bile is used for Chinese medicine.
Make sure you just take your time and enjoy the walk up; the trees will provide cover from the heat.
Time for a Swim at Kuang Si Falls
One of the things to do at Kuang Si Falls is to swim in the cascading pools.
Our guide led us to the lower pool without the hordes of tourists for a swim. The water temperature was moderate and very refreshing, and well worth a visit for the natural beauty of the falls.
8. Sunrise at Phu Si Temple on Phousi Mountain
Sunrise is always so early, and it was Terry who was up at “sparrow” just beating the rooster crowing to join Lowell from the group on the climb up the 329 steps to Phu Si Temple to see the sunrise.
Unfortunately, the morning mist meant there was no sunrise to enjoy. The alternative was to return later in the day for the sunset.
9. National Palace Museum, Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang was once the royal capital and place of government for the kingdom of Laos.
The reign of the kings ended in 1975 with the end of the American war and a takeover by the Pathet Lao communist party.
The Palace is now the National Palace Museum.
The building itself is not ostentatious, but the throne room was beautifully decorated in mosaic. And the gift room was filled with expensive, decorative gifts from many countries.
Men, make sure you wear longs, as Terry had to put on a wrap to cover his bare legs.
10. Wat Xiang Thong
Along the riverbank, you will find Wat Xiang Thong, a very old wooden temple dating to 1560, built by King Setthathirat.
Not only is the temple beautiful from the outside, but it is also stunning inside. It was here the coronation of the kings took place.
Around the temple, you will find many smaller shrines as well as a building housing the funeral carriage.
11. Bamboo Bridge
As we wandered along the riverbank, stopping for a coffee, we spied a bamboo bridge. And you know us, we just had to explore.
We paid our 5,000 KIP each (USD.70c) and took our first steps onto the rickety bridge across the Nam Khan River.
This lopsided bridge had so many gaps Maura was pleased to get to the other side. We found out later these bridges are temporary as each year they are washed away in the monsoon season.
12. A Walk through Luang Prabang Wet Market
If there is one thing never to miss when travelling through Asia, it is the wet markets. These markets are always curious to us as we learn of new vegetables or see a herb or spice in its natural form.
Yet it has to be finding the most strange items like dead rats, large cockroaches and other sometimes unidentifiable items.
13. Dawn Alms with Buddhist Monks
At dawn, the young monks of Luang Prabang can be seen in their morning ritual of gathering food.
Our Intrepid guide had organised to take our group to the dawn almsgiving and to help us observe the protocol for this ritual. So the day before, our guide had purchased some simple food of rice and fruit for the offering in this peaceful ceremony.
And like the local Buddhist people, the group kneeled on one side of the road, at times listening to the chanting of a song while the food was offered.
14. Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre
We enjoyed visiting this small centre with an entrance fee of USD3.
The young staff at the centre were very helpful in explaining the exhibition to learn about the four ethnic Lao people, customs and crafts.
15. Sunset on the Mekong River
What better way to end our stay in Luang Prabang than with a dinner on the banks of the Mekong River?
The Intrepid group met at a riverside restaurant to watch the sun go down with a Pina Colada Lao style.
Our next stop is Vang Vieng to see and learn more about this wonderful country of Laos.
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