Luang Prabang has a great mix of culture, atmosphere and outdoor fun! Check out our article on 8 Things To Do In Luang Prabang.
Climb Up Mount Phousi
The local people say that you haven’t been to Luang Prabang unless you get a photo at the top of Mount Phousi. Well that’s at least what someone told me when I was there. Anyhow, it was really fun and well worth the climb.
Mount Phousi is located right in the centre of the Old Town part of Luang Prabang so there is no way you will miss it. You need to go up 355 steps to reach the summit. But once you are there, you are rewarded with awesome 360 degree views of the whole town.
Climbing up for sunset is really pretty but also very crowded! So we recommend going up for sunrise instead. You will have a more peaceful and unique experience that way.
Keep in mind there is also a very small admission charge. Also be sure to check out some of the tiny temples and Buddha statues about half way up and at the summit.
Attend The Alms Giving Ceremony At Sunrise
This is a tradition that dates back to the 14th century. Everyday at Sunrise hundreds of local monks walk the main street of Luang Prabang to gather offerings of food and gifts from the local people. You can see this in various parts of Asia, however the alms giving in Luang Prabang is said to be the best.
This is also a very sacred cultural practice and is something that requires a lot of respect. Tourists are encouraged to be involved as long as they are participating in a tasteful manner.
It is polite to cover your shoulders and legs, and to remove your shoes and socks while kneeling down to offer your alms. It is considered extremely rude to take direct photos of the monks or too look them in the eyes. Also remember to remain silent throughout the ceremony.
In my opinion this is one of the most interesting and humbling experiences I had in Indochina, so be sure to give it a go!
Visit The Kuang Si Waterfalls
The Kuang Si waterfalls are seriously stunning to look at it and are really worth the effort. They are located about 40 minutes outside of Luang Prabang, so you will need to take a Tuk Tuk to get there. Tuk Tuk drivers are everywhere so it will be easy to organise one. The area can get really busy with local monks, people and also tourists. So we suggest going in the early morning.
On arrival you have to walk about 5-10 mins along a dirt path to get to the waterfalls. However along the way you will go past a sanctuary dedicated to helping the local endangered bears! This is well worth a look.
There are also lots of little crystal clear swimming holes along the way that cascade down from the main waterfalls that you can enjoy. You can easily spend a few hours at the Kuang Si waterfalls.
See The Royal Palace Museum
The Royal Palace Museum is located in the centre of town, opposite the entrance to Mount Phousi. To properly explore the museum and its surrounds will take around 1 hour. There is a small entry fee, however in my opinion it’s worth it, as this place helps you to appreciate the history of Laos.
The museum is the former home of the royal family of Laos and to this day still stores many famous royal and national relics. Many of the royal apartments have also been restored. They even have a garage that stores some of the former Royal cars.
The Royal Palace was originally built in 1904 so it’s obviously not that old. However, I still found it interesting and would definitely recommend it.
Shop At The Night Market
Every night one of the main streets of town closes down and a night market is erected. This is where a lot of locals come to make some cash. The market is mainly filled with a lot of cheap tourist crap which you can barter for, however you can’t help but admire some of the handy work and goods produced by the local women. The needle work and silk goods are really impressive, as well as the objects made out of old bombs dropped during the Vietnam War.
Another great thing is that the locals don’t like to hassle the tourists when selling goods like they do in countries like Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. So you can shop in peace if you like.
To be honest, I really enjoyed the local market as it provided a great atmosphere. It is also next to many restaurants and bars, which means you can have a good browse after eating some local food and enjoying several Laos beers.
Cruise The Mekong River
The mighty Mekong River is the lifeblood of Indochina and is hugely important to the agriculture of Laos. This famous river is truly amazing to see during the monsoon season where it washes away most of the bridges in town every year. So if you are like me and find stuff like that interesting, then get on a boat and check it out.
Just wander down to the river bank and organise a ride with a local boat driver. We did and managed to see some elephants playing in the water as we cruised along.
Pak Ou Caves
Another great thing to do is to visit the Pak Ou caves, which are famous for storing hundreds of Buddha relics. It’s a really interesting place to see as you need to walk through some smaller caves and up some stairs carved into the side of a mountain.
This is a really great way to spend half a day, and some boats even offer lunch on board as well as a visit to some local villages on the river bank.
Visit Wat Xieng Thong
You will no doubt come across many different pagodas and temples while in Luang Prabang, but by far the best to see is Wat Xieng Thong. Wat Xieng Thong is located just north of the Old Town and is basically a small outdoor complex that contains several small temples, which you can visit if your shoes are removed and you are dressed modestly.
This site was once the place where the Kings of Laos were crowned. In fact the main temple was originally built in 1560 and has survived several invasions. The temples are seriously beautiful to look at as they are built in a traditional Laos style with tall sweeping roofs and covered in gold paint. It’s worth spending about an hour here.
The complex is open 8am to 5pm every day.
Go To An Elephant Sactuary
Visiting or even riding elephants is a hot topic amongst many travellers. It especially seems to upset those vegan elephant print pants wearing hippy travellers who are exploring the world to “find themselves”. I think visiting an elephant sanctuary to pet and feed elephants is fine if the purpose of the place is to actually aid in their survival and protect them from poachers and being overworked!
So now that we have got that out of the way, go and check out the Elephant Village Sanctuary just outside of Luang Prabang. You will find some injured and disabled elephants here that are under the care of a full time vet. The elephants here have been mainly rescued from other areas of Laos where they have been physically overworked in the logging industry.
Here you can simply pet the elephants, get photos of them or do what we did and feed them bananas and sugar cane! You can even go for a ride on the elephant while they bathe themselves in the river. You can also make small donations to the elephants future care if you wish!