We traveled through Northern Laos for 8 days during our Big Trip, ending in Luang Prabang. This place is really awesome! True, it did not have the solitude of previous towns in Laos (Luang Namtha, Nong Khiaw) and it may seem a little more touristy. But it’s a popular destination for backpacker, so definitely a must on your trip in Laos!
Luang Prabang is a beautiful and chill place and there are many things to do! I spent 3 days in in this amazing village with Ms. Rice and have made a list of our favorite things to do… (8, lucky number in Asia 😉 ).
8 things to do in Luang Prabang
1. Visit the Kuang Si waterfalls
It ain’t the Niagara falls nor the Iguazu Falls, but it’s a must in Luang Prabang, because the Kuang Si falls are located in a really beautiful setting. There are different ways in getting there: joining a tour, renting a Tuk Tuk, riding by mountain bike (30km one way). We opted for the van service of our hotel, which was flexible, fast and still very budget friendly!
As we walked to the waterfalls at Kuang Si Park, we first came across the Tat Kuang Si rescue center. Picture 15-20 moon bears laying chilled out in their hammocks or happily playing with their toys. These bears were rescued from poachers (they are an endangered specie) and it seemed they were taken care of pretty well. We were just there at feeding time.
You won’t be alone in the park, yet, there are several trails leading you to different levels of the waterfalls. We even did the most upper trail, mainly hiking all alone: totally recommended for some great mountain views.
This place was a must-see. Gazing at the blue-green water as it fell over the rocks’ edges, with the light casting an ethereal glow on the scene. The multilevel waterfall is an amazing sight!
Van to Kuang Si Falls costs 40.000LAK (2.5USD), the entrance fee for Kuang Si Park is 20.000LAK (little over 2 USD).
2. Climb Phu Si Mountain
Ready for a short workout and finding a beautiful view over Luang Prabang and the surrounding area? Just climb to the top of the 100 meter high Phu Si Mountain. It will take some flights of stairs from the entrance across the Royal Palace, but it’s well worth it. At the top there is a Buddhist temple called Wat Chom Si. (it’s more of a hill though 🙂 )
You don’t decent the same way you came from: take the path leading down the other side of the mountain where you come cross a lot of Buddha statues. It will also get you close to the pub area and to number 3 on our list!
Climbing Phu Si Mountain costs 20.000LAK (approx 1.25 USD).
3. Chill out at Utopia
So you made it to the Kuang Si Falls or up and over Phu Si Mountain? Time to relax! In the “pub area” of Luang Prabang, there’s this place called Utopia. Not a dream far far away, but a great hang out spot with good music, great views on Mekong river, sofa and pillow pits, free yoga sessions, a whole bunch of fellow travellers and a decent menu (especially the cocktails!). Chilling at Utopia in late afternoon / evening is definitely an excellent idea to reflect on your day, or just to meet some new people. We actually met some French travellers we had been hiking with earlier in Luang Namtha, so this was a great coincidence!
Utopia, where the true Laos PDR (please don’t rush) travellers meet… 🙂
Cocktails between 15-30.000 LAK (1-3 USD)
4. Go for a Lao Massage
Need more relaxing after Utopia? Go for a traditional Lao massage. We must admit, we’re a huge fan of Chinese foot massages. Being in Laos made us quite curious about the classic Lao massage. It’s a one hour full body massage (no oil or anything), quite strong at some points, even with some “walking on the back”. But nevertheless great after being so busy with activities! There are some massage shops around the night market.
We paid 40.000LAK per person, expect to pay between 40-60.000LAK for 1 hour depending on type.
5. Stroll around the night market
Time to feed the stomach after all those activities! We told you Luang Prabang is more touristy than the rest of Northern Laos: the night market explains it all. It’s hard to resist buying things at the night market of Luang Prabang (for starters, it’s dirt cheap)! You can find the usual items: elephant pants, bags, wallets, lanterns, but there are also some interesting local products as well, like Lao Lao whisky (snake included haha).
The area around the night market is also a great place to find diner at one of the many food stalls: go for some delicious noodle soup (10.000LAK), some coconut pancakes (5.000LAK) or maybe choose the fill your bowl BBQ (15.000LAK per bowl, BBQ meat/fish is extra).
6. Admire the temple complexes
There are so many temples in Luang Prabang: you can easily wonder around a whole day to visit them: all different, all pretty and all sparkling. Just stroll around, you’ll find them across the town. Or check the Lonely Planet for an extensive list.
If you’re an early bird, you can also join the religious tradition of alms giving (great read here). Don’t forget to always stay respectful!
7. Have some coffee and sweets
8. Visit an Elephant Wildlife park (choose sustainable, so not elephant riding!)
We did not do this last activity ourselves due to lack of time (we had a flight to catch on the last day), but we most certainly can recommend it. We had a chat with the organisers AND some fellow travellers who visited an Elephant Wildlife park. Don’t get fooled by all the (crappy) tours with elephant riding. Go for sustainable and choose wisely (a nice article for a tour over here).
A sustainable visit sets you back around 90 USD for 1 day pp
There’s lots of other things to do as well: visiting the UXO museum and Royal museum, crossing the bamboo rickety bridge, going on a Mekong cruise (can be all the way to Thailand), … Luang Prabang won’t disappoint you!