Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage city in Northern Laos.
We visited the town in April 2023 as part of a wider tour of South East Asia.
Luang Prabang was one of our favourite towns to visit with its rich food, interesting culture and access to the Mekong River.
Getting to Luang Prabang
We entered Luang Prabang directly from Hanoi on a Vietnam Airlines flight. The flight took approximately 45 minutes and was a short taxi to the main town from the airport. We saw arrivals from Air Asia, Bangkok Airlines and Laos Airlines.
There are two bus stations within Luang Prabang with direct services to the capital Vientienne and other key cities.
A newish train line has been built as part of China’s Belt and Road initiate and connects southern China to the capital Vientienne, also stopping at Luang Prabang.
Recommended Luang Prabang Activities
- Wat Xieng Thong
- Phu Si
We visited all the above places over the course 4 days. You can easily fit these activities into a shorter itinerary, however the heat becomes almost unbearable late morning to late afternoon so our activities were timed for mornings and evenings. We used the heat of the day to enjoy the hotel pool and the local restaurants – some of the best we’d found on our trip to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
Wat Xieng Thong Buddhist Temple
After arriving early afternoon in Luang Prabang and grabbing a quick bite to eat at Joma Bakery Cafe, we walked to Wat Xieng Thong. This is Luang Prabang’s best known Buddhist Temple and is centered around an ordination hall.
The temple is in the heart of the town center and despite seeing many temples across our journey to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, it felt like a good use of time. The night market which sets up nightly from about 5pm is in front of the entrance.
Observing Tak Bat
We woke early the next morning to observe the local Monks’ call to Alms. This ceremony takes place each morning and involves monks from across Luang Prabang walking through the streets barefoot while local residents place small balls of sticky rice in their begging bowls.
Later on in our trip, we saw this ceremony in Vientienne, however it lacked the peacefulness and scale of Luang Prabang.
When our guide suggested we leave the hotel at 6.30am to observe this ceremony, we were skeptical, but this proved to be an interesting ceremony to observe, plus the early morning start meant we had the waterfalls to ourselves.
Swimming at Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls
Immediately after the Tak Bat Monk Offering, we jumped in the car and drove 30km to the Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls. It’s a 30min drive along bumpy roads but well worth a visit.
Having woken up early for the monk offering, we arrived at the waterfalls at about 7.30am and had the whole place to ourselves.
Our guide had prepared a breakfast for us and we ate on the picnic benches by the limestone waterfalls.
After breakfast we jumped into the pools and swam in the turquoise pools. The water temperature was cool and refreshing.
Pro Tip: Make the effort to go to the Luang Prabang waterfalls early in the morning. You’ll avoid the large number of tourists and locals.
Just behind the falls is Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. This centre houses Asiatic moon bears who have been confiscated from poachers. The bear rescue centre is included in the admission cost to the waterfalls, however there are a number of signs and a stall to make a further donation. Be sure to ask the price of any merchandise before buying – a cheap beer holder was $15 USD…
The bear sanctuary is worth seeing if you’re at the waterfalls, however I wouldn’t make a trip from Luang Prabang specifically to see the bears.
After our visit, we went back to the hotel to lounge around the pool and have a lazy lunch. We climbed Phu Si later that afternoon after the peak of the heat.