They say the Buddha smiled when he rested on the soil of Luang Prabang. This UNESCO World Heritage city dates back to the first century AD and was once the royal capital and seat of government for the Kingdom of Laos. Often touted as one of the most beautiful living centres of Buddhist art in the world, Luang Prabang boasts dozens of beautiful temples and sacred places within its limits and surroundings. Over the last 20 years, the city has seen a influx of investment with once decrepit villas and palaces turning into luxurious boutique hotels and some of the best chefs in South East Asia moving in. Luang Prabang is a true discovery, one that, just like Buddha’s, captures the heart and imagination of every visitor.
The Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang was built as the residence of King Sisavang Vong during the French colonial period in 1904. It is located next to the Mekong river, which runs right behind it, so that visitors coming from the river could access it. The residence mixes Laotian and French architecture and today holds a vast exhibition of objects, furniture, clothes and more belonging to the last Laotian royals.
The Buddhist temple Wat Xieng Thong (pictured in banner), is one of the most important monasteries in Southeast Asia. It was built in the 16th century by a Laotian king near the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Here you’ll find several pavilions dedicated to different functions such as chapels, temples, stupas and ordination rooms. The main pagoda was the royal ordination room and contains beautiful ornamental mosaics. On the outside, the most spectacular mosaic represents the “Tree of Life” that tells the story of the founding of the temple on a red background. We recommend to visit just before sunset to catch the best light of the day.
It will be almost impossible not to visit the night market of Luang Prabang, in our opinion, one of the most charming places in Laos. It is set up every day at sunset, starting from the Royal Palace Museum to Kitsalat street. Visiting this market is a bliss, when compared to other similar markets in SE Asia, since here you will not feel harassed by any of the vendors. You will find textile products, decorative objects or the typical liquor bottles with a snake inside.
Catch the best views of Luang Prabang from the top of Mount Phousi. 300 steps separate the street from the temple that sits atop the hill, and there you will enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view of the city, the Mekong River and the surrounding mountainous landscape. We recommend you go up just before sunset, when is cooler and you can see the sun set over the mountains and river. Note about the caged birds that you can buy by the temple to be released by you: for very little money they offer you to open one of the cages and release the bird inside. What they do not tell you is that those birds end up returning to the cage a few minutes later and even if that wasn’t the case, how is an animal born in captivity going to survive in the wild? Please do not contribute money to a practice that keeps animals in captivity for the sole purpose of profit.
On the peninsula surrounded by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers and north of Mount Pho Si, sits the Old Quarter area of Luang Prabang. The wooden houses, French colonial-style buildings, temples and its tranquility are some of the reasons why this city is known for its laidback style. Here you will find some guest houses, restaurants and bars.
These waterfalls, about 30 km from the city are the largest and most popular. Several pools of turquoise water, perfect for swimming, precede the most spectacular area of Kuang Si, where the water falls from a height of about 50 meters. The area is accessible and easy to navigate (with some points with rails or platforms to cross them easily). By the entrance, before reaching the ticket office, there are many food and souvenir stalls. Curiously, there’s also a bear conservation center located here.
Every morning long lines of saffron-clad monks fill the streets of Luang Prabang for the alms giving ceremony. This tradition, in which devotees feed monks at sunrise, has become popular with tourists who come to the event every day to take photos or even take part in it. That is why in many of the temples you can see prints with the basic rules of behavior for attending the ceremony and the parade of monks in a respectful manner. Remember to read them!
Walk a UNESCO World Heritage site, discover Luang Prabang with an expert local guide and a professional photographer, and submerge yourself in the city’s unique beauty. See the city though a photographers eye gain a deeper insight into its visual wonders. Learn how the buildings of Luang Prabang have evolved over time and are influenced by various historical and cultural factors. Visit gilded Buddhist temples and wander down residential lanes to capture scenes of daily life. Learn about Laos’ fascinating ancient history and its diverse mix of ethnic groups and traditions.
Enjoy Luang Prabang’s gilded Buddhist temples and wander down residential lanes to see scenes of daily life. Learn about Laos’ fascinating ancient history and its diverse mix of ethnic groups and traditions. Visit the Laotian Dairy Farm where you get up close and personal with the beautiful buffalos by feeding, milking and even cuddling with them. Give back to the Laotian community by purchasing books and distributing them to the local children. As well as sitting down with students and helping them practice their English.
Visit Big Brother Mouse, an organization devoted to Lao children. Here, you can purchase books and distribute them to the local children, many of whom have nothing to read. Started by an American expat and staffed by high school and college-aged Lao students, Big Brother Mouse is a humanitarian organization of the greatest merit. Additionally, every day from 09:00-11:00 and again from 17:00-19:00, secondary and high school students come to the shop to practice their English with guests. If you are interested in speaking with Laotians and learning about their lives and culture, we encourage you to attend one of these informal chat sessions.