How to get there
11 hours, $24
50min, $46 – $110
6 hours, $19
24 hours, $49
1h 40min, $171
What to do in Luang Prabang
#1 Kuang Si Waterfall
Swim in cool turquoise lagoons formed by one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Asia!
Kuang Si Waterfall is a 50-meter high and 3-level waterfall, 29 kilometers south of Luang Prabang. Tourists and locals come to this place for its exquisite blue-green lagoons and the thick tropical jungle that surrounds them.
Say hi to rescued moon bears (Asian black bears) while enjoying a buttered and sugared roasted banana from one of the stalls at the base. Climb to the second level and take pictures in the middle of torrents. If you are fit enough, take the path to the top of the waterfall. After a stroll and a swim, thrill your palate with fried frog legs and prawn ravioli at the Carpe Diem Restaurant.
It’s easy to get there from the center of Luang Prabang; a private, round-trip tuk-tuk ride costs $20. Share the tuk-tuk with 4-5 people and pay only $5. The falls are open from 8:00 to 17:30 and the entrance fee is $2. Come just before noon and wait there for the heat to pass.
#2 Tad Sae Waterfalls
Swim in cool, bluish pools, zoom on a zip line and listen to the gush of water.
Tad Sae may not be as popular as Kuang Si, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as charming! Even the locals can’t seem to get enough of its refreshing atmosphere. The falls cascade over limestone formations that resemble stairs, creating pools on different levels. The best time to visit is during the wet season (August-November) when the torrents are strong and the waterfall is at full force.
Listen to the sound of birds from the lush forest that borders the falls. Stroll on the walkways for the best views and jump into the overflowing pools! Fill up on sticky rice and grilled fish stuffed with herbs from the restaurant, then spend the rest of the afternoon on a sun lounger.
You can reach this paradise by taking a tuk-tuk ($20 waiting time + journey back) to the port of Nam Khan where boats travel across to Tad Sae. Consider group tours if you want to be economical. Visitors are allowed from 8:00-17:00.
The beauty of the waterfalls is unquestionable, but visitors should be aware that certain animals such as monkeys, peacocks and elephants are kept in captivity here and used as attractions. For those with strong views on animal rights, it may be an uncomfortable experience. We encourage travellers not to engage in tourist attractions where animals are kept in captivity or activities like elephant rides.
#3 Pak Ou Caves
Curious where retired Buddha statues go? You’ll find them in the Pak Ou Caves.
The Pak Ou Caves are located at the mouth of the Ou River, where it intersects the Mekong River. These two caves are in the side of a striking limestone cliff: the Tham Ting (lower cave) and the Tham Theung (upper cave). The caves serve as home to 4,000 retired Buddha statues which have been left there by locals and pilgrims for centuries—so dress conservatively!
Feel the air of divinity as you see the Buddha statues glinting in the sunlight through the door of the lower cave. You’ll find some are covered in dirt and cobwebs. Turn on your flashlight and find many more statues in the upper cave, which is wrapped in total darkness. The caves are small and don’t take long to explore. A visit to these caves is often included in tours to the Whiskey Village. Seeing local life unfold along the banks of Mekong River is an added bonus.
The only way to get to the caves is by taking a boat to the foot of the cliff. It’s best to take a shared boat ($7 per person) from the main dock of Luang Prabang. Once off the boat, walk on floating steps towards the stairs that lead up to the caves. It’ll take about an hour to explore the caves. Tours start at 8:30, and the entrance fee is $4.
#4 Whiskey Village (Ban Xang Hai)
Forget that commercial whiskey that got you sloshed on your birthday! Ban Xang Hai offers a drink that is not for the faint-hearted.
Also known as the Whiskey Village, this small village makes their own whiskey using rice and flavors it using scorpions, beetles, lizards, snakes and all sorts of other insects and reptiles. They literally stuff these creatures whole into the bottles. Some brewers also add ginseng for an extra kick. These bottles are heaped on shelves almost everywhere in the village and are sold for as low as $1.
But Ban Xang Hai is not all about alcohol. Wander through streets that are lined with colorful shawls and fabrics. If you’re planning to discover more of Luang Prabang, get a nice shawl to protect yourself from the blazing sun. In the town center you’ll find dazzling shrines and temples.
You only need 2 hours to explore the Whiskey Village, so it’s a good place to stop if you’re heading to or from Pak Ou Caves. Boat operators often offer this side trip as part of the Pak Ou Caves tour. Prepare to spend $7-$10 for this adventure.
#5 Night Market
Haggle for finely-woven silk scarves or ceramics sparkling under the warm glow of lamplight, and follow the scent of marinated meat to the end of the market.
At 17:00, red and blue tents begin to rise along the Sisavangvong Road. The road is closed off to vehicles to give way to traders and shoppers. Clothing, décor, bags, accessories and other items are neatly arranged on tables and platforms, while some hang on poles and sway in the gentle wind. Prices are said to be higher during night-time, so make sure to bargain well. Tents are folded down at 22:00.
#6 Morning Market
Luang Prabang’s morning market may be more relaxed than others, but it is teeming with excitement. The market sits just beside the biggest temple in Luang Prabang, the Wat Mai.
Mountains of locally-grown fruits and vegetables sit on mats bordering the narrow lanes, and tables are covered with fresh meat, stacks of egg trays and sacks of rice. Smoking grills fill the air with a hunger-inducing aroma. Deep-fried insects challenge the most adventurous taste buds, and grilled honeycomb wrapped in a banana leaf teases the grumbling stomachs of those who decided to skip breakfast. Sitting beside everyday foods are rare mushrooms, herbs and little creatures hunted from the jungle.
Even if you’re not planning to do the grocery shopping, Luang Prabang’s morning market is a good place to immerse yourself in local life. Trading is between 5:00 to 17:00 daily.
#7 Bamboo Bridge
What more challenging way to cross the Nam Khan River than by walking the bamboo bridge?
Off Kingkitsarath Road is a bridge made entirely of bamboo, connecting villages to the center of Luang Prabang. Floods dismantle it during the wet season, and it’s rebuilt at the beginning of every dry season.
If you visit the bridge in the early evening, you can wave at the fishermen pulling up their nets, meet locals coming home from work, and relax at the soothing sound of the river. Treat yourself with chicken coconut soup, Lao fondue and eggplant dip at Dyen Sabai, an open-air restaurant on the other side. It offers comfortable seating and a good view of the river. Normally it takes an hour to travel through the town via the Old Bridge, but this alternative route on the bamboo bridge helps the monks reach the center of Luang Prabang faster for the morning rituals.
Locals charge $1 for a return crossing, and the money goes toward the bridge’s reconstruction. The bridge is sturdy and well-lit at night, so remain calm and enjoy the scenery.
#8 Butterfly Park
Waltz with butterflies, stroll on pathways edged with vibrant flowers, and dip your feet in a small freshwater pond for a free foot spa from tiny fish.
Only 300 meters from the entrance of the Kuang Si Waterfall is a butterfly park, dubbed the “first butterfly conservation and exhibit of its kind in Luang Prabang.” It was built by two hardworking Dutch persons who wanted to study and preserve the butterfly species in Laos.
It’s a beautiful stop before you hit the waterfalls. They have an open-air café that offers strong Dutch coffee and tasty baguettes. The park is open from 10:30–16:30 daily except Tuesdays, and it’s fairly small, so you’ll only need an hour to experience it. Tickets cost $5. Just add $2 for a nice lunch by the pond.
#9 Watch the Monks along Sakkaline Road (but treat with respect)
Wake up before sunrise, prepare your offering, kneel by the street and take part in one of the most sacred Lao traditions.
Alms Giving is a sacred tradition that dates back to the 14th century, but numerous locals still partake in the ceremony. Every day at 5:30, hundreds of monks leave the temples for a procession along the streets of Luang Prabang to gather their food supplies for the day. Those who intend to donate should kneel along the procession route before the monks arrive and bow as the monks pass by. No one is obliged to give, but all donations will be accepted, including those from tourists.
Tourists are welcome to join. Just take note of these unspoken rules:
- Dress conservatively
- Remove your socks and shoes during the ceremony
- Never touch the monks
- Keep your head lower than the monks
- Keep a respectful distance. If you want to take photos, stand behind those giving offerings
- Stay silent and limit your movements
We recommend watching the ritual from Sakkaline Road because it is close to the Buddhist Temple. This gives you the highest chances of seeing the monks participating in this procession.
#10 Sunset at Phou Si Hill
Phou Si Hill offers a spectacular 360-degree view of Luang Prabang and one of the best sunsets you’ll ever see. Climb more than 300 steps, pass little temples with gilded crowns, and feel a deep sense of peace as the sky changes to soft pastels, the sun slowly sinking behind the mountains.
Phou Si Hill or Mount Phousi stands 150 meters above the center of Luang Prabang’s old town. The peak can be accessed via two stairways; the one in front of the Royal Palace Museum on Sisavongvang Road has 328 steps, and the one beside the Nam Khan River has 355 steps.
It is considered a sacred place in Laos, so make sure to dress conservatively, and never bring loud speakers, alcohol or cigarettes there.
From anywhere in downtown Luang Prabang, you can negotiate $5-$7/person for a return trip on a shared tuk-tuk. This place is very popular at sunset, so expect many other tourists. Come as early as 16:30 to get a good spot!
#11 Utopia Bar
Take off your shoes, lie down on colorful cushions and enjoy a drink from a platform overlooking the Nam Khan River while surrounded by nature.
Utopia is an outdoorsy bar set on the banks of the Nam Khan River by the Phousi Road. It is the perfect hang out to chill with your friends and enjoy a Beerlao while enjoying the view on the river.
If your energy is still at its peak, ask your friends (or other bar patrons) to walk down the clear area for a friendly volleyball game, or find a spot amidst the leaves to do some yoga. Then stretch out and relax on one of the long cushions scattered on the floor.
Open from 8:00 to 23:30, they offer live performances, movie nights, board games and beach volleyball. A $2 tuk-tuk ride can take you to this hip hang-out in Luang Prabang from anywhere in the town’s center.
When the bar closes at 23:30, you can still continue the night at a bowling center downtown. This is the only place where they still serve alcohol at night. Tuk-tuks will be waiting at Utopia Bar to bring you to the bowling palace.
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