Surrounded by the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang is a small city that offers a huge level of natural and manmade beauty. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is home to incredible Buddhist temples, beautiful colonial architecture and much more.
Luang Prabang © saipal
As the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Laos, Luang Prabang is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Quiet and peaceful, Luang Prabang is a nice escape from the big cities of Thailand and Vietnam and the perfect place to spend a week unwinding.
While the city’s French colonial architecture and beautiful temples get the most attention, the area surrounding Luang Prabang is also naturally beautiful. Waterfalls, caves and a massive range of other natural attractions make Luang Prabang a great destination for adventure.
Luang Prabang © wm_archiv
Main Areas of Interest in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is a small city that can easily be navigated on foot. Most of the city’s cheap guesthouses and backpacker accommodation can be found along the riverfront, close to the hospital on Chao Samsenthai.
Luang Prabang Old Town
Located on a peninsula surrounded by the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, Luang Prabang’s Old Town is a charming, picturesque part of the city. The Old Town, particularly the area on the Mekong River side, is home to a range of monasteries and selection of restaurants.
Luang Prabang Centre
Further up from the Mekong River is Luang Prabang Centre. Less picturesque than the Old Town but still far from unimpressive, this part of town is where you’ll find the hospital, Dara Market and the immigration and tourism offices.
Mount Phou Si is a small hill located in the middle of Luang Prabang’s Old Town. At the top of the hill, you’ll find Wat Chom Si, which overlooks the Old Town. Phou Si is a popular landmark in Luang Prabang and one of the city’s most well known sights.
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Wat Tham Phou Si © infanticida
Things to Do in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang Night Market
While the Luang Prabang Night Market is undeniably a tourist attraction more than it is a local market, it’s still worth a visit. Located on Sisavangvong Road, the market’s stalls are lit up and surrounded by the city’s beautiful French colonial villas and shophouses.
Much more authentic than the Night Market, Luang Prabang’s Morning Market is where locals shop for food and cooking ingredients. Although there are few products of interest to travellers available, the market offers a great look at local Lao life.
Mount Phou Si
Located right in the centre of Luang Prabang, Mount Phou Si is a 100 metre hill that towers over the Old Town. Two temples are built on Phuo Si — Wat Tham Phou Si, which is built at the halfway point of the mountain, and Wat Chom Si on the summit.
Built for King Sisavang Vong in 1904, Luang Prabang’s Royal Palace is located close to the Mekong River on Sisavangvong Road. The palace, which is built in a mixed Lao/French style, contains a collection of Laos art and items donated by foreign countries.
Wat Xieng Mouane
Located in the Old Town, Wat Xieng Mouane is an impressive Buddhist temple built in 1879 as a training centre for monks. Although the temple was shut down after the 1975 revolution, it’s reopened since and teaches local monks skills such as gilding and woodworking.
Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre
Located a short distance from Mount Phou Si between the Old Town and Luang Prabang Centre, the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre is a museum dedicated to the numerous ethnic groups that make up the population of Laos.
Kuang Si Falls
These impressive three-tier waterfalls are a popular day trip from Luang Prabang. The falls, which cover more than 60 metres and empty into a series of turquoise pools, are located 29 kilometres from Luang Prabang and can be access by tuk-tuk or rental motorcycle.
Located 29 kilometres south of Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Falls are best accessed by tuk tuk or rental motorcycle.
Best Luxury Hotels in Luang Prabang
- Victoria Xiengthong Palace
Located in the centre of Luang Prabang’s beautiful Old Town, Victoria Xiengthong Palace is an upmarket four-star boutique hotel built in a colonial style. Many of the spacious rooms and suites offer views over the Mekong River.
- Satri House Secret Retreats
Part of the Secret Retreats collection, Satri House Secret Retreats is a stylish five-star luxury hotel in Luang Prabang Centre. The hotel’s spacious and comfortable rooms and suites and beautiful swimming pool and grounds make it a good place to relax while in Luang Prabang.
- Kiridara Hotel
Located on the outskirts of Luang Prabang, Kiridara Hotel is a relaxing hotel offering a quiet atmosphere and fantastic views of the Laos countryside. The hotel’s outdoor pool, sauna and spa make it a wonderful place to escape civilisation and recharge.
Best Mid Range Hotels in Luang Prabang
- My Dream Boutique Resort
My Dream Boutique Resort is a charming three-star boutique resort located across the Nam Khan River from the rest of Luang Prabang. This hotel’s quiet location and fantastic facilities, which include an outdoor pool and large garden, make it a tranquil place to stay.
- Maison Dalabua Luangprabang Hotel
Located in Luang Prabang Centre and a short walk from the Meking River, Maison Dalabua Luangprabang Hotel is a great three-star hotel. With a garden, beautiful pond and swimming pool, Maison Dalabua Luangprabang Hotel is an oasis near the centre of Luang Prabang.
- Vansana Luang Prabang Hotel
Located a five-minute drive from the centre of Luang Prabang, Vansana Luang Prabang Hotel is a great hotel for visitors to Luang Prabang with their own transportation. The hotel’s outdoor pool, great views and spacious rooms and suites make it a comfortable place to stay.
Best Budget Hotels in Luang Prabang
- Lao Lu Lodge
Less than two minutes away from the Royal Palace and Night Market, Lao Lu Lodge is a good low-cost accommodation option in Luang Prabang’s Old Town. Simple, clean and comfortable double, twin and triple rooms are available, all of which include free Wi-Fi.
- Manichan Guesthouse
Located close to the Mekong River and a short distance from the Royal Palace, Manichan Guesthouse is a conveniently located budget guesthouse in the Old Town. Rooms include free Wi-Fi, but some of the cheaper rooms have shared bathroom facilities.
- View Khemkhong Guesthouse
View Khemkhong Guesthouse is a small guesthouse located close to the Mekong River. A short walk from the Old Town, this 11-room guesthouse offers a selection of compact and comfortable budget rooms and a riverside dining terrace.
Hmong Market © yeowatzup
Places to Eat and Drink in Luang Prabang
Part of the TREE Alliance, Khaiphaen is a training restaurant that serves tasty local Lao food and provides hospitality and culinary training to locals.
- Blue Lagoon Restaurant
Located close to the Royal Palace, Blue Lagoon serves a selection of Lao and international dishes accompanied by an extensive wine list.
- The Apsara
The Apsara serves a diverse menu made up of Lao cuisine and excellent sandwiches in a location close to the Nam Kham River.
An upmarket French Restaurant in the Old Town, Tangor serves excellent steak, tapas and desserts alongside a great selection of desserts and wines.
- L’Elephant Restaurant
Set inside a charming shophouse close to the Mekong River, L’Elephant Restaurant serves a good selection of European dishes as well as a three-course set menu.
- Rosella Fusion Restaurant
Located on Kingkitsarat Road, Rosella Fusion Restaurant offers tasty Lao dining overlooking the Nam Khan River.
- Joys Restaurant
Joys Restaurant is a charming family restaurant located inside a traditional Lao house close to the Mekong River. The menu contains a mix of Thai and Lao favourites.
Charming and affordable, Tamarind serves a simple menu made up of Lao cuisine with great views over the Nam Khan River.
- La Casa Lao
Owned by a French expat, La Casa Lao serves Lao and Spanish tapas alongside a selection of cocktails, wines and beers.
River Mekong Impress © 13523064@N03
How to Get to Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang International Airport is a small international airport that receives flights from Bangkok, Hanoi, Siem Reap, Singapore and other regional centres. Domestic flights connect Luang Prabang with the Lao cities of Vientiane and Pakse.
Most people will need a visa to enter Laos. Visas are available on arrival at the airport for a fee — most nationalities pay $35 USD or the equivalent in Thai baht or Laos kip.
Luang Prabang is connected with Vientiane by Laos National Highway 13. The long, winding road goes through some rugged scenery on the way to Luang Prabang, making the 10 hour trip best avoided if you’re prone to car sickness.
A variety of buses are available for the trip between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Opt for a VIP bus for more comfort and a slightly quicker journey — the ordinary buses usually take one hour extra to complete the journey and are rarely comfortable.
It’s possible to travel to Luang Prabang by boat from the Laos border town of Houay Xai near Thailand. The slow boat journey takes more than two days — expect to get to Luang Prabang in about 55 hours, on average — and offers a safe, quiet and somewhat boring journey.
For a quicker, more dangerous and significantly more exciting trip, the fast boat service gets to Luang Prabang in around six hours. Pack some earplugs for the journey and ensure your bags are sealed, as the engine noise and frequent spray can make the trip uncomfortable.