Luang Prabang is located in northern Laos at the heart of a mountainous region. The town is built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. Mountain ranges (in particular the PhouThao and PhouNang mountains) encircle the city in lush greenery.
Many legends are associated with the creation of the city, including one that recounts that Buddha would have smiled when he rested there during his travels, prophesying that it would one day be the site of a rich and powerful city. Known as Muang Sua, then Xieng Thong, from the 14th to the 16th century the town became the capital of the powerful kingdom of Lane Xang (Kingdom of a Million Elephants), whose wealth and influence were related to its strategic location on the Silk Route. The city was also the centre of Buddhism in the region. Luang Prabang takes its name from a statue of Buddha, the Prabang, offered by Cambodia.
After the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1893, following a period of turmoil during which the country was divided into three independent kingdoms, Luang Prabang once again became the royal and religious capital during the reign of King Sisavang Vong. It played this role until Vientiane became the administrative capital in 1946.
Luang Prabang is exceptional for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflects the fusion of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the colonial era. Its remarkably well-preserved townscape reflects the alliance of these two distinct cultural traditions.
The political and religious centre of Luang Prabang is the peninsula, with its royal and noble residences and religious foundations. The traditional urban fabric of the old villages, each with its temple, was preserved by later constructions. The colonial urban morphology, including the network of streets, overlapped harmoniously with the previous model. Formerly the town limits were defined by defensive walls.
The richness of Luang Prabang architecture reflects the mix of styles and materials. The majority of the buildings are, following tradition, wooden structures. Only the temples are in stone, whereas one- or two-storey brick houses characterize the colonial element of the town. The many pagodas or "Vat" in Luang Prabang, which are among the most sophisticated Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia, are richly decorated (sculptures, engravings, paintings, gilding and furniture pieces). Wat Xieng Thong, which dates from the 16th century, comprises an ensemble of the most complex structures of all the pagodas of the town. It is remarkable both from the archaeological point of view, and from the Lao iconographic and aesthetic viewpoint.
Many traditional Lao houses remain; they are built of wood using traditional techniques and materials introduced in the colonial period, such as plaited bamboo panels coated with wattle and daub. Brick colonial buildings, often with balconies and other decorative features in wood, line the main street and the Mekong.
The built heritage of Luang Prabang is in perfect harmony in the natural environment. The sacred Mount Phousi stands at the heart of the historic town built on a peninsula delimited by the Mekong and the Nam Khan, domain of the mythical naga. Ceremonies to appease the nagas and other evil spirits, and Buddhist religious practices (Prabang procession, the monks’ morning quest) perpetuate the sanctity of the place. Natural spaces located in the heart of the city and along the riverbanks, and wetlands (a complex network of ponds used for fish farming and vegetable growing) complement this preserved natural environment.
Our list of things to do in Luang Prabang highlights the UNESCO-listed town’s natural and manmade attractions. Often described as the 'Jewel in Laos Crown', Luang Prabang has managed to preserve its longstanding tradition and charm, exuding a missed-out-on-modernization vibe.
The majority of Luang Prabang’s sights (including 33 Buddhist temples) can be reached on foot, so you can take your time taking in the surroundings and observe the way of the Lao people and monks. Just outside the town centre, you can explore lush jungles with miles of hiking trails leading to gorgeous waterfalls and limestone caves.
Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is one of the best places in Laos to witness the alms giving ceremony, which is a longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture. Almsgiving takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading out to all the side streets. You should buy your offerings (mostly food) in advance and arrive early as it’s considered offensive to disrupt the ceremony once it has commenced.
Follow the locals by kneeling down to present your offering. Common gifts include rice, fresh fruit, and traditional snacks. The idea of giving alms for the Buddhist monks is to make merit and also to collect food for their 1 meal of a day
Ban Phanom near Luang Prabang
Ban Phanom is an artisan village, where locals practise traditional textile-making to provide goods for sale at Luang Prabang’s markets. The woven products are made with cotton and silk materials, together with intertwined threads to produce a shimmering effect.
Some of the families work from their own workshops, with the entire village operating as a co-operative supplying to manufacturers in town. Prices are open to negotiation and very affordable, though you can still bargain for a lower deal. The area around Ban Phanom makes for a good place for cycling and visiting ancient temples.
Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang
Kuang Si Falls has 3 tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into shallow pools, before flowing downstream. The pools make great swimming holes – you can change into your swimwear at wooden huts close to the waterfall’s entrance.
Surrounded by lush tropical jungle, the pools have cascades of up to 5 metres high. If you don’t fancy a swim, you can relax in the shade and watch others having fun jumping in and out of the water. There are trails leading to the top of Kuang Si Falls, where you can see the stream feeding into the falls. Wear proper footwear as the trails can rather get slippery, especially during the wet season.
Luang Prabang Library
The Luang Prabang Library offers a chance for you to give something back to the children of Laos. Many of the local children have limited access to books – in fact, some villages in Laos don’t even have schools. The library works towards providing reading materials to kids in some of the more remote areas by operating 2 library boats that deliver books to 75 different villages along the Mekong.
These boats stay overnight at the villages, with staff organising active learning games during the day and operating as libraries for children to borrow books at night. Each boat carries 1,000 books, with about 100 titles are passed to primary schools.
Mount Phousi, standing at 100 metres above sea level, is Luang Prabang’s highest hill. It’s popular as a place to watch the sun rise or set over the Mekong River. From the summit you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view across the city and its many temples, and over the surrounding landscape to the mountains in the distance.
It takes about 300 steps to reach the top of Mount Phousi, but the climb is gentle enough for anyone with good health. There’s another set of steps down that will lead you to several temples – Visit Wat Chomsi where you can buy flowers to offer for blessings.
Pak Ou Caves
Pak Ou Caves are packed with over 4,000 Buddha icons believed to have been left in the caves by local people for thousands of years. The caves are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. There are 2 caves to visit: a lower cave called Tham Ting and the upper cave Tham Theung, both serving as shrines to the river spirit and Lord Buddha.
Tham Ting filters in some light but a torch is required for the pitch black Tham Theung. The upper cave is home to the majority of the Buddha statues and you’ll need to find your way in the darkness to the thousands of hidden icons.
Royal Palace Museum
The Royal Palace Museum of Luang Prabang once served as the residence of King Sisavang Vong and his family during the French colonial era. Designed in the French Beaux-Arts style with many tasteful accents of traditional Lao culture, the museum exhibits stretches back several centuries to trace the turbulent past of the Lane Xang kingdom and the colonial era, through to the present day.
The Royal Palace Museums is surrounded by a spacious, well-tended garden just off Thanon Sisavangvong. The museum is well worth a couple of hours of your time if you want to learn more about Lao history and culture.
Tad Sae Waterfall
Tad Sae Waterfall is a spectacular natural wonder you can enjoy during the wet season in Luang Prabang. The cascades aren’t as high as Kuang Si waterfall, but it has many more streams of water pouring over unique limestone formations. You can also go for a swim in large pools below the falls.
Tad Sae is only reachable by boat, giving you an opportunity to retreat into nature. Locals often visit the falls over the weekend, so you’re better off visiting during the week if you’re avoiding the crowds. The best time to visit Tad Sae Waterfall is from August through November.
Wat Long Khoun
Buddhist temple Wat Long Khoun once served as a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual rejuvenation. Prior to a king’s coronation, he would retreat to the temple for 3 days for cleansing and meditation. Also known as the ‘Monastery of the Happy’, Wat Long Khoun features 18th-century Lao architecture, with 2 single level sections: the front part was extended in 1937 during the reign of King Sisavonvan – it features gilded columns and intricate wood carvings.
The older section of Wat Long Khoun contains Jataka murals, which retain some of their original vibrancy telling the story of the 547 lives of Lord Buddha. The murals also feature local myths and legends that incorporate Buddhist morals of kindness and the importance of giving.
Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre
The Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre of Luang Prabang is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the many ethnic groups existing in Laos. Located in a restored heritage building along Kingkitsarath Road, it is the only non-profit museum in Laos.
This cultural display of arts and lifestyles reflect a very diverse ethnic population. Permanent exhibitions feature traditional textiles and clothing, jewellery, religious artefacts, handicraft tools, and household objects. The museum offers visitors a rare glimpse into the life of Laotian people giving a greater understanding to their richly diverse culture with quotes, photos and videos bringing the exhibits to life.
The Living Land Company
The Living Land Company is a community-run organic farm supplying fresh vegetables, herbs, salads and rice to hotels and restaurants in Luang Prabang. You can take a day trip to the farm and experience the life of a farmer.
There’s a beautiful Lao-style house overlooking rice terraces and the organic vegetable fields. The farm aims to offer an alternative to the current slash-and-burn farming methods which result in unusable land following harvest.
Wat Wisunarat (Wat Visoun)
Wat Wisunarat dates back to 1513 and named after King Wisunarat (Visoun), who ruled Laos from 1501 until 1520. It’s the oldest Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang and served as the city’s Museum of Religious Arts. You can see religious artefacts and precious items related to Buddhism and the royal family.
Wat Wisunarat features traditional Lao architecture – a unique landmark here is its unusually shaped stupa designed by the wife of King Wisunarat. While it’s supposed to resemble a lotus flower, locals often call refer to it as the ‘watermelon stupa’. Another distinguishing highlight is the European-style roof, which slopes in a manner not usually seen in Laos.
Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong is one of the largest temples in Luang Prabang. A symbol of great historic importance, its structure has characteristics of 16th-century Lao architecture, with an elaborate ‘tree of life’ mosaic, intricately carved walls, rare Buddhist deities, and a 12-metre-tall funeral carriage.
Wat Xieng Thong once oversaw the coronation of Lao kings – today, it's an important gathering place for significant annual festivities in Luang Prabang. The temple still remains in its original form, with repairs undertaken to the roof, gold leaf gilding and lacquering added to the walls and entrance.
Trekking is one of the most popular things to do in Luang Prabang’s countryside. There are miles of hiking trails to suit all fitness levels, and you’ll likely pass spectacular waterfalls and indigenous wildlife, as well as gain a fascinating insight into rural folk living in hill tribe villages.
Descendants of the Mongolians, the Hmong tribe live on chillier, higher hills while the Khmu tribe is found in lower regions with treks to their villages taking you through the lush tropical jungle. There are a few companies offering trekking tours which you can book upon arrival.
Spas in Luang Prabang make for excellent retreats after a day of sightseeing in the UNESCO-listed town. For a charitable massage, the Lao Red Cross Massage and Sauna Center offers full-body massages for about 40,000 kip and sauna access at 15,000 kip.
Traditional Lao herbs and locally sourced organic botanicals are combined for use in many traditional Lao body treatments. Try a local Kamu massage at the Kamu Spa, where oil and strong pressure is applied to really help loosen up stiff muscles and tension.
Luang Prabang Bowling Alley
The Luang Prabang Bowling Alley is famed for being a late-night drinking hole and the town’s only 10-pin bowling venue. Loud Asian pop music, local whisky, and Beerlao are as popular as the game, which costs 20,000 kip per person per game.
The bowling alley is one of the few places in Luang Prabang where you can grab a drink after the strict midnight curfew. It’s located on the outskirts of town, so you might want to arrange for a tuk-tuk to pick you up.
Luang Prabang Golf Club
The Luang Prabang Golf Club has an 18-hole course with a superb backdrop of the Mekong River, dramatic mountains, and the UNESCO listed world heritage town. It’s about 10 minutes by car from the centre of town and about a 15-minute drive from Luang Prabang International Airport.
The par 72 championship golf course also has a pro-shop and driving range, as well as a restaurant serving Lao cuisine. Rates vary by time of visit, with special offers available for shoes and umbrella rental.
Cycling is a great way to experience the beautiful Luang Prabang countryside, with day tours taking you around the old town, across rivers, through rural villages, and past mountains. Trips can be booked through travel agents in the town centre, and are normally limited to 20 people per trip.
Adventurous riders might enjoy a more challenging tour on a special off-road route to remote villages, exploring the rural side of Luang Prabang, crossing 4 rivers en route. Most cycling tours in Luang Prabang take about 4 hours and include an English speaking guide, lunch and cycling equipment.
Kayaking & Rafting
Luang Prabang is one of the best towns in Laos for rafting and kayaking, with some tours including trekking in their itinerary. VietLong Travel offers an energetic kayaking trip where you get to see local tribes going about their daily life before passing dramatic mountains and rafting on intermediate level rapids.
Green Discovery Laos also offer paddling adventures that take you down rapids with a 2-day kayaking trip, which includes cliff jumping into the refreshing Nam Xeuang River and a night with some of the survivors of the Second Indochina War at a Khmu village. They also have half or full-day kayaking trip down the Nam Khan River for beginners or travellers who want to enjoy a slower pace.
Luang Prabang is famous not only as a small but magic town and UNESCO World Heritage Site but also for its harmony between traditional Laos and European cuisine. Most of the restaurants from Indian to Laos and Laos and French are located on the Restaurant Row, which offering a fabulous view of the Mekong River.
If you look for a balanced mix of eastern and western delicacies, trying out Blue Lagoon Restaurant is a do. Here, visitors will find Laotian highlights and Swiss classics as well as tender local beef and a large variety of delicious snacks and fresh salad creations.
Dyen Sabai Restaurant and Bar located in Luang Prabang, Laos is a perfect spot for those wishing to escape the busy atmosphere of the main streets. The customers can enjoy a secluded and peaceful setting, complete with bamboo huts, beautiful gardens, and excellent food here.
Blue Lagoon Restaurant
A balanced mix of eastern and western delicacies are awaiting visitors at our restaurant. Visitors will find Laotian highlights and Swiss classics as well as tender local beef and a large variety of delicious snacks and fresh salad creations
Place to eat: A narrow lane next to the Royal Pavilion, just off Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang, Lao
The Coconut is a garden restaurant Lao / Fusion located in the heart of the peninsula of Luang Prabang in Laos. A quiet place to find quality service in a hiden charm town of Luangprabang.
Place to eat: Sisavangvong Road (just at the beginning of the Evening Market), Luang Prabang, Lao
Dyen Sabai Restaurant and Bar located in Luang Prabang, Laos is a perfect spot for those wishing to escape the busy atmosphere of the main streets. We offer a secluded and peaceful setting, complete with bamboo huts, beautiful gardens, and excellent food.
Place to eat: Ban Phan Louang | PO BOX 805, Luang Prabang 06000, Across the bamboo bridge (from Phousi Road), near Wat Phan Luang
Tamnak Lao Restaurant
The restaurant's quality assurance policy is to serve authentic Lao food at reasonable prices, to maintain an extremely clean environment and to provide excellent service.Place to eat: Sakkarine Road, Ban Wat Sene, opposite Villa Santi hotel, Tel +856-71 252525
Lao Barbecue Experience Restaurant
It is an outdoor restaurant located by the Mekong River appropriate for those who want to try Lao dinner barbecue experience while observing life of people in the night time. The setup is simple. A low wooden table, floor mat strewn with cushions, a round iron cooking pot, coal fire, some raw meat, stock soup, vegetables and some beer, and you are ready for a Lao-style barbecue. Pour some stock soup into the pot, wait for it to heat up then add vegetables or glass noodles into the broth. Meanwhile, place some meat on the top part of the grill, which remains dry. When done, dip the meat in the dipping sauce, and have a bite.
Place to eat: Outdoor restaurants along Mekong river
It is classical french food with centrally localted restaurant offering traditional, as well as more creative, French and Lao cuisine made of local natural produce grown in their own gardensPlace to eat: Located down a twisting side street named Phagnalluanngmuang-chan, just behind Villa Santi
Les 3 Nagas Restaurant
From humble dishes to chef's specialties, feast on Lao cuisine in all of its earthy authenticity. Renowned for its authentic Laotian cuisine that has been hailed far and wide, Les 3 Nagas restaurant in Luang Prabang serves sumptuous lunch and dinner.
Place to eat: Ban Vatnong, Sakkaline Road P.O. Box 722, Luang Prabang, Lao
Nazim is the best Indian restaurant in The Lao PDR and is extremely popular with locals and travellers alike.
Place to eat: 78/4 Ban Visoun Visounnarath Rd, Luang Prabang, Tel:(856)71-252 263
It is a riverside coffee & bakery shop offering complete drink menu including a delicious Caffè Latte , Cappuccino.,etc.. . They also have an extensive menu of breakfast meals such as French Toast, Bacon Egg and Cheese Bagel, Breakfast Burrito, Pancakes with Maple Syrup.,etc…
Place to eat: PO Box 494 • Luang Prabang 06000, Close to L'Elephant Restaurant, Tel: (856) 71 254 254
The Apsara Restaurant & Bar
This is an indoor restaurant serving modern Asian flavours, by giving a fresh twist to the tastes of both traditional Lao cookery, and that of our neighbours’s. They strive to use local, seasonal and sustainable produce when available. Most dishes can be shared in a traditional Lao style of dining or served, as courses, in a more western style.
Place to eat: Kingkitsarath Rd, Ban Wat Sene, Luang Prabang, Laos
The Aussie Sports Bar & Restaurant
The restaurant offers the best Western food to Luang Prubang. It imports all the fish, chicken and calamari to ensure the consistent flow of high quality ingredients.
Place to eat: Ban Aham, Sisouphan Road, Luang Prabang
The Belle Rive Terrace Restaurant
This is an riverside restaurant overlooking the shore of the Mekong River, with a beautiful view on the nearby mountains, it is a peaceful place during the day, and a romantic place in the evening. Here you have your breakfast in the morning sun, a quick lunch or a relaxed sundowner in the afternoon or a romantic dinner in the evening. The menu of the restaurant consists of Thai and Lao specialties, but offers as well international and fusion food
Place to eat: Mekong riverside (Khem Khong Road), behind Wat Sene
Utopia Restaurant and Bar
Enjoy the restaurant's lush green tropical garden… its a relaxing zen garden by day, and a groovy jungle lounge by night. This is the best place in Luang Prabang to relax for amazing food and drinks, lounge around with a river view, which are also the most popular place for nightlife in the city!
Place to eat: Ban Aphay, Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang
The House, the first and only Belgian restaurant in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, was founded by two Belgian travellers.
Place to eat: Phousie Road 10, Ban Aphai, Luang prabang Tel: +856-71 255 021
Nightlife in Luang Prabang can be rather enjoyable if you know where to go. While the town lacks in loud and packed nightclubs that would often stay open until 3am, there are decent bars and night-time activities you can enjoy during your stay in this town in northern Laos.
Laos also has a rather strict curfew, which means most places close down by midnight. That applies to Luang Prabang. If you're planning to stay out after hours, Luang Prabang has plenty of restaurants with outdoor patios where you can enjoy a beer with river views overlooking the Mekong or Nam Khan.
1861 Bar is a French colonial café and bar within The Luang Say Residence. Evoking a feel of old-school sophistication, it features studded leather sofas, marble tables, and traditional bistro chairs on the terrace.
There's a small library at the corner of the café, which attracts those looking to unwind with a book. A marble fireplace provides warmth during cooler months, while the bar offers imported wines, liquors, and cocktails year-round.
Location: The Luang Say Residence, 4–5 ban Phonepheng, Luang Prabang, Laos
Phone: +856 71 260 891
Luang Prabang Bowling Alley
Luang Prabang Bowling Alley, located 3 km southwest of the town centre, is one of the few places that stay open until late. The venue caters mostly to a backpacker crowd by serving Beerlao and whisky well into the early hours of the morning – it usually gets crowded after 10pm.
Luang Prabang Bowling Alley is worth a visit if you’re looking to enjoy a round of bowling in the evening. A game starts from 15,000 kip per person. After midnight, the rate goes up to 20,000 kip.
Location: Highway 13, east of junction with Potoupakmao Rd.
Open: Monday–Saturday from 11am to 2.30am, Sunday from 11am to midnight
Phone: +856 20 58 300 457
Lao Lao Beergarden
Lao Lao Beergarden is a long-time favourite among backpackers. This open-air beer garden has cosy setup – bonfire, candles, fairy lights, lots of open spaces and trees – that invites hours of lounging with Beerlao, cocktails, and imported wines.
Lao Lao Beergarden’s all-day menu covers international and local cuisine, including burgers, salads, and Lao-style barbecue. Visit during happy hours to enjoy 2 cocktails for 20,000 kip.
Location: Phousi Road Ban Aphay, Luang Prabang 0600, Laos
Open: Daily from 8am to 11.30pm
Phone: +856 20 56 781 169
Luang Prabang Night Market
Luang Prabang Night Market takes place at the corner of Settathilat and Sisavangvong Roads in the town centre. From 5pm onwards, dozens of food vendors sell Laotian street food at affordable prices.
You’ll find grilled meat, Lao noodle soup, pho, meat-filled baguette, and ready-to-eat meals for takeaways. Some of the bigger stalls have long wooden tables and benches, though these seats tend to fill up fast.
Location: Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang, Laos
Open: Daily from 5pm to 11pm
Royal Ballet Theatre
The Royal Ballet Theatre in Luang Prabang showcases traditional Lao culture and art, with live shows taking place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Its resident dance troupe performs Phralak Phralam, a khon (mask) and classical dance based on the Lao version of the Ramayana.
The 2-hour-long performances start at 6pm from October to March, and 6.30pm from late-March through September.
Location: 27 Ounheun Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos
Open: Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday–Saturday from 6pm to 8.30pm
Utopia Bar and Restaurant is a rustic-style venue on the Nam Khan riverbank. You can relax in their tropical gardens or at the bamboo river decks, both of which offer views of the upcountry Utopia hosts beach volleyball and yoga during the day, and live music, board games, and movies in the evening.
Location: Ban Aphay, Luang Prabang, Laos
Open: Daily from 8am to 11.30pm