This post was updated in July 2019.
Luang Prabang is a beautiful city in Laos known for its many (Buddhist) temples. Until 1975 when Vientiane became the seat of the Lao government, Luang Prabang was the capital.
With a history dating back to the 7th century, it’s easy to see why Luang Prabang is such a special place. I spent 5 days here and would have loved to stay longer… Read along to learn about the best things to do in Luang Prabang!
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What to do in Luang Prabang
- Cross the rickety bamboo bridge
- Climb Phu Si Mountain
- Mountain bike to the Kuang Si waterfalls
- Chill out at Utopia
- Sweat and steam in the Red Cross sauna
- Stroll around the night market
- Admire the beautiful temples
- Watch the sunset over the Mekong River
- Eat a peanut butter ice cream at Joma
- Visit the UXO museum
1. Cross the rickety bamboo bridge
This bridge is rebuilt every year when the rainy season ends, usually in a couple of days! During the dry season you can use this bridge to cross the Nam Khan River.
Once the rainy season starts again, the bridge is flooded and destroyed by the massive amounts of water in the mighty Mekong River and its tributaries.
Crossing the bamboo bridge costs 5000LAK per person.
2. Climb Phu Si Mountain
For a beautiful view over Luang Prabang and the surrounding area (and for a sweaty workout) you can climb to the top of the 100 meter high Phu Si Mountain.
At the top there is a Buddhist temple called Wat Chom Si. But you climb the ‘mountain’ mostly for the stunning views!
Don’t decent the same way you can from (the entrance across the Royal Palace), take the path leading down the other side of the mountain where you come cross a lot of Buddha statues.
Climbing Phu Si Mountain costs 20.000LAK per person.
3. Mountain bike to the Kuang Si waterfalls
I can definitely recommend mountain biking to the Kuang Si Falls if you are into outdoor activities and have a reasonable level of fitness. As a Dutchie, I am used to cycling every day.
However, the Netherlands are completely flat and the mountainous surroundings of Luang Prabang were a bit a challenge. Particularly since the temperature was around 35 degrees Celsius (end of April)…
A word of advice: get up early to avoid cycling at the hottest moment of the day.
It’s about 30km to the Kuang Si Falls from Luang Prabang and there are some steep climbs involved. But the scenery is gorgeous and in the little villages children give you high fives as you pass by on your bike.
The water of the Kuang Si Falls is a stunning green blue color (because of the limestone particles) and the multilevel waterfall is an impressive sight! I recommend hiking all the way to the top for the best views over the mountains.
Renting a mountain bike costs 40.000LAK, the entrance fee for Kuang Si Park is 20.000LAK.
4. Chill out at Utopia
Good music, a great view, a whole bunch of fellow backpackers and a decent menu. Chilling at Utopia for an afternoon is definitely an excellent idea. Utopia also has some nice suggestions for more activities you can do in Luang Prabang.
5. Get sweaty and steamy in the Red Cross sauna
Get hot and sweaty and support the Red Cross by going to the sauna. The complete opposite of the sauna I was used to in Europe (where the air is very dry), this sauna was literally steaming hot, I couldn’t see my hand if I held it 10cm in front of my face!
Man and women have their own saunas, you have to wear bathing clothes and you are expected to use one of the towels provided to cover yourself. You can also get a massage the the Red Cross!
Entree for the sauna is 10.000LAK, a massage is 50.000LAK.
6. Stroll around the night market
It’s hard to resist buying things at the night market of Luang Prabang! You can find the usual items such as hippie pants and wallets but there are local products as well, such as beautiful weavings.
7. Admire the beautiful temples
There are so many temples in Luang Prabang, all different, all pretty and all sparkling. Just stroll around, you’ll find them. You can also check this awesome map or the Lonely Planet for an extensive list.
8. Watch the sun set over the mighty Mekong River
Yes you can watch the sunset from Phu Si Mountain but it’s usually very busy. Instead, go for a walk along the Mekong River and enjoy the sunset in silence…
9. Eat a peanut butter ice cream at Joma
Joma has too many delicious things… Yes, it’s rather expensive for Southeast Asia, but it’s also really really tasty! We usually had coffee at Joma in the morning and received a coupon for a 50% discount on snacks and sweets (including ice cream) after 2pm. So I may have had 2 scoops on several visits…
One scoop of delicious peanut butter ice cream costs 9000LAK, if you want a cone you pay 4000LAK extra.
10. Visit the UXO museum
Unfortunately the UXO museum was closed when we were there so we went to the COPE museum in Vientiane instead. Nevertheless, I feel this small museum about the effects of UXO’s on Laos is definitely worth a visit.
It’s good to learn about the history of the country you are visiting, plus, you can support education programs about and the responsible removal of UXO’s by making a donation to the museum.
Visiting the museum is free but of course you won’t leave without supporting this museum in its mission to free Laos of UXO’s.
Where to find these top 10 activities in Luang Prabang?
You can download the activity map below. Also read my other posts about Laos:
Have you been to Luang Prabang? What was your favorite thing to do?