This post was updated in January 2020.
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. This Luang Prabang will help you plan your trip and make the most of your visit to this unique city in Laos. Read along to learn about the best things to do in Luang Prabang!
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Luang Prabang itinerary
In this Luang Prabang travel guide you will find:
- Things to know when planning a trip to Luang Prabang
- How to spend 3 days in Luang Prabang
- Where to stay in Lung Prabang
Things to know before traveling to Luang Prabang
The best time to travel to Luang Prabang is between October and March, with January-February being the most popular months. During these months, temperatures are generally comfortable and precipitation is low.
We visited Laos at the start of May and while it didn’t bother us too much, it was quite hot and humid. We only had an occasional shower, however, note that the wet season is between May and October.
The official currency in Laos is the Laotian Kip (LAK). At the time of writing €1 is approximately 10.000LAK and $1 around 9.000LAK. Here you can find the current exchange rates
The city center is very compact and you can easily walk to many of the Luang Prabang attractions mentioned in this itinerary. However, if you are tired of walking, you can also rent a bike or hop into one of the many tuk-tuks.
What to do in Luang Prabang: map
3 days in Laos: day-by-day itinerary
- Day 1: visit (several of) the beautiful temples, cross the rickety bamboo bridge over the river, eat a peanut butter ice cream at Joma, climb Phu Si Mountain and stroll around the night market
- Day 2: Mountain bike to the Kuang Si waterfalls and sweat and steam in the Red Cross sauna.
- Day 3: Visit the UXO museum, chill out at Utopia and watch the sunset over the Mekong River
Where to stay in Luang Prabang
Budget: One Tree Guesthouse
Rooms with a private bathroom start at only €14 a night, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an excellent place to stay for travelers on a budget. The rooms are clean, the beds are comfortable and the staff is very nice. It’s a 15-minute walk to the night market.
Mid-range: Meunna Boutique Hotel
is a newly opened hotel with a modern design, a swimming pool, and spacious rooms. Breakfast is included in the price, prices for a Deluxe Double Room with an extra-large double bed start at €40 a night.
Luxury: Satri House Secret Retreats
If you are looking for an unforgettable stay in Luang Prabang, opt for the Satri House Secret Retreats. The 5-star colonial-style Satri House has not one, but two swimming pools, beautifully designed rooms and many facilities (such as a spa, gym, and lovely gardens).
As the former residence of Prince Souphanouvon, the property is beautifully decorated and maintained. The courteous staff will go out of their way to accommodate any request you may have during your stay.
Luang Prabang day 1
Admire the beautiful temples
Three of the most popular ones are:
- The Royal Temple: the official name of this temple is Haw Pha Bang. This beautiful temple isn’t very old (it was finished in 2006), however, it is very important to the city. Inside you can find the Phra Bang Buddha, the statue that gave the city of Luang Prabang its name.
- Wat Xieng Thong: an ancient temple that was built in the 1500s and very well preserved. This ornate temple is intricately decorated, as are many of the surrounding buildings. Definitely one of the finest examples of Buddhist temples in Laos.
- Wat Wisunalat: this is the oldest temple in Luang Prabang (dating from 1512). The most impressive part of the temple complex is the That Pathum, a large stupa built in the typical Singhalese style.
Please note that while many temples (but not all) are free to visit, a donation is appreciated and mandatory at some. Be sure to dress and behave respectfully in these places of worship and take off your shoes before entering.
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.
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 2 pm. 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.
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), instead take the path leading down the other side of the mountain where you will come across a lot of Buddha statues.
Climbing Phu Si Mountain costs 20.000LAK per person.
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, silks, embroidered purses and hand made paper pop-up cards.
It’s also a great place for dinner, there are lots of stalls selling great street food. From spicy soup to coconut pancakes and fresh fruit smoothies to meat and fish skewers, there is something for everyone.
The night market is opened daily from 5 pm until 10 pm and is free to enter.
Luang Prabang day 2
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 I live in the Netherlands, I learned to ride a bike when I was 4 years old and I am used to cycling every day.
However, the Netherlands is 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. However, the scenery is gorgeous and in the little villages, children give you high fives as you pass by on your bike so it’s definitely worth the effort.
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.
Visit the Red Cross sauna
After your intense day cycling to the Kuang Si waterfalls, probably all you want to do is rest your tired limbs. If so, a visit to the Red Cross sauna is recommended!
Please know that this sauna was the complete opposite of the type of sauna I was used to in Europe. While in Europe the humidity in a sauna is generally kept very low, 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 Red Cross!
Entree for the sauna is 10.000LAK, a massage is 50.000LAK.
Luang Prabang day 3
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.
I was shocked when I learned Laos has been bombed more than any other country in the world. During the Vietnam War, American bombers dropped over two million tons of cluster bombs in several areas of the country.
To make things even worse, many of these bombs are still in the ground today, causing lots of terrible injuries and deaths each year.
I believe it’s very important to learn about the history of the country you are visiting, What’s more, 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.
Chill out at Utopia
At Utopia, you will find good music, a great view, a whole bunch of fellow backpackers and an excellent menu.
Chilling at Utopia for an afternoon, especially on your last afternoon in Luang Prabang, is definitely a great idea.
If you have more time available in Luang Prabang, Utopia also has some nice suggestions for more activities you can do in and around town.
Watch the sunset over the mighty Mekong River
Yes, you can watch the sunset from Phu Si Mountain but it’s usually very busy. Instead, I recommend going for a walk along the Mekong River where you can enjoy the sunset in silence…
Luang Prabang travel guide: in conclusion
I hope you have enjoyed this guide to Luang Prabang. You can download the map with things to do in Luang Prabang below. Also read my other posts about Laos:
Have you been to Luang Prabang? Anything you would add to this itinerary?