The Best Things to do in Luang Prabang

The 15 Best Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos

The sleepy town of Luang Prabang is a treasure trove of attractions, offering outdoor activities and heaps of experiences to learn about the local cultures. The city is home to over 50 temples, and the most visited is the colorful Wat Xieng Thong, a stunning temple complex that dates back to the 16th century. If you’re a history buff, a visit to the Royal Palace Museum provides insight into the country’s rich history.

A visit to the picturesque Kuang Si Falls is a must! Just a short drive from the town, this area provides a batch of pristine waterfalls and natural pools that are perfect for swimming and photography. The Pak Ou Caves, located on the Mekong River, is another popular destination, with thousands of Buddha statues lining the walls of the caverns.

In addition to its natural attractions, Luang Prabang is also known for its relaxed atmosphere and slow pace of life. The town’s charming streets are lined with traditional wooden houses and UNESCO-recognized heritage buildings. Plus, the famous Night Market offers a chance to browse for unique handicrafts and souvenirs.

With so many things to see and do, it’s hard to know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Luang Prabang for you. Fill your Luang Prabang bucket list with these must-see attractions, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this historic town on the Mekong!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos

1. Discover the Dreamy Kuang Si Waterfalls

Cool Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Kuang Si Waterfalls

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Luang Prabang, climb on a rope swing and leap into the dreamy turquoise waters of Kuang Si Waterfalls! Hidden away in the lush green jungle, these beautiful waterfalls get their soothing milky blue color from the limestone rocks beneath.

Follow the path past the bear shelter to reach the first shallow pool, but don’t go swimming just yet! Continue ascending along the path to experience the cascading falls becoming more and more spectacular. A quaint wooden bridge runs across the falls, offering amazing views of this hidden jungle paradise and the impressive 200-foot-tall waterfall.

If you are coming here with the intent of having wanderlust-worthy photos, be sure to arrive as soon as the place opens at 8 am to beat potential photobombers. A quick dive into the icy cold water will easily make you forget that you were tired in the first place!

To make the most of your trip here, be sure to pack water shoes because the ground can be slippery, and your goggles to have a sneaky peek at all of the fish that live here. As you are leaving, be sure to check out the Free the Bears Rescue Centre, followed by a slice of Dutch apple cake at the colorful Kuang Si Butterfly Park.

Explore Kuang Si Falls

2. Hike Up the Sacred Mount Phou Si

Must do things in Luang Prabang, Laos: Mount Phou Si

Mount Phou Si is the highest point in Luang Prabang and is an amazing place to watch the sunset while enjoying panoramic views of the whole town and the lush landscape below. 

Climbing up the many steps, you can feel how sacred this place is, from the saffron-clad monks to the fresh incense and floral offerings penetrating the mountain air and, of course, the thousands of Buddha statues that make this place one of the most famous Luang Prabang attractions. It is best to dress and act respectfully, as this place is sacred to the locals.

To get the most out of your experience, take the route on Thanon Phousi by the Nam Khan River. On the way, you’ll see a reclining Buddha, Wat Tham Phousi, a small cave temple, and a number of seated Buddha images. 

The hike up is really scenic, so allow yourself plenty of time to soak it all in. Take the other route down after the sun sets, and you’ll end up by the night market, which offers plenty of street food vendors and souvenirs.

Have a Mount Phou Si Tour

3. Try Traditional Rice Whisky at the Whisky Village

What to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Rice Whisky

No Luang Prabang bucket list is complete without downing a few shots of fiery Lao-Lao rice whisky in the whisky village. Despite how strong it is, you can actually taste the rice, and it is quite sweet and a little yeasty in flavor.

Located on the banks of the river, Ban Xang Hai village is known for its homemade whisky that’s created using local khao niew, or sticky rice. The rice is ground into a powder, which is then converted to yeast balls, which are then fermented in giant blue drums.

Luang Prabang, Laos Things to do: Rice Whisky

The first batch is always the strongest at around 55 proof. The rice is boiled again to make the second, more palatable batch. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Luang Prabang, head over to whisky village to watch the process up close and indulge in a few shots. After that, go for a wander around the village, which is also known for its fine silk scarves.

Some bottles for purchase include centipedes, scorpions, and snakes. This isn’t a gimmick – the locals actually drink these because they believe it makes them stronger. If you can’t stomach the strong stuff, don’t worry, they also sell wines that are made from purple sticky rice.

Visit Laos Whiskey Village

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4. Visit the Impressive Pak Ou Caves

Cool Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Pak Ou Caves

Featuring over 4,000 Buddha statues in all shapes and sizes, it’s easy to see why Pak Ou’s nickname is the “Thousand Buddha Cave.” According to legend, the caves were discovered in the 16th century by King Setthathirath, one of the country’s most famous rulers. 

Locals also believe that the spirits of the river inhabit the caves. Because of all this, they have remained a place of worship for hundreds of years.

As you arrive, you should climb up to the lower cave, Tham Ting. The entrance of this cave is guarded by lion figures. Step inside to see 2,500 Buddha sculptures and iconography squished into every possible nook and cranny of the cave. It also features a stunning altar where you can bring offerings of incense, flowers, and candles to Bodhisattva.

Climb further up the limestone cliff path to get to Tham Theung, the upper cave. While it sits 50 feet above the Nam Ou River, the hike should only take you 10 minutes and offers beautiful views of the surrounding area. The upper cave contains many older Buddhist offerings, some dating back hundreds of years, making this one of the most respected holy sites in all of Laos and one of the top Luang Prabang attractions.

Visit the Famous Holy Pak Ou Caves

5. Learn about the Country’s History at the Royal Palace Museum

Luang Prabang, Laos Bucket List: Royal Palace Museum

The Haw Kham, also known as the Golden Palace, is the former Royal Palace of Laos. Built in 1904, this building blends traditional Laotian motifs and designs with ornamental French Beaux-arts-style architecture. If you’re looking for must-do things in Luang Prabang, don’t miss out on this beautiful site. 

The most iconic building is undoubtedly Haw Pha Bang, the gold-gilded pavilion that houses the sacred Phra Bang Buddha, which is made of solid gold and was reputedly created around 2,000 years ago. This statue is the most sacred and culturally significant image of Buddha in Laos and has been taken and brought to Thailand on several occasions.

Visit the majestic throne room to see the Crown Jewels of Laos and the luxury car museum to ogle at expensive automobiles. While it hasn’t served as a home for the monarchy since the Laotian Civil War in 1975, the tight rules and regulations of that time remain.

No hats, cameras, phones, or bags are allowed in the palace, no matter how small. You also have to dress conservatively in order to enter. There’s not a lot of information about the exhibits, so it’s best to go with a guide or do your research beforehand about the artifacts and historical items. 

6. Enjoy Luang Prabang’s Famous Night Market

Best Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Night Market

The hustle and bustle on Sisavangvong Road is hard to beat as you wander through the maze of market stalls filled with friendly locals proudly displaying their wares. A visit to the Night Market is easily one of the best things to do in Luang Prabang, especially if you want to sample delicious local food and shop for unique souvenirs.

Intimidated by Laotian cuisine? You can start with a stuffed French-style baguette. Locals love indulging in spicy water buffalo sausages with a side of Jaew Bong chili paste and dipping sauce. For dessert, you need to try kanom krok, bite-sized coconut milk pancakes.

You’ve probably had sticky rice with every meal, but have you tried barbecued sticky rice skewers? For something unique, be sure to try Mekong seaweed, called khai pen, or whole barbecued fish served lightly charred and smoky. Feeling particularly adventurous? Try smoked honeycomb with juicy wasp larvae or crunchy crickets!

For unique souvenirs and gifts, there are bracelets made from bombs, classic backpacker elephant pants, silk scarves, keyrings, and everything in between. For the most part, the food stalls have set prices, but for everything else, you’ll need to use your haggling skills to bargain.

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7. Admire the Glass Mosaics at the Splendid Wat Xieng Thong

Best Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Wat Xieng Thong

While there are many temples in Luang Prabang, the most colorful and most popular is definitely Wat Xieng Thong. Also known as the Temple of the Golden City, this is one of the top Luang Prabang attractions. Built almost 500 years ago in 1559, it has been used as a venue for kings to be crowned, a place of worship for monks and commoners, and a hosting space for festivals and religious rites for centuries.

This gorgeous temple is embellished with Buddhist iconography, ornate golden naga statues, and adorned with beautifully detailed mosaic work, so it’s not hard to see why Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most photographed places in Luang Prabang!

Head toward the back wall to see the large and colorful Tree of Life mosaic, which was created in 1960 by local craftsmen. The tree portrays the legend of the temple’s founding, when two followers decided to create a sanctuary beside a huge flaming tree where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet.

Beside the temple is the Red Chapel, decorated with intricate glass mosaics depicting the everyday lives of Laotian villagers and their religious activities. Another notable site is the Tripitaka Library, which is home to three sacred Theravada Buddhist scriptures. On your way out, keep your eyes peeled for the huge cat-like statues guarding the exit.

8. Learn about Laotian Culture at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center

Opened in 2007, a visit to the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center (TAEC) is one of the best things to do in Luang Prabang if you want to learn about the various ethnic groups that make up this beautiful country. Here you can enjoy their vast collection of traditional instruments and truly understand their importance in healing ceremonies and rituals. You can also view traditional garments and everything in between.

Surprisingly, with a small population of 7 million people, Laos is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in mainland Southeast Asia. The TAEC is a museum, learning center, and handicraft shop all rolled into one, where you can learn about the diversity of Laos. Here you can view a collection of over 500 objects representing over 27 distinct ethnic groups. 

Try your hand at traditional weaving at the activities table, then take a break in the on-site cafe. Before you leave, be sure to stop by the gift shop. The products sold here are made by 600 indigenous artisans from all over Laos.

9. Tour the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Center

The Tai Kadai people introduced silk production, weaving, and dyeing to Laos around 1,200 years ago. Since then, it has been passed through generations of Laotian women. 

Today you can take the free 30-minute tour of the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Center to discover the various stages that go into producing these traditional textiles, from the humble silkworm all the way to the stunning finished products.

If you’re looking for fun Luang Prabang activities, you can learn the art of bamboo weaving from the center’s Master Weavers, or you can create your own silk scarf that you get to take home as the ultimate souvenir! 

Those with an eye for color can try natural dyeing, which is done with herbs grown in the garden. Take a half-day, one-, two-, or three-day class, and dive headfirst into traditional Laotian crafts – it’s guaranteed to be a highlight of your trip.

The initiative of Ock Pop Tok, meaning “East meets West” in Laotian, is to help support hundreds of artisan crafters from different indigenous groups not just in Luang Prabang but all over Laos. They help them make a living wage from their skills and work to maintain and preserve their cultural heritage through their unique crafts.

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10. Learn How to Harvest Rice at The Living Land Farm

Fun Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Harvest Rice at the Living Land Farm

The Living Land Farm is a charming community farm nestled among the ancient rice fields and offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Plus, it’s conveniently located just outside of Luang Prabang. Here you’ll learn all 13 stages of rice harvesting, from germination to how Susan, their water buffalo, helps them plow the fields. 

Wear your best rain boots or ask to borrow a pair from your hotel, as you’ll be going knee-deep into the rice paddies to learn all about this staple crop that is vital to over half the world’s population. You’ll also be given a conical hat to wear so you’ll fit right in with the farmers.

Luang Prabang, Laos Bucket List: Harvest Rice at the Living Land Farm

The lunch afterward costs a little extra, but they serve an absolute bounty, including rice-based snacks and the delicious glutinous rice that Laos is known for. If you can’t get enough, they also offer a homestay experience inside a simple traditional home. This is the perfect option if you’re looking for memorable things to do in Luang Prabang.

Plus, you know you’re helping out the local community by making a booking. The Living Land Farm gives a portion of its proceeds to community projects, like English language classes for local children and other community needs.

Visit the Living Land Farm

11. Take a Slow Boat up the Mekong River

Must do things in Luang Prabang, Laos: Mekong River

See the city from another perspective on a slow boat up this mighty river, where you can see small, untouched villages, fisherman hauling in their catch of the day, endless jungle greenery, and staunch mountains. It’s no wonder why taking a slow boat up the Mekong is on so many travelers’ Laos bucket lists!

It’s worth knowing what types of slow boat cruises are available. There are, of course, high-end slow boats that can offer food and other pleasantries as part of the package, perfect for people that prefer a bit of luxury. Then there are the public slow boats, the budget-friendly and most popular option among backpackers. 

Despite the name, none of these actually move at a snail’s pace. They are efficient enough to get you from point A to B while soaking up the countryside scenery that surrounds the Mekong River.

You can kill two birds with one stone by taking a relaxing slow boat to the Pak Ou Caves or the Whisky Village. Longer options are available, too. Many people choose to take the 2-day slow boat all the way to Thailand. 

Whatever you choose, you are guaranteed to create amazing memories. Just ask your hotel’s front desk to book you a boat or explore the riverside on your own to book a sunset cruise. 

Set Sail on the Mighty Mekong River

12. Catch a Performance at the Garavek

Looking for unique things to do in Luang Prabang to soak up the culture? Every evening at 6:30 pm, the Garavek opens its doors, and you are cordially invited to experience this truly unique live performance. This cozy theater only seats 40 people, which just makes the whole experience more intimate. It’s a perfect opportunity to explore Laos through its fascinating myths and legends. 

These fairy tales are told by a local storyteller who acts out the characters’ voices and expressively weaves together colorful stories that will stay with you long after you leave. A musician plays the khene, a Laotian wind instrument, to add even more ambiance and depth to the tales. The khene is the national instrument of Laos – it is essentially a mouth organ typically made from bamboo.

There is no dancing or flashy special effects, but this is an amazing way to switch off your phone and experience the forgotten art of humble storytelling. Enter with an open mind as the legends of how the rivers, mountains, and natural formations of Laos were formed unfold before you. At the end of the show, you’ll get to chat with these passionate performers and ask any burning questions you may have. 

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13. Relax at the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens

Best Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens

On the banks of the Mekong River lies the first botanical gardens that were opened in Laos. Getting there is half the fun! As with most Luang Prabang activities, a boat ride is necessary and included in the admission. To get to the Pha Tad Ke Gardens, catch a boat at the downtown reception area in the Ban Wat That neighborhood.

You’ll be greeted by a variety of impressive gardens, where you’ll get to spend the afternoon. It’s a great way to learn about the relationship between Laotians and plants and how they are used in medicines, crafts, and spiritual ceremonies. Stroll through the arboretum and palm gardens, which contain over 200 species of trees. 

Cool Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens

Take a book to read in the bamboo gardens or relax alongside the water lily pond. There’s also a cafe on-site that features farm-to-table Laotian dishes that are straight from the gardens. All day in the cafe, they also offer an herbal tea tasting. 

There’s also an orchid nursery that features delicate plants like orchids, ferns, and carnivorous plants. Stay for the free orchid talks, during which you’ll learn all about them and the essential environments that are in danger.

You can also participate in one of the hour-long workshops to learn how to make a traditional Laotian bouquet from local flowers, learn about foods from the forest and their significance, or upgrade your gardening skills by learning all the methods and techniques used in the tropics. 

14. Get Your Heart Pumping at the Green Adventure Park

Fun Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Green Adventure Park

Located just outside of the city, the Green Adventure Park is the perfect excuse to escape to the countryside. For thrill-seekers, the park boasts loads of activities – from ziplining to rope courses. If you aren’t afraid of heights, then try out the 900 meters of zip lines dotted around the park. One of them even goes over the Hoi Khua Waterfalls, giving you great views of this lesser-visited but equally stunning waterfall. 

You can also try out the treetop ropes courses to challenge your balance. This aerial obstacle course is made up of 14 stations that are connected with rope and net bridges. Afterward, check out the botanic gardens, a manicured area with over 1,500 flower species. Depending on the time of year, you can also cool off at the waterfall, where there are many natural pools to swim in.

Unique Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Green Adventure Park

Plus, if you don’t feel like heading back to Luang Prabang, the park also offers affordable tents and luxury bungalows to spend the night in. In the morning, before the temperature starts to warm up, they also offer jungle trekking activities where you can see the waterfall from other angles and get a chance to see more of the lush countryside. 

15. Observe the Alms Giving in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, Laos Bucket List: Alms Giving

Be sure to get up early to see one of the oldest traditions and top Luang Prabang attractions. Dating back to the 14th century, Tak Bat, or the alms giving ceremony consists of hundreds of Buddhist monks getting up at dawn to receive their daily offerings from the local people. It typically starts at 5:30 am or 6:30 am and is held throughout the city. 

To watch the procession, head to the old town along Sakkaline Road near Wat Xiengthong. Here, you’ll see a long line of monks walking silently, meditating as they collect their daily alms from locals kneeling on the street. 

The offerings consist mainly of sticky rice, fruit, or other sweet treats. The alms giving is a highly important religious ceremony for Laotian people and local people welcome tourists. 

To honor and respect the ritual, there are a few things to be mindful of when observing it from afar. It’s important to maintain a distance from the monks and not make physical contact with them. As you would when entering a temple, it’s important to dress appropriately and modestly and make sure your shoulders, chest, and legs are covered.

Since it’s a silent ceremony, be sure to keep quiet and arrive early so you don’t disrupt the ritual. If you want to learn more about the religious beliefs behind the ceremony, research it or talk to a local about the history of the ceremony. 

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There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Luang Prabang. What’s your favorite thing to do in Luang Prabang?

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About the Author:

  • Carrie Back

    Carrie Ann Back is part-time travel writer and full-time globetrotter based in Southeast Asia. Recent bylines include Travel + Leisure, Parents Magazine, Postcards Magazine, Culture Trip, Matador Network, & more!

    Leaving her home in 2015, she has embarked on an around-the-world journey and has been traveling continuously ever since. Her most recent adventures include working in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, surfing in Sri Lanka, and exploring Laos via a slow boat up the Mekong River.

    She’s a proud member of the Cherokee Nation and is passionate about sustainable travel. She now lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with her cat Lil’ Mama. Most nights, you can find her munching down at the street food vendors.

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