13 Things To Do in Luang Prabang A 3-Day Laos Itinerary by JetSettingFools.com

13 things to do in Luang Prabang: A 3-Day Laos Itinerary

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Luang Prabang, Laos is often touted as the most charming city in Southeast Asia. The city’s location at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, the French-influenced architecture mingling with classic Laotian structures, the centuries-old traditions and abundance of nature all blend together to create an atmosphere not found elsewhere in the region. In 1995, the historic city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage City, preserving the culturally rich city center. Diverse and attractive, there is a long list of things to do in Luang Prabang for travelers who want to experience the city.  

 

Things to do in Luang Prabang

Our list includes the best Luang Prabang attractions – temples, cafes, markets, sunsets and museums – and some of the best day trips from Luang Prabang.  A list of Luang Prabang restaurants and cafes can be found at the end of this post.

 

3-Day Luang Prabang Itinerary

With so many Luang Prabang things to do, it can be difficult to determine how many days in Luang Prabang are enough – not only to see the sights, but to get a good feel for the city. LP isn’t a big city, but it’s not a place to rush through, either. Although we stayed for almost two weeks, we think 3 days in Luang Prabang – at a minimum – will allow for a good introduction to the city. We have organized our top things to do in Luang Prabang into a 3-Day Luang Prabang Itinerary to help other travelers plan their time in the city. We have included a link to Google Maps for each day of Luang Prabang sightseeing to aid in your discovery of the city.   

 

Day 1 in Luang Prabang

On your first day in the city, you will get a taste of locally-produced coffee, visit two Luang Prabang temples, learn about the history of the country in three museums, hike up the city center hill for sunset and peruse the wares at the Night Market.  

#1 Coffee

Chic drinks at Dexter Cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos

In Luang Prabang there is no shortage of hip cafes – some of which are delightfully air-conditioned. Although the fashionable hangouts are frequented mainly by visitors and expats, many coffeehouses serve up locally-produced coffee – which helps support the Laotian farmers who rely solely on coffee bean crops as a source of their family’s income. We recommend starting at riverside Saffron Coffee, but you can find a list of our favorite cafes at the end of our itinerary.  

 

#2 Temples

We heard that there are more than 30 temples in Luang Prabang and, although we didn’t count, we certainly believe it! It would be impossible to walk through the city and not pass a temple along the way. If they were open, we often wandered inside the gates to find temples of various sizes and conditions. We recommend visiting several temples, but there are two Luang Prabang must see temples: Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Visoun.  

Wat Xieng Thong

The Wat Xieng Thong complex, which is located near the tip of the peninsula where the Nam Khan River flows into the Mekong, has numerous structures on the grounds. Built in 1560 as a Royal Temple, several reconstructions have taken place over the centuries. Many of the traditional buildings are covered in colorful glass mosaics. Not to be missed is the Tree of Life mosaic on the back of the Sim.

Wat Visoun

Wat Visoun, named for the King, is the oldest temple in Luang Prabang, dating to the year 1513. Originally made of wood, it was burnt to the ground and pillaged in 1887 and rebuilt of stucco and brick. The uniquely shaped Lotus Stupa stands out – and is more commonly called the Watermelon Stupa by locals.  

 

#3 Old Bridge

Built more than a hundred years ago under French occupation, the Old Bridge is only accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists and motor scooters. The walkways on the outer part of the bridge are lined with loose planks and require a heaping dose of courage to cross. The daring feat, however, provides phenomenal views over the Nam Khan River. During dry season, Bamboo Bridges are constructed over the Nam Khan River, which – we’ve heard – can be equally terrifying to cross, but we didn’t get a chance to find out for ourselves during our rainy season visit.  

 

#4 Museums

The country of Laos has a fascinating and lengthy history – from hilltribes to royalty to war – and, today, there are museums to learn and better understand the country, culture and people. We recommend these three places to visit in Luang Prabang to learn about the country’s past:

TAEC (Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center): TAEC is small, but packed with information about the hilltribes in Laos.

 

Royal Palace History Museum: The palace-turned-museum is a National Museum that features artifacts from Laos royalty, including the throne and jewels.

 

UXO Laos Visitor Center: The UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) Center provides a jolting education on the explosives dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War and the on-going effort to remove remaining explosives that are still prevelent in the region.

 

#5 Mount Phousi sunset

Hiking up Mount Phousi is one of the essential Luang Prabang activities…and making the short trip to the top for a Luang Prabang sunset is the best time to do it. There are two entrances, both of which require climbing hundreds of stairs, but the 360-degree views over the city and Mekong River are worth the effort.  

 

#6 Night Market

The Night Market is one of the top Luang Prabang tourist attractions, but unlike other night markets in Southeast Asia, it caters entirely to visitors (which makes it a great spot to pick up souvenirs, but not an ideal place to really get a local vibe). In the late afternoon, vendors start arriving with their tents and wares to set up on Sisavangvong Road. Food vendors can be found on a small side street west of the Indigo House Hotel.  

 

Map of Luang Prabang for Day 1: Google Maps    

 

Day 2 in Luang Prabang

On Day 2, you will explore more of the region with two Luang Prabang tours: a working rice farm and Kuang Si falls.  

#7 Luang Prabang Day Tours

Living Land Lao Rice Farm

The Living Land Lao Rice Farm is owned and operated by seven local families, who produce rice for local consumption. Intent on sharing their trade with visitors, they have designed a hands-on program that is inclusive of all the steps of the rice-making process – from ploughing to planting to harvesting to eating.

 

Kuang Si Waterfall

Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos

The most popular of all Luang Prabang day trips is to Kuang Si Waterfalls. {We guarantee you won’t be in the city long before a tuk-tuk driver asks “Waterfall today?”} The series of falls tumble into pools, some of which you can wade into for a swim. Before jumping in, however, follow the path to the wooden bridge for the best views of the thundering Kuang Si Falls.

We hiked beyond the bridge up the steep, muddy path to the right (there is also a path on the left) to the top of the falls where we could swim, swing from a rope or take a boat ride to the source of the stream. Swimming at Kuang Si was one of our Luang Prabang highlights. {Book your tour to the waterfall in Advance!}

The Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center, located near the entry, is included with the Kuang Si Waterfall entrance fee and is well-worth a few minutes on the way in or out of the park (or both!). The Asiatic Black Bears – also called Moon Bears – are endangered and the ones in the park have been rescued from poachers and traffickers. The viewing platform offers an up-close view of the bears playing, splashing in streams and just being naturally lazy bears!

Note: Kuang Si is not the only Luang Prabang waterfall – but it is the most crowded. To avoid the masses, go to Tad Sae or Tad Thong Waterfall instead.    

Luang Prabang Map for Day 2: Google Maps

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Day 3 in Luang Prabang

Start Day 3 early with the almsgiving ceremony then walk through the morning market. Relax on a mid-day Mekong River cruise and afternoon traditional Laos massage, before having sunset drinks along the Mekong River. End the day with a Luang Prabang cultural event.  

 

#8 Tak Bat Morning Almsgiving Ceremony

Every morning at dawn, hundreds of monks in saffron robes walk barefoot through the streets of the city collecting alms. The morning almsgiving is an ancient tradition and watching the Tak Bat ceremony is touted as one of the top things to do in Laos. However, in recent years, the peaceful ritual has been met with aggressive tourists, which has resulted in some backlash against visitors wanting to be present for the humbling ceremony. For me, witnessing Tak Bat ranks as one of the most beautiful things to see in Luang Prabang, but I made sure to adhere to the rules and respect the tradition. 

 

#9 Morning Market

Unlike the Night Market, the Morning Market is where locals do their daily shopping. Fresh produce, eggs, spices, whole chickens and live critters – like bats and frogs – can all be purchased at the Morning Market.  

 

#10 Luang Prabang Mekong River Cruise

A slow boat on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos

Hopping on a boat on the Mekong River is a great way to see more of the region. There are several Luang Prabang river cruise options. A popular Luang Prabang cruise takes passengers upriver to Pak Ou Caves – also called Buddha Caves. The stop includes visits to two caves – one of which has more than 1,000 Buddha statues displayed inside.  {Book your tour to the caves in advance!}

One of the lesser-known Luang Prabang boat trips includes a short ride directly across the river to the village of Ban Xieng Mane. Walk around the small town then hike the stairs to the Chomphet Temple for great views of Luang Prabang from across the river.

 

#11 Laos Massage

Laos Massage sign in Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang sightseeing can be exhausting – and no better way to recharge than with a traditional Laos massage! Laos massages are similar to Thai massages, but with less pulling and twisting, and more kneading. For those not inclined to have a full body massage, we would recommend that, at least, your experience an intense foot massage. There are numerous massage shops located throughout the city, which range from basic and dirt cheap (less than $5 USD) to luxurious spa packages (upwards of $100 USD).  

 

#12 Sunset drinks on Mekong

While Mount Phousi is a stunning place to watch the sun drop below the horizon, it isn’t the only beautiful place to watch a sunset in Luang Prabang. Along the bank of the Mekong River are several outdoor cafes offering an excellent view of the setting sun…which is often done best with drinks in hand. However, if you haven’t yet taken a Mekong River Cruise in Luang Prabang, late afternoon is a fantastic time of day to get out on the water for a sunset cruise.  

 

#13 Cultural Event

For evening entertainment, consider attending one of the city’s cultural events.

  • CHANG movie played at Sanctuary and Victoria Xieng Thong Palace: Filmed in 1925, CHANG is a silent movie that features the daily life of a Laos family residing in the jungle.
  • Dinner Show at Sonphao: Traditional Laos dance performances with Asian fusion meals at Sonphao restaurant.
  • Garavek Storytelling: Garavek storytelling is an evening of spoken Laos folk tales accompanied by music in a 30-seat theater.
  • Ballet at the Royal Palace: The Royal Ballet Troupe in Luang Prabang performs a rendition of Ramayana, a classic poem detailing Prince Rama’s quest to save his wife from the evil king, at the Royal Palace Theater.

Advertisement for CHANG movie viewing in Luang Prabang, Laos

 

Map of Luang Prabang for Day 3 (not including massage, drinks or events as options are too varied): Google Maps  


 

More Things To Do Luang Prabang

With more time in the city, consider adding these Luang Prabang sights to your itinerary:  

Tour Luang Prabang on foot

Wandering aimlessly through the streets is simply one of the most fun things to do in Luang Prabang. Marvel at the architecture, watch the people and let your instincts lead the way.  

Take a Luang Prabang Tour with Backstreet Academy

Backstreet Academy pairs visitors with locals to learn and participate in making traditional handicrafts – like weaving, woodworking and winemaking!  

Big Bother Mouse

Big Brother Mouse is a local organization dedicated to helping Laos children learn to read and creating books for young kids to enjoy. You can visit their shop in the city center to buy books for village children or volunteer to practice English with a local.  

Monk Chat

While we didn’t find any organized Monk Chat in Luang Prabang (like we did in Chiang Mai, Thailand), many monks are eager to practice their English with visitors. We were drawn to one temple during the evening chanting and when we entered the complex a monk invited us to sit and have conversation. We asked him questions about his life and Laos and he had a chance to speak in English. A win-win!  

Laos Cooking Classes

Several restaurants in Luang Prabang offer cooking classes where students can learn the tricks of the trade to creating delicious, traditional Laos meals.  

Whiskey Village Luang Prabang

Lao Lao – Laos whiskey made from rice wine – is the country’s alcoholic drink of choice, which is often served as a welcome drink in restaurants, bars, guesthouses and homes. The cheap-but-potent liquor is usually homemade and can range from slightly sweet to utterly disgusting. The small town of Ban Xang Hai has recreated itself as a tourist town called Whiskey Village. There isn’t really much to it, but you’ll be able to taste an array of Lao Lao from bottles that contain snakes and scorpions.  

Pool Time

Like all of Southeast Asia, Luang Prabang is hot and humid. After long days of sightseeing, a pool can feel heavenly! Many Luang Prabang hotels have on-site pools, but if yours doesn’t, check out La Pistoche, a local swimming pool just a bit outside of the city center.  

Hire a Guide

Although we did most of our Luang Prabang sightseeing on our own, a local guide can help lead the way through the city. We hired Mr. Choy (who was the guide on our Mekong River Slow Boat Cruise from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang) for part of our time in the city. He is knowledgable, speaks excellent English and is fun to be around! You can contact him at: chittanong@hotmail.com. If Mr. Choy is unavailable, you can find other Luang Prabang guides on Viator.   

Note: We found this Luang Prabang Tourist Map to be helpful when planning our trip to Luang Prabang.


 

Our Top Tips for your Trip to Luang Prabang, Laos

 

Where to Drink and Eat in Luang Prabang

Restaurants in Luang Prabang

Phonheuang Café – Vietnamese: Bun Bo, Spring Rolls

Lao Lao Garden – Laos BBQ and Laap

The Pizza – Pizza and Laos Sausage

Indigo – Rooftop seating, set meal to share

Sabaidee Restaurant – inexpensive BBQ, Mekong River Weed

Le Banneton – French Bakery

Top Rated Splurge: L’Elephant, Coconut Garden

Western Food: Aussie Sports Bar for Burgers  

 

Bars in Luang Prabang 

Utopia – Chill vibe, but on the pricy side for beers

Redbul Bar – Cheap and a great spot for people-watching

Riverside cafes – Some are nicer than others, but all have great views  

 

Cafes in Luang Prabang

Saffron – Mekong River seating, cold A/C upstairs, free wifi, Pine Lime Shake recommended!

Café de Laos – Chic interior, delicious siphon-brewed coffee

JoMa – Two locations, A/C, good wraps and free wifi

Dexter – City-center location, free wifi (but it wasn’t working when we were there)

Novelty Café – City-center location, book exchange, hand-crafted coffees


 

Where to stay in Luang Prabang

During our visit to Luang Prabang, we stayed in two awesome hotels: Cold River and Jasmine Hotel. Cold River, owned by a French family, had an excellent breakfast, free in-room wifi, comfortable space and affordable rooms. Jasmine Hotel was slightly more expensive, but had a touch of luxury with a good breakfast, free in-room wifi, and a swimming pool. 

However, there are many Luang Prabang hotels to choose from, which you can search for here. The best area to stay in Luang Prabang is in – or within walking distance to – the city center. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Mekong Riverview Hotel, 3 Nagas Luang Prabang or Santuary Hotel.

Although we stayed in hotels in Luang Prabang, we have found on other trips that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. Luang Prabang holiday apartments can be searched on Airbnb (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!), FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner

Budget travelers can search for Laung Prabang Hostels here– or check out highly-rated Tony Central Hostel and DownTown Backpackers Hostel. For a true bargain – and a unique experience – search for hosts on Couchsurfing, where travelers stay with locals for free


 

Getting to/from Luang Prabang

Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying – we are JetSetting Fools, after all! However, prior to Laos, we were in Thailand, so we opted for a Mekong River Cruise to Luang Prabang – which was the highlight of our Southeast Asia 2017 trip! You can read our Chaing Rai to Luang Prabang: Slow Boat on the Mekong post for more info. 

Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang Slow Boat on the Mekong River by JetSettingFools.com

Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang: Slow Boat on the Mekong River

When we departed the city, we flew from the Luang Prabang Airport to Bangkok. We started our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner and Flight Hub – and booked a ticket with Air Asia. The Luang Prabang Airport is 6km (15 minutes) from the city center and we paid 50,000 kip for an air-conditioned, private van to shuttle us direct from our hotel to the airport. 

For visitors traveling from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, the options are: public bus, VIP mini-bus, self-drive or flight. Check with your hotel or local agency for current schedules and fares. 


 

Laos Tours

If you want more guidance planning your Laos travel itinerary, consider joining one of the many Laos Tours offered by professional guides. Find a tour that fits your style: 


 

Before You Go

  • Luang Prabang is a walkable city…but only if you have the right shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
  • We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
  •  Make sure to have a good Laos guidebook for your trip! If traveling throughout the region, this Vietnam, Cambodia Laos, Northern Thailand guidebook might be handy, too! 
  • We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.

 

Start planning your trip to Luang Prabang! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!

 

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We want to know:  What would you add to our list of Things To Do in Luang Prabng, Laos? Tell us in the comments! 

 

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13 Things To Do in Luang Prabang, Laos by JetSettingFools.com

3-Day Luang Prabang Itinerary with 13 Things To Do by JetSettingFools.com13 Things To Do In Luang Prabang Laos JetSettingFools.com Things to do in Luang Prabang by JetSettingFools.com Things to do in Luang Prabang Laos by JetSettingFools.com Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos by JetSettingFools 13 Things to do in Luang Prabang by JetSettingFools.com
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6 thoughts on “13 things to do in Luang Prabang: A 3-Day Laos Itinerary

  1. Since we are outdoorspeople, we would definitely go to Kuang Si Waterfall first. Hehehe! And this could become reality next year (fingers crossed) as we are planning to have an SEA adventure, which includes Laos.

    • We hope it works out! Yes – if you love nature, you should probably consider spending an entire day at the falls. After climbing to the top of the falls, there are trails that lead to the left (which is probably the better side to climb up anyway – then turn right to see the top of the falls or left to follow the paths). Wish we could have done it, but we were short on time. Travel well!

  2. Pru

    Sounds like you covered it well 😉 Great post.
    The thing that we fell in love with in LP and all over Laos was the textiles. The hemp fabrics including the traditional natural dyes are breathtaking. We also loved the LP library as a nice place to hang out & the French Institute there. Also we fell in love with the baguette ladies and their families, especially the kids that live under the counters, as they are a big box – sometimes complete with TV & bedding ;). So much more. So glad you enjoyed it <3

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