Mount Phousi is the place to go in Luang Prabang if you wish to see the city from above. This hill is in the city centre and provides spectacular 360° views if you are willing to hike up its 350 steps to the summit.
There are 2 sets of steps you can take to the top, the most used is opposite the Royal Palace Museum on the main street, where the night market takes place (if you don’t know where this is then you haven’t seen Luang Prabang yet!). The second entrance is opposite the Nam Khan river by the bamboo bridge, which is the entrance most monks use. Use either entrance but make sure you go down the other way on the way out, as I didn’t and I missed so much! I went up the steps by the museum and came back down the same way, but it turns out I missed around half of what there is to see on the hill. I actually ended up going back another day so I could see the other sights.
I prefer the entrance opposite the river as there are lots of different Buddha statues amongst the trees on the mountain as you go up. You can also see ‘Buddha’s footprint’ but make sure to go down the small steps into the tiny cave by the big Buddha as there are some more statues inside. I won’t elaborate any more as it’s more exciting to see it for yourself if you don’t know what is there!
There is a small fee of 20,000 kip, about £2, to go to the summit. At the top you can buy offerings for the monks, and small birds in cages believed to bring good luck when released. You can also see a small temple called Wat Chomsi, but to be honest the views absolutely steal the show here (then again I am a sucker for a good view!), so ensure you make the most of them.
If you are feeling cheap then you can also get great views over the river from the Buddha’s footprint, at the Nam Khan river entrance. This is before the ticket desk so you can get here without paying a single penny.
I would plan on spending an hour or two on Mount Phousi, including the time taken to get up and down the steps. Most travel guides will say to go to the top for sunrise or sunset, but if you don’t want heaving crowds to ruin your view (and photographs!) then late morning is good too. Just make sure you bring some water and cover up with a hat or umbrella if you visit in the middle of the day as hiking up those steps can get very hot!<div