I only stayed in this Laos’ city for a week and a half, but in that time I packed in as many sights and activities as I could. There is so much to do in Luang Prabang whether you fancy something cultural, adventurous, naturally beautiful or edible, you’ll definitely find something you love. Here is a list of what is possible to do in the city.
1. Cycle around the city
The best way to get around Luang Prabang is by bike and almost all hostels and hotels have them for free or to hire. All bikes come with a lock so make sure you use it otherwise you will have to pay if your bike is taken. Riding alongside the Mekong or Nam Khan river is always beautiful, particularly around sunset, or just ride through the city centre seeing the shops, cafes and temples as you go. This is a great way to get to know the city and its layout, particularly on your first day here. So grab a bike, get pedalling and maybe stop off for a cold drink or coffee or two on the way.
2. Mount Phousi
This mountain in the city centre has a tiny temple on the top and boasts amazing views from both the summit and on the way up. 2 entrances on different sides of the hill have different sights to see so make sure you use one as an entrance and the other as an exit otherwise you’ll miss some amazing Buddha statues. See my post specifically on Mount Phousi for more information on this strenuous climb which is so worth it for the views.
3. Kuang Si waterfalls
If you’ve done even 5 minutes of research on Luang Prabang then you will have heard of the Kuang Si waterfalls Si waterfalls. Around 30km outside of the city lie these beautiful milky blue pools cascading as far as the eye can see. Walking through the trees and crossing the water gives you an inspiring view of what Mother Nature can really create. You can trek to the top of the falls or swim in the cool pools, just watch out for the fish that may nibble your feet!
4. Luang Prabang bear sanctuary
This sanctuary is the home to sun and moon bears rescued from the bile industry. These bears now have spacious enclosures with all the home comforts including hammocks, as opposed to the cages they were saved from. The sanctuary is free to enter so consider making a cash donation or buying a t-shirt like I did if you enjoy seeing these beautiful creatures in kinder environments. This can be found once through the entrance to the Kuang Si waterfalls, so is a nice surprise to see if you don’t know much about the falls before you go.
5. Daily night market
The main road through the Old Quarter, where all the tour companies and restaurants are, comes alive at night. It becomes so packed full of stalls that it is almost unrecognisable. Expect to find things such as clothes, UXO metal objects, snake whiskey, handmade scarves, paintings, lanterns, tea, jewellery and anything you can think of made of elephant print material. I could easily have filled a bag of these items if I didn’t have to carry it for months on end! The key here, as with any Asian market, is never to accept the first price they offer. Expect to be able to barter the price down to around three quarters or even half the price they say originally.
6. Local food
You cannot visit a new country without trying some of the local cuisine, and Luang Prabang definitely has some delicious foods on offer. Firstly there is sticky rice, which accompanies almost every dish you can order and is eaten with the hands. Lao laap (sometimes called larb or laab) is a spicy dish of pork or chicken mince with lime and coriander flavours. The French influences from Laotian history can be seen throughout the city by the small baguette stalls all around the Old Quarter, which can be stuffed with endless options of fillings. But my all-time favourite was the simple kebabs you can buy at the street market. Pork, vegetable, mushroom or chicken kebabs are cooked before your eyes and can be coated with the most amazing spicy sauce painted onto your kebab of choice. Along with a side of egg fried rice or noodles, this simple dish kept me coming back again and again.
7. Tour activities
As I mentioned before, there are lots of tour companies with exciting opportunities for you to take part in outside of the city. From elephant sanctuaries to kayaking/rafting, and visiting caves to visiting local tribes, there is plenty to choose from. I personally did a kayaking trip along the Nam Ou river with visits to the Pak Ou caves and whisky village along the way. This tour was one of the highlights of my stay in Luang Prabang so I recommend it for any adventure seekers out there.