Formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Laos, Luang Prabang has an ancient heritage that is immortalised in the city’s fusion of French-Indochinese architecture and traditional Buddhist temples. Gazing at the city’s structure, it’s clear Luang Prabang is not only a masterpiece in its own right, but a photographer’s haven, made more spectacular by its geographical markers. For one, the city sits on the confluence of the Nam Khan River and the Mekong River, which is said to be a sacred spot, while the commanding undulations of Mount Phousi towers above this urban dwelling.
It's little wonder that Luang Prabang has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that it's the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia. Not to mention Luang Prabang has some of Laos' best cuisine, and you can take a cooking class while in the city.
But despite its grandeur, Luang Prabang is a laid-back historic town; one that’s an ideal base for a spiritual awakening and blissful relaxation. There are many things to do in Luang Prabang, and to acclimatise, take a stroll down its streets. Don't forget to explore the quieter side streets, which is where you'll find red-sloping roofs and orange-robed monks going about their daily routines.
To get a sense of a bygone era, walk these lanes in the early morning. You’ll see monks receiving alms, in the form of sticky rice, from kneeling locals. This ceremony is known as Tak Bat, and it’s venerated, so make sure to dress and behave appropriately.
With so much religious heritage, it’s unsurprising that Luang Prabang means “Royal Buddha Image”. Indeed, there are over 20 temples within walking distance of each other, so there’s no escaping the city’s religious sites. You can also learn about Luang Prabang's history at the UXO Centre, where you'll find information about the time Luang was bombed during the Vietnam War.
Two of the most significant temples are Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of the Golden City) and Wat Wisunalat (Luang’s oldest temple). Both offer exquisite artwork. The former has traditional Lao art, wooden carvings, and intricate mosaics, while Wat Winsunalat has many relics and artefacts collected over centuries, including ancient stones and Buddha statues. We recommend exploring with a local guide, who can pinpoint details otherwise missed, and please remember to dress conservatively.
Walk along the bamboo bridge to find a quieter area of town, or explore the Kuang Si Falls - here, you'll find whimsical cascades and turquoise-coloured pools that are great for swimming and a picnic.
The city’s green landscape means activities like trekking the dense forest, visiting local communities, or circumnavigating rice paddies are incredibly easy. Plus, this is a humbling way to learn about the local people and their economy. Cycling, kayaking, and climbing to Mount Phousi are adrenaline-packed adventures, while romantics should embark on a sunset river cruise to see hues of orange and yellow paint the landscape.