Nestling in the slim valleys and shaded by spectacular green mountains Luang Prabang is achingly beautiful. It sits at the confluence of the Mekong and the Khan rivers and the pace of life here is as languid as the flow of the waters. Sightseeing at a very relaxed pace is called for so don’t rush to take in the wealth of temples palacescafes colonial villas of the city or all that natural beauty that surrounds it. Sampling the cuisine has to rank high as an activity here but there are plenty of ‘wilder’ pleasures: take a trek through the forests hire a bike to see the outlying temples explore caves by boat or refresh yourself in the spray of majestic waterfalls tumbling down mountainsides.
Areas & Neighbourhoods In and Around Luang Prabang
The Old City – Demarcated by a narrow strip of land where the rivers meet the Old City offers local markets to explore charming cafes classy restaurants and plenty of temples and palaces decorated with gold and painted in a mosaic of colours. At the heart of the Old City lies Phou Si (Holy Hill) from where stunning panoramic views of the city and the countryside can be enjoyed.
Beyond the Old City – Historic sites are by no means limited to the Old City: there are plenty more wats (temples) naga statues (dragons) and stupas to explore in the area beyond it.
Xiang Men – Take a short trip across the Mekong to gain the best views of Luang Prabang which is best seen as the sun sets over its gilded temples. A boat ride to sleepy Xiang Men will take you to Wat Chom Phet a disused monastery that affords beautiful views of the city over the water.
Kouang Si – This multi-level waterfall can be easily reached from the city. Bathe in the crystal-clear waters at its base and marvel at the waters cascading from its top.
The Buddha Caves – Situated about 20 miles downriver from the city – and accessible by a romantic boat ride on the Mekong – are a series of caves that have housed Buddha images for centuries.
Things to See in Luang Prabang
The Royal Palace now commemorates the former monarchy of Laos and offers an excellent introduction to the country’s history. There are many wats (temples) in the city but it is Wat Xiang Thong (the Golden City Monastery) that is the most graceful with its intricately stencilled gold motifs that cover its walls. The views from Phou Si (Holy Hill) are incomparable and must be taken in at least once during your visit. If you are looking for souvenirs be sure to make the time to admire the work of the expert silversmiths that can be seen in the Old City.
Things to Do in Luang Prabang
Relaxing by the river strolling past the temples chilling out in a cafe or sampling the Laotian dishes in any of the fine restaurants is what the city is all about. Yet just beyond the city there are plenty of activities to raise the adrenaline levels should it all seem too serene. Take a trip to the waterfalls go on a jungle trek follow the mountain bike trails head off to an elephant camp kayak down the rivers or simply explore the countryside to find some truly stunning spots of natural beauty.