With the entire old town of Luang Prabang designated as a UNESCO site, lots of beautiful old colonial French architecture has been immaculately preserved and walking through it is like strolling through a time machine! An extremely laidback little town where you can while yourself away in, from the beautiful nature of Khuang Si Falls to the man made wonders of Pak Ou Caves, there are so many things to do in Luang Prabang that there’s something for everyone.
But the best way to see Luang Prabang, we believe, is to connect with the locals and see Luang Prabang from the inside. Here’s a list of the best things to do in Luang Prabang, from the classics to more intimate Backstreet Experiences that will allow you to have an amazing experience with a local, from knife making workshops to weaving with village seamstresses!
1. Kuang Si Waterfall
Photo credit : tourinvientien.com
One of the most popular attractions in Laos is the Khuang Si Falls. Packed with a series of gorgeous cascades and emerald green waters rushing through stepped waterfalls, this place is a hot favorite for both tourists and locals alike. Situated inside a national park, there’s also a moon bear sanctuary nestled together with the falls that you should visit to catch a glimpse of the cute moon bears rescued from poachers.
2. Royal Palace
Photo credit : laosdaytour.com
The Royal Palace is a legacy of the French colonial administration from the 1900s. A blend of traditional Lao and French architecture, it’s a sight to behold. One of the key attractions there include the Royal temple, also known as Haw Pha Bang Temple where a famous statue Phra Bang Buddha resides. It was said to be a gift for Fa Ngum, the first King of Lane Xang Kingdom by the King of Angkor in the 14th century. The rest of the royal palace complex is also worth checking out, including the national museum which houses lots of treasures unique to the Lao Kingdom.
3. Rice Farming Experience
Sticky Rice is the lifeblood of the Lao people. From meals to desserts and even drinks, almost everything is made from sticky rice. To understand Laos, you have to understand sticky rice. And what better way than to experience the 15 steps of rice farming for yourself? Join our Rice Farming Experience to try your hand at ploughing, planting, harvesting, threshing and even cooking sticky rice! Set in a beautiful rice farm cooperative, you can also check out their sugar cane making process and their amazing organic garden where you can even try vegetables right after plucking them from the branch!
4. Alms Giving: A Monk’s life in Luang Prabang
There’s a saying, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.“. To feel this extraordinary experience, you may have to get up earlier than ever, but we can tell you that it is more than worth it. The Alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang takes place at around 5.30 am every morning and you will see throngs of monks walking out procession style to collect alms from devotees.
Although there’s Alms Giving or Tak Bat tradition in every city in Laos, but in Luang Prabang, Tak Bat is more “alive”. Due to the larger number of temples in Luang Prabang as well as the huge interest by tourists. Join the Backstreet Alms Giving Experience to make sure you participate in this holy procession the right way, and after that enjoy an intimate session with a senior monk to learn the ways of meditation, calm your soul and nurture your mind.
5. Pak Ou Caves
Photo credit : holidayinvietnam.com
Pak Ou Caves is also known as the thousand Buddha cave because of the thousands of large and small golden Buddha statues in the cave. Brought by devotees far and wide, it has made the caves an especially holy place for pilgrims and a sight for tourists. Situated along the sheer limestone cliffs of the Mekong River, the only way to get there is a short boat ride from the other bank. You can take a car to the village nearby before transferring to the boat, or you can even take the boat right from Luang Prabang and enjoy a leisurely few hours up the Mekong River with the Nava Mekong lunch cruise!
6. Crossbow Crafting Class
Make a traditional crossbow completely by hand! That’s what Backstreet host, 90 year-old Chai song can do in less than 3 hours. Join his Crossbow Crafting experience to learn this amazing skill from him, complete with crafting your own little bamboo arrows! Then disassemble and bring home the innocent looking pieces of wood! After you’re done, have a duel with Chai Song and see if you can shoot better than him! Our bets are on Chai Song; he has never lost a duel before thus far!
7. Wat Xieng Thong Temple
Photo credit : wikipedia.com
Built in 1559, Wat Xieng Thong is one of the holiest temples in Luang Prabang. Built by King Setthathirath, it has intricately carved wooden facades and numerous golf motifs depicting various scenes of Buddhism. Huge festivals such as the lantern festival always starts from here. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Luang Prabang and you will not want to miss it!
8. Zen Meditation Journey
Many travelers come to Luang Prabang to rest their soul and find themselves, and what better way than to learn from the ways of Buddha to find your true inner self? Take up a Zen Meditation Journey Experience to get an in-depth meditation session with a local monk at a temple not frequented by tourists, hear about the history of Wat Visoun, experience how the locals do traditional sauna with medicinal herbs at the Lao Red Cross and cap it all off with a nice massage!
9. Wood Carving with Royal Palace Artisan
Wood Carving was once a much sought after skill, with palaces, temples all adorned with these intricate and complex wood carvings taking months to carve at a time. These days however demand for such hand-crafted art is going down due to the availabilithy of cheap mass manufactured alternatives. Help conserve this heritage and join a Wood Carving Workshop under the tutelage of Mr Lon, a wood carving master who used to work at the Royal Palace!
10. Street Food Tour and Fear Factor Food Tour
Take this food tour and we can assure you it will stay with your for life! From the delicious street food to… well… the more interesting street foods. Let our local Backstreet guides help you find the best foods like Lao coconut cake, orlam, khao soi, sai oua, or more noteworthy and cringe-worthy items such as raw goat’s blood, grilled goat, goat colon, goat testicle soup or steamed, fetal duck! Laotians have really interesting food choices and if you want authenticity and adventure, what better way than to try our Fear Factor Food Tour? Or if you’re not quite up to it yet, there’s the local street food tour that will introduce you to a few hidden jewels only the locals know about!
11. Lao Wine Making Experience
In most countries throughout Asia, rice wine is a staple. However, in Laos, there’s a twist. Instead of rice wine, there’s sticky rice wine. And trust us, it’s a few notches better. After fermenting it in a jar, you add water to it and each person gets a long wooden bamboo straw that allows you to drink the wine together with everyone. The amazing thing is how magical this system works! Once the wine is finished, you simply add more water and it actually gets even stronger. And when the strength is finally going down, then you finish off with a few cans of beer Lao! That has to be one of the happiest drinks in the world. Try making it yourself at our Lao Wine Making Experience with local Kamu farmers like Mrs Phengkeo who started drinking since she was a kid!
12. Weaving with Village Seamstresses
Did you know that Laos people believe that if a woman can weave well, she will be a good wife too? Almost all women in Laos can weave. This expertise has been passed down from generation to generation and maintained because it has become the identity of this country. To experience the local heritage of Laos, weaving with a village seamstress is one of the best things to do in Luang Prabang. Book yourself a Weaving Workshop with Village Seamstresses to make your own little piece of heritage to bring home! Men are welcome to try becoming good husbands too 😉
13. Mount Phousi
Photo credit : buffalotrip.com
Mount Phousi is located in downtown Luang Prabang. From the top of this mountain, you can see the beautiful city of Luang Prabang which has 33 Buddhist temples and with more than 1000 monks residing within. On top of this mountain, there is a small temple and a golden stupa called Chomsi. Built by Raja Anurat in 1804, this is one of the most popular places in town to catch sunrise or sunset views, the beautiful Mekong River, and a 360-degree view of the city of Luang Prabang.