The UNESCO World Heritage list identifies no fewer than 34 Luang Prabang temples. If you have to pick just one, opt for 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Temple), the largest and best-known Buddhist monastery in all of Laos. Highlights include a tree of life mosaic, a royal funeral chariot, and the stunning ordination hall (sim).
Under 1 mile (1.3 kilometers) from the Royal Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong is easy to explore on a self-guided walking or cycling tour of Luang Prabang, and this is how many visitors choose to experience it. There is a reasonable entrance fee in line with other Luang Prabang attractions.
Given its significance in Lao culture and sheer beauty, Wat Xieng Thong is an essential stop on many Luang Prabang tours, including temple tours, cultural tours, and tuk-tuk tours. If you’d like to learn more about Lao Buddhism or to explore the site in depth, consider hiring a private guide.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wat Xieng Thong is an essential stop for anyone with an interest in the history, religion, or culture of Laos.
- There is sufficient gold and color for children to appreciate the aesthetics of the site.
- Wat Xieng Thong is a religious site, so dress appropriately. Both men and women should cover their shoulders, chests, and their legs to the knee. Leg-covering skirts can be rented on arrival.
- While the site of Wat Xieng Thong is flat, steps lead up to the entrances of the various structures.
How to Get There
Wat Xieng Thong sits less than a mile (1.3 kilometers) east of the Royal Palace Museum, towards the north of the Luang Prabang peninsula. As such, it’s easily visited independently, whether by strolling, riding a bicycle, or flagging down a tuk-tuk. Visitors with limited time may opt for the convenience of a tour that bundles Wat Xieng Thong with other Luang Prabang attractions and includes door-to-door transport.
When to Get There
Open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week, Wat Xieng Thong can be visited throughout the year. Particularly during high season (November to January), it’s worth rising early to see the site before the big crowds arrive; late in the afternoon is another feasible option to beat the crowds.
Lao Temple Etiquette: a Beginner’s Guide
Luang Prabang is a city of temples, or wat. Besides dressing respectfully, avoid touching monks or sacred objects, ask permission before photographing devotees or monks, and don’t enter the sim (ordination hall) if monks are meditating. Avoid public displays of affection, drinking alcohol, pointing your feet towards the Buddha, or doing yoga poses or selfie jumps in front of the Buddha.