Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architectural wonders, Laos’ No. 1 tourist destination delivers orange-clad monks, gilded temples, vibrant night markets, and startling sunsets. Even if you only have a day in Luang Prabang, you can see the city’s signature sights and enjoy a river cruise to the Pak Ou Caves. Here’s how.
Morning: Temple Touring
Start your day in Luang Prabang the local way, with an early morning ritual: giving alms to the Buddhist monks who study at the city’s many monasteries. Soak up the atmosphere at a bustling morning market, get a handle on Lao cuisine and ingredients, then explore some of the city’s signature sights. Travel back in time to the world of Lao kings at the Royal Palace Museum; soak up the spiritual atmosphere at sacred sites such as Vat Visounarath and Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Temple); and admire colonial architecture and heritage timber houses.
Afternoon: Caves and Falls
Next, discover the mighty Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers, on a cruise to the Pak Ou Caves, a pair of riverside caves crammed with thousands of Buddha statues. Many cruises stop at traditional villages along the way: Sample lao lao (Lao whiskey) at Whisky Village (Ban Xang Hai) or learn the art of making paper or weaving at craft villages. Alternatively, spend the afternoon at beautiful Kuang Si Falls, home to rope swings, a butterfly park, and a bear-rescue sanctuary. Or, if you’d rather stay in the city proper, take the opportunity to explore Lao food with a hands-on cooking class.
Evening: Mekong Sunset
The beauty of the setting sun reflected in the Mekong will stay with you for a lifetime. Make the most of your Luang Prabang sunset, perhaps by scaling Mt. Phousi in the heart of the city for views across the river to the mountains, or embarking on a sunset river cruise with drinks included. As night falls, head to the city’s glorious night market and graze on street food as you shop for paper crafts, silk, embroidered bags, and elephant slippers—plus the whole array of Southeast Asia backpacker fashion. Wrap up your night with a stroll along the tranquil waterfront.