With a history that likely dates back to the third century AD, the 148-foot-high (45-meter-high) golden stupa of Pha That Luang is Laos’ most important religious monument. Locals believe it contains a hair and bone from Buddha, and it’s the site of the country’s most important festival, Boun That Luang.The Basics
There is a small charge to enter Pha That Luang, with an additional fee to rent a long skirt for purposes of respect. You don’t need to hire a guide or join a tour, but a good local guide can help introduce you to monks and explain the history of the site.
Pha That Luang is an essential stop on Vientiane city tours, whether by car, tuk-tuk, or bicycle. Travelers with limited time may prefer to visit as part of a Pha That Luang tour that not only includes door-to-door round-trip transfers but also checks in at other sacred sites such as Haw Phra Kaew and Wat Si Saket.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Pha That Luang is a must for anyone with an interest in Lao history, religion, and culture.
- This is a very sacred site, so dress respectfully, keeping your shoulders covered.
- An icon of Vientiane, Pha That Luang features on Lao bank notes.
- Pha That Luang is not wheelchair-accessible.
Pha That Luang is located about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) northeast of Patuxai (Victory Monument) in Vientiane. If you’ve hired a bicycle, it’s easy enough to reach independently. If not, rather than haggle with tuk-tuk drivers, many prefer to join an organized tour or private tour that checks off other key Vientiane sites.When to Get There
Pha That Luang is open from morning until late afternoon, seven days a week. At full moon in the 12th month of the Buddhist calendar (usually November), the stupa plays host to a 3-day festival, Boun That Luang, with processions, picnics, fireworks, a fair, and alms giving. While very crowded, it’s an excellent time to visit.Understanding the Architecture of Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang has been reworked many times over, most recently in 1953, but the original structure was built in 1566. The gold-plated stupa soars over three levels, the bottom representing the underworld, the middle Buddhist teachings, and the third, with its towering spire, heaven or enlightenment. The spire also suggests an elongated lotus bud, a symbol of purity and faith.