With three days in Luang Prabang, you can get to the heart of the city: monks, markets, temples, and palaces. Besides countryside highlights such as the Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si Falls, you can go deep into cultural adventures, perhaps playing mahout for the day, experiencing life on a farm, or kayaking quiet rivers. Here’s how.
Day 1: Monks, Markets, and Temples
Wake early to partake in a charming Luang Prabang ritual, giving alms to the orange-clad monks who proceed through the city before dawn each day. Then soak up the atmosphere at a bustling wet (produce) market before you hit some of Luang Prabang’s signature sights: the Royal Palace Museum, once home to Laos’ kings, and temples such as Vat Visounarath and Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Temple). There’s no better way to get to know a culture than through its food, so immerse yourself in Laos’ unique cuisine with a cooking class that includes dinner.
Day 2: Caves, Falls, and Crafts
Luang Prabang’s architectural wonders may have secured it UNESCO World Heritage status, but the countryside around it is every bit as charming. Discover authentic rural life as you cruise the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves, crammed full of thousands of ancient Buddha statues, stopping at villages such as Whisky Village (Ban Xang Hai) and the weaving village of Ban Xang Khong. Spend the afternoon at Kuang Si Falls, where turquoise waters tumble down three tiers. Don’t miss the rescue center that’s saving bears from torture in the traditional-medicine trade. Savor a street-food dinner as you stroll through Luang Prabang’s vibrant night market, stocking up on souvenirs from mulberry leaf paper to handwoven silk.
Day 3: Elephants, Farming, and Kayaking
Treat yourself to a full-day adventure on your last day in Luang Prabang. Perhaps get the chance to play mahout for the day at a riverside elephant camp, where you can learn about the role these majestic animals have played in Lao life. Alternatively, discover the fine art of rice farming as you get hands-on at a local organic farm. The rivers around Luang Prabang are ripe for kayaking at many times of year—or make like a local and cycle quiet back roads to sleepy rural villages. As night begins to fall, make the most of your last Mekong sunset with a sunset river cruise, then wrap up your visit with a fine-dining feast in a candlelit tropical garden.