Luang Prabang Itinerary: What to Do and What to See

Luang Prabang Itinerary: What to Do and What to See


South East Asia is one of the world’s premier backpacking and
travel destinations – especially if you’re new to globetrotting. The
likes of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam all offer tourists something
special, with a solid infrastructure that takes it easy on any noobs
(read: newbies). As such, these countries represent “the big
three” in the region, attracting record visitor numbers to
sample the sights, sounds, and tastes you can readily enjoy in this
part of the world.

By contrast, their neighbors can often be overlooked, with many
travelers not concerned with visiting places like Myanmar or Laos –
particularly if they’re part of the less-adventurous crowd. Yet this
is a great shame, for they offer equally as memorable experiences as
their more popular continental cousins, but at a fraction of the
cost. With that in mind (and having just returned from a visit to
Luang Prabang – the jewel in the Laos crown) here we explore what you
can do in the region during a 3-day itinerary. Be warned, however,
this isn’t a trip for any couch potatoes!

Where is Luang Prabang?

And well you might ask – because it’s not exactly a destination that is on everyone’s lips… yet. Luang Prabang is situated in northern Laos, a country that is happily somewhat disconnected from the tourist hustle and bustle of more famous Asian holiday hot-spots, (generally speaking). The city itself consists of a number of neighboring villages, around 33 of which make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This ancient region is steeped in history and known for its stunning architecture, notable temples, and beautiful countryside; all located in the idyllic setting of the Mekong and Nam Khan River confluence. It’s the former Royal capital of the country, known as “the heart of Laos,” and if you’re visiting these shores at all, this is where you’ll most likely be going. Of course, there are many other little-known places to visit in Laos.

How to Get to Luang Prabang?

As luck would have it, Scoot Airlines have recently begun offering flights direct to Luang Prabang from Singapore. Rather handy considering this is where we were recently holed up and from where we have started our trip.

There are other options to get there, though:

  • Flights – both domestic and international from LPQ Airport which is conveniently located around 4 km from the city centre
  • By bus from neighboring countries and main cities in Laos
  • By slow boat on Mekong river- scenic route with plenty of beautiful views, time to read and socialize
  • By train if you are reading it in or after 2021 (high-speed train between Bangkok and China is coming)

Who Developed This Itinerary for Luang Prabang?

Our hosts upon arrival were to be My Lao Home, a comfortable hotel and spa complex in the heart of the city and that we would come to highly recommend.

Finally, our guides on our quest to explore the best the region has to offer were My Lao Tours, and it is on their program that this particular itinerary is based. You’re more than welcome to try something similar on your own steam, but we decided to leave it up to the pros this time – and we weren’t disappointed.

Day 1 in Luang Prabang

Kuang Xi Waterfall Trek

Beginning with a transfer to the village of Ban Long Lao, around 18 kilometers south of home base, you’ll be in for a treat in the great outdoors. The Kuang Xi waterfalls are up there with the most popular attractions in the region (also confusingly spelled Kuang Si and Ta Kuang Si which might take getting used to). It is, therefore, a very good place to start.

But the journey should be every bit as good as the destination, and the early morning hike will take you through some beautiful Laos scenery and countryside, including paddy fields, dense jungle, and mountain vistas. You’re in surroundings that are so synonymous with this part of the world, and yet still a comparatively untouched, ancient way-of-life. We’ll return to that thought in a moment, but the waterfalls deserve a special mention unto themselves.

At the start of the hike there’s a booth where an entrance fee is
collected and a local trek leader assigned (nobody wants you getting
lost). The fixed fee for up to 8 people is 50,000 Kip. If you’re
going on your own, be mindful that the trek leaders are very
experienced but rarely speak English.

Turquoise Blue of the Kuang Xi Waterfalls

You might well have seen pictures of this little paradise-on-earth before, and no doubt you’d be in awe of the color of the waters here. It is regarded as the most beautiful spot in the whole country, a series of cascading pools and waterfalls in the jungle that will make you feel like you’re in another world.

There’s also the thrilling option to swim in certain sections of this natural wonder (make sure you adhere to your guide’s advice as to what is allowed), and it’s the perfect way to refresh after your energetic hike – especially that the water tends to be very cold.

Note: there are fish that love to feed on your feet. No worries, though, they are too small to take your limb off, but cute enough that it feels like natural fish massage. It’s supposedly very good for your skin!

Those not interested in a dip can simply take in the ethereal,
tranquil surroundings and be thankful that such a place exists on
earth. For an extra treat – don’t miss the bear sanctuary just before
the entrance/exit, and there are even butterfly gardens if you have
the time.

Hmong Villages

Aside from visiting a country’s natural wonders, for many people, the human element is also a big draw. It’s fascinating to learn about another culture’s way of life, and you’ll be thrilled to have the opportunity to visit remote and unspoiled Hmong villages on your way back from the waterfalls.

The Hmong make up one of the three main ethnic groups in Laos (the other two being the Khmu and the Lao Lum), but these tribes are spread all over the continent. Many westerners don’t get the chance to see these all-but-lost time warps, a fascinating glimpse into the lives of some mysterious people. As ever, accommodating guides will be on hand to provide all the information you could ask for.

Luang Prabang Night Market

If you’ve still got the energy when you return to your accommodation, we’d heartily recommend visiting the famous night market. Similar attractions are famous all over South East Asia and this one is no exception. It runs from 17.00 to 22.00 every evening and it’s an awesome place to sample some delicious street food (available at both ends of the street where the market is located) or pick up a special souvenir – and these are available in big numbers.

Day 2 in Luang Prabang

Nahm Dong Park

Your first port of call will be to head to Nahm Dong Park, for a fun-filled day of a variety of activities. You won’t be straying too far outside comfort zones here, however, as it’s a family-friendly nature park located a short distance from Luang Prabang itself. It’s an oasis from city life just 10 kilometers away.

Don’t let its proximity to civilization fool you, though, as you’ll still feel like you’re in the jungle here among 18 hectares of lush greenery, waterfalls, pools and canopy rope bridges. There are spots to swim and cool off, as well as trekking trails through the thick foliage that will keep you occupied as the day is long. Just don’t forget your camera, or GoPro even more so.

Lao Cooking Classes

It’s perfectly possible to enjoy learning the delights of the local cuisine back in the city, but why do that there when you can do it in surroundings such as this? Either way, enrolling in a cooking course is a must anywhere in South East Asia, but each country employs its own, individual tricks and techniques for cooking up a storm, and it’s always good to increase your knowledge.

Lao cuisine cooking class in Luang Prabang

One of the best things about traveling is being able to learn how to cook something new from a foreign country and taking it back to impress your friends and family. Here, you’ll do just that, taking ingredients fresh from the garden and producing something that any local chef would be proud of. (Hopefully).

Adventure Courses

When you’ve gorged yourself on your home cooked, sumptuous Asian delicacies, you’ll need to work it off. Thankfully, Nahm Dong Park offers plenty of opportunities to do so. Zip lining through the tree canopy is extremely popular, and you can enjoy thrilling views over some 800 meters of courses. Only recommended if you have a head for heights!

The canopy bridges and trails are highly recommended, but in the afternoon we also enjoyed local craft activities. Working with Mulberry paper (a form of handmade paper made from the bark of a Mulberry tree) and bamboo weaving. Then there are obstacle courses, caves to explore and even beekeeping to try. Day two on the itinerary will certainly have challenged all your faculties by the time you turn in for the night!


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