Laos is a stunning country that is less talked about compared to the likes of its neighbours like Vietnam and Thailand, which attracts a lot more international attention. However, first time being here in Luang Prabang Laos have made me fall in love with this beautiful destination. From lovely mountains and waterfalls to delicious laotian food to the friendly locals, there is a charm about Luang Prabang that wins the hearts of many.
In our 1 week here, let me share with you a bit more about what things to do in Luang Prabang Laos if you are looking for a dose of outdoor adventure and culture infusion.
What to do in Luang Prabang
1. Discover the Treks and Waterfall Trails
Nahm Dong National Park
The name of this park comes about from the words ‘Water’ and ‘Big’ in Lao. This beautiful self sustainable national park is located 10km away from Luang Prabang city centre, and you can book the twice a day shuttle bus to get here daily ( 8.30am or 1pm).
Some of the highlights that we really loved here in the park are the hiking trails along the waterfalls as well as the Garden of Senses with its traditional medicinal plants and herbs. This garden is especially great for those with kidsas there are fun botany quizzes they can do too!)
The national park has so much to offer in terms of activities like adventure course, handicraft and cooking classes. I will share more about them later on. But if you are here to do some good hiking, there are beautiful trails here called the Black trail and blue trail. The black trail was what we did after our zipling experience in the afternoon (read more below)
This trail brings you along the waterfall (rather dry during this period of April), 3 village/ ethnic laotian houses, beehive exhibit, a nice lookout point at View Point cafe for a drink and yoga(for the yogis out there!) before coming back up to the main national park area.
Ban Long Lao Hike to Kuang Si Waterfall
In Europe, Bulgaria is known to be the land of waterfalls. And here in South East Asia, Laos owns the title. Kuang Si Waterfall (or ”Kwungsi” waterfall) in Luang Prabang is deemed as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos, and it is definitely something to include in your time here.
What better way to enjoy the waterfall then to start off with a lovely trek up to the top of the waterfall with the Ban Long Lao Trail. It is approximately 779 metres above sea level and starts off from walking from an entry from the Ban Longlao village. It takes 1.5 hours by car to get from Luang Prabang to the starting point, and it will cost you an entry fee of 50,000kip (approximately US$5) for a car with a group of up to 8-9 people to enter the premise.
We had our friendly chatty guide Danou from MyLaoTours, Ah Long the strong and steady videographer, as well as a local guide from the village, join us for the hike.
The trail was mostly through forests and some rubber plantations, and we had some really good lookout points along the way. We got to the spring at the top where there were some monks and fellow travellers chilling there for a picnic and a little splash in the stream. For the more adventurous ones, you can take a try walking the log across the spring without falling into the water.
We finally got to the top of Kuang Si waterfall and had some lovely shots at a hidden little swimming area that Danou brought us. After some videos and photos, we clammered down the beautiful waterfall steps to the base of the waterfall and were mesmerized by the beauty of the falls.
There were hoards of tourists there snapping away on their cameras, so recommendation to come early in the morning to avoid the big crowds. We spend a good few hours there swimming in some of the lower streams and having a bite at Carpe Diem restaurant for lunch, which had a splendid full view of a segment of the waterfall while dining. Truly romantic and spectacular.
2. Outdoor Activities/ Tours and Excursions in Luang Prabang
Ziplining at Nahm Dong Park
One of the best ziplines I have ever done, this adventure activity consist of 6 zipline stations and some 800 metres in length! We had some really epic views of the mountains, waterfalls and forests all around while flying through the sky.
Tree top walk Adventure Park
Perfect activity for adventure seekers, students and families, this 5 stations obstacle course/ adventure park are good fun for people of any ages. They are all 200 metres long, consisting of 4 walking obstacle course over ropes/ tyres and 1 fun zip line. Perfect team building activity as well if you come here with a group.
Camping at Nahm Dong Park
The national park is also a perfect spot for a good campsite with barbecue options and a lovely little stream and waterfall nearby to take a splash and dip. Mattresses/ mosquito nets and sleeping bags available for rent at the National Park.
Kayaking to Tad See Waterfalls
One of the spectacular spots in Luang Prabang would be Tad See waterfall. The best way to experience it would be to hop onto a kayak and approach the spectacular falls. Pity we didn’t get to experience it when we were there in May as it was the dry season and the water quantity and volume has not hit that stage yet.
3. Top 7 Activities and Tours available in Luang Prabang
Cycling through the Heritage Areas
Rent a bicycle and take a little cycle around the surrounding streets and towns in Luang Prabang. Check out the UNESCO heritage sites like
Heuan Chanh heritage houses, royal palace museum, handicraft village and more. You will enjoy some great views of the Mekong river if you stop at the right spots. If you like panoramic aerial views from the top, you stop park your bikes and climb to the top of Mount Phousi for a good view of Luang Prabang city.
One important place you should not miss out is the UXO Centre to learn about the war in Laos. It was my first time learning about how Laos was the most heavily bombed country in World War 2, which is very sad to hear the impact and damage it had done to the people of Laos.
Visit the beautiful temples in Luang Prabang
If you are into architecture and culture, there are some incredibly beautiful temples here in this area like the Xieng Thong Temple. While quite a number of them are paid, you will also be able to check out a few that you may enter as long as you are properly attired.
Sunset Cruise with Drinks on the Mekong River
If you are someone who loves river and chill boat rides, this is for you. Book one of the sunset cruises available here, and enjoy a lovely breezy ride on a deck chair with a nice drink in your hand.
Pak Ou Cave River Cruise
This cruise brings you to witness one of the most known cave temples in Luang Prabang. It is quite a distance from the city and the whole cruise experience can take about 5 hours. So, unfortunately, it was not something we could include in our agenda while we were here.
Mulberry Paper Making Workshop
One of the common handicraft items you will see plentiful here in Luang Prabang is paintings, lamp shades and items made out of mulberry paper. We got a chance to try it for ourselves here and brought home with us 2 A3 size masterpieces of our mulberry paper designed with flowers and leaves.
Bamboo Weaving Workshop
Also, something one can enjoy and try out if you are into handicrafts and art. It’s a real skill to be able to do it properly and some of these patterns are really intricate. We had the privilege of our guide and a local gardener in the national park premise helping us and making sure we do not destroy our weaved masterpieces.
Laotian Cooking Class at Nahm Dong Park
Food is of coz one of the key aspects surrounding the Laos culture. So we got our hands dirty and managed to experience it first hand with our own cooking class.
More about our cooking class…
Consisting of 4-5 dishes, you can spend a whole morning whipping out these dishes. The fun bit is that you can regulate the taste of the dishes however you like – more spicy/ sour/ sweet etc.
5 Dishes to pick from the list below:
– Papaya Salad (Tam Mak Houng)
– Laap Kai ( Mince Meat salad)
– Ken Kio Van ( more commonly known as Green Curry)
– Luang Prabang Salad
– Mok Pa Steam Fish
– Laotian Spring Rolls
– Khao niao mac mouang (Mango Glutinous Sticky Rice)
– Luang Prabang Salad
– Laotian Spring Rolls
My favourite dish prepared has got to be the mango sticky rice!
4. Start planning your Perfect Itinerary
Are you ready to pay this place a visit? While you are planning your itinerary or trip to Luang Prabang, decide what is the focus of your trip whether it is :
- Guided Tours/ Free and Easy walking/ cycling around to look for local Laotian food hunts
- 2 days planned adventure packed itinerary by MyLaoTours to enjoy the best of Luang Prabang’s outdoors followed by wellness treatment at MyLaoSpa
- Shopping and Sights ( handicraft village and night markets)
If you are wondering what’s the accommodation/ hotel and guesthouse options here in Luang Prabang, there city is rather developed with are plenty of lovely wooden guests houses located along the city centre and the Mekong River. However, always good to book in advance to secure a good rate and place.
We had a lovely time staying at Jasmine Villa at MyLaoHome, which the colonial look was not only very tasteful, the room was nice and spacious and the hotel had an on-property spa. One of the best locations in the town near a lot of key attractions, not to mention my favourite Joma Coffee place that I frequent.
4. Transport Options within/ to/ fro Luang Prabang by flight or bus
Getting to Luang Prang by flight
- Singapore to/ fro Luang Prabang: There is definitely a sizeable amount of travellers coming from countries offering direct flight options. For people coming from Singapore/ transitting Singapore from Australia/ Philippines and more, Scoot airlines flies from Singapore at a comfortable 3-hour direct flight.
- Vietnam to Luang Prabang: If you are traveling and backpacking around South East Asia and are looking at popping over to Luang Prabang, there are multiple buses and flights that can bring you to this UNESCO destination of Luang Prabang.
Departing from Luang Prabang by flight/ bus
You should plan to see more of the surroundings other than Luang Prabang if you are here in Laos. After saying bye to the lovely people in Luang Prabang, we headed off by local/ sleeper bus to Vang Vieng and Thakhek for rock climbing and some relaxing city walk along the river and night markets in Vientiane the next 9 days. We flew back to Singapore from Vientiane with Scoot. If you have more time off, I would strongly encourage you to take at least 5-6 days to cover a bit more of the country.
Some Best Towns/ Cities to Visit following Luang Prabang
- Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
- Luang Prabang to Vientiane
- Luang Prabang to Pakse
- Luang Prabang to Siem Rep Cambodia
- Luang Prabang to Bangkok (BKK) Thailand
- Luang Prabang to Hanoi Vietnam
Concluding my adventures in Luang Prabang this summer. Are you ready to visit this incredible UNESCO world heritage so well preserved all these years, with a great balance between nature, food, culture and history.