Luang Prabang Description:
Luang Prabang is the ancient royal capital of Laos, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A city of brightly colored Buddhist temples, traditional Laotian homes nestled beside colonial French architecture, and river banks bursting with palm trees, Luang Prabang is the heart of the country’s cultural heritage. UNESCO calls the city a remarkably well-preserved townscape that illustrates the blending of colonial and traditional Laotian cultures. Framed by rugged, green mountains and ringed by the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, Luang Prabang is the crown jewel of Laotian travel destinations.
Luang Prabang’s sleepy charm is readily apparent even at dawn when the sienna-clad Buddhist monks that inhabit city’s numerous temples file into the streets for the daily alms ceremony. Buddhist monks are prohibited from earning money, and the gifts of rice they receive from tourists and villagers each day is their main source of nutrition.
Mount Phou Si (Phu Si) is the high hill at the center of Luang Prabang. Wat Tham Phou Si and Wat Chom Si are two Buddhist shrines located on the hill. A popular destination with both the local population and travelers because of the spending full views of the city from the summit, Mount Phou Si is a particularly stunning vantage point as the sun sets over Luang Prabang. The Vipassana Temple, a Buddhist meditation retreat, is easily spotted from the hill top.
Haw Kham is Luang Prabang’s former Royal Palace. A French colonial structure completed in 1904 for the King Sisavang Vong and his family, the palace is a mixture of traditional Laotian accents and French design. After the royal family was removed from power in 1975, the palace was converted into a national museum. The Phra Bang, a standing Buddha image believed to protect Laos from misfortune, resides inside the incredibly ornate Haw Pha Bang royal temple inside the compound.
Wat Xieng Thong is one of Luang Prabang’s oldest Buddhist monasteries. Built in 1560 by King Setthathirath near the convergence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Wat Xieng Thong’s manicured grounds feature more than 20 monastic buildings in a garden ornamental shrubs, trees, and flowers.
The verdant mountains and forests that surround Luang Prabang have a wealth of beautiful areas to discover and explore. The Kuang Si Butterfly Park and the Kuang Si Waterfalls are just two of the nearby locations that make for excellent day trips from the city. The Pak Ou Caves, overlooking the Mekong River, are filled with hundreds of Buddha images. The reverent atmosphere that permeates the ancient cave shrine draws more visitors each year, and is an excellent stop during a river cruise along the Mekong.
Best Time to Visit Luang Prabang:
The months between November and May during the cooler dry season have the best sightseeing weather in Laos. Temperatures begin to rise in June, and the heat stays through October, but the quick rainstorms that are common during the second half of the year help dampen the heat considerably.
How to get to Luang Prabang:
Luang Prabang is the capital of Luang Prabang Province in central northern region of Laos. It can be reached directly by an international flight, or alternatively overland from the country’s capital of Vientiane.
Luang Prabang Highlights:
Luang Prabang is a vibrant city of ancient traditions that blends Laotian style and colonial architecture into a delightful cultural cocktail that’s the highlight of any luxury tour of Laos. The city’s splendid architecture, rich museums, and thriving Buddhist culture means there’s something for every traveler to discover here.
Western-style clothing options are fine to wear while exploring the town, but if you should venture into any of the numerous Buddhist temples, shrines, or monasteries in the area, local customs require visitors to wear modest clothing. Travelers should cover shoulders to knees in cool clothing, and be prepared to remove their shoes in certain areas within religious compounds.