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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

What to do in 3 days in Luang Prabang

Updated: Jan 24

Wat Vieng Thong Temple, Luang Prabang, Laos

Wat Vieng Thong temple, Luang Prabang, Laos

I have to admit something: at first, Laos wasn't part of our Southeast Asia itinerary. We had a limited number of vacation days and an extensive list of places we wanted to visit.

But a close friend who had spent several months in the region and fallen in love with Laos convinced us to give it a chance. We added this small, landlocked country to our 3-week tour of Southeast Asia, and we're really glad we did (this is one of the benefits of traveling independently - you have complete control over your itinerary and can include or exclude destinations as you see fit)

During our time in Laos, we had an unforgettable experience in Luang Prabang.

Despite arriving with low expectations, we left feeling completely awestruck.


In this post you'll find:


Other posts about traveling in Asia:

Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang, Laos
Kuang Si Waterfall

How to get to Luang Prabang

We were in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and took a Lao Airlines flight to Luang Prabang with a brief stopover in Pakse.

The stop in Pakse was very short. We had to disembark, go through immigration, and then board the same aircraft. Despite the fact that most passengers were foreigners, the visa-on-arrival and immigration process was relatively quick. They just asked us how many days we were staying in Laos and in which town. Once our visas were approved and passports stamped, we went through another X-ray and waited in a another room for our boarding call. The airport was a bit outdated and small, but we had no issues.

Our flight departed Siem Reap at 12:25 and arrived in Luang Prabang at 16:00. We had arranged for a transfer from the airport to our hotel in advance.

When it was time to leave Luang Prabang, we took a direct flight to Bangkok on Thai Smile. The flight took about 1.5 hours and departed at 11:20, arriving in Bangkok at 12:50.

During my research for this blog post, I found out that direct flights are also available between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Additionally, the town is easily accessible by bus or boat. A particularly scenic option is to take a slow-boat journey down the Mekong River from Thailand (such as Chiang Mai or other towns along the river) to Luang Prabang - it will be a long but enjoyable trip.

Luang Prabang and Nam Khan River, as seen from Mont Phousi, Laos
Luang Prabang and Nam Khan River, as seen from Mont Phousi

Currency and exchange

The currency of Laos is the kip, with an exchange rate of approximately 17,000 kips to US$1 as of March 2023.

With few exceptions, payment in US dollars is not widely accepted in Laos. Therefore, it's necessary to either exchange money at an exchange office or withdraw cash from an ATM. In Luang Prabang, exchange offices can be found on practically every block in the tourist center.

It's worth noting that larger US bills, such as US$100 and US$50, are usually quoted at slightly higher rates than smaller bills. There is no such difference (as per we could notice) to Euro bills.


Despite the fact that English isn't widely spoken and most locals only have a basic understanding of the language (except for tour guides), we were still able to communicate effectively in English during our trip to Laos.

Where to stay in Luang Prabang

During our stay, we chose Vila Mahasok Hotel, a relatively simple hotel located about four blocks from the night market. The rooms were simple but clean, and the breakfast had limited options, but was satisfactory (although the coffee itself was not very good). The staff spoke very little English, which made communication a bit challenging, but it was manageable. Overall, it was a fair and straightforward hotel.

If you're looking for other options, you can find them at this link. The French Quarter, which is the tourist center, has many accommodation options available, and you will be just a few meters from restaurants, bars, and the town's main attractions.

Despite being highly touristy, the area is peaceful and do not feel overcrowded.

In general, we found that accommodations in Luang Prabang were simpler compared to what we saw in Thailand and Cambodia.

Check hotel rates and availability here:

What to do in 3 (and 1/2) days in Luang Prabang

During our 3 (and a half) day stay in Luang Prabang, we managed to cover a lot of ground and had a wonderful time exploring the city. Here's a breakdown of what we did:

Day 0 (1/2 day):

We arrived in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel.

Afterward, we walked around the tourist center of the town - the French Quartier - and enjoyed the relaxed vibe of the area. For dinner, we tried L'elephant, a French and Laotian fusion restaurant that served delicious food. Although it was slightly more expensive than other dining options in town, we felt that the experience was worth the price. Alternatively, the Sassavong Street is lined with bars and restaurants, and the night market offers more affordable dining options.

Kuang Si Waterfall

Day 1:

In the morning, we visited the amazing turquoise-blue KuangSi Waterfalls and Moon Bear Sanctuary - a must-see in any trip to Luang Prabang.

To reach the waterfall complex, it's a 40-minute drive from Luang Prabang to the parking lot. Once there, an electric car (included in the entrance fee) takes you to the trailhead. The trail is short and starts on the right, passing by the Moon Bear Sanctuary.

A few meters ahead, the first of a series of waterfalls appears, each one more beautiful than the last. It's worth noting that there are only a few spots where swimming is allowed, and they are located near the beginning of the trail, so make the most of them.

The last waterfall is the largest and most impressive, and it's definitely worth the visit. From there the trail is a short downhill to the parking lot.

We arranged our tour through the hotel, however it's also possible to hire a tuk-tuk or book a tour through one of the tourist agencies in the city center.

On our way back to Luang Prabang, we made a stop at a Hmong village to learn more about their culture and way of life. The visit was truly fascinating, and we had the opportunity to witness how the Hmong people still make a living through agriculture, maintaining a traditional way of life that has been relatively unchanged for centuries. In addition, we visited a small museum that showcased traditional Hmong houses and artifacts, which was a great way to gain a deeper understanding of their customs and traditions.

After our morning adventure to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, the tour headed back towards Luang Prabang before continuing on to our afternoon destination - the Pak Ou Caves.

We had lunch at the Manifa Elephant Camp, where we were able to watch elephants roaming freely. If you plan to see elephants, it's essential to ensure beforehand that the animals are treated ethically. Unfortunately, many establishments still exploit and mistreat animals, and we did not want to contribute to any unethical practices.

After lunch, we embarked on a scenic boat ride along the Mekong River to visit the Pha Hung and Pha An Cliffs, followed by the Pak Ou Cave complex. These caves are considered sacred by the locals and are filled with thousands of Buddha statues, mostly made of wood. We were amazed by the intricate details and workmanship of these statues.

We explored part of the caves and followed a small trail to a higher section, which offered stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. On our way back to Luang Prabang, we made a brief stop at a small village that specializes in the production of rice whiskey. We learned about the distillation process and sampled some of the products.

As we sailed downriver at sunset, we were treated to a breathtaking view of the landscape. The boat arrived in the center of Luang Prabang early in the evening, and we felt grateful for the unforgettable experience we had.

Luang Prabang no início da noite, vista do Rio Mekong, com as luzes acesas e o céu ainda azulado
Arriving by boat just after sunset in Luang Prabang. View form the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers junction.

Day 2:

This was temple hunting day and cooking class evening!

Wake up early to witness the Alms Giving ceremony, which takes place on Sisavangvong Street. This beautiful ceremony involves the locals and tourists offering rice to the monks, which will be their only meal of the day. Although it feels a bit touristic nowadays, it's a moving experience and a great opportunity to learn about buddhism traditions and culture. If you participate, please remember to show respect to the monks and the local people.

(1) Wat Sensoukharam temple; (2) a (4) Wat Xieng Thong temple

After breakfast, we set out to explore the numerous temples in the city. Wat Xieng Thong is the most famous and impressive one, but we also visited other beautiful temples such as Wat Mai, Wat Sensoukharam, Wat Visunarat, and Wat Nong. The city's narrow streets and alleys are full of surprises, and we stumbled upon new temples at every turn.

In the late afternoon, we participated in a cooking class at Tamarind Laos, a highly recommended restaurant in Luang Prabang. We learned how to cook traditional Laotian dishes using local ingredients and techniques. It was an enjoyable and informative experience, and we got to enjoy the delicious meal we cooked afterwards.

(1) National Museum; (2) Haw Pha Bang temple, inside the National Museum complex; (3) offerings, there is always a stall selling them near the temples; (4) ingredients for the cooking class at Tamarind Laos

Day 3:

We visited the Royal Palace and National Museum in the morning (note that it closes for lunch).

Built in 1904 as the Royal Palace for King Sisavang Vong and his family, the building features a blend of traditional Lao and French styles. Following the death of King Sisavang Vong, the palace was occupied by the crown Prince Savang Vatthana and his family until the revolution in 1975. After the government took over, the building was converted into a national museum and opened to the public in 1995.

Inside the museum is an 83cm Buddha statue called Phra Bang (from which Luang Prabang gets its name). The statue is made of gold, silver, and bronze, and according to legend, it was created in Sri Lanka in the 1st century and later given as a gift by a Khmer king to his son-in-law, King Fa Ngum, in 1359.

It was fascinating to learn about Laos' relatively recent monarchical history while exploring the museum. The throne hall was particularly impressive, featuring stunning mosaics (similar to those found in Wat Xieng Thong) depicting the history of the kingdom and Lao legends, as well as, in the adjoining rooms, murals depicting scenes of traditional Lao lifestyles. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside the museum

Haw Pha Bang Temple, located within the National Museum complex, is a stunningly beautiful temple with richly carved decorations.

(1) bamboo bridge; (2) going down Mont Phousi stairs; (3) Mont Phousi; (4) playing right before cooking class starts

In front of the National Museum, you'll find one of the access points to Mount Phousi, a hill that dominates downtown Luang Prabang. It's definitely worth climbing for panoramic views of the entire region. While many people say the sunset from Mount Phousi is fantastic, we didn't have the chance to experience it ourselves.

Next, we crossed the Nam Khan River on the bamboo bridge, which is only built during the low season of the river. As the water rises, the bridge is removed and rebuilt the following year. For lunch, we went to a restaurant (unfortunately, I didn't wrote the name) located at the end of the bamboo bridge, offering a beautiful view of the river.

After lunch, we rented bikes to explore the town, and we also had time for a massage, dinner, and then we finished the night watching at a storytelling show at Traditional Garavek Storytelling Theater - it was one of the highlights of our days in Luang Prabang, I highly recommend it.

If you only have two days in Luang Prabang, you could condense the schedule for Days 2 and 3 into a single day, but keep in mind that you might have to skip some of the sights.


Below is a map detailing our three-week trip to Southeast Asia, including everything we did in Luang Prabang and the surrounding region, such as where we stayed, restaurants, cafes, tours, and attractions. Simply click and save to your Google account for easy access. It's a convenient resource for planning your next trip to Southeast Asia and calculating routes and distances.

I explain how to create and use one Google MyMaps for trip planning. It's definitely worth checking out!

Before you go, don't forget to save this pin to your Pinterest account so you can easily find this post whenever you need it.

3 days in Luang Prabang, Laos. How to get there, where to stay, what to do and much more

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Olivia Weiner
Olivia Weiner
25 mar 2023


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