Luang Prabang is one of the cutest cities in SE Asia. This former French colony has been a World Heritage site since 1995 with outstanding well-preserved architecture. The city is well worth a visit for its stunning views, architecture and design, and fantastic food.
Laos was under the influence of France for about 58 years. Actually, Luang Prabang was a protectorate of France with internal autonomy governed by King Sisavang Vong.
So you can find some French influence around the town, including influence in the cuisine. Be aware that Luang Prabang is more expensive and has more tourists than the rest of Laos, which is expected as Luang Prabang is the most famous and popular tourist attraction in Laos.
In our opinion, 3 days in Luang Prabang is the perfect time to visit the city and surroundings, so we created this list of the 10 best things to do in Luang Prabang in 3 days! Luang Prabang is also the perfect place to start a 7-day Itinerary to Laos.
10 fun things to do in Luang Prabang in 3 days
#1 Temple Hopping
In Luang Prabang, you can find temples nearly everywhere, as Laos is a very religious, Buddhist country. UNESCO even states that Luang Prabang is home to some of Southeast Asia’s most sophisticated Buddhist temples. The most famous of these temples are Wat Xieng Thong Wat Manorom and Wat Hosian Voravihane.
The Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of the Golden City) is one of the most important temples in Laos and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty, and traditional art. This temple is also home to an especially rare reclining Buddha that dates back to the construction of the temple.
Wat Hosian Voravihane is another well-known temple that includes living quarters for the monks and a school. Wat Manorom is also well known and visited by travelers. It’s a very old wat, with its origins uncertain. Depending on who you ask, it can be founded in 1372,1375, or even 1492. The most famous feature of this wat is the 6-meter Buddha which dates back to the 1370s.
#2 Assist (or don’t) Alms Giving Ritual
Very early in the morning, you can assist the alms giving ritual in Luang Prabang – a procession where monks accept offers from the locals. Tourists usually have this ceremony on their list and even want to participate, as it’s a beautifully austere ritual with an intense cultural significance.
Each morning, Saffron-robed monks emerge onto the streets with their alms bowls. When this happens, the Lao people are already awaiting them with sticky rice and other foods which they had prepared previously. They will place a portion in the bowl of each monk who passes by. The whole ceremony is undertaken in complete silence.
If you decide to participate, it’s vital to keep respectful, dress appropriately, and don’t take photos with flash or very close to the monks. Most visitors witness the ceremony in the old city center, along Sakkaline Road. Yet, these places may sometimes be crowded with tourists. You may wish to consider another part of town for a more authentic perspective.
Finally, if you decide to participate, please don’t give food if you are unsure of its origins. There are many reports of monks who have died from food intoxication due to the bad food given in this ritual.
#3 Climb Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi is situated in the center of the city. It is a good climb to the top of the hill (100 mt high), with tons of stairs. On top of the hill, you will find a small temple and an amazing view of the city, the Mekong and the Nam Khan river.
This is an excellent place to take photos, especially during sunsets and sunrises. You will encounter Buddha statues and a small cave with another temple along the walk.
#4 Walk around Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is full of cute houses with a mix of Asian and French styles. All the city is well preserved, being so isolated from the rest of the world protected it from the wars.
You will find loads of coffee shops and restaurants built in beautiful houses with charming balconies. Most of them are nice spots to enjoy a coffee, eat french pastry and do some people watching.
#5 Cross the Bamboo bridges
Over the Nam Khan river, you will find some bamboo bridges built by some Luang Prabang families. All the bridges are temporary, during the wet season, they are dismounted because of the river floods.
In all the bridges, you will find a toll to help pay for the bridge’s construction. On the river banks, there are fishermen and children playing in the water. The river is a good place to do tubing or floating down the river, but besides the local kids, nobody else does it.
#6 Shop in Night Markets
Everybody that has been to South East Asia is familiar with night markets. In every town, you can find one, we already had gone to quite a few in Thailand. Although it wasn’t a novelty, we liked Luang Prabang’s night market. Normally we don’t buy many souvenirs, but we found a lot of beautiful crafts in the market, from clothes to paintings, teas, and coffee to stuffed animals.
Additionally to the night market, every morning there is a grocery market where you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, fish (huge catfish), and all kinds of different stuff like dried herbs and lots of not identified food (by us obviously…).
#7 Eat the famous Lao Sandwiches
We are Portuguese, and like most European and western countries, bread is an important part of our diet. After spending one month in Thailand without any source of bread, when we arrived at Luang Prabang, we found heaven; bread was everywhere and tasty. Lao food is similar to Thai food, but the relationship with bread is very different, as it was introduced in Laos by the French.
You will find a fair amount of pastries selling bread and cakes throughout the city. Although the best places were the stalls that sold big baguette sandwiches, some of the best we ever ate! The fact that we were craving some bread helped, for sure, but those were some good sandwiches!
We loved the Lao-style baguette or anyone with avocado. In the night market, you will find a big variety of stalls selling baguettes. Besides the sandwiches, there are food stalls selling grilled fish, skewers of meat, noodles, and veggies.
#8 Chomphet loop bike trail
The Chomphet loop bike trail is on the other side of the Mekong, so you’ll have to cross the river before starting! Though, you’ll have to rent the bikes in Luang Prabang. So, we did it! Note that you can possibly do it on a motorcycle, but we don’t really ride them, so we did it on a bike.
We rented bikes (in one of the many shops in Luang Prabang) and bought a sandwich, snacks, and water. Headed to the Mekong river and took a taxi boat to the other side of the river – to the Chomphet district.
The Chomphet loop bike trail is hilly and bumpy, but it’s only 23 km on a dirt road. It may sound easy, but don’t make the same mistake as we did. We underestimated the trail, it was much harder than we expected, and the day was very hot, making it worse. It took us nearly 6 hours to complete the loop, and by the end, we were exhausted. Yet, it was well worth it. We passed through some traditional villages, saw stunning views, rice fields, two nice river crossings, and plenty of kids – we always remember these kids from Laos, screaming at us Sabaidi(hello)! Chomphet is right next to Luang Prabang, but it looks like from a different time in history… it’s so different!
Take a generous amount of water and be prepared to ride up and down plenty of hills. You’ll also want to start as early as possible to avoid the heat.
#9 Swim in Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si falls are definitely a must, it is the top thing to do in Luang Prabang! If you can’t do anything else, you must visit Kuang Si Falls! You have 3 ways to get there: you can hire a motorcycle, catch a bus directly to the falls or take a tuk-tuk (if you are crazy fit you can also go by bicycle but it is a considerable distance from the city, 29 km).
Kuang Si Falls consists of a reserve park with a luxurious tropical forest, enormous trees, several waterfalls, and pools. Follow the track in the park, and you will find several levels of waterfalls with turquoise water falling over limestone. It made us remember Plitvice park in Croatia but better because you can swim.
At the end of the path, you arrive at the main waterfall, which is about 60 meters high and very impressive. However, this isn’t the end of your trek, if you look around, you’ll find signs to the “secret pool”.
This path is basically climbing to the top of the waterfall! It’s hard work, as it’s very steep and challenging, but worth the effort. On the top level of the main fall, there is a big pool with a stunning view down.
#10 Visit the Bear Park
Bear Park is at the entrance of Kuang Si Falls. It is a small park, but it is quite amusing to stop and watch the bears. They look like black pandas, very funny and adorable. It was a surprise to us because we didn’t even know that Laos had bears.
The park works as a reserve and rescue center for bears in danger of extinction. So seeing the bears is a nice bonus attraction to the falls.
Where to stay in Luang Prabang in 3 days
Belmond La Residence Phou Vao is an award-winning hotel with 5-star boutique accommodations in Luang Prabang. It features an outdoor pool, spa treatments, free Wi-Fi, and a gym. Guests can enjoy the sun on the terrace or have a drink at the bar. It offers babysitting services, currency exchange and a reception that operates 24/7.
There isn’t really anything that can go wrong if you choose the Belmond… However, this comes with a price tag that you may not want (or can’t) afford…
The Sofitel, housed within a French colonial fort, is also one of the best hotels in Luang Prabang. You can read a full review here.
My Dream Boutique Resorts is an elegant resort in Luang Prabang that offers complimentary Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, and a free shuttle service. This cozy resort offers massage services, free bicycle rental, and a coffee bar. It’s also very close to nearby bars and clubs for those who want to party in Luang Prabang.
Cold River Guest House provides a comfortable setting in Luang Prabang, offering free Wi-Fi access throughout their stay. The area surrounding the guest house is famous for its nightlife, though if you prefer, it features both a restaurant and a bar where guests can relax in the evening. Check the latest prices!