Things to Do in Luang Prabang
This three-tier turquoise waterfall just outside of Luang Prabang is a favorite among travelers looking to explore the natural beauty of Laos’ countryside. Rushing blue waters cascade some 60 meters down rocky cliffs into calm pools that are perfect for cooling off on hot days. Travelers should be advised that at least a few of these ponds are closed to visitors because they’re considered sacred sites—it’s best to read the signage.
The park’s well-kept paths are ideal for wandering, and quaint wooden bridges over the water prove perfect for capturing idyllic shots of the falls. Travelers can pack a picnic or grab traditional fare from the nearby tuk tuk rink before venturing to the top of Kuang Si. The site also includes a bear rescue center and the Kuang Si Falls Butterfly Park, both of which are also worthy of a visit.
Some lament the hundreds of steps that lead to the top of Mount Phousi, but travelers agree that the best views of Luang Prabang are seen from the top of this 150-meter hill in the center of the city. Mount Phousi is sacred to the Laotian people, and the grand 1804 Wat Chom Si temple sits at its summit, where you can pray and buy flowers to offer as blessings. Winding paths loop through scenic landscape and scattered religious temples, such as Wat Tham Phou Si, located halfway up the hill and easy to spot thanks to its enormous golden Buddha shrines. From the peak, you’ll see Luang Prabang’s most noted landmarks, from the gold-spired Royal Palace Museum to the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. While the 360-degree panoramic view of Luang Prabang and its surrounding countryside is worth the trek up, witnessing the sun rise and set over the Mekong River from this spot is truly spectacular.
The thousands of miniature wooden Buddhist figures that line the ragged shelves of the Pak Ou Caves are what make this unique destination a highlight for travelers in Luang Prabang. Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, the caves are cut into a limestone cliff and are only accessible by riverboats that wind along the scenic Mekong River and add to the experience.
The caves serve as an influential religious site for Laotians; before it became a popular spot among visitors to Laos, natives went to the caves during Lao New Year in April to ceremonially wash the Buddha statues. This is still done, and many Laotians still come to place their own intricate figurines, often old, chipped or simply replaced in their Luang Prabang home by a newer piece. The statues represent Buddha in various shapes, sizes and positions, including meditation, peace and nirvana, and the collection in the caves has been growing for centuries.
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