Whilst Luang Prabang is hugely popular with travelers to Laos, those not on the backpacker trail are often not familiar with the city. When talking to friends during our trip, they often told me ‘I just had to google that. Looks amazing!”. Luang Prabang is, in fact, an amazing city. So here are 13 Luang Prabang photos to show you why you should put this city onto your bucket list.
Luang Prabang in Photos
Luang Prabang Landscapes
No collection of Luang Prabang photos would be complete without a few shots of the surrounding landscapes. Luang Prabang is set on the banks of the Mekong River and is surrounded by mountains as far as you can see. During dry season, it’s often quite misty so they’ll disappear in the distance, but in rainy season you can get a clear view during sunny hours as it’s less misty – and the mountains will turn vibrant green.
Luang Prabang photo shot from the Luang Prabang View Hotel – you could say the hotel has a view! I love the layers of mountains disappearing in the background. Looks unreal!
The banks of the Mekong just outside Luang Prabang
The Pak Ou caves, set on the river bank where the Mekong meets the Nam Ou. Laos has plenty of caves, but these are amongst the most famous.
Inside the Pak Ou Caves: The walls are lined with hundreds of buddhas in all sizes and materials.
Laos is a very traditional country, despite the current rapid development. Traditional businesses like scarv weaving and whiskey making are very popular, and the current tourism boom is probably emphasizing this even more. Luang Prabang’s night market has a crazy amount of scarf sellers, most selling the exact same designs. If you leave the city on one of the river cruises though, you can stop by a village and discover more unique options. Granted, those villages are very touristy as well, but we still managed to find things we couldn’t spot at the night market.
A woman weaving traditional Lao scarves
A concert of traditional Lao musicians at the Belmond Phou Vao La Residence hotel. The hotel regularly organizes small concerts with these musicians. They are mostly students learning to play traditional Lao instruments. These concerts are set at the restaurant of the hotel, overlooking the pool and the mountains behind. Ask the hotel for dates – and I highly suggest getting there before sunset to enjoy the view over a (happy hour!) drink.
Scenes from the town
Luang Prabang is a fairly small city, with about 56,000 inhabitants. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is easily accessible by bike or even on foot. The center is full of temples and restored old houses. Monks in traditional orange robes can be seen everywhere. One of the most popular tourist activities at the moment is watching the morning alms giving, where locals line the streets and give rice and other foods to the monks. Sadly, this has become a bit of a tourist trap and is disturbing an age old tradition, so if you choose to go, be respectful and keep at a distance so you don’t disturb the procession. Doing a tour of the temples, however, is a must. You can just grab a bicycle (most hotels will offer them free of charge) and ride around, you can’t miss the temples. Stop for lunch at a bakery on the way and watch the world go by.
Haw Pha Bang, the royal temple on the grounds of the Royal Palace Museum.
Little detail: This statue in front of one of the temples has been fed with the Lao staple food, sticky rice.
In the evening, you can’t miss the night market. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s still worth seeing, and actually, it’s almost difficult to avoid passing through it if you’re going anywhere in town. The stalls mostly sell Lao textiles, T-shirts, jewellery, teas and coffee, and other souvenirs. Some of them are cheesy, others are pretty memories to take home for yourself or family & friends. We took home some scarves, a couple of T-shirts and nicely packaged teas.
The market also has countless colorful stalls offering cheap fruit smoothies and sandwiches – all claiming to make the best sandwich in Luang Prabang. They’re not the hight of culinary delights, but they are a decent enough option if you’ve spent all your cash on souvenirs or just need a snack to tie you over to the next bigger meal.
And finally, there’s the famous night market buffet, where you can get a big plate of vegetarian buffet fare for anywhere from 50 cents to 3 dollars, depending on the time and your negotiating skills. Grilled fish, seafood and meat are available as well. Similar to the sandwich stalls, the food here is nothing to write home about, but it will fill you up and you’re likely to meet fellow travelers at the communal tables.
Best sandwich in town – at least according to the many, many signs.
Luang Prabang food in photos
Lao food isn’t as popular internationally as neighboring Thai and Vietnamese food. However, much of what you know as Thai food is also part of Lao cuisine and has its origin in Laos. Papaya salad is hugely popular in Laos, much to my delight, as sticky rice. And I love sticky rice. If you’re not keen on the sticky rice you’ve tried in Thailand in the past, I urge you to try Lao sticky rice. It’s somehow always softer and chewier than its Thai counterpart, even though it’s technically the same rice.
The Lao national dish is larb, a salad made of minced meat or fish and lots of herbs, dressed with fish sauce and lime. It’s usually served with – you guessed it – sticky rice.
Luang Prabang’s local specialties include Or Lam, a stew of meat and vegetables, and Kaipen, a crispy snack made from seasoned dried river algae and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It’s quite similar to Japanese Nori seaweed, and usually served with a spicy tomato or eggplant dip.
A lunch of beef larb and sticky rice served by Luang Prabang Bakery
Kaipen, a snack of river algae from the Mekong, with a spicy tomato dip and sliced Luang Prabang sausage.
This is what we got when we asked our hotel for a recommendation for adventurous food: An ant egg omelette! Blue Lagoon Café’s chef is a fan of insect food and upon special request will create fine dining insect dished like this one.
Luang Prabang Sunsets
Luang Prabang sunsets are spectacular. And thanks to the hilly terrain, it’s easy to find yourself a spot with a view to watch it.