On the continent of Asia, in the country of Laos, lies a historic city called Luang Prabang.
Here, while skirting the banks of the Mekong River, you can volunteer alongside the local community and work to address development challenges in the region. You’ll also find out about the best things to do in Luang Prabang for yourself.
Take advantage of your time in Luang Prabang by tapping into some of the area’s natural – and man-made – heritage that tells the story of the past and future of this Asian city. Take a peek at the best things to do in Luang Prabang that you could experience when you volunteer abroad.
1) Visit the Kuang Si Waterfall
The Kuang Si Waterfall is often cited as one of the top things to do in Luang Prabang. It’s located 32 kilometres south of the city centre and makes for a great day trip to one of Laos’ most well-known natural landmarks.
It’s the biggest waterfall in the area, with three cascading tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into a natural pool.
We recommend taking the scenic route by travelling by boat down the Mekong River before catching a ferry across to the falls.
2) See the Temple of the Golden City
If appreciating architecture is one of your favourite things to do while travelling, then the Wat Xieng Thong – Laotian for “Temple of the Golden City” – should be on your must-see list.
Built in 1560, it is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang.
The temple is renowned for its architecture: complete with elaborate mosaics, and restored wall-paintings.
Wat Xieng Thong was also the location for the coronation of Lao kings and is still an important gathering place for significant annual festivities.
3) Make your way up Mount Pousi
If you want to get the best view of Luang Prabang, head for the hills!
Mount Pousi is the highest point in Luang Prabang and provides one of the best panoramic views of the town.
If you want to avoid the entrance fee, wake up early and climb the 300 steps to the golden-spired Wat Chomsi – a Buddhist shrine – where you can see the first rays of the sun spreading over the city.
4) Have a look around the Luang Prabang night market
Original photo: “Luang Prabang 026 Thanon Sisavang Vong, Night Market” by toastal is licenced under CC BY 2.0
If you want to experience every bit of Luang Prabang then you’ll need to check out one of the most popular Luang Prabang night markets. The Sisavangvong Road night market starts at 17:00 and ends at 23:00. The market runs along Sisavangvong Road all the way to the town centre.
Here, you can taste some of Luang Prabang’s signature dishes. And why not pick out your favourite pieces of intricate jewellery, traditional clothing or handmade crafts to take home as souvenirs?
5) Experience an alms-giving ceremony
One of the best places to watch the alms-giving ceremony is along the main road in Luang Prabang – where the broadness of the road allows you to get the best glimpses of the ceremony.
The ceremony starts at sunrise, as a procession of monks makes their way down from the temples to collect their daily meal from the local community.
Although this is a sacred tradition, travellers are encouraged to take part alongside local people. GVI volunteers are encouraged to participate in alms giving as it is one of the most immersive ways to experience the everyday culture of the Laotian people.
Further reading: Ten reasons to volunteer in Laos
6) Clamber through the Pak Ou Caves
The Pak Ou Caves are one of the most revered sites in Laos.
If you are looking for things to do in Luang Prabang that can last an entire day, this is one of them. Sign up for a scenic, 24-kilometre boat ride down the Mekong River, stopping at the famous Whiskey Village for a shot of traditional Lao-Lao – a Laotian rice whisky – before arriving at the base of a dramatic limestone cliff.
This is where you’ll find the Pak Ou Caves, which are packed with over 4,000 Buddha statues as a shrine to the river spirit and Lord Buddha.
7) Enjoy the local cuisine
When in Laos you’d miss out if you didn’t try the local cuisine. Luang Prabang offers a range of dishes that will tickle the fancy of the pickiest and most adventurous eaters.
Visit Lao Lao Garden Restaurant where you can feast on local food surrounded by forest terrain. For some French-Lao fusion food, try the upmarket L’Elephant Restaurant.
8) Have a go at a Laotian cooking class
And if you’d love to learn how to cook Laotian food for yourself, one of the top things to do in Luang Prabang is to take a traditional Laotian cooking class.
Tamarind restaurant offers one of the best cooking classes in town. If you book the morning session, you’ll also be taken on a tour around the morning market.
9) Find out more about the heritage of Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang has been a designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage site since 1995. And it’s not hard to see why, since the city is sprinkled with shrines and dotted with intricately-designed temples.
The best place to peek into the vast heritage of Luang Prabang is in the Old Quarter – which is considered the gateway to a number of temples.
Here you can learn more about Buddhist culture and even visit the Royal Palace.
10) Unwind on a Mekong River cruise
Looking out on the Mekong River at sunset is right up there on our list of things to do in Luang Prabang. We’ve left it until the end because it’s the perfect way to wind down after a long day of sightseeing, or even to end off your stay in Luang Prabang.
Sit back, relax and let your eyes fall across the rugged terrain of the city as you slowly drift down the Mekong River – perhaps thinking about how soon you can come back!
Step off at the dock and take the time to reflect on what your trip to Laos meant to you, and how meaningful an experience abroad can be.
These are just a few of the best things to do in Luang Prabang that you could experience while volunteering in Laos.
Take a look at GVI’s volunteer opportunities in Laos, and plan a meaningful travel experience where you can also contribute towards a positive impact in global goals.