This is the oldest city of Laos, its ancient capital, and now the cultural and religious center of the country, its main attraction, recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The city is located about 400 km north of the capital Vientiane on the banks of the Mekong River, at an altitude of about 300 m above sea level, in one of the most picturesque areas of the country. The history of Luang Prabang has more than 2000 years, it changed its name several times, was the capital of various kingdoms – Siamese, Khmer, and, in the end, became the residence of the first Lao kings. The city received its modern name in the middle of the XIV century, in honor of the golden statue of Buddha – Prabang (“holy”) and the word “luang” – (“royal”). Currently, Luang Prabang has about 20,000 inhabitants, which account for more than 30 valuable historical monuments, preserved in excellent condition. It is no coincidence that Luang Prabang has earned a reputation as an “open air museum” and one of the most interesting cities in Asia.
Life in this small town flows slowly and unhurriedly. Charming streets, shrouded in the colonial French charm of past centuries, a leisurely and relaxing atmosphere of calm and comfort, the aroma of French pastries and freshly brewed coffee, strings of Buddhist monks leisurely strolling through the streets, breathtaking landscapes opening from the banks of the Mekong – everything will make your stay in Luang Prabang amazing and unforgettable. Despite a truly impressive number of sights, the town is small enough to get around on foot.
The cult monuments of the city were practically not influenced by other cultures, foreign architects did not rebuild or restore them – they have come down to us in their original beauty. Towering golden wats, elegant one- and two-story French colonial-style mansions, cozy cafes and restaurants, breathtaking scenery with emerald rice terraces, mountains hiding in a misty haze and picturesque valleys along the Mekong River – all create the unique charm of this small town in the mountains.. Lively and truly colorful markets where you can buy handicraft products made of fabric, leather, wood, stone, minority villages that have kept their way of life unchanged for centuries, orange robes of monks who fill the streets of the city every morning,
The main attractions of Luang Prabang:
In Luang Prabang, there are 32 temple complexes that have been preserved in good condition. The most impressive of them are:
Wat Sieng Thon– the former main royal monastery, and now the most valuable monument of history and culture and the most beautiful of the religious buildings of Luang Prabang. It was built in 1560, and since then it has hardly changed its original appearance. The temple building is the embodiment of the classical temple architecture of Luang Prabang, when the slopes of the roof, gradually curving, descend almost to the ground. On the back wall of the temple on a red background, mosaics are lined with images of various birds and animals. Inside, in addition to wall images, golden images are applied to the wooden columns that carry the ceiling. Inside the temple there is a sanctuary where there is a very rare statue of a reclining Buddha, the creation of which dates back to the time of the creation of the temple itself.
Wat Mai is one of the most impressive temples in Luang Prabang, built in the early 19th century. This temple is so beautiful that none of the conquerors of Luang Prabang dared to destroy it. The most impressive detail is the golden bas-reliefs that cover the main façade and tell the story of the reincarnation of the Buddha. Together with the gilded doors to the temple, this bas-relief looks like a large solid gold ingot. Nowadays colorful religious ceremonies are often held in the temple.
Wat Visun is the oldest temple in Luang Prabang, founded in 1513. It
was destroyed in 1887 and subsequently rebuilt in 1898. The temple now houses an impressive statue of the Sitting Buddha and numerous statues of the Standing Buddha. A special detail is the giant stupa on the site in front of the Temple, which dates back more than 5 centuries. This stupa is called the Lotus Stupa, or its better known name is the Watermelon Stupa, as the Laotians believe that it is shaped like a watermelon. Previously, inside the stupa was decorated with hundreds of small Buddha statues, but at the end of the 19th century, the Chinese looted it and stole the statues. Now they are in the National Museum of Luang Prabang (Former Royal Palace).
Wat Aham is a small but beautiful temple built in the 19th century. The walls of the temple are covered with scenes from Buddhist scriptures. Wat Aham is very close to Wat Visun, and it is convenient to visit these two temples together.
National Museum(former royal palace) – was built in 1904, at a time when Laos was under the protectorate of France, so the building feels a harmonious combination of French colonial and traditional Lao architectural styles. To the right of the entrance in the long wing is the former reception room, which currently houses a collection of statues and portraits of Lao kings. The hall was painted with scenes from city life by French artists in the 1930s. XX century. The former secretariat is located in the left wing, and now gifts to Lao kings from other countries are collected. The King’s Reception Room was connected to the Throne Room, where the king’s and queen’s thrones are now displayed, decorated with mosaics and crystals. The chambers of the king and queen are preserved almost in their original form and include a bedroom and dining room, as well as a music room, where traditional Lao musical instruments are collected. In front of the palace building there is a collection of royal cars.
Fuxi Hill and Night Market – 100m high, this hill is covered with numerous small pagodas and stupas. The climb starts at the National Museum and consists of 328 steps. From the top of the hill you have a stunning view of the city and the Mekong River. There is also one of the most interesting stupas of Luang Prabang – That Chom Si and several impressive Buddha statues. In the evening, at the foot of the hill, you can visit the colorful night market, where you can buy items made of fabric, wood, stone, silver, souvenirs and much more.
The Mekong River
Luang Prabang is located in the Mekong Valley in an amazingly picturesque valley. Cruise down the Mekong River in traditional long-nosed boats to enjoy the beautiful views all around – one of the most enjoyable pastimes in Luang Prabang
Surroundings of Luang Prabang:
The surroundings of Luang Prabang are amazingly picturesque and beautiful. One-day trips to the main attractions near the city will make the trip especially interesting, eventful and varied.
Craft and Minority Villages:
Visiting the colorful villages of the national minorities, which keep their way of life, clothes, houses unchanged, is one of the most interesting options for getting to know the culture of this region. Villagers will be happy to show their unique ways of embroidery, weaving, making clothes, moonshine, wooden products and much more, which have been passed down here from generation to generation for many centuries.
Caves: Pak U Caves are 25 km away. north of Luang Prabang up the Mekong River. To get to this cave, you need to make an hour trip along the river, surrounded by picturesque landscapes and small villages along the way. In the caves there is a whole complex of statues and bas-reliefs of the Buddha, belonging to different times, styles and gathering here for centuries. Near the caves is the village of Bang San Hai, famous for the tradition of whiskey production.
Waterfall: Kuang Si Waterfall is located 32 km. south of Luang Prabang in the national park of the same name. This beautiful waterfall consists of a main cascade with a height of 54 m and a series of smaller cascades. Between the cascades there are several pools with water of a rich turquoise hue. Water flows through limestone rocks and layers of soil containing limestone, which gives such an unusual, bright and very beautiful color. The full flow of the waterfall is highly dependent on the time of year, since a significant part of the water that feeds the waterfall is rain. It is at its most full-flowing from August to November. The surrounding jungle with lush vegetation creates a truly fabulous landscape.