Introducing Luang Prabang
Colour is the first of Luang Prabang’s virtues to greet travellers. Pearly frangipanis with their heady perfume, banks of overgrown trees peppered with scarlet flowers, the burnt sienna robes of hundreds of monks and their novices, and resplendent gold and claret wats. The scent of fresh coffee, river activity, produce markets and spicy food soon follows. And then the broader aesthetics begin to unfold. Encircled by mountains, and set 700m above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan (Khan River) and the Mekong River, Luang Prabang is now Laos’ foremost tourist showpiece. The brew of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multiethnic inhabitants captivates even the most jaded travellers, and the quiet benevolence of the city’s residents lulls them into a somnambulant bliss.
Sealed highways linking Luang Prabang with Thailand and China have turned the city into an important relay point for commerce between the three countries. City governors have wisely provided a road bypass system that gives the city centre a wide berth. Thus the sense of calm antiquity that first brought visitors to the city when Laos opened to tourism in 1989 has been well preserved. Moreover, the city is Unesco Heritage listed, which means a blessed ban on buses and trucks. Most road activity consists of bicycles or motorcycles, but an even score simply go by foot. Although the city teems with travellers, it is not a party destination, and the 11.30pm curfew silences the city by midnight and maintains its traditional disposition.
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Best places to stay in Luang Prabang
World’s best slow travel
Vacations are always too short, even if we have the luxury of more than a few weeks a year. So we feel the urge to cram in more sights and activities than is feasible. We spend two days in a city, when two weeks would probably still leave us wanting more. However, there is an alternative.
Luang Prabang destination guides
7 days in Laos
Floating down serene rivers and coasting along country roads gawping at stunning countryside? Check. Poking your way around ancient temples filled with enigmatic, saffron-cloaked monks? Check.
From the vibrant cityscape of Bangkok to Halong Bay's magnificent limestone karsts, this trip encompasses the highlights of Indochina. Marvel at the wonders of Angkor Wat, sail the Mekong and savour noodles in Chiang Mai. Shop for souvenirs in Ho Chi Minh City and join the locals sipping coffee at a lakeside cafe in Hanoi.
Get ready for a fast-paced adventure through the best of Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand. This is a region packed to the brim with rich cultures, fiery cuisines, unique customs and breathtaking countryside - and on this adventure you’ll be sampling all of them.
Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled Laos itinerary
Luang Prabang makes a wonderful introduction to Laos, and with increasing numbers of direct flights from Vientiane, Bangkok and other centres, more travellers are making this their starting point for an exploration of northern Laos.