Luang Prabang is the former Royal Capital and an UNESCO world heritage site. The incredible charm of the old town on the peninsula is wrapped on three sides by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. While there are enough tour companies, activities and natural wonders to keep you busy from early morning until late night, resist the urge to over-plan. Simply being in Luang Prabang and enjoying the cafe culture is half the fun. Follow this two-day itinerary to eat, drink and enjoy a sampling of this northern Lao town.
Start your day with the best of the best. Saffron Coffee sources their beans from local Lao farmers. Run by American and Australian aficionados, Saffron has not only amazing coffee but a great food menu, Wi-Fi and outdoor seating along the Mekong. Find a spot to watch the boats cross the river from the nearby ferry dock as you eat a pastry and take in the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Before the sun reaches its apex, making walking unbearable, check out some of Luang Prabang’s temples, the most impressive in all of Laos. With several dozen to choose from, you can’t go wrong, but favorites include Wat Xieng Thong, the Royal Temple and museum and Wat Mai. Be sure to dress appropriately by covering the shoulders and knees and removing your shoes before entering any buildings.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
After lunch, it’s time for a swim. Go with a tour operator in a mini-van or grab a tuk tuk to the banks of the Nam Khan. Settle on a price beforehand and ask your driver to wait for you to take you back to town. Hop on the boat for a nominal fee and hike up to the top of the falls. Tad Se is most magnificent in the beginning of the dry season in October and November.
Several restaurants in Luang Prabang offer traditional cooking classes where you can create your own delicious meal. Some courses are all-day affairs while others are a few hours in the late afternoon and end with dinner. Check out the classes Tamnak Lao, The Terrace Restaurant or Tamarind. Create traditional dishes such as Luang Prabang salad, laap, jeow and of course, sticky rice. Take home the recipes to replicate in your own kitchen when you’re back home.
After a long day of sign seeing and working hard in the kitchen, it’s time to unwind with a magnificent artisanal cocktail at Icon Klub. The owner, Lisa will whip you up a drink on demand based on your preferences. The decor is charming with inspirational quotes and quirky artwork on the walls. It’s the perfect place to kick back, listen to the delightfully curated playlist and relax.
As they say, the early bird gets the worm. If you can get yourself out of bed by 5 a.m. and up the steps to the top of Mt. Phousi before the sun comes up between 6 and 6:30 a.m., you’ll be handsomely rewarded. Views of Luang Prabang in the first light of day in a gloriously uncrowded area around Wat Chom Si are worth the lack of sleep. The most popular time to climb to the top is before sunset; throngs of people make for a noisy and crowded experience. Dawn, on the other hand, is blissfully peaceful.
All those steps surely have made you hungry and in need of caffeine. Stop by La Bennaton for coffee and scrumptious French pastries. Debatably, the best pain au chocolat in the city can be found at this cafe. They also have an excellent croissant au jambon fromage as well as a full breakfast menu.
Tour Jom Phet by Bicycle
Take in the Laos jungles across the Mekong in Jom Phet, also written Chompet, on two wheels. Rent a bicycle from any number of tour operators in town. Tiger Trail specializes in sustainable eco travel and rents mountain bikes. Take your bike across the ferry and cycle the 23-kilometre (14-mile) dusty dirt road loop through the less-developed side of the Mekong. Visit Ban Chan to check out the pottery and cycle through the mountains.
Lunch at Bamboo Tree or Tamarind Cafe
After cycling, come back to town to eat a Lao feast at one of two excellent restaurants on the Nam Khan side of the peninsula. Bamboo Tree and Tamarind Cafe are next door to one another, both offer cooking classes and tasting menus featuring the best of northern Lao cuisine. Enjoy the sausage, chicken in lemongrass, buffalo jerky and spicy sauces. If you’re vegetarian, no problem! Both of these spots offer great no-meat options as well.
Leisurely stroll through town after lunch to check out the handicrafts, souvenir shops and abundance of beautiful textiles made by local villagers from various tribes in Laos. Of particular note is Ock Pop Tok, meaning east meets west. It functions as a cooperative and training organization helping keep local traditions alive, train the next generation of weavers and get final products in front of potential customers. Check out their shop in town or venture to their living craft center to try your hand at dying textiles or weaving.
Happy Hour at Salapas & Dinner at Amigos
When you’re ready for a break from the hot Lao sun, check out La Silapa Italian & Lao Kitchen. The patio in the back is perfect for siping prosecco. Make your way to Amigos Mexican Restaurant for the best tacos in town. The Lao and Australian husband and wife duo who run Amigos in Luang Prabang have a second location in Vang Vieng where they also have a farm. All of the ingredients are locally sourced and made in Laos. The patio is adorable with Christmas lights and tons of plants. Drink a Beer Lao or two and enjoy.
Amigos | © Regina Beach/Culture Trip
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.