The Best Temples in Luang Prabang, Laos

Temple in Luang Prabang
Temple in Luang Prabang | © Guilhem de Coomen/Flickr

Luang Prabang, Laos was the former Royal Capital city and was designated an UNESCO world heritage site in 1995. It’s mountainous surroundings and location at the junction of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers make for a picturesque setting. The historic town contains French colonial architecture and more than 30 Buddhist temples, or wats, that welcome visitors and are home to monks and novices.

1. Wat Phon Phao

Buddhist Temple

Wat Phon Phao
© Allie Caulfield/Flickr
Wat Phon Phao is almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) northeast of Luang Prabang’s town center. It is a forest monastery that was home to famed and now deceased Buddhist abbot Ajahn Saisamut.

2. Wat Aham

Buddhist Temple

Wat Aham
© Allie Caulfield/Flickr
Wat Aham’s sim, or ordination hall, was built in 1818. The first shrine on this site was erected in the 14th century to honor the two guardian spirits of Luang Prabang. These spirits are now said to live in the trees on the temple grounds.

3. Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat | © Rob Young/Flickr
© Rob Young/Flickr

Wat Mahathat, or Temple of the Great Stupa, is ornate and very beautiful. It was originally constructed in 1548 and was restored in the early 1900s after being damaged by severe weather.

Wat Mahathat, Chao Fa Ngum Road, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

Wat Mahathat | © Rob Young/Flickr

5. Wat Pa Phai

Forest, Monastery

Le Vat Pa Phay | © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr
© Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr
Wat Pa Phai has a gold and red wooden fresco that depicts life in Laos in the 1800s. It was originally a forest monastery but the town of Luang Prabang has grown around it placing it well within the city limits.

6. Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham

Buddhist Temple, Museum

Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham
© Aleksandr Zykov
Wat Mai, or New Temple, is one of the largest temples in Luang Prabang and dates back to 1780. Before it was moved to the Royal Palace Museum, the Phra Bang Buddha statue was kept here. The image is returned annually to Wat Mai during Lao New Year in April.

7. That Makmo

That Makmo | © Allie Caufield/Flickr
© Allie Caufield/Flickr

That Makmo’s nickname means Watermelon Stupa. The temple’s formal name is That Pathum, meaning Stupa of the Great Lotus. This short and stout stupa dates back to the early 1500s and its architecture is unique in all of Laos.

That Makmo, Th Phommatha, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

That Makmo | © Allie Caufield/Flickr

8. Royal Temple

Buddhist Temple

Buddhist Temple at Royal Palace
© Budgiekiller/WikiCommons
The temple at the royal palace is called Haw Pha Bang. Construction on this new temple was completed in 2006. It was built to house the Phra Bang Buddha, for which the city of Luang Prabang is named.
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