How long should I stay in Luang Prabang, Laos?

“If I’d known it was so nice here, I would have stayed longer!”
 
You hear this often in Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Laos. Many people try to fit Luang Prabang into their whirlwind trips of Southeast Asia, as they hear it is a nice little UNESCO world heritage town where you can watch hundreds of monks participate in a sunrise alms-giving ceremony, see a cave filled with Buddha statues, some nice waterfalls, and do some handicraft shopping.

This is all true, but what many visitors only realise too late is that Luang Prabang is a very nice place to chill out. And you need to chill out! As wonderful as travel is, it can be exhausting. And if you keep visiting site after site and packing and unpacking, it starts to get difficult to absorb and understand everything you’re seeing and experiencing. And let’s not get started on what this does to your temper!

Build a few extra days in Luang Prabang into your trip. The town certainly gets its fair share of tourists and their disruptive behaviours (Click here to find out what to do and not to do, particularly for the alms-giving ceremony).

But Luang Prabang still holds its charm. Yes, you’ll want to climb Mount Phousi to see the sun set, go on a day trip or two, and visit the night market (the best shopping in Southeast Asia, in my opinion, particularly the Hmong textiles).

But you’ll also want to sit in a café and enjoy a Lao coffee and a croissant, stroll around town, try real Lao food and take a cooking class, read a book, visit an art gallery, and watch the ripples and eddies of the Mekong, particularly where the Nam Khan river meets it. And don’t forget some nap time to recover from your early wake up call to observe the alms-giving!
 

Recommendations

Bakery: Le Banneton
Cooking class: Tamarind: A Taste of Laos
Lao food: The restaurant at the 3 Nagas Hotel
Art gallery: SaaiFone, featuring Lao-Canadian Thép Thavonsouk
Fair-trade shop: Ma Té Sai

I’d recommend about five nights for a stay in Luang Prabang, and even longer if your schedule allows. You won’t regret it.

You’ll also want to pick a hotel where you can relax. We all have different definitions of what is relaxing, and Luang Prabang has a surprising variety of hotels which cater to travellers’ different preferences.

Some hotels have pools (note that UNESCO rules mean no pools are allowed in the UNESCO zone, i.e. the peninsula), some have TVs, some have on-site spas, and some have bathtubs (worth considering if you’re here in the winter when evenings can get chilly!).
 
This grid below should help you pick a hotel that is ideal for you.

Mekong Riverview Villa Maly Apsara Rive Droite Hôtel de la Paix 3 Nagas Le Sen Belle Rive
Pool No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
Breakfast - - - - - - -
À la carte Both Low season only Yes Yes Yes Eggs to order Yes
Bathroom - - - - - - -
Bathtub Yes with jets No Yes Yes Yes Suites/ villa only No
Separate bathtub and shower Yes n/a Yes Yes No Suites/ villa only n/a
Separate toilet room Yes with sink Blocked by partial wall No Yes No No Yes
Terrace- Sit or lounge Sit Sit Both Both; dine too Sit Lounge Sit
TV Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No
Wifi Good Fair Fair but lobby only Good Poor Fair Fair
Wood floors Yes Yes Yes Yes Upstairs Upstairs Yes
On-site Spa No 1 room No Yes No No No
Gym No No No No No Yes No
Airport transfer Direct bookings Available Direct bookings Direct bookings Direct bookings Available Available
Click to read the review Click to read the review Click to read the review Click to read the review Click to read the review Click to read the review

 

Stay at Hôtel de la Paix or 3 Nagas and your airport transfer could be in a vintage auto like this!

 
Happy chilling!
 

 

Blog and pictures by Johanna Read

 

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