Royal capital of the Lane Xang period, religious center withcountless temples – old and new, saffron-robed monks, sacred caves, French colonial architecture, melting pot of numerous hill tribes, precious Buddhist art and intricate textile design, huge sweeping tamarind trees and lush gardens, culinary delights in cozy historical atmosphere, laid-back pace of life – these are some of the undeniable trademarks of Luang Prabang.
No doubt, this jewel of unparalleled beauty in the heart of Northern Laos invites for a longer stay than for just a quick rush-through. With good reason has this gem, nestled in deep tropical forest and spectacular limestone formations, been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The province of Luang Prabang, is not less famed for its stunning landscape, dense forests, picturesque river systems, and colorful ethnic diversity. Nong Kiau and Muang Ngoi at the Nam Ou river are places of outstanding beauty that immediately jump into one’s mind. It is a rewarding destination for the traveler who is looking for great adventure, remoteness, unspoiled nature, and cultural authenticity.
Trekking, kayaking, cycling, rock climbing, community immersionare some of the highlights Luang Prabang has to offer. Multiple-day treks to the remotest places are rewarding as is the direct contact with people of the forest still deeply immersed in their distinct, centuries old traditions. It is, of course, mandatory for every visitor to meet these hospitable people with well suited sensitivity and respect!
Luong Prabang or Luang Phabang is commonly transliterated into Western languages from the pre-1975 Lao spelling as Luang Prabang, literally meaning “Royal Buddha Image”, is a city in north central Laos, consisting of 58 adjacent villages, of which 33 comprise the UNESCO Town Of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. It was listed in 1995 for unique and “remarkably” well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The centre of the city consists of four main roads and is located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. Luang Prabang is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the city’s major landmarks is Mount Phou Si; a large steep hill which despite the constrained scale of the city, is 150 metres (490 ft) high; a steep staircase leads to Wat Chom Si shrine and an overlook of the city and the rivers.
The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. It had also been known by the ancient name of Chiang Thong. It was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos, until the Pathet Lao takeover in 1975. The city is part of Luang Prabang District of Luang Prabang Province and is the capital and administrative centre of the province. It lies approximately 300 km (190 mi) north of the capital Vientiane. Currently, the population of the city as a whole is roughly 56,000 inhabitants with the UNESCO protected site being inhabited by around 24,000.
Luang Prabang has both natural and historical sites. Among the natural tourism sites are the Kuang Si Falls, Tat Sae Waterfalls, and Pak Ou Caves. Elephant riding is offered at some sites. Phou Si, in the center of the town, has broad views of the town and river systems, and is a popular place to watch the sun setting over the Mekong River. At the end of the main street of Luang Prabang is a night market where stalls sell shirts, bracelets, and other souvenirs. The Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and the Wat Xieng Thong temple are among the best known historical sites. The town, particularly the main street, is dotted with many smaller wats such as Wat Hosian Voravihane. Every morning at sunrise, monks walk in a procession through the streets accepting alms offered by local residents, an event popular with tourists but subject to some controversy surrounding tourist etiquette. Mountain biking is quite common, with people often biking around the town or to the waterfalls for the day. Down the Mekong River, a 15-minute boat ride from the city centre, Ban Chan (the pottery village) is an interesting place. Luang Prabang received ‘Best City’ in the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2015.