Things to Do in Luang Prabang
Trek through Luang Prabang’s nature with a local guide, and overnight in ethnic villages. Tour operators offer several options, from challenging hikes over rugged terrain to pleasant countryside and forest strolls. Paths follow traditional routes and mountain passes to dramatic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.
Turn your visit to Kuang Si Waterfall into an adventure on the Long Lao Trek. This 4-5-hour journey stops at Hmong and Khmu villages as the trail wanders through forests and over mountaintops. Grab a village guide to enhance your natural and cultural experience with interesting details.
Treks to Tad Sae Waterfalls are a big hit, with Khmu and Hmong village visits along paths through forests and up mountains. Leading the choices is the Tad Sae Waterfall & Elephant Tour, which treks and kayaks to the falls, with optional elephant rides and zip lining at an elephant camp.
Sign up for a trek in Chomphet District, across the Mekong from Luang Prabang. Among the many choices, the 2-day Chomphet Trek (Phou Luang Tai) sits on top of the charts. You’ll get an inside look at the province’s rural life on paths through farmers’ fields, before climbing steep mountains to great views and Hmong and Khmu villages for overnight homestays.
While many tourists take in the Pak Ou Caves in a half-day boat tour, you can take a 2-day trek with an overnight homestay and really discover the area. The Pak Ou Explorer visits Khmu and Hmong villages higher in the hills, while the Pha Pon Golden Mountain Exploration spends two days in dense forest during a moderate climb towards the summit. Stay closer to the shore on the Nam Ou Explorer. Tour the famous caves, trek along the river, and kayak in the Mekong after a fishing village homestay.
If you venture north to Nong Khiaw, spend a day trekking to the top of its highest mountain. The Trip to the Roof of Nong Khiaw follows an age-old hunting trail to the top of limestone cliffs and view of the river town and valley. Along the way, you’ll visit ethnic Khmu and Hmong villages.
Further north, the 2-day Muang Ngoi Trek leads to waterfalls and caves used as shelters during the Indochina War. Climb to cliffs with amazing views, spend the night in a Khmu village and learn about their lifestyle, and cruise on the Nam Ou River.
Off Road Cycling
Break from the push bikes in town, and head off road on a cycling tour, from moderate trails to hard-core adventures. You can battle mountain paths, mud, and soft sand, or stick to well-trod trails. Whatever route you follow, you’ll experience Luang Prabang’s diverse landscape and meet rural folks. Many cycling tours include homestays, trekking, and kayaking.
Spend the day cycling to surrounding ethnic villages and watch them make handicrafts, before a boat ride. The Cycling in Luang Prabang tour starts in town and pedals to the Ban Phanom Weaving Village and nearby tomb of French explorer, Henri Mahout. You’ll cross the Nam Khan River in a fishing boat to a Tai Lue village, and continue cruising to Khmu and Hmong villages. Stops on the way include Ban Xang Hai (Whisky Village) and Ban Xang Khong, which produces sa (mulberry) paper.
Pedal along the Mekong on the 1-day moderate Cycling to Ban Som & Ban Na tour to ethnic handicraft villages and a boat ride. Take a ferry across the Mekong and cycle to Ban Na Kham to meet the people who are known for cooking sticky rice in bamboo sticks. Next comes a Khmu village before stopping at Ban Som and on to Ban Na for lunch. After looking at a 500-year-old mango tree, head to Ban Chan, where you can learn the pottery-making process.
Tackle a 2-day cycling adventure on the Ban Chomphet Cycling Experience that combines trekking and boating in the countryside and along the Mekong. Begin by cycling to Ban Na known for cooking sticky rice in bamboo sticks. Continue to a Khmu village before lunch at Ban Somsisomphou. Then, embark on a trek for a homestay. The second day winds up at Muang Kham (Riverweed Village) and boat ride back to Luang Prabang.
Explore Luang Prabang’s rivers by kayak. You can cut through jungle-covered mountains, ride over easy rapids, and reach fishing villages, where you can experience the slow-paced life on the river. Kayaking tours range from easy afternoon paddles to multi-day excursions with homestays, cycling, and trekking. Tours come with kayak instruction and safety equipment. The best kayaking occurs between July and December.
Head out in the morning, and mount your kayak on the Nam Khan for a slow paddle to Tad Sae Waterfalls. The Kayaking in Luang Prabang program rolls downriver and through lush mountains and farming valleys to fishing villages before reaching the falls. After lunch, climb back on board and rumble over slight rapids to a ride back to town.
Jump on the gentle Nam Khan Experience for a relaxing 1-day river trip. Start with a short run over beginner’s rapids to the tomb of 19th-century French explorer, Henri Mahout. Continue paddling to Ban Hat Hian (Blacksmith Village) to watch locals forge steel farming tools and knives the old fashion way.
Saddle up for the 2-day Nam Ou Explorer and go beyond the river’s famous caves. A 1.5-hour drive north of Luang Prabang ends at a Khmu village and the tour’s launch. You immediately meet five easy Nam Ou River rapids before landing at the remote Ban Sibounhom Village (Khmu) and a riverside picnic lunch. Continue on calmer waters past riverside villages to a homestay. A morning paddle in a limestone canyon stops at Pak Ou Caves, then moves along the Mekong to Ban Xang Hai (Whisky Village).
Fill your kayaking hunger in the province’s northeast on the 2-day Xeuang River Insight and learn to tackle the tough rapids. A 2-hour drive between limestone mountains reaches Pak Xeng on the Nam Xeuang, the starting point of your kayaking tour. You’ll meet low-level rapids, before a riverside picnic, swim, and cliff-jump into the river. Spend the night at a Khmu village homestay. The next day’s rapids reach intermediate Grade 4 levels, and provide a great thrill to end your trip.
Off Road Motorcycling
Power into a dynamite 2-wheel adventure on an off-road motorcycle tour. Experienced operators and guides ensure you have the best bike for your terrain and are ready to ride it. They’ll take you to ethnic villages deep in the countryside and climbs to great views.
Cross the Mekong on a ferry and head out on dusty trails to start the 1-day Mekong Elephant Tour. You’ll visit Khmu and Hmong villages and stop at an elephant camp and a short tour with pachyderm transport. Then, this 140-km, mostly off-road tour returns to Luang Prabang.
Follow winding roads on The Mighty Mekong tour. On the way to Muang Nan and a local Lao lunch, stop and catch your breath at Kacham Waterfall. After eating, choose a path, depending on your skill level, and motor on an adventure through plantations and open farmlands, and past tiny villages to Kuang Si Waterfalls. The lower Mekong road presents easy riding with a few water crossings, while the high dirt road offers a more technical, adrenaline-pumping ride.
Journey to the north on the Nong Khiaw Motorcycle Expedition, a scenic mountain cruise on dirt and asphalt roads through the countryside. You’ll stop at the famed Pak Ou Caves before continuing to Ban Nagnan, a traditional silk-weaving village. Learn about the natural silk textile-making process, enjoy a traditional Lao dinner, and spend the night in a villager’s home or guesthouse in Nong Khiaw. The next day, ride on the winding roads along the Nam Ou River and back to Luang Prabang.
Handicraft & Cooking Classes
You’ve seen all the amazing local handicrafts and even learned the process of creating them. Now is your chance to do it yourself by joining a craft or cooking class. Make your own souvenir and take home more than a memory, or pick ingredients and cook the Lao dishes you’ll share in a meal.
Learn all about bamboo, create your own souvenir, and cook a bamboo-based meal at the Bamboo Experience in Ban Nasan. Discover the connection between this plant and Lao people, and see how they use it: fishing traps, musical instruments, carry bags, weapons, sticky rice containers, furniture, floor mats and roof thatching. Take your turn at the table and weave a coaster to bring home, before cooking and eating a bamboo-based meal.
Enter the world of Lao textiles and handicrafts at Ock Pop Tok’s Living Crafts Centre. Watch the skilled artisans and silk-weaving wizards at work. Stroll through the Mekong Riverside garden where they grow the plants used to make natural dyes. Classes are available in silk weaving, natural dying, batik drawing, and bamboo weaving. You’ll work with Lao artisans, and discover the beauty and secrets of Lao textiles. The Living Crafts Centre offers free transfers from Ock Pop Tok stores in the tourist area.
Take a course at Tamarind’s Lakeside Cooking School, where you’ll learn the customs and ingredients behind the Lao dishes you cook and eat. Start your stint at the market where you learn about and choose the fresh food you’ll need. Back at Tamarind’s lakeside pavilions, you’ll whip up a variety of jeow (spicy Lao dipping sauces), mok pa (fish and herbs steamed in banana leaves), and popular lap, a minced meat salad. Once your sticky rice is done, it’s time to eat. Transfers between your hotel and Tamarind are included.
Visit one of Luang Prabang’s elephant camps that offer tourist activities, while also serving as sanctuaries and veterinary centres for this endangered animal. Several camps offer programs in living like a mahout, and bathing, feeding, and trekking with the nation’s symbolic animal.
Elephant riding and bathing join multi-day trekking, kayaking, zip lines, mountain biking, and homestay tours at White Elephant Adventures. One of Luang Prabang’s oldest and most experienced ecotourism companies, White Elephant takes you deep into the jungle and down rivers to waterfalls and ethnic village homestays with great cultural contact.
Immerse yourself in the elephant experience at the Luang Prabang Elephant Camp. The mahouts will teach you about the Asian Elephant, and give you the chance to feed and bathe them. The camp limits elephant rides to 30 minutes, and each pachyderm only takes three trips a day. For a more hands-on, educational experience, take a “Mahout for a Day” course.
If you’re a nature lover, join the full-day Elephant Experience with Trekking based at Elephant Village. After your early morning hotel transfer, climb on an elephant for a 1-km bareback ride. Next, trek 4 km to the “Old Camp”, and on through teak forests and primary jungle to the “Jungle Camp” and a picnic lunch. A short nature trail delivers you to Tad Sae Waterfall for a swim, before a boat ride back to Elephant Village.
Fly through the tree tops around Luang Prabang on zip lines. Recreation areas and natural sites around Luang Prabang are adding an adrenaline rush to a walk in the gardens or woods. Now you can climb to tree platforms, strap on a harness, and launch into the air. Soar through nature at one of the province’s zip lines.
Choose between two zip-line courses at Nahm Dong Park. Tackle the 5-station “Took Dong Short” hanging obstacle course on a pair of zip lines flying 200 and 300 metres. Looking for more thrills? Try the “Took Dong Long”, which adds a station and sends you soaring a total of 800 metres through the air. The courses cross a rope suspension bridge 50 metres above a waterfall. Nahm Dong is located 10 km from town near Ban Xieng Mouk Village.
Swing through the trees sprouting from Tad Sae Waterfalls as it pours into limestone bowls spread throughout a forest. Experience this quirky zip-line adventure during Green Season (June-Oct), when the falls are at their fullest. You can visit Tad Sae, located about 18 km southeast of Luang Prabang Town near Ban En Village, on a tour or independent travel.
Take on a zip-line obstacle course at the 30-metre Hoi Khua Waterfalls (100 Families Waterfall). Located in Chompet, the fall’s 20-hectare recreation area adds loads of adventure activities to its zip-line course including a net crossing and rope obstacle. Jungle walks and camping are also available. Several tour operators include Hoi Khua in their itineraries.
Hop on a cruise and enjoy Luang Prabang’s landscape with a river perspective. Countless visitors take public boats to Pak Ou Caves, but more personal, service-minded cruises are available. You can take a sunset cruise, charter a vessel for a dining event, and navigate jungle rivers to waterfalls. Visit riverside villages and experience life on the water. Cruising adds a new angle for your holiday in Luang Prabang.
The Nava Mekong sets sail daily on a Cultural Sunset Cruise. The comfortable vessel motors downstream to a village, where Lao dancers perform traditional sets including the royal ballet, folk tales, and legends.
Avoid the crowds and hop on the Mystical Pak Ou Caves Cruise with the all-inclusive comforts of the intimate “Bounmi” boat. Soak up the Mekong on the trip with refreshments, snacks, and music. You’ll have time to explore the caves and their Buddhas. Have a Lao lunch on the boat, and make stops as you wish on the freestyle return cruise. You can also charter the Bounmi for a personalized Mekong cruise.
For those seeking a 5-star private charter boat to hold an event, board “Play” operated by Mekong Kingdoms. The vessel, with a restaurant and bar, can accommodate 15 passengers, perfect for private events and large dinner cruises. The fully-equipped kitchen serves up gourmet specialties, while a modern sound system creates a dining mood.
Adventurers travelling to Nong Khiew can take a 2-hour long-boat cruise on the Nam Ou to a trail to the Tad Mork Waterfall. The boat ride heads upstream through lush forested mountains and stops at a riverside school on the way. The boat docks near Ban Sop, a Khmu village, and the 1-hour trail to the falls for a swim and picnic lunch before the return cruise.