48 hours in Luang Prabang

07/09/2015

Photo credit: iStock

The northern Laoitian city of Luang Prabang has much to recommend it, located as it is in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khang rivers and dotted with gilded temples. So impressive are its attractions that it was the first site in Laos to be granted World Heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

With so much to see and do, there is enough to keep the visitor interested for weeks, but if you only have two days, be sure to make the most of them. This suggested itinerary will mean you leave Luang Prabang feeling like you really got to know this incredible place.

Day 1

Breakfast on French pastries

Start your day with breakfast on Sisavangvong Road, where you will find plenty of cafes and restaurants serving up pastries. This, along with the stunning colonial architecture, is one of the things left over from the days of French influence in Laos. Be sure to wash it all down with a traditional local coffee, which is strong and chocolaty.

Climb Mount Phosi

Thus fortified, make your way to Mount Phosi, right in the heart of Luang Prabang and take the gentle climb to the top. While there is a wat, or temple, here, the real reason for conquering the hill is to obtain 360-degree views of the city below. This will give you a good sense of Luang Prabang's layout and how to get to its top attractions.

Visit the Royal Palace

Descending Mount Phosi, cross the road and head to the Royal Palace, which was constructed in 1904 to house King Sisavang Vong and his family. While it is no longer used as a residence, a statue of the former occupant can be seen at the entrance and the palace is now an interesting museum.

A number of religious artefacts and antiques are accompanied by descriptions in English and be sure to look out for the traditional murals on the walls. Take in the Phra Bang golden Buddha in a separate room, as well as the cars used by the royal family, which can also be found within the grounds.

Explore the former coronation wat

After breaking for lunch, make your way to Wat Xieng Thong, arguably the most impressive of the temples located throughout Luang Prabang. Its opulence and decorative gold work and mosaics reflect the fact that it once held royal coronations. Remember that it is a religious site and arrive appropriately dressed with legs and shoulders covered.

Photo credit: iStock

Wander around the night market

Luang Prabang's night market gets started at 5.30pm and continues until 9.30pm. It is a good place to grab some street food for dinner, but also to buy a few authentic souvenirs. The city is known for its brightly coloured parasols, which are available at the market in their droves, so be sure to pick one up here.

Day 2

Rise early to see the giving of alms

Sticky rice and other foodstuffs are distributed to local monks at 6am on the Sisavangvong Road and while this is a religious ritual, visitors can observe it if they remain respectful. Keep quiet and don't be obtrusive with your camera while watching the monks accepting alms as they make their way along the street.

Cross the river for a very different kind of wat

After breakfast on your second day, take a boat across the river and climb up to Wat Chompet. This is a great opportunity to contrast the temple with the extravagance displayed at Wat Xieng Thong the day before, but you will also be afforded views back over Lunag Prabang.

Savour a special lunch

Returning to the city, have a leisurely lunch at L'Elephant, Le Patio Cafe, Le Cafe Ban Vat Sene or the Coconut Garden. All of these establishments offer a selection of French and Laotian cuisine or a fusion of the two. Wash it all down with a bottle of Beer Lao.

Photo credit: iStock

Head out of the city for a refreshing waterfall experience

A short tuk tuk ride away is the Kuang Si waterfall, which is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers several crystal clear pools for swimming. This is the perfect antidote to sightseeing and is often made all the more picturesque when local monks in their saffron-coloured robes come to paddle in the water too.

Make it a multi centre escape

If you like the sound of Luang Prabang then you won't fail to be impressed with the whole of Laos. This stunning country in South East Asia has a welcoming population and enough attractions to make a multi centre holiday jam packed with fascinating experiences. Visit our Laos holidays pages now to find out more.

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