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.
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 . 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.
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.