You’ve eaten all the vegan food in Luang Prabang and partaken in community-based tourism experiences, so, now what? It’s time to hit the beautiful glittering temples and waterfalls! Culture and nature lovers alike will fall in love with the city that offers a perfect balance of exploration of nature and the soul.
A novice monk sneaks a smile at a temple in Luang Prabang.
KUANG SI WATERFALL
Admiring the force of Mother Nature at Kuang Si Waterfall.
No matter what time of year it is you must visit the pine multi-tiered 165-foot tall Kuang Si Waterfall while visiting Luang Prabang. But, if you’re keen to have an idyllic swim in the serene teal pools of limestone formations then you need to schedule your trip around the dry season. The perks are that the water will be an insanely turquoise color, but you’ll miss out on seeing the falls in their full glory after the rainy season.
I visited in August and was greeted by the powerful cascade that left water spritzing in the air everywhere and the surrounding dense tropical jungle lush with life. The weather was rainy and cold so I didn’t go for a swim in the lower pools. The water was also very muddy without any visibility which freaks me out a bit. You never know what could be lurking underneath–snakes, there could be snakes!
Isn’t the waterfall incredible?
Local legend says that the Kuang Si Waterfall was formed when a wise elderly man discovered the area by digging a hole in the ground which allowed the water to come to the park. Soon after a golden deer arrived and lived under a rock under the falls. The waterfall would hit the rock and echo into an enchanting noise that would reach the ears of those as far away as China! The Laos name, Tat Kuang Si, means waterfall deer dig. The namesake rock is said to have fallen after an earthquake in 2001. Because this is considered a sacred space there are some parts of the falls that are holy where people are not allowed to swim–respect all the signs around Kuang Si Waterfalls.
Wander down the road from the waterfall to find this serene temple.
Nearby the waterfalls are some gigantic Buddhist temples. They don’t show up on the map and didn’t have any signs which adds to their mysterious beauty.
Behind is another gorgeous Buddhist temple with golden statues.
I paid about $10 for my shared van and entrance fee (20,000 kip) for the Kuang Si Waterfall (Google Maps) which the receptionist at Luang Prabang View Hotel helped me arrange. If you can drive a motorbike you’ll be able to have this experience for less. Kuang Si Waterfall are about 19 miles from Luang Prabang. Kuang Si Waterfall is slippery when wet so be sure to have travel insurance to protect you should you have any injuries from accidental falls.
If you only have two days in Luang Prabang join Backstreet Academy’s Kuang Si Tour: A day in the life of a Laotian where you’ll see the falls but also learn about farming traditions, visit a H’mong hill tribe village, and stay in a local homestay.
Because transportation costs around Luang Prabang are so high for renting a tuk-tuk or driver I didn’t get the chance to visit the Tad Thong Waterfall, Tad Sea Waterfall, Khoun Moung Keo Waterfall, or the waterfalls at Nahm Dong Park.
Lola loving the design elements at Wat Xiengthong.
My absolute favorite temple in Luang Prabang is Wat Xieng Thong (Google Maps) located near the end of the Luang Prabang peninsula right where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet. I was enchanted by the ornate ruby exterior walls that were brought to life with sparkling glass motifs that represent daily life in Laos and even a gigantic peacock mosaic next to the tree of life. This beautiful adornment is combined with large elephant statues and black and gold stenciled imagery.
Can anyone read my fortune?
I even had the chance to get my fortune but sadly I went without a guide so no one could translate its meaning for me.
Have you ever seen a more beautiful Buddhist temple?
Wat Xiengthong can be traced all the way back to the 16th century making it one of the oldest monasteries in Luang Prabang. It was erected by King Say Setthathirath and remains an architectural gem today. The royal temple is protected by UNESCO and there’s a small entrance fee to enter.
The Buddha imagery inside the Wat Xiengthong structures is equally stunning to the exterior.
The temple is a masterpiece of Lao artwork and architecture. There are many different Buddhist monuments and structures to see at Wat Xiengthong including a worship hall, pagoda, and library. Coronations of Lao Kings and other important events took place on these sacred grounds.
Wat Xiengthong is glittering in gold.
WAT PHA BANG
The colorful front facade of Wat Pha Bang.
Every time I tried to enter Wat Pha Bang (Google Maps), which is located on the grounds of the Royal Palace, it was closed. Wat Pha Bang is named after the gold-alloy Buddha statue which was the inspiration for the name Luang Prabang. The glittering temple was built in 1904 and has an apparent French influence in the architecture.
The ancient stupa of Wat Visounarat.
Wat Visounarat (Google Maps) is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple. It used to be the home for the city’s namesake Prabang Buddha before it was moved to the Luang Prabang National Museum at the Royal Palace. The exposed stupa in its watermelon shape stands out against a landscape of glittering temples in Luang Prabang.
One of the many massive structures at Wat Mai.
Wat Mai (Google Maps) is one of Luang Prabang’s largest temples and one of the most intricately decorated. The Prabang Buddha image once resided here as well. The famous statue is brought back to Wat Mai during the Buddhist New Year for ceremonial cleansing and worship.
Golden depictions of life in Laos.
Wat Mai means new temple in Laos, but it is still considered to be quite old in modern times. Wat Mai was built in 1780 by King Anurat.
The beauty is in the details at Wat Mai.
There are over 150 temples in Luang Prabang! I also visited Wat Tat Luang, Wat Manorom, Wat Souvannakhiri, Wat Sibounheuang, and Wat Mahathat which will all have detail shots feature in my upcoming photo journal from Luang Prabang. Most of these temples are free to enter. I didn’t visit Wat Phousi for sunset as the weather was usually pretty wet by the time evening rolled around but it’s a top thing to do in Luang Prabang due to the golden stupa and panoramic views of Luang Prabang.
Have you been to Luang Prabang? Share your favorite experience with me!
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