Luang Prabang is known as the seat of Lao culture. It houses old monasteries, typically Indo-Chinese store houses and lots of artwork shops. The town is surrounded by many types of natural beauty. It offers the visitor a wealth of siteseeing opportunities. The city itself is a rather sleepy town with hundreds of interesting temples and old French houses. It's one of the few remaining authentic towns in Southeast Asia. Therefore Luang Prabang has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1995.
The first capital of Laos has somehow managed to remain unscathed by war and modernisation. The city wakes up every day to the sound of bells, gongs and drums from the local temples which send the monks and novices on their morning rounds to collect rice for their daily meal. Luang Prabang is the main centre for Buddhist learning in the country and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation. Situated between two rivers, the Mekong and the Khan, surrounded by a ring of mountains, it is a treasure trove of beautiful temples and historical monuments.
The National Museum used to be the Royal Palace. It houses the royal throne of the Lan Xang kingdom in its original splendour and many other religious treasures. It is located near the bank of the Mekong River, facing Mount Phusi.
Wat Xiengthong or Golden City Temple is a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture impressing visitors with its golden facades and mural paintings. It is situated on the bank of the Mekong River and was used for the highest royal ceremonies and to temporarily house the ashes of deceased kings. It’s probably the most beautiful monastery of Luang Prabang and represents the typical Lao art style. Many old and beautiful religious artifacts of the period between the 16th and the 20th centuries, and some ancient masterpieces of Lao art, can be seen here.
The Wat Mai Temple was built in 1821 during the reign of King Manthatourath. It was once the residence of the Patriach of the Buddhist clergy. The five-tiered roof of the wooden Sim is in the traditional Luang Prabang style.
Lue village or Baan Lue is located only 3 km from the centre of Luang Prabang. It is famous for cotton and silk weaving, and some beautifully hand-crafted souvenirs. The people of Ban Phanom originate from Sip Song Panna in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.
The Wat Visoun or Wat Wisunalat was constructed around 1520. The phrabang, a fine gold Buddha image is the religious symbol of the Kingdom and it was enshrined here last in 1874. In 1942, it was turned into a Museum of Religious Arts, and housed collections of Buddha images and religious artifacts from the 14th century. Within its precincts stands the gigantic That Makmo (watermelon stupa), originally known as That Patum or Lotus Stupa, built in 1503.
The Khoung-Sy Waterfall is about 30 km from Luang Prabang, on a Mekong tributary. In the surrounding area live a number of Hmong hill tribes.
The Pak-Ou Caves are the most interesting place to visit outside the city. This is a highly venerated underground sanctuary that houses thousands of Buddha images, some allegedly more than 300 years old. These caves are in the rocky walls of the Sandstone Mountains at the confluence of the Ou River and the Mekong, some 25 km upriver from Luang Prabang. A small royal Wat is found near the grottoes. A nearby village with hill tribes, Ban Shang Hai, allows visitors to taste their fermented rice whisky called "Lao Lao." Beautiful natural scenery, flowers and wildlife surround the location.
The Mount Phou Si has a Buddhist stupa on the top. The views over the surrounding valleys and hills are worth the climb up.