The deliciously sleepy town of Luang Prabang sits peacefully on the banks of the Mekong River in Laos. Life here revolves around Buddhism, and beautifully preserved temples greet you at every turn, while orange-robed monks stroll the streets.
Okay – a sleepy town with temples and monks may not sound like one of the best places to visit in Laos with kids, and many people wonder what to do in Luang Prabang to keep kids entertained. But actually, this World UNESCO Heritage site is a great place to take the family, and we managed to find plenty of things to do in Luang Prabang with kids.
The lack of crazy traffic that so often characterizes Asian cities means that exploring the Luang Prabang attractions with a buggy is infinitely doable. Also, with the town centre being compact, you don’t need to worry about little legs tiring out too quickly – another reason this is one of the best places to visit in Laos for families.
Although you won’t find any theme parks or purpose-built family friendly Luang Prabang tourist attractions, there are plenty of Luang Prabang activities to keep the whole family entertained.
Read on for all our top things to do in Luang Prabang:
Luang Prabang Temples
It’s hard to avoid the temples in Luang Prabang; they are everywhere, and visiting them is one of the most popular things to do in Laos.
However, there is a limit to how many times you can instill excitement in a four-year old and two-year old to play “find the Buddha”, or convince them that taking their shoes off at every temple is a fun game.
So we dedicated just one morning to exploring the temples. We were particularly taken with Wat Xieng Thong, or Temple of the Golden City, a Luang Prabang must see. This complex of over twenty beautiful shrines and pavilions, has plenty of shimmering golden doors and hidden Buddha statues to wow the kids.
Our other favourite Luang Prabang temple was Wat Ho Pha Bang, the ornate temple within the Royal Palace Museum. This special temple safeguards the Phra Bang Buddha image – Laos’ most sacred Buddha image for which Luang Prabang is named.
The Royal Palace Luang Prabang Museum itself is also fun for the kids, where you can visit the throne room and bedrooms of the former Royal Family.
Kuang Si Falls
Visiting the Kuang Si Falls is one of the top things to do in Laos and should definitely be on your Luang Prabang to do list.
The Falls are a good 45 bumpy minutes in the back of a tuk tuk from Luang Prabang – much to the delight of my kids, who thought this was the height of adventure.
The Kuang Si Waterfall is one of the most stunning waterfalls I have ever seen, with layer upon layer of cascading water forming a tapestry of aquamarine pools, all leading up to the main fall: 60 metres of gushing water, surrounded by green tropical jungle. Incredible.
Another reason this is one of the best places to visit in Luang Prabang, is the Tat Kuang Si Rescue Centre. This bear sanctuary is run by Free the Bears Fund and is responsible for looking after 23 Moon Bears, or Asiatic Black Bears, who have been rescued by the Laos government from illegal poaching and trading.
We watched as the bear keepers hid food under tyres and inside logs, before the cute fluffy bears appeared and climbed up onto wooden platforms, swung in hammocks and frolicked around their playground.
Read more about visiting the Kuang Si Falls with Kids in our article here.
Luang Prabang Night Market
The Luang Prabang night market is one of the most famous things to see in Laos. It is renowned for being one of the biggest and best night markets in the world.
This night market runs from around 5pm to 11pm every evening. There are hundreds of stalls here to explore, selling all manner of homemade handicrafts – jewellery, clothing, toys, ceramics, lamps, scarves and more.
We wandered through the night market every evening on our way to dinner and we all loved browsing through the huge number of stalls. We found the quality and authenticity of the products here to be among the best we have seen in any of the markets we have visited in Asia.
If you fancy trying out some local street food, there is a whole section of the Luang Prabang night market dedicated to this too.
Luang Prabang Elephant Sanctuary
Spending the day with the elephants at an elephant sanctuary is one of the most fun things to do in Luang Prabang. Before booking this experience, please do your research and ensure that the elephant sanctuary you choose takes good care of the elephants and does not allow riding the elephants.
We visited the Elephant Village Sanctuary, which unfortunately does allow riding the elephants – this is a short bareback ride and only allows one rider per elephant. However, if I were to book a trip now, I probably would not choose the Elephant Village Sanctuary for this reason.
Since we visited I have done more research into Luang Prabang elephant sanctuaries, and have found the MandaLao Elephant Conservation, which does not allow riding of elephants. I have no personal experience of this elephant sanctuary, but TripAdvisor reviews look good.
Having said that, we found the 14 elephants that have been rescued from hard labour in the jungle to be well cared for and happy at the Elephant Village. They spend the mornings with visitors, and all visit the vet each day before they head back to the jungle to rest for the afternoon.
At their one-day mahout programme, we learned to speak Laos commands, and feed the elephants bananas. But the real fun came at bath time, where we got to give them a good scrubbing down, and receive a refreshing shower ourselves courtesy of our new elephant friends.
Luang Prabang Mekong Cruise
Sunsets in Luang Prabang are sensational, and being down by the river to take advantage of these is a must do in Luang Prabang. The riverbank is littered with laidback rustic bars, all serving cold Beer Lao and offering front row seats of this colourful spectacle, so take a wander down and take your pick.
But our most magical Luang Prabang travel experience was taking a ride along the Mekong for sunset. We took a stroll down to the boat pier just before sunset one evening and after a couple of minutes of friendly bartering with a local boat driver, we had agreed on the sum of 200,000 kip (around $25 USD) for an hour’s private cruise up and down the river.
We loaded up our cool bag with sundowner drinks, clambered aboard the longboat and headed for the horizon. The memory of the pinks, oranges and golds that ripped through the sky as the sun sank behind the mountains will forever be imprinted in my mind. Definitely one of the best things to do in Luang Prabang.
Alms Giving in Luang Prabang
Watching the Alms Giving ceremony in Luang Prabang is one of the best things to do in Laos. However, as it takes place at sunrise and involves quiet observation, it is not particularly child friendly.
For this reason, I left the rest of my family sleeping soundly in their beds and hit the quiet streets of Luang Prabang alone to observe this beautiful tradition.
This Buddhist ritual has been around since the 14th century and sees hundreds of monks walking in silence and collecting their daily alms from devotees. It is a special experience to observe it.
Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed in how some of my fellow tourists behaved during this – using flash photography in monks’ faces, not dressing appropriately, etc. If you are going to get involved, please be respectful! I like this article that discusses this in more detail.
Best Restaurants in Luang Prabang
Lao cuisine focuses on fresh ingredients and includes lots of herbs and fresh vegetables and we enjoyed eating our way around Luang Prabang! The staple of the Lao diet is Khao Niew – sticky rice, which my kids loved.
The most famous Laos dish to look out for is Laap, a dish consisting of chopped meat, fish or chicken, flavoured with mint leaves, chilli, fish sauce and lime juice
We found some of the best food in Luang Prabang at the 3 Nagas restaurant, where we tucked into a delicious chicken curry and fish cooked in banana leaves. We also had fabulous meals at Tamarind restaurant, Tamnak Lao and Coconut Garden, as well as the famous L’elephant restaurant.
Luang Prabang Accommodation
We were lucky enough to stay at two of the best hotels in Luang Prabang: the Luang Say Residence and the Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel:
This stunning colonial hotel from Angsana Hotels & Resorts is handily located just a short walk from the town centre and night market. It features beautifully landscaped tropical gardens, and a gorgeous swimming pool with a deck and poolside bar.
For families, the hotel offers large suites in the original mansion house, or interconnecting rooms in the Garden Wing.
The service here is second-to-none. The staff are all super-friendly and welcoming, and they were so patient and fun with children, which is why we recommend it as one of the best places to stay in Luang Prabang with kids.
Click here to check prices for the Maison Souvannaphoum or read our full review here.
Luang Say Residence
With beautiful suites, a stunning swimming pool and sprawling tropical gardens to explore, the Luang Say Residence is a great choice for families looking for a classy, yet family-friendly hotel in Luang Prabang.
The 20 Pioneer Suites that are set amongst the gardens can accommodate a rollaway bed while the four Explorator Suites located in the main residence building can accommodate two rollaway beds.
The Luang Say Residence is a short tuk tuk ride away from the town centre, and staff were always on hand to help arrange for the hotel tuk tuk to take us.
Click here to check prices for the Luang Say Residence or read our full review here.
How Many Days in Luang Prabang?
We spent 4 nights in Luang Prabang and managed to fit in everything mentioned above. I would happily have spent one or two more nights, but even with four nights we didn’t feel rushed. I would say 4-5 days is ideal.
If you are visiting during warmer months and are staying in Luang Prabang accommodation with a pool, you might want to stay a couple of days longer and spend some chill out time by the pool. As we were visiting in December, dips in our hotel pool were kept short!
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