Luang Prabang is rich in history and natural beauty, a trek, mountain bike ride or some gentle kayaking gives you the chance to really discover the landscape and warm friendly people that live in and around this celebrated UNESCO world heritage site. Three ethnic tribes located at villages in the surrounding mountains of Luang Prabang welcome visitors to experience their daily lives, whether you opt to visit them via kayak in their water homes on stilts, or opt for a trek to their mountain-top village with the option of staying with them for the night. Along the way you’ll discover elephant sanctuaries and inviting waterfalls all framed by spectacular countryside of rice fields, striking mountain ranges and dense tropical jungle.
When you’ve ticked off the exploring boxes, you’ll find plenty of places to relax and unwind in Luang Prabang. Spend the day at one of the many spas and treat yourself to a traditional massage, which us even more enjoyable post trek. If you fancy something a little more strenuous then head to the Luang Prabang golf course where you can hire everything you need for a round then finish off your day with a late-night local beer at the bowling alley.
Trekking is an absolute must in Luang Prabang with a variety of treks to suit all levels. On your way you’ll see spectacular waterfalls, indigenous wildlife and gain a fascinating insight into some of the rural folk living in the hill tribe villages. Descendants of the Mongolians, the Hmong tribe make their home in the chillier higher hills whilst the Khmu tribe is found in lower regions with treks to their homes taking you through lush tropical jungle.
There are a few companies offering trekking tours which you can book upon arrival. One of the more popular agents is Green Discovery who offer treks from one day to several days including Luang Prabang to Ban Nong Touk which takes you through paddy fields, pineapple gardens then up to visit some Hmong families on the first day. The second day you’ll pass through some spectacular scenery including a visit to a cave which once served as a bomb shelter, a waterfall and a visit to the Sun Bear Rescue Centre. This trek is available all year round. Luang Prabang Fair Trek offer similar trips and also a hiking adventure to the Elephant Park Project which includes a visit to the beautiful Tad Sae waterfalls.
There are plenty of choices to suit all budgets when it comes to day spa pampering in Luang Prabang. For a ‘charitable massage’ then look no further than the Lao Red Cross who offer a full body massage for US$5 and who also have an onsite sauna. Offering clients plenty of facials, scrubs and massages, the Spa Garden is a popular spot in scenic surroundings. If you’re feeling brave then try a local Kamu massage at the Kamu Spa where oil and strong pressure is applied to really help you loosen up.
More upmarket is the Mekong Spa based at La Résidence Phou Vao. Traditional Lao herbs and locally sourced organic botanicals are combined for use in their body treatments which are given in one of their elegant pavilions. They also offer packages and special deals for individuals or couples seeking to experience a few different therapies.
The Luang Prabang Bowling Alley is famed for being a late-night drinking hole in addition to being the town’s only ten pin bowling venue. Loud Asian pop music, local whisky and Beer Lao are as popular as the bowling which costs 20,000 kip per person per game. Bowling, drinking and socialising continues until doors close at 02:00 with the crowd consisting mainly of backpackers.
The bowling alley is one of the few places in Luang Prabang where you can grab a drink after the strict 23:30 curfew and is best reached by taking a tuk tuk. The bowling alley is located on the outskirts of town. You might want to pre-arrange the fare with the driver to wait for you or alternatively you could pick one up from the Mount Phu Si base where tuk tuks tend to wait to ferry ‘bowlers’ home.
Luang Prabang is home to a championship golf course with a superb backdrop of the Mekong River, dramatic mountains and views of the UNESCO listed world heritage town. The club offers a challenging 18-hole course on a par 72 green situated 10 minutes by car from the centre of town and about a 15-minute dri ve from the airport at Ban Houiphai in Khet Sangkhalok. There is an on-site pro-shop and driving range in addition to a restaurant serving Lao cuisine to a five-star standard. Rates of play vary according to when you visit with special offers available on clubs, shoes and umbrella rental.
Opening Hours: 05:00-19:30
Location: Ban Houiphai in Khet Sangkhalok
Remarks: Non-playing guests are permitted for an additional fee
Tel: +856 55 571 182
Mountain Biking is a great way to experience the beautiful Luang Prabang countryside with one-day tours taking you round the old town, across rivers, through rural villages and past stunning mountains. Beginners are welcome on most of the one-day trips which can be booked through travel agents such as Vietnam Bike Tours. More adventurous riders might enjoy a more challenging tour on a special off-road route to remote villages, exploring the rural side of Luang Prabang, crossing four rivers en route.
Bangkok-based Spice Tours have combined cycling with culture in a tour that takes you down country lanes to a pottery village where you will be served some local delicacies. Most day rides average four hours and include an English speaking guide, lunch and all equipment with groups usually limited to 20 people.
Luang Prabang is a fantastically located for rafting and kayaking, with some tours also adding in some trekking. The Lao Rafting Tour Company offers a choice of excursions including a trip starting north of Luang Prabang before heading to the Ban Huay Lo Khmu village then down to a Hmong village in Ban Mok Chung before travelling to Pha Peung where you be the guest of the Hmongs overnight.
Vietlong Travel have an energetic kayaking trip where you will see local tribes going about their daily river life, passing dramatic mountains along the way before taking on the intermediate level rapids. Green Discovery Laos also offer paddling adventures that take you down rapids with a two-day kayaking trip which includes cliff jumping into the refreshing Nam Xeuang River and a night with some of the survivors of the Second Indochina War at a Khmu hill tribe village. They also have a gentle easy river ride for those who prefer a slower pace with a half or full-day kayaking down the Nam Khan River.