Luang Prabang rose to prominence as the capital of the first Lao kingdom from 1353 onwards. One of those small cities with atmospheric and charming personalities, Luang Prabang has topped the Top City category in Wanderlust’s annual (popular choice) travel awards several times in recent years. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Considered by many travelers and writers as being the heart of Laotian culture, the city is surrounded by two rivers and beneath a temple-topped hill.
Because of its tidiness and cleanliness, it is the most charming city in all of Southeast Asia. Luang Prabang is a wonderful patchwork of traditional Lao wooden houses and hints of European architecture.
The city owes its present name to the Pha Bang, a revered Buddha image which was brought to the city by King Vision during the golden age of Lan Xang in the early 1500s. The town’s entire historical section is dedicated to tourism, with everything from former royal palaces to over 33 Wats (temples), on the tourist trail. This former Royal capital still remains the main center for Buddhist learning in Laos and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation.
Important Facts About Luang Prabang
- Luang Prabang is the jewel of Indochina and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.
- As part of the UNESCO plan, new buildings have been limited and development must be in keeping with this magical place.
- Luang Prabang is small, and just about everywhere can be reached by foot. Walking and traveling by bicycle is the best way to see this tiny city.
- Luang Prabang has dozens of temples and religious sites, both large and small.
- Cascading waterfalls, scaling peaks and the milky-brown waters of the Mekong River provide ample opportunity to swim, climb and sail your way through Luang Prabang.
- Wat Xieng Thong temple is the most stunning in Luang Prabang, richly decorated with colored glass and gold.
- The Royal Palace, now a museum houses a collection of artifacts belonging to former rulers of the Kingdom of Lane Xang. Photography is not allowed in the museum.
- Pak Ou Caves are the most important attraction out of town. The caves are inhabited by thousands of Buddha statues, some allegedly more than 300 years old.