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After a long dormancy brought on by decades of war and revolution, Luang Prabang has become Lao PDR's foremost tourist showpiece. Encircled by mountains and set 2300 feet above sea level at the confluence of the Khan and the Mekong rivers, the city's mix of gleaming temple roofs, neatly restored French provincial architecture and multi-ethnic inhabitants tends to enthrall even the most jaded travelers. Hmong, Mien and Thai tribal people can often be seen walking around town on their way to and from the markets. Orange-wrapped Buddhist monks and novices occupy 32 of the original 66 historic temples built before the era of French colonization, ...

After a long dormancy brought on by decades of war and revolution, Luang Prabang has become Lao PDR's foremost tourist showpiece. Encircled by mountains and set 2300 feet above sea level at the confluence of the Khan and the Mekong rivers, the city's mix of gleaming temple roofs, neatly restored French provincial architecture and multi-ethnic inhabitants tends to enthrall even the most jaded travelers. Hmong, Mien and Thai tribal people can often be seen walking around town on their way to and from the markets. Orange-wrapped Buddhist monks and novices occupy 32 of the original 66 historic temples built before the era of French colonization, including the stunning half-millennium-old Wat Xieng Thong. Muang Luang, as the locals call it, also boasts a unique palace-turned-museum. Traditional Lao customs and dress — including the stunning, handwoven sin or calf-length skirt worn by women — are most visible in Luang Prabang, a former royal capital nestled in a northern bend of the Mekong River and surrounded by verdant mountain peaks. The gilded, wooden or brick-and-stucco wat (temples) of Luang Prabang, numbering over 30 dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, serve as splendid examples of the country’s best Lao Buddhist architecture. A 1994 UNESCO mission pronounced Luang Prabang "the best preserved city in Southeast Asia," and in 1995 it was added to the organization's World Heritage List — joining honorees such as the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat.

Joe Cummings
About the Expert

Joe Cummings has contributed to more than 35 guidebooks, maps, atlases, phrasebooks and photographic works, including his bestselling Lonely Planet Thailand and Buddhist Stupas of Asia: The Shape of Perfection.

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Joe Cummings for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Northern Laos, 425 km northeast of the capital Vientiane on the Mekong river
  • Language: Laotian
  • Currency: Lao Kip
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    November through February (cool and dry), June to October (warm and rainy)