We loved travelling through Laos. Venturing through the vast expanse of jungle and stumbling upon a few villages and towns scattered among the wild. We also enjoyed visiting the popular city of Luang Prabang. It was a place to reconnect with some modern luxuries after a few weeks in remote villages across Laos.
However, Luang Prabang is by no means off the tourist trail and we usually enjoy more offbeat locations. So, we decided to skip the tourist hotspots in Luang Prabang and find the lesser known parts of this city and region. In this article we share our first experiences with you and list all the offbeat locations we found in Luang Prabang so that you can enjoy them as much as we did.
How to get off the Beaten Path in Luang Prabang? Luang Prabang is a popular tourist location in Laos and many flock to see the famous Kuang Si Waterfall. It is easy to get off the beaten path in Luang Prabang if you know how, so here our our top tips to exploring the lesser known attractions of this popular tourist city in Laos.
- 1. Visit Chomphet
- 2. Visit the Tat Sae Waterfalls
- 3. Stay Outside of the Main Tourist Centre
- 4. Hire a Motorbike and Explore
- 5. Visit Luang Prabang Morning Market
- 6. Volunteer in Luang Prabang
- 7. Stay at Traditional Homestays in Luang Prabang
- 8. Eat Pizza Phan in Luang Prabang
- 9. Dine at Tamarind Restaurant
1. Visit Chomphet
Very few tourists venture across the Mekong to the small district of Chomphet. Although only a short ferry ride from the main hub of Luang Pragbang, Chomphet feels like a world away. Here you will find sleepy local village life, monks praying and an array of quiet temples that you can discover on foot.
The most exciting way to reach Chomphet is to catch the local vehicle ferry which departs from the rivers edge in the main centre of Luang Prabang city. The ferry ride costs 5000kip/$0.50USD and is an authentic local experience in itself…..much more fun and affordable than taking a private boat! While on the ferry we chatted to locals and enjoyed watching how the people of Luang Prabang live their daily lives.
We recommend putting aside a couple of hours to explore Chomphet by foot. If you take a scooter or motorbike you can also venture further south to another village where there is a traditional pottery house you can visit.
We took our motorbike across on the ferry and after a few hours of exploring the charming villages and temples we decided to explore even more. We took our bike and ventured further south and discovered more remote and off beat villages that were completely unseen by tourists. We we were greeted by smiling children and welcoming waves and it was a great way to discover the traditional village life of the wider Luang Prabang area.
2. Visit the Tat Sae Waterfalls
Most travellers will visit the famed Kuang Si Waterfall and we are certain that these falls are very beautiful. However, instagram influencers and bloggers have shared images of the falls far and wide and now they are considered one of South East Asia most popular tourist attractions.
We weren’t too keen on dealing with hordes of tourist crowds so we opted to skip the falls altogether. In the end we were glad we skipped Kuang Si Waterfall as it led us to Tat Sae Waterfalls which was stunningly beautiful, but without the crowds!
What to expect from Tat Sae Waterfalls: We visited the falls in November and they were impressive. We literally had the place to ourselves and it was pure bliss! You will first enter a ticketing booth and then pass some small shops and tea stalls, then the first viewing area of the falls will reveal itself.
You will see beautiful aqua water flowing over layered white terraces and there are a few bamboo bridges and platforms where you can enjoy the view of the falls.
The best part about these falls is that you can take a short hike further up the path which will lead to more stunning falls, each unique and beautiful. To find more falls, follow the bush trail up the left hand side of the river for about 30mins and you will discover a second secluded cascade.
You can then walk further along the track and discover another set of falls nestled in the jungle, with no one else around. Make sure you cross the bridge on your way back and walk via the right hand side of the river to discover another fall which was perhaps the most stunning out of them all.
The bush walk itself is well sign posted and easy to walk. The falls feel so much more natural and untouched the further and further into the jungle you walk. It’s such a great adventure and a great way to spend a few hours in Luang Prabang, crowd free!
Things to note: We have read some reviews which state if you visit during the dry months between Dec-April that the first set of falls do dry up, so just keep that in mind and check with locals what the expected conditions will be before you visit.
We also heard that sometimes there are elephants roaming in the pools near the first set of falls. We didn’t see any in November, but many reviewers have commented that they enjoyed playing with the elephants in the pools.
How to reach Tat Sae Waterfalls: Located just 15mins from Luang Prabang City these falls are easy to reach. First you must travel by road to Nam Kahn boat jetty. We hired our own motorbike to reach the jetty but you could catch a taxi or tuktuk. Once you reach the jetty you will need to catch a boat up river to the falls. The private boat fare is only 40,000 kip/$4.5USD return and it’s actually a really fun experience.
Tat Sae Waterfalls Costs: 20,000 kip/ $2.25USD
3. Stay Outside of the Main Tourist Centre
Sometimes being right in the heart of the tourist hub is the best location. However, Luang Prabang itself is not that big, so you can stay slightly off the beaten path and still be within walking distance of the tourist centre.
We loved being in a quieter local part of town, it allowed us to experience the more laid back and authentic parts of the city.
Staying a little further away from the city centre can also mean better prices. We ended up staying on the west side of the bamboo walk bridge at a great guesthouse called Oulayphet Guesthouse. It was in a lovely location within 10mins walk to the main city centre and the value for money was incredible, $6USD per night for a clean air conditioned private room (month of Nov), we couldn’t believe it!
Unfortunately it seems the place has a new name and new owners (now called bamboo guest house) and the quality of service may have dropped, but you can check out our recommended accomodation options in the same area of Luang Prabang below:
Our Off Beat Recommended Accomodations in Luang Prabang:
Clean, comfortable rooms with
real family service.
|Ban Vivanh chambres d’hotes|
Beautiful guesthouse with
river views and & a lush green
|My Dream Boutique Resort|
A lux traditional style hotel with swimming pool and river views.
4. Hire a Motorbike and Explore
Riding a motorbike in Luang Prabang is not as daunting as other places in South East Asia. The town and surrounding areas are fairly low key in terms of traffic. So if you are a confident rider we recommend hiring a motorbike so you can explore the region beyond the tourist trail.
Sometimes the best moments are when you don’t have a plan, you just pick a spot on the map and go for it! Having your own wheels will enable you to do this and we totally recommend it! Motorbike hire in Luang Prabang can be easily arranged with your guesthouse and will cost about $8USD per day.
5. Visit Luang Prabang Morning Market
Visiting the Luang Prabang morning market is a must do activity. The lively market is small but very local and you will see Laotians shopping for their fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and meats. It’s also a great place to grab some traditional street foods and breakfast snacks.
The touristic night market is great, but the morning market is the best way to see the authentic local side to Luang Prabang market life. The market runs from about 6am and an ideal time to visit would be about 7.30am when the market is buzzing with life.
You can find the market within three minutes walk from Royal Palace near the Nam Khan riverfront on a side street near Khem Khong Road. If you type Luang Prabang Morning Market into Google Maps it will also pin point the location….Google is our friend!
6. Volunteer in Luang Prabang
We found one of the best ways to get off the beaten path and truly immerse yourself in local culture is to volunteer in the community you are visiting. Volunteering is great way to get off the beaten path in Luang Prabang and will ultimately lead to you meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t have met and visiting places you would have never seen. We have had some incredible volunteering experiences and found that you depart having had a much richer cultural experience.
If you find a great volunteer opportunity, often times you will be invited to events or local activities that other travellers would never be able to experience. The other bonuses to volunteering is that it can often mean free food and accommodation which is great for budget travellers. We use the online platform Workaway to find meaningful volunteer opportunities. Workaway connects global volunteering opportunities with travellers, you can read our full guide to Workaway here.
7. Stay at Traditional Homestays in Luang Prabang
Traditional homestays are a great way to get off the beaten path and to experience authentic culture from a local perspective. During our one year abroad homestays were our highlight and we always left with a deeper understanding of lifestyle and culture of the places we visited.
We have managed to find one village homestay called Luang Prabang Homestay, located in a small village just outside of the main town of Luang Prabang. Here you will discover the old traditional lifestyle in a truly authentic laotian village. Hosted by a friendly couple Henri and Kham, you will be welcomed warmly and shown a more authentic Luang Prabang.
To get even further into Lao rural life, many guests also take up the offer to visit Kham’s home village, Ban Mouang Suan (which can only be reached by boat). Here you will stay in a 100 year old bamboo house and will experience an even more remote village.
8. Eat Pizza Phan in Luang Prabang
This is a real hidden gem in Luang Prabang. This pizza place was located just a few hundred metres from our guesthouse, otherwise we would have never discovered it. From the street, it looks just like an ordinary house, so many people would walk past not thinking anything of it.
However if you walk down the drive you will find a quiet back yard with a few outdoor tables set up and a real stone fire pizza oven. The joint is run by a local expat man who has been living in Luang Prabang for many years and decided to build a pizza oven for himself. Eventually, word got out about his oven and how delicious his pizza was and he slowly but surely started serving from a menu to guests who would walk to find him.
The pizza’s are very delicious and pretty good value for money….So if you are craving some good pizza we recommend a visit to this secret pizza place! You can find this hidden gem on the eastern side of the bamboo walk bridge on Kingkitsarath Rd.
9. Dine at Tamarind Restaurant
This one isn’t necessarily off the beaten path, but it’s so good we couldn’t leave it off the list. We were recommended this restaurant by a local man…the pizza guy actually. He assured us that we would get a real taste of traditional Laos cuisine here and he was not wrong! The food here was delicious and truly authentic using ingredients from the Laotian jungle.
The restaurant is run by a local husband and wife who are truly passionate about Lao cuisine and supporting the local community. Although the restaurant seems fancy, the prices were actually quite reasonable ranging between 35-50kip/$4-5 for a dish. If you want to taste the unique flavours of Laos, then we recommend dining here!
We hope this guide has inspired you to go beyond the old centre of Luang Prabang and explore this beautiful regions hidden gems! If you have any other questions related to this topic feel free to leave a comment below and we will answer your questions as best we can.
You might also find our Recommended Travel Gear Page helpful while planning for your trip! We recommend these tried, tested and proven travel essentials after a year of adventures through Asia.
Cheers, Native Travellers
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