The Beauty of Somewhere Hard to Reach: Exploring Luang Prabang

The Beauty of Somewhere Hard to Reach: Exploring Luang Prabang

Tucked into northern Laos is the former capital city of Luang Prabang. Sitting at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, this sleepy UNESCO Heritage spot is one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Southeast Asia. With lush gardens, sprawling mountain peaks, ancient golden temples and monks filling the streets- it’s a traveler (and photographer’s) dream destination. But for anyone who has ever made the trip out to Luang Prabang, they know there’s one tricky thing about it: accessing the city…

For those who don’t mind dropping the couple hundred dollars on the flights into the city, transport is not an issue. You cruise over the mountains, dive below the peaks and find yourself in a storybook-like destination that all travelers should experience. But for those who are trying to save up their travel money, a bus ride into the city might have to be your only option.

Taking the bus north from Vientiane (or Vang Vieng) is one of the most beautiful rides in the entire country. The roads, hairpin turns, speeds and massive drops might have the passengers warily staring over the edge of the roads, but a bus is your quickest and cheapest means of access (though the ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang can take 10 hours… with no troubles).

Once you’re in the city, you’ll be glad you made the trip.

Delicious restaurants and cafés, perfect cycling streets, ancient religious sites and morning monk alms walks… you will feel like you’re traveling through one giant postcard. Our Luang Prabang tours can show you the best of the city and some lesser-known spots as well, making the most out of your northern Laos stay. But after you’ve spent a few days (or even a few weeks--- yes, there is that much to soak in there), you might be facing another issue: where to go from there.

Luang Prabang is a mountain town; there aren’t too many spots to visit from there unless you’re traveling back down to Vientiane, Vang Vieng or Phonsavan via bus. If you plan to travel to Vietnam from Luang Prabang (tour companies often advertise busses to Hanoi or Vinh), you may be staring down a long, hard, tiresome and difficult bus ride that can take over 24 hours.

Our professional travel opinion gives you one of two options:

A.) Begin your tours of Laos in Luang Prabang and take a flight in from some other destination. Then you can save money by bussing south from there to Vientiane or Vang Vieng, and visit Cambodia, Thailand or Vietnam from Vientiane (with a smooth bus or train ride).

B.) If you have already traveled north to Luang Prabang from the southern destinations (either via bus or flight), bite the bullet and take a flight out (either east to Hanoi or to your preferred next destination). It might put you back a couple hundred dollars, but the hour-long flight will be much better than a 24 hour++ bus journey that travelers still recall with horror.

If you’re wondering whether or not to visit the city at all… the answer is YES. Luang Prabang is a one of a kind destination that you should absolutely keep on your Southeast Asia itinerary. You might have to swallow a difficult bus ride or pay the fare for a more expensive flight, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort.