Pak Ou Caves Day Trip from Luang Prabang- Is it worth it?
Pak Ou Caves, Laos
One of the most popular day trips from Luang Prabang, Laos is to visit the legendary Pak Ou Caves. While walking through town, every tuk-tuk is emblazoned with the words “Pak Ou Cave”, and every travel agency and booking office will be advertising their tours to the caves.
What are the Pak Ou Caves? How much does it cost to visit them? How do you get there? Is it worth it to spend half a day visiting the caves? Read on!
What are the Pak Ou Caves?
The Pak Ou Caves, located about 30km north of Luang Prabang Laos along the Mekong River, are made up of two limestone caverns that are considered a sacred site in Lao Buddhism. A visit to the Pak Ou Caves is one of the most popular tours and day trips from Luang Prabang.
There are two caves at Pak Ou, an upper cave and a lower cave. The lower cave is full of thousands of old, damaged, and retired Buddha statues, and the upper cave once served as an ancient meditation spot for the old Laotian kings.
Getting to the Pak Ou Caves
You can reach the Pak Ou Caves by road or by boat. While nearly every tuk-tuk advertises a tour to the caves, by far the most popular (and cheapest) way to reach the caves is by boat.
The trip to the caves by boat takes about two hours from Luang Prabang (and about one hour to get back, as you will return with the current). Along the way, you’ll pass scenes of local life along the river, and take a short 20-minute break at the Whisky Village to explore and taste some free lao-lao moonshine.
The caves serve as a sacred place where old and unused Buddha statues can be respectfully retired. The cave boasts over two thousand old, damaged, and retired Buddha images!
The cave is impressive, and the thousands of Buddha statues - each one unique - are fascinating to look at. It’s not a huge place though, and it only takes a few minutes to have a look around.
Leaving the lower cave, climb the steep stone stairs through the forest (be careful, as the stairs can be mossy and slippery!) and you’ll shortly arrive at the upper cave.
The upper cave is larger and deeper… and it’s dark! You can borrow a flashlight at the cave in exchange for a small donation. This cave was once used as a meditation spot for the kings of Laos! Today, it’s still used by Buddhist monks. The inside of the upper cave also has many Buddha statues, but not nearly as many as in the lower cave.
Have a look around, but be careful not to trip in the dark! There are no lights or candles inside, and the only light is from the flashlights. The cave is interesting and historically significant, but a few minutes is probably enough to have a decent look around.
When you take the tour to the Pak Ou Caves, the boat driver will stop at the caves for about 40 minutes. This was more than enough time, and all of the passengers on our boat tour had already arrived back at the boat before the whole time was up, content that they had already seen everything that there was to see.
How much does it cost to visit the Pak Ou Caves in Luang Prabang?
Admission fee at Pak Ou Cave
Admission to the caves is 20,000 kip per person (about $2.50). Every passenger must purchase a ticket upon arriving at the caves. You cannot buy a ticket in advance, and ticket costs are not included in the tour.
Taking a boat tour to Pak Ou Cave
You can book the Pak Ou Cave and Whisky Village tour from a travel agency in town, or from your hotel or guest house, for around 80,000 kip (about $10). This includes only the boat trip and maybe pickup from your hotel or guest house. Please not that admission to the caves is not included in this price. You must purchase a ticket to the caves when you arrive.
To save money, skip the middle man and head directly to the river docks at Luang Prabang. You can buy a ticket on the same tour directly from the boat driver for 50,000 kip (about $6).
What to know about the Pak Ou Cave tour
Admission to the caves is not included in the price of the tour
Purchase a ticket for the boat tour directly at the boat docks to save money
Bring water - water is not provided on the tour, and is not available for sale!
The tour takes around 4 hours
Lunch is not provided
Every tour includes a short 20-minute visit to the Whisky Village
Should you visit the Pak Ou Caves? Is it worth it?
The entire round trip to and from the Pak Ou Caves, including a stop at the Whisky Village, takes about four hours. The boat ride is comfortable, especially when the wind is blowing, and it’s nice to have the chance to see some beautiful scenery and a look at local life along the river.
Ultimately, it takes a bit too long to reach the caves (2 hours) to make the short visit (30-minutes is plenty of time to see it all) completely worth it, although it is an interesting and fun escape from the city.
If you have enough time in Luang Prabang and are interesting in doing something a little bit off the beaten path, then definitely visit the Pak Ou Caves. If you only have a few days or a tight budget or schedule, maybe give it a miss.
See also: The Whisky Village (a stop on every tour to the Pak Ou Caves) >>http://acoupleofdestinations.com/blog/whisky-village-luang-prabang-review