10 Best Temples in Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
You shouldn’t visit Laos without paying a visit to Luang Prabang, the UNESCO World Heritage City, and “holy city” of Lao Buddhism. Every corner of the small city exudes culture, boasting another temple, cafe, or hill tribe textile shop. It’s the perfect place to unwind on a long journey, or to learn more about and experience Lao Buddhism.
How many temples are there in Luang Prabang?
For such a small town (population around 50,000), Luang Prabang has more than its fair share of temples! The city has over 30 UNESCO-recognized historical temples!
What are the top temples to visit in Luang Prabang?
You may not have the time (or energy, or interest) to visit every temple in Luang Prabang. Instead, stick to the most unique or interesting ones! Can’t make up your mind? Here are our suggestions for the ten most interesting, historically significant, or beautiful temples in all of Luang Prabang.
Want to learn more? Just click on the link beneath the description about each temple to learn more history, as well as to see the admission fee and location of each temple.
1. Haw Phra Bang
The Haw Phra Bang Temple is the home of the Phra Bang Buddha image, the holiest Buddha statue in Laos and the royal palladium of Laos. It’s on the grounds of the Royal Palace (now the National Museum) and, despite its ancient appearance, was only completed a few years ago.
Learn more: Haw Phra Bang and the Royal Palace (our reviews)
2. The Luang Prabang Royal Palace
While not technically a temple, the Royal Palace, which has been converted into the Luang Prabang National Museum, holds an incredible collection of Buddha icons and Buddhist religious artifacts.
3. Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong, the Golden City Monastery, is one of the oldest temples in the city. While most of Luang Prabang’s oldest temples were destroyed in the 18th century by a band of marauders known as the Black Flag Army, Wat Xieng Thong was spared, as the leader of the army had studied there as a young man.
The temple was once used for the coronation of the Lao monarchs, and today holds the royal funerary barges.
Learn more: Wat Xieng Thong - the Golden City Monastery
4. Wat Mai
The name “Wat Mai” means “New Temple”, although it dates back over two centuries. Wat Mai once held the Phra Bang Buddha.
Of particular interest are the incredible golden bas reliefs depicting scenes from the Ramayana, the Hindu epic that is the national epic of Laos.
Learn more: Wat Mai
5. Wat Chom Si
Wat Chom Si sits atop Mount Phou Si, the Sacred Mountain in the center of Luang Prabang. For a few thousand kip, you can hike to the top of the mountain, where a glittering golden stupa crowns the peak. From there, you will be treated to some of the most incredible views of Luang Prabang and the surrounding countryside. It’s especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset.
6. Wat Sen
The “Temple of 100,000 Treasures” was renovated to celebrate the Buddha’s 2500th birthday. It is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang.
The temple is one of the best places to join in or watch the morning alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang.
7. Wat Visoun
Wat Visoun may be the oldest temple in the city. It may be home to an incredible museum dedicated to Buddhist statues and art. But what the temple is most known for is the affectionately-nicknamed “That Mak Mo”, the “Watermelon Stupa”.
Named so for its unique shape, the Watermelon Stupa houses a Buddhist relic, and was spared from the Black Flag Army, making it one of the oldest structures in the entire city of Luang Prabang.
Learn more: Wat Visoun, the Watermelon Temple
8. Wat Pa Huak
Wat Pa Huak, standing alone on the slopes of Mount Phou Si, is often overlooked due to its diminutive size and rundown appearance. But don’t be fooled! This tiny monastery hides a great secret inside. The interior walls of the temple are covered in gorgeous murals depicting scenes from Lao Buddhism and the history of Luang Prabang. The murals have recently undergone restoration thanks to donations from the Thai royal family.
Learn more: Wat Pa Huak’s amazing temple murals
9. Wat Phra Mahathat
Wat Phra Mahathat, the Temple of the Great Chedi, is a beautiful and atmospheric temple on the southwestern edge of Luang Prabang’s center. Not so many tourists venture out to Wat Phra Mahathat (which is only about five minutes on foot away from the rest of the town), but they should! It’s a very active local temple, and the eponymous Great Stupa houses an ancient and supposedly very powerful Buddhist relic.
Learn more: Wat Phra Mahathat
10. Pak Ou Caves
The Pak Ou Caves, while not technically a temple, are worth visiting if you are really interested in Buddhist art. This is where old, broken, or unused Buddha statues go to be retired. Inside the cavern, thousands of Buddha statues cover every surface. It’s really a site to see!
Visiting the cave requires at least a half-day trip. While it is definitely an interesting and historically significant site, it’s really only worth visiting if you have plenty of time to spend.
Learn more: Is it worth it to visit the Pak Ou Caves? (our review)