The ancient town of Luang Prabang situated in northern Laos, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Considered by many travellers and writers as being the heart of Laotian culture, the tiny town is encircled by mountains and is 700 metres above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers and is a destination of choice with its amalgamation of crumbling French architecture, glistening temples and extensive natural beauty. This former Royal capital still remains the main centre for Buddhist learning in Laos and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation.
Languid and lovely Luang Prabang (ຫລວງພະບາງ) is one of the most alluring places in Southeast Asia. Nowhere else can lay claim to the city's old-world romance of 33 gilded wats, saffron-clad monks, faded Indochinese villas and exquisite Gallic cuisine. It's a unique place where time seems to stand still amid the breakneck pace of the surrounding region.
This Unesco-protected gem, which sits at the sacred confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan (Khan River), has rightfully gained mythical status as a travellers' Shangri La, and since its airport opened a decade ago the town has seen a flood of investment, with once-leprous French villas being revived as fabulous – though affordable – boutique hotels.
Beyond the evident history and heritage of the old town are aquamarine waterfalls, top trekking opportunities, meandering mountain bike trails, elephant camps, kayaking trips, river cruises and outstanding natural beauty, the whole ensemble encircled by hazy green mountains.