Turquoise waterfalls, Buddhist temples, and sunset boat trips on the Mekong are just a few of Luang Prabang’s highlights. Despite its remote location in the jungled mountains of Laos, the former royal capital is not just for backpackers.
After a two-year border closure, a new $6 billion high-speed railway from China to Thailand now runs from the Chinese city of Kunming to the Laotian capital, Vientiane. The train turns the once 12-hour bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang into a scenic two hour trip.
The town boasts luxurious boutique hotels; some, like Amantaka and Sofitel Luang Prabang, are housed in historic French colonial buildings. At Tamarind Cooking School, discover why Gordan Ramsay named Laos as one of the top food destinations in the world. (After mastering sticky rice, learn to grow it at The Living Land Farm.) Then visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, a museum dedicated to the country’s 50 ethnic groups and 160 ethnic subgroups, and tour the Free the Bears wildlife sanctuaries, a haven to over 100 moon and sun bears rescued from poaching.