Luang Prabang has a dense concentration of temples, also known as ‘wats’ in Laos’ language. All under the protection as UNESCO’s World Heritage site, these 34 wats are also home to more than 1,000 monks. Their delicate architecture and historical values have highlighted these temples as some of the most well-known attractions in Luang Prabang.
Although you may not have enough time to see all the temples in Luang Prabang, these 7 are worth visiting for their beauty as well as historical and religious significance:
1. Wat Xieng Thong
When it comes to temples in Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong is recognized as one of the finest. This historic and splendid temple is renowned for its magnificent tree-of-life glass mosaic, gilded teakwood panels and low sweeping tiered roofs. Built in 1559, this temple holds great cultural, historic and architectural importance and once was known as once known as “The Temple of the Golden City.”
2. Wat That Luang
Built in 1818, the central stupa holds the ashes of the last king of Laos, King Sisavang Vong, his brother and an oversized bronze image of Buddha weighing about 600 kg. Check out the Asian Historic Architecture site for some pictures and more details on Wat That Luang.
3. Wat Manorom
Wat Manorom is famous for housing one of Laos' oldest Buddha statues. This armless bronze statue is a two-toned and dates back to as early as 1372. The statue lost its arms during the fight between the French and Thai armies during the colonial days. Since then, the statue has had to make do with concrete replacements.
4. Wat Wisunalat
The pillars that support Wat Wisunalat’s interiors are each about 100 ft tall. Today, this wat remains as an important repository of religious art, including a large number of cast Buddha statues. The main attraction here is That Pathum, which was re-constructed in the late 1920s.
5. Wat Xieng Muan
With UNESCO’s support, the living quarters have been converted into classrooms for educating students about the traditional art of restoring such ancient buildings. Instead of written class assignments, these students are painting and refurbishing these structures.
6. Wat Aham
As an animist shrine, this temple is spacious with floor-to-ceiling murals featuring the city’s historic past with references to hell and torment. Local villagers believe the guardian spirits of Luang Prabang, Phu No and Nha No guard this wat.
7. Wat Mai
Located at Sisavangvong Road, Wat Mai was resurrected at the end of the 18th century. The five-tiered roof depicts scenes from the lives of the Ramayana and Buddha. Every year, during the Pimai Lao festival, the Phra Bang is carried from the museum to Wat Mai, ceremonially washed and displayed out front for three days.
These wats are within walking distance from boutique hotel, Villa Maly. A leisurely walk or bike ride is can easily get you to these nearby temples. Looking to give your feet a break? Villa Maly's receptionists can book you a tuk-tuk upon request.