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Pak Ou Buddha Caves at Luang Prabang

Buddha Caves at Luang Prabang

Pak Ou Buddha Caves in Luang Prabang is one of the Mekong River cruise's main highlights when you are visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the exciting trips to see the thousands of Buddha statues inside the caves.

It seems like the entire Luang Prabang guests either have been or are going when in town. This interesting cave trip is sold to all travel agents around town, and happily, I was one of the travellers that took the trip here.

The flyer says, "Take a boat ride, Visit a traditional Lao whiskey village and see the Thousand Buddha Statues at Pak Ou Caves".

Pak Ou Buddha Caves
Buddha Caves Luang Prabang
Boarding jetty at Luang Prabang.

Getting to Pak Ou Caves is via a longboat from the main town of Luang Prabang. The journey is 25 kilometres, and this will be one you remember as you would be cruising along the great Mekong River for almost an hour, making one or two stops at a local Lao Whiskey Village or Sa Paper Village.

When you book your tour, the agent will meet everyone in town and then walk you from town through some lanes passing peoples homes and eventually arriving at a sandbank where few boats are waiting.

When you arrive at the tour meet up point in the morning, there will be many various groups heading in the same direction, so please stick to your group as it can get a little confusing if you have not had your coffee fix.

Once you arrive at the riverbank, you board the longboat and your journey starts. Please do not mind the river water as the milk-tea colour is pretty normal.

The longboats are also very basic, so no 5-Star treatment. You get to sit on a wooden stool/chair for your entire journey.

Journey via longboat.

If you are a backpacker, this would be a great place to meet fellow travellers as the journey will take about an hour. Looking out the boat, you see nothing much but beautiful Lao landscape and an occasional fisherman. Passing by.

Villagers go by their daily washing of clothes, and Lao children playing by the river are common sights. You will also see several other tourist boats, some faster than your boat, zooming past by.

Hotel boat on the Mekong River.

Along the way to Pak Ou, I saw a unique Hotel Boat where guest live on board. I asked around and was told that several hotel boats travel along the Mekong River, stopping at various towns. It looked pretty interesting as I may consider trying this out the next time I visit Luang Prabang.

Pak Ou Caves entrance staircase.

Reaching Pak Ou Caves, you will see many boats parked there and this huge hole in a cliff. The boatman will stop you at the jetty, and you will find yourself climbing up a flight of stairs reaching a small counter where tickets are purchased to enter the caves.

I assumed the tickets were all taken care of by the travel agent, but nope, you have to pay an additional 8,000 KIP (US$0.80) to get into the caves.

Pak Ou Caves - Buddha Statues.

Once you reach the top of the caves, you will be greeted by hundreds of Buddha statues placed all over the area. On looking closer, the hundreds start to seem like thousands of them in various sizes and colours.

This lower part of the cave is called Tham Ting, or lower cave, where there is approximate 2500 or more Buddha statues. An amazing sight to see and excellent for photography.

Making your way around the Pak Ou Caves at the lower level, you see more and more Buddha statues just all over the place, and there is a walkway to the upper part of the caves called Tham Theung.

Buddha statues by the thousands.

Apparently, the local Lao people have been coming to the Pak Ou Caves for thousands of years, bringing the Theravada Buddha statues.

Until today, the locals still make their way there and continue to bring Buddha Statues.

During the Laos New Year, Lao people pilgrimages travel by boat to the caves and perform the washing ceremony of all the old Buddha images.

Previously, the King and members of the Royal Family performed this, but now it is performed by the Governor of Luang Prabang and local families.

Lao boy selling little birds in cages.

When walking to the upper caves, you will be most likely greeted by local Lao children selling you little birds in tiny bamboo cages.

They will sell them for US$1.00 a cage. On asking the little child what would I do with the bird in a cage, he confidently replied that I would be paying for the birds freedom by letting it go from the cage.

Lady selling a local thin pancake.

Upon reaching the upper cave, I made a quick visit and saw more Buddha statues there. Going deeper into the upper caves would require a flashlight which I did not have.

So, if you plan to explore the upper cave, do bring along a flashlight. By the way, there are more stairs to climb when going to the upper caves, so best be prepared with proper hiking or trekking shoes.

You might also want to have some bug repellent stand by and pack some food as there are no shops or restaurants at the caves.

For the adventurous, some companies offer Kayaking trips to Pak Ou Caves, so you can inquire with the local tour companies about this.

And for those who do not like long boat rides, you can also visit the caves via Tuk-tuk going through the villages.

This trip took me to visit the local Whisky Village in Luang Prabang along the way, which is exciting.

And if you like local food, read about my Lao Food in Luang Prabang article, highlighting the local cuisine here.

An article I did that generalized the 10 things to do in Luang Prabang for anyone planning to visit here. 

Video of Pak Ou Buddha Caves

Pak Ou Caves Information
  • Entrance Fees at Pak Ou - 8,000 KIP

Things to bring

You should consider bringing trekking Shoes, Flashlight, Drinking Water, light snacks, and bug repellent for this day trip here.


This unique tour package can be obtained by various counters or shops along the main street of Luang Prabang.

Some Tuk Tuk drivers also act as LP agents, but it is best to buy them from the reputed agents in town as you would want a licensed operator to sell them to you.

This is one of the highlights of this UNESCO Site, and it is only a half-day trip, so if you have the chance, you should try to visit the Pak Ou Buddha Caves in Luang Prabang.

Post a Comment


michaelkon said…
hey, nice post man..i nanged ya!

lionel0008 said…
I really wonder if some of the Buddha statues came from China during the Cultural Revolution
wow cool blog i adore traveling thanks for sharing
Malaysia Asia said…
Michael, thanks for the visit and nang!

Lionel, now that I am not sure. But they seem to have been bringing the statues for a long time.

Chow and Chatter, thank you for kind words.

MissMV18 said…
The reclining statue of Buddha from Polonwura, Sri Lanka, is magnificent divine expression of Buddha’s final moments before Nirvana. The art from King Parakrambahu’s era was indeed exquisite & peculiar. The well-conserved relics, sun emblems, multitude of rock shades are surely most significant & extraordinary. For more details, refer: http://www.journeyidea.com/the-splendid-reclining-buddha-of-polonnawura/
cris said…
the place is nice...by the way are the statue for sale?
henry said…
Hi David,
I was planning into my Laos trip and found your really helpful blog.
It's 2 years ago when you were there, do you still remember how much it was for the tour trip to Pak Ou Caves?
Instead of morning, did they have afternoon tour to Pak Ou Caves?
I will be going alone and guess it would be cheaper to go with this tour, then going on my own?