Photo: Oh so pretty.

Kuang Si Waterfall

Our rating:

With a multi-tiered cascade and mesmerising turquoise water that triggers involuntary gasps at first sight, Kuang Si waterfall is considered one of Luang Prabang’s top attractions and a must visit.

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Set some 28 km from town, clear, cold spring water flows over limestone formations into layers of vibrantly turquoise pools. Follow the unpaved trail as it gradually rises through the forest to different levels. Some have shallow swimming areas popular with families, one in the middle has a rope swing favoured by backpackers. At the top is the piece de resistance, a tumble of water pouring from the mountainside.

A curtain of water. Photo taken in or around Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang, Laos by Adam Poskitt.

A curtain of water. Photo: Adam Poskitt

Picnic spots, public toilets and changing huts are available. Swimming is permitted only in marked areas—please obey as certain areas are considered sacred, others (including the big falls) can be dangerous. Modest swimwear is most appropriate. Locals swim fully clothed. Be aware that women clad in bikinis tend to attract an audience. Food stalls outside the park entrance sell baguettes, fruit shakes and skewers of grilled meat, and there are a handful of small restaurants and souvenir vendors.

It’s also possible to hike up to the top of the falls following the steep trail on either side; decent footwear is recommended. The trail can be muddy and slick from the mist, and completely flooded/inaccessible after heavy rain.

Water is everywhere. Photo taken in or around Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Water is everywhere. Photo: Cindy Fan

Though there are strong rumours that Kuang Si may be developed by a Chinese company, for now the park remains wonderfully natural by Southeast Asia standards—no cable car or fake concrete animals. The animals you’ll see are real: Kuang Si is also home to Asiatic black bears at the Free the Bears sanctuary. It’s included in the park entrance though the organisation doesn’t receive money from the fee. The best time to be at the viewing platform is around feeding time at noon. Keepers scatter and hide food in the enclosure, then the bears have a jolly time sniffing and ... Travelfish members only (Around 700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
There are several ways to get to Kuang Si waterfall. The most economical for budget travellers is to either join a shared minivan with set departure times for 60,000 kip per person (book through a travel agent), or do a shared tuk tuk in the form of a songthaew (pick up truck with benches in the back—these are the only kind of tuk tuks that can make the journey). This means either gathering your own group or going to the mob of songthaews that hang out and tout for waterfall trips at the main intersection in front of the post office, Joma Cafe and fruit shake stands. They’ll try to compile the maximum number of passengers into one—bank on 40,000 kip per person or less if there’s lots of people, but expect a long wait for passengers and getting sorted. These songthaews are a bit of a mafia and some have been soured by the daily hustle and can be unpleasant to deal with.

If you’re looking to hire your own private tuk tuk (the benefit being you can stay as long as you like and stop at sights along the way), we suggest you avoid the above and find a lone wolf hanging out way down the main road or on a side street. These guys tend to be more relaxed. Negotiate for 160,000-200,000 kip roundtrip, at the higher end if you expect him to wait for a long time or stop at sights along the way. Private air-con minivans are around 200,000 kip.

The trip is doable by bicycle. We recommend a bike with gears but we met a couple who did it by regular push bike and they (barely) made it, so it is within the realm of the possible. Renting a motorbike and driving there is an option we do not recommend unless you are an experienced rider, wear a helmet, have a license and insurance that covers this. We hear with alarming regularity (and have witnessed a couple) bad tourist motorbike accidents on the road to Kuang Si.

Kuang Si Waterfall
28 km from Luang Prabang
Mo–Su: 08:00-17:30
Admission: 20,000 kip

Location map for Kuang Si Waterfall

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Luang Prabang? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Laos.

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