Pak Ou Caves

Pak Ou Caves

One of Luang Prabang’s most popular excursions

More on Luang Prabang

Pak Ou Caves are one of Luang Prabang’s most famous sites, and these limestone caves overlooking the Mekong have been a place of worship for more than a thousand years.

Travelfish says:

When pilgrims completed the difficult journey to the caves, which lie 25 kilometres upriver from Luang Prabang in a cliff 15 metres above the water, they left behind a Buddha idol. Over time they added up, and the caves are now filled with thousands of Buddha images in varying sizes and styles. There are two caves, upper (Tham Theung) and lower (Tham Ting), with the latter being the main attraction.

You will need one of these. : Adam Poskitt.
You will need one of these. Photo: Adam Poskitt

The lower cave is well lit and has a few signs explaining the significance of statues and prayer altars inside. The upper cave is a 10-minute trek up some steep steps and you’ll need a torch to see anything, but the effort is worthwhile. The cave shelters thousands more Buddha images and, with far fewer tourists than the lower cave, feels like the serene place it originally was. Please do not touch any of the statues and absolutely do not even consider taking one as a souvenir.

The journey to Pak Ou is much easier now than it once was, with a small boat landing and stairs leading up to the caves. By river, the trip takes around two hours from Luang Prabang and you can go with a tour agency, buy a ticket from the boat dock or charter your own boat. It’s also possible to reach the caves in an hour by tuk tuk, though you’ll still need to board a boat to cross from the nearest village to the cave entrance.

Speedboats work too. : Stuart McDonald.
Speedboats work too. Photo: Stuart McDonald

If you’re travelling by boat, there is usually a stop at one of the handicraft villages along the way. The most popular stop is Ban Xang Hai (aka the Whiskey Village) where you can sample fresh Lao lao, the potent local brew, and pick up a couple of bottles for later.

Some tourists complain that the caves have become a tourist trap, and with a 20,000 kip entrance fee and 5,000 kip charge to use the bathroom it certainly is a good money-maker, but the caves remain one of the more interesting things to see near Luang Prabang, and a lazy cruise along the Mekong is awfully pleasant. We highly recommend taking a boat rather than a tuk tuk, and like to think of this attraction as being equally about the journey and the destination. Be aware that in the high season the caves can become so crowded as to be slightly unpleasant.

Lets make some merit. : Adam Poskitt.
Lets make some merit. Photo: Adam Poskitt

For small groups, you’re best off simply heading down to the dock which is located just across the road from Saffron Cafe towards the end of the peninsula. Joining a group costs 65,000 kip per person with the ticket available from the ticket booth at the dock (departing at 08:30, including a stop at Whiskey Village). You can charter a tuk tuk for 200,000 kip (up to five people) or a boat with driver for 300,000 kip, after a little bargaining. Price does not include any admission/tours to the cave—it is simply a transport-only tour.

Contact details for Pak Ou Caves

Address: Around 25km upriver from Luang Prabang
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º12'37.8" E, 20º2'55.68" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 20,000 kip

Reviewed by

Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.

Tours in Laos


These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.


Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Luang Prabang

One day in Luang Prabang
One day in Luang Prabang

A sample itinerary for a first–time visit

Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong

Luang Prabang's most magnificent temple

Tak bat
Tak bat

Morning alms giving procession

Boat rides
Boat rides

How about a sunset cruise on the Mekong River?

Massage and spas
Massage and spas

Soothe those aching muscles

The temples of Luang Prabang
The temples of Luang Prabang

The stupa-fying main attractions

Across the river, Chompet District
Across the river, Chompet District

Getaway to the other side

Giving back
Giving back

Cause we've all got a lot to give

Trekking and village homestays
Trekking and village homestays

Explore the misty mountains of the north