Sapa Trekking Tours

Pak Ou Caves in Luang Prabang

The Pak Ou Caves are one of the most treasured religious symbols of the Louang Prabang Province. Several legends tell stories of this site where, over the years, thousands of statues of Buddha have been deposited.

Pak Ou Caves - Luang Prabang, LaosPak Ou Caves - Luang Prabang, Laos

Situated upstream from the Mekong, at about 20 miles from Luang Prabang, the caves are accessible by touktouk (taxi) or by boat, the boat is often the transport chosen, being as its much more comfortable (the road is pretty rugged for 6 or 7 miles) and more pleasant (the trip on its own is worth it).

Pak Ou Caves - Luang Prabang, LaosPak Ou Caves - Luang Prabang, Laos

Pak Ou translates to ‘mouth of the Ou river’ with the first cave entrance of Tham Ting being very visible from the water; the higher cave is accessed by stairs. The Buddha images in the Pak Ou Caves assume a variety of positions, from meditation to peace and nirvana (the reclining Buddha). Both caves are shrines to Buddha, offering places of worship with the largest image in Tham Ting being a popular place to burn incense and offer prayers. The smaller cave is the more peaceful, with glimpses of the Mekong providing a breathtaking backdrop.

The caves are a very popular pilgrim site for locals and get very busy during April when the Lao New Year is in full swing with locals washing and attending to the images. The caves are not far from Ban Xang Hai village, famous for its wine production and for the making of Lao wine earthen jars; it is a great side trip where you will get the chance to try locally produced whisky and wine.

How to get to the Pak Ou caves

Most fun way to get to the Pak Ou caves is by boat. The trip takes around 2 hours upstream from Luang Prabang with magnificent scenery along the way of the Mekong river and the limestone mountains. The way back downstream takes a little over an hour. At some of the boats it can get noisy near the back, where the engine is.

Boats leave Luang Prabang from the boat dock at the Mekong river side near the end of the peninsula. Boats leave at 8.30 am, the fare is 75,000 Kip (about US$ 10). Many of the boat operators stop at the “Lao Lao” whisky village, where you can try several tastes of locally made whisky. If you have a group you can charter a private boat, which should cost between 300,000 and 350,000 Kip (US$ 39 to 45) depending on your bargaining skills and season.

Alternatively, charter a tuk tuk, taxi or minivan to Ban Pak Ou village opposite the caves on the other side of the river. The ride can be bumpy and costs around 200,000 Kip (US$ 26). From Ban Pak Ou village, cross the river by boat at 10,000 Kip (US$ 1.30) per person.