When looking for the best things todo in Luang Prabang, the number one is Kuang Si Falls. Now I know why.
After arriving in Luang Prabang from our 2-day slow boat river cruise with Luang Say River Cruises, we wanted to see more of Laos straight away and glad we made this our first stop.
Waterfalls are an activity that will never feel samey nor a waste of time, so when we arrived in Luang Prabang we knew this was something not to miss. There are signs everywhere for it in the town meaning it does get very crowded. After asking the ticket office we found that tour groups start turning up at 10am so getting there anytime before then is a must if you want to explore without crowds.
The perfect time to arrive would actually be between 7-8am. This will mean you can avoid crowds for your entire visit and may even mean you’re the only people at certain parts of the waterfall. It’s also a great time for lighting as the sunrise is around 7am (depending on the time of year you visit) and the light dapples through the jungle trees and is just beautiful.
Arriving after 10am will guarantee you’ll be met with tonnes of tour groups. Not ideal!
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Getting there for early morning means you’ll be greeted with bears who have just woken up. Don’t worry, they’re not wild. Not long after you enter the entrance to the falls you’ll discover their Bear Sanctuary. We waited until we came back down to see them properly, it is definitely worth stopping for. They’re so playful and happy. After doing some research we found this is a 100% ethical company and is non-profit. To see and watch the bears it’s totally free, but you can donate or purchase items from the stall where all profits go towards the bears.
Entrance to Kuang Si Falls is 20,000kip per person (£1.70).
If you are coming by motorbike, you’ll be charged an extra fee of 2,000kip on arrival for parking. Make sure to avoid the first parking lot you’ll be waved down at (30 seconds before the legit and cheaper parking spaces) as they’ll charge you 5,000kip.
You can also take a tuk tuk or minivan to the falls but we found the motorbike hire a much cheaper way to see this and other things in Luang Prabang. We paid 100,000kip for 24 hours (£8.60). A tuk tuk should cost around 50-60,000kip one way minimum. The journey is 35-50 minutes from Luang Prabang town.
I saw a lot of people cycling to the falls, which I congratulate them for, but will take you a lot longer as it’s further than we thought. Good on those who did it though.
The walk to the falls is around 10-15 minutes and it’s paved the entire way up. A super easy and gentle hike for anyone. For those who want to visit the top of the waterfall (yes you can do that) it’s an extra 5-10 minute walk up on the left hand side of the main falls.
Be sure to wear your swimwear under your clothes as you can jump in, swim and explore the waterfalls. Some are no entry but those that are open are worth the dip. Be prepared, it’s quite cold in the mornings.
A quick tip: we heard that the falls aren’t so crystal blue in their wet season (May – October). The waters are best here during the dry season (November – April) which is when we visited.
The best photo spots:
The wooden bridge – located just in front of the main falls. Perfect around 8.30am when the sun has risen quite a way and peaks through the trees onto the bridge. Golden light glow is real at this time.
At the main falls – although you can’t get in, take a tripod for some gorgeous silky smooth waterfall shots.
The middle pool – you’ll know which one this is when you see it. It’s just before the stairs that lead past the restaurant. It has a sign that says ‘danger’ to warn you that the pools can be slippery, so enter at your own risk. I found it fine and so relaxing with the smaller falls trickling behind your. The waters here are pretty shallow but we careful as it is more slippery than the other pools.
The biggest open pool – again, you’ll know which one this is when you see it. Here there are great photo opportunities in and out of the water. The best angle to show off the waterfall is by getting a shot on the branch to the left hand side. It’s an easy climb and looks so beautiful with the blue waters below.
Don’t forget to stop and see the bears on the way back down if you hadn’t stopped already.
If you arrive early morning and stay for a couple of hours, you’ll see the hoards of your groups arriving as you go back down and you’ll be so glad you got there early.