Pak Ou Caves

Pak Ou Caves, Ban Pak-Ou

Pak Ou Caves
Caverns & Caves • Religious Sites
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Located 25 km from the city, these caves are filled with Buddha images.
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1,359 reviews
Very good

England, UK267 contributions
Mystery of the Mekong, Beauty of the Caves...
Jan 2020
Pak Ou Caves (Buddhist Caves) are situated along dreamy Mekong River in the North of Luang Prabang. We visited as part of a tour group with the services of our guide Chan. The day unfolded warm rays of the sun glistening across the calmness of the Mekong. The long wooden boat gliding over the river as the beauty of the countryside unwrapped itself. We captured glimpses of locals going about their business, wooden houses dotted about, backdrop of the mountains, fishing boats bobbing up and down and grass gently doing the ‘mexican wave’ in the breeze.

Our boat was spacious enough for everyone to spread out comfortably. We settled in happy and excited admiring the sparkling river in the hot mid-day sun. Tour group in full swing chatting and singing happy songs, and for some just being silent and enjoying the breathtaking scenery of this beautiful river you hear so much about was true contemplation.

Chan our guide, gave us short bursts of information when asked making it an enjoyable journey. The trip is about 2 hours, but can stretch for longer depending on the speed of the ride. I frantically clicked away conscious of not missing any great photo opportunities. There are other ways to get to the caves via scooter or tuk tuk then jumping onto a short boat ride to the caves, personally I’d take the boat from start to finish missing the beauty of the river would surely be tragic! any great adventure to see the caves has to start on the Mekong River itself.

Reaching the caves several boats already moored, tourists walking out onto the bamboo plank cautiously negotiating a steep set of steps, not a problem for those who are fit. A welcoming Buddha statue happily perched greeting visitors at the entrance. The coolness of the caves was a welcome relief. Buddha statues in varying sizes dominates 2 tiers the lower cave known as “Tham Ting” and “Tahm Theung” on the upper tier. Good footwear preferably flat with grips is advised as the stairs and stone floor can be slippery. We wondered around snatching photo opportunities. Digesting bits of information about the history of the buddhas and the caves. For the more inquisitive, doing your own research prior to visit be useful. Good overall experience and enjoying the gentleness of being in a cave was calming. Some great angles for interesting photo and videos. Tourist traffic in the caves can get busy so just depends how you time your visit. I guess early morning is best for those who want to really soak up the calmness and atmosphere and leave with a free mind.

I noticed a few (if that) hawkers selling their wares but nothing major like hassling tourists as mentioned in other reviews, this could be hit or a and miss situation. My main focus was the caves and taking in and understanding the value of being in such a spiritual place carpeted by the Buddhism religion was a soothing experience.

We admired the splendour and beauty of the statues in delicate poses, winning the admiration of eager and excited tourists snapping away. Chan took pictures from great angles highlighting the caves overlooking the sweeping scenery, enveloping the Mekong Delta. Personally, for me this was an uplifting moment where it opened my mind culturally and spiritually, understanding how local people embrace their religion with deep passion and in such a meaningful way.

Pak Ou Caves is not to be missed for anyone who travels this far and is wanting to get a real cultural sense of their holiday experience.

Our tour ended swishing back over the Mekong leaving behind ripples of a memorable visit. Capturing some more photo opportunities before descending on our next excursion. A big thank you to Chan for keeping it all together, his friendliness and gentle demeanour made it a delightful journey and offering to take some great pictures without any hesitation hope to see you again in the future. Indu.
Written November 19, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Rio de Janeiro, RJ8,581 contributions
A day trip on the waters of the iconic Mekong River ...
Jan 2020
We boarded, in Luang Prabang, a traditional boat for a day trip upstream the iconic Mekong River. After nearly 2 hours, we arrived at the "Pak Ou Caves", the famous "Buddha Caves" at the mouth of the Ou River. There are actually two caves, "Tham Ting" (the lower cave) and "Tham Theung" (the upper cave). On both, thousands of miniature sculptures representing Lord Buddha (approximately 2,500 in the lower cave and 1,500 in the upper cave). These miniatures, in bronze, wood and other materials, are left there by fishermen and local travelers for the safety of their river journeys. The caves are insteresting, no doubt, but what I did enjoy most was the trip along the Mekong, with stunning views of the river banks and the surrounding rainforest. Be ready for warm temperatures. Enjoy!
Written October 10, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Glasgow, UK1,544 contributions
Not really stunning, but still worth the visit.
Jan 2020
I was torn between giving this attraction 3 stars or 4 stars, as 3.5 would have been about right. The caves themselves are not huge, or even particularly spectacular, but the location and the journey there both boost the experience.

We went there on a trip on the Nava Mekong boat, which included the cruise up the Mekong along with lunch served onboard, and I'll review that separately. The trip was booked through our hotel, Villa Maly, and was certainly worth the money.

The caves are on various levels, but the climb to the top cave is not particularly arduous and is worth the effort. I'm 67 years old and found it relatively easy. Note that the highest of the caves is unlit, and so taking a torch, or at least a mobile phone which has a torch, is required or you won't see a thing. Each cave contains a variety of Buddhas, which have been placed there over the years by locals to ensure safe passage up and down the river.

As I said, they are not particularly stunning, but definitely worth a visit, as the journey there is also a great experience in itself. I will attach several photos from our visit.

One thing worth a mention is that, all the way up on the climb, you will find little children who have tiny birds captive in wicker cages. They will tell you they will release a bird for $1 US. What they don't tell you is that the birds live with them and will fly straight home, to be put back in the cages for other tourists to release again the next day. It is hard to know whether to encourage this, and let them earn a few Dollars, or if you are contributing to keeping these kids away from getting an education. It's up to you.
Written August 5, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Montreal, Canada2,538 contributions
Curious, but lots of pushy begging families on the way up
Jan 2020
Located in a nature cave at the mouth of the Ou river, a tributary of the Mekong, is the Pak Ou or Buddha Cave. Its location was central to all the fishermen passing through and families traveling up and down the Mekong, and to guarantee safe passage and protection, people would transport a statue of Buddha here and leave it in the cave. At first, the statues were of silver or gold, and some were even brought from neighboring temples during the Secret war to protect them, but now the majority of the Buddhas offered are of bronze, wood or even acrylic. And their quantities have multiplied over time, with current numbers sitting around 2500 in the lower cave, and 1500 in the upper cave. That MAY sound impressive, but most are of the size that can sit in the palm of your hand or fit in your pocket, which makes a lot more sense to trek up 200 or so steps into a cave than something much larger and much heavier!

Being so close to Luang Prabang, the Pak Ou Caves can be visited as an easy day trip, and as a result, there are many more tourist groups climbing up the steps and crowding the relatively small caves. Also, the large number of tourists bring in a large number of souvenir hawkers: women holding babies in their arms, hoping for pity purchases, trying to sell us sad-looking friendship bracelets, or urging their cute little grubby-faced children to play to our weaknesses, working for the sale. It's a veritable gauntlet, trying to climb up those step, dodge the kids, only to be rewarded with a lack-luster showing of Buddhas. Had it not been included as a stop during our cruise on the Mekong river, visiting the Pak Ou caves would NOT have been something I would pay money to do.

A side note: some people say that the top cave is pitch black inside, but during my visit, there was plenty of artificial lighting illuminating the Buddha statues inside. Do bring a flashlight with you, on the off chance that this is not the case.
Written June 16, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Brisbane2,087 contributions
So wonderful to come here and marvel at the remarkable treasures these Caves unfold.
Jan 2020
My wife and I enjoyed a short 5 day private Wendy Wu “Laos in Focus” tour in January 2020 arranged through Asia DMC Laos, enjoying three nights in Luang Prabang and one night in Vientiane.

A highlight of our short stay in Luang Prabang was a half day private boat trip of the Mekong River with our tour guide and a local boat owner in a traditional, long, narrow boat to get to see the famous Pak Ou Caves. This boat had a polished wood interior with wooden chairs and tables and a low ceiling. It was a case of “watch your heads”.

The trip to the Caves took approximately 2 hours and travelled around 25 kilometres out from Luang Prabang. On the way we saw river village life, majestic mountains, and animals including wild elephants on the river bank. We also visited the charming river villages of Ban Xieng Lek and Ban Xang Khong to view silk weaving and Saa paper (mulberry paper) handicrafts. The boat trip included lunch after the Caves visit at the Manivanh Restaurant on the opposite bank of the Mekong and directly opposite the Caves. On the one hour return journey we visited the river village of Ban Xang Hai to see how Lao rice whisky (Lao Lao) is made. Travelling by boat is an excellent way to visit the Pak Ou Caves.

The Pak Ou Caves are set in a limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. There are 2 caves which we visited; a lower cave called Tham Ting and an upper cave Tham Theung.

A very informative sign at the lower cave offers a good description of the Buddha sculptures that can be observed, as follows –

“ The more than 4000 sculptures of Buddha now found in the Tam Ting Caves have been left there by worshippers. They are mostly carved from wood or moulded from resin, then coated with red or black lacquer, and then covered with gold leaf. A few of the sculptures are carved from animal horn or made from bronze or a low-fired ceramic.
Common poses are three of the positions which depict important stages in the life of Buddha - “ Calling for Rain” with the figure standing and the arms pointing downwards; “Calling the Earth to Witness” with the figure seated and one hand extended downwards and “ Meditation” where the hands are crossed in front of a seated figure. “Stop Arguing” where the figure is standing and the palms of the hands are extended outwards and the “Reclining” position are not common. “

To get to Tham Ting, the lower cave, you need to climb several steps from where the boats dock. Be prepared for lots of tourists at this lower cave; a factor which does spoil the moment a little with some visitors being disrespectful in my view taking “selfies” against the sacred Buddha images. Fortunately it was January and not April, the peak season, and the tourist numbers were manageable. However, there was still quite a number there nevertheless. Here in this lower cave the lighting is quite good and there are excellent exhibits of many miniature Buddha figures packed close to each other on ledges, on rocky outcrops or any available “nook and cranny” throughout the cave. There are approximately 2,500 Sculptures in the lower cave. A key features of Tham Ting is the alter closest to the cave entry where offerings of flowers, incense and candles are made. There are also Lion figures guarding the entry.

If you have time and a reasonable degree of fitness, you should challenge yourself and take the stone steps from Tham Ting and embark on a 10 minute steep climb to view Tham Theung, the upper Cave. For us, the 10 minutes became 20 minutes because we are not as young as some and we benefited from having a rest (a “breather”) at regular stops on the climb. It was at these stops that we enjoyed wonderful views of the Mekong. An advantage at Tham Theung, the upper Cave, over Tham Ting, the lower cave, is that there are less tourists. With that you get a more dignified and respectful visit to see even more wonderful Buddha statues, albeit in much poorer light than at the lower cave. It is therefore advisable to bring a small torch with you to navigate your way around this upper cave. There is a large gold seated Buddha outside the entrance to Tham Theung looking splendid to the right as one enters.

An informative sign in the upper cave gives a good insight into the extensive conservation work being undertaken on a continual basis. Every April during the religious ceremonies shrines are cleaned and painted surfaces renewed. This helps maintain this important sacred Buddha site. Significantly the sign also states that an important joint project of the Australian and Lao governments commenced in 1992. This was a five year conservation project which recorded and catalogued all the sculptures, excavated six tons of fallen debris, rebuilt the masonry structures as well as conserved many of the objects.

We owe so much to this five year conservation project. We should also be grateful to the many local people who continually strive to preserve such an important site as the Pak Ou Caves. As a consequence, scores of tourists the world over today are able to come here and be given an opportunity to marvel at the remarkable treasures these Caves unfold. And for that we all should express our grateful thanks.
Written May 31, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Craig E
Manchester, UK1,704 contributions
Thousands of Buddhas!!
Mar 2020 • Couples
I would highly recommend a guide if visiting the caves, as they can explain the story behind the thousands of Buddha statues. Didn’t notice many information boards around.
Very interesting and well worth a visit.
Some of the views from the top cave are also really good.
Written April 2, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Jerome B
Columbia, MD944 contributions
Lovely views
Feb 2020
The cave itself was a bit of a disappointment, but the views of the river and the opposite shore were beautiful and the boat ride to get there was very relaxing.
Written March 1, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Luxembourg147 contributions
Nov 2019
We spent quite a lot of time to reach that place. The caves are really not great. A lot of statues but nothing spectacular. But the landscape all around is breathtaking.
Written February 20, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Cameron S
Castle Rock, CO650 contributions
Buddhas On The River
Dec 2019
This is a very unique site - both the upper and lower caves are impressive, although the upper caves are a bit of a hike! The boat ride up the river to the caves was half the fun.

Sad to know that another dam is about to be constructed about 2 km upstream from the Pak Ou Caves.
Written February 15, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Hong Kong, China157 contributions
Something to see
Feb 2020 • Family
I think my kids enjoyed the boat ride over to the caves more than the caves. The caves are divided into upper and lower sections. The lower section was pretty neat with Buddha’s all inside, there isn’t much space to explore however. The upper chamber is a hike up (pass a bathroom on the way up). My kids were able to walk up (4,7year olds). The upper half is dark inside. There many mothers and children asking you to buy stuff along the way up. The boat ride over is exciting as it is in a long open canoe like boat.
Written February 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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