Phou Si © Matsuoka AkiraKaoru
Phou Si is a hill near the confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers. Many visitors use it as a navigation landmark, as it's visible all over town. The hill is also home to several caves, small temples and Buddha images, and offers spectacular views of Luang Prabang from its summit. Visitors will find the city's oldest temples on the lower slopes, though the area's most prized spiritual structure is the golden stupa of That Chomsi. Indeed, it has become a symbol of Luang Prabang's spiritual significance to Laos. Travellers reach the stupa by climbing 300 steps and passing various temples and shady trees along the way. Early morning visits are especially worthwhile, given that the temperature is cool and the temples are at their most active. Sunset trips are also tremendous, though tourist crowds tend to visit around this time of day, making the overall experience less serene. The climb is a bit easier from the back of the hill, where a trail winds upwards and there are only about a hundred steps, rather than 300-plus. Some of the most interesting Buddha statues can be found via this back entrance. Climbing up one way and down the other would allow visitors to appreciate all the hill's sights and views. Travellers visiting in the evening can stop at the night market, which they'll find in front of the Old Palace at the foot of Phou Si.