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Climbing Mount Phousi Luang Prabang Laos

A Guide to Climbing Mount Phousi Luang Prabang Laos

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO-protected ancient town in Northern Laos that lies on the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Often described as the “Jewel in Laos Crown”, Luang Prabang displays a unique blend of ancient traditions and French colonialism.

And right in the middle of the town sits its most prominent highlight: a sacred hill called Mount Phousi.

Mount Phousi (also known as Phousi Hill) is a small hill about 100 metres high, located in the heart of Luang Prabang. It is bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other by the Nam Khan River.

The top of the hill is the best place to see sunset, and on a clear day, you should get 360-degree views of the entire Luang Prabang town, including both rivers and the forested mountains in the distance.

Apart from offering the best viewpoint in Luang Prabang, Mount Phousi is also an important religious site for the locals as it houses two temples and several Buddhist statues.

View from Mount Phousi
View from Mount Phousi on a clear day. Credit: yokaew / Freepik

Best Time to Climb Mount Phousi

Best Season to Go

Mount Phousi is open all year round even during the rainy season between June and September. Just remember to be extra careful if you climb during this period, as the stairs and rocks can be quite slippery when wet. And bear in mind that the views may not be that great if it’s too cloudy.

Therefore, the best time to visit is between November and March, when the rainy season has just ended but the weather is still not too hot.

During my visit in September, it fortunately didn’t rain, but the sky was always cloudy throughout my trip.

Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos
Cloudy sky in September. Photo taken at the top of Mount Phousi.

Best Time to Go

As with any other hill or mountain, the best time to climb is always early in the morning for sunrise, or in the late afternoon for sunset. The temperatures are also pleasant at these times of the day when it’s not too hot.

Mount Phousi is an especially popular spot for watching the sunset, and it’s easy to understand why. Unfortunately, that also means that it gets overcrowded very fast, with some tourists climbing over the temple to get the best view (please don’t do this!).

If you wish to avoid the crowd, go before sunrise instead. Another advantage of going early in the morning is that you’ll get a chance to watch the alms-giving ceremony that takes place daily on Luang Prabang streets. But do be careful when climbing before sunrise, as it can be very dark.

Alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang
Alms-giving ceremony in Luang Prabang. Credit: Christophe95 / Wikimedia Commons

How to Get to Mount Phousi

Mount Phousi is impossible to miss as it is literally the highest point in the whole of Luang Prabang, and it’s not like there’s any skyscraper around to obscure it from view. The town is also small enough that this hill is within walking distance from most parts of town.

However, if you don’t want to walk, there are other options such as bike/scooter rental and tuk tuk (local minibus).

Two Different Starting Points

There are two different stairways to get to the top of Mount Phousi:

  • The main one is just opposite the Royal Palace Museum on Sisavangvong Road. This is the most popular route as it is the quickest and slightly less taxing (only 328 steps). However, it is also less scenic.
Mount Phousi Luang Prabang Laos
The main starting point, right opposite the Royal Palace Museum on Sisavangvong Road.
  • The other one is onΒ Phousi Road, located next to the Nam Khan River, with a total of 355 steps. At the start of the stairway, there is a map showing the various attractions on Mount Phousi. On this route, you’ll get to see a few viewpoints as well as a number of Buddhist statues, and Buddha’s footprint.

Mount Phousi Entrance Fee

The entrance fee to Mount Phousi is 20,000 kip (USD 2.15) per person. About halfway up the steps, you will find someone sitting at a foldable plastic table and issuing tickets.

There are no fixed opening hours, but in general, people can climb Mount Phousi as early as 5:30 a.m. till after sunset each day.

What to Expect on Mount Phousi

I didn’t want to join the evening crowd for sunset, but I didn’t want to wake up early for sunrise either. So, I went to Mount Phousi at around 10:00 in the morning.

With a full bottle of water in my rucksack, I slowly made my way up from Phousi Road. It was very peaceful — I only met a few other travelers going up and down the steps.

A short climb later, I encountered a display of golden Buddha statues. There was a Buddha calling for rain, a Buddha holding an alms bowl, a meditating Buddha with a multi-headed serpent, a sitting Buddha surrounded by his disciples, and a large reclining Buddha.

Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos
Golden Buddha images halfway up the hill.
Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos
The reclining Buddha.

About halfway up the hill, there is a small cave temple called Wat Tham Phousi that supposedly housed several more Buddha images, but I didn’t enter.

Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos

And finally, after many short breaks, I reached the top. There were some rocks you could stand on to get the best views of Luang Prabang. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy for me to see much.

Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos
At the top of Mount Phousi

Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos

On the top of the hill is Wat Chom Si — a temple and a 20-metre-tall golden pagoda topped with a 7-tiered parasol. The pagoda, which sits on a white rectangular base, can be seen from almost everywhere in Luang Prabang. Wat Chom Si was built by King Anourat in 1804.

Wat Chom Si
Wat Chom Si. Credit: Allie Caulfield / Wikimedia Commons

After spending some time taking pictures and enjoying the view, I went down the other stairway toward Sisavangvong Road. 

How Difficult is Climbing Mount Phousi?

Standing at a height of only 100 metres, Mount Phousi is technically just a small hill. And since there are concrete stairs from the bottom to the top, there’s no hiking skill or experience required.

As long as you are of average fitness level and can climb stairs, you’d be fine. There are 328 steps on the main stairway and 355 on the other. Each of them has several landings if you need to stop and catch your breath.

Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos
Some parts of the stairway are not steep at all.

The stairway is shaded by trees for the most part, but if you’re not used to warm climates, avoid going at midday. Most importantly, stay hydrated — bring enough water or buy some from the vendors at the entrance.

Including breaks and photo stops at each of the viewpoint and Buddha statues, it should take you approximately 30 minutes to get to the top of Mount Phousi.

Mount Phousi Luang Prabang Laos
Concrete stairs all the way.

Additional Tips for Climbing Mount Phousi

  • If you’re climbing before sunrise, it can be extremely dark. Bring a flashlight and be careful on the steps.
  • To get the most of the trip, climb up one stairway and go down the other, so that you’ll get to see it all.
  • Mount Phousi is considered a sacred mountain by the locals. Please be respectful — do not climb over the temple or statues.
  • Do not make a lot of noise or consume alcohol at the top.
  • Dress modestly as you would in a place of worship.
  • On the stairways, you’ll find vendors selling flowers, incense, etc. You can purchase these to leave at the temple or statues as an offering.
  • They also sell captive birds to be released.Β  I wouldn’t recommend taking part in this practice, as it only encourages the cycle of animal cruelty.

Final Thoughts on Climbing Mount Phousi

Is Mount Phousi worth visiting?

They say that if you haven’t climbed Mount Phousi, you haven’t been to Luang Prabang, and I think I have to agree with them. The place has such a great spiritual significance to the local community that your trip to Luang Prabang would be incomplete if you don’t make the time to see it.

Although the 300+ steps to the top were quite a strenuous workout for a couch potato like me, it was well worth the effort. Most of all, I enjoyed the peace and quiet during the hike. And I did get a glimpse of Luang Prabang from above despite the cloudy skies.

Mount Phousi Luang Prabang Laos
At the peak of Mount Phousi.
Posted in Laos

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33 Comments

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Qeela! Yup, it did feel refreshing, especially since it wasn’t too hot when I went, despite it being close to noon.

    • ummi

      Haha, mendaki Mount Phousi ni tak rasa macam hiking sangat pun, Ezna. Sebab takyah masuk hutan pun, naik tangga batu je. Tapi tu la, kalau gayat, susah la sikit.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Tekkaus. For those who wish to rest and rejuvenate, better avoid sunset time, as it can get very crowded. Early morning would be perfect. πŸ™‚

    • ummi

      Uishh takleh la compare dengan Gunung Ledang. Ni bukit kecik, 100 meter je, tak masuk hutan pun. Tapi view ok la. Cuaca mendung, tak clear sangat.

  1. Lea Razali

    Wow! The view from the top of Mount Phousi is really beautiful. The sceneries..seem calm. I have never been to Laos but will put it on my wishlist. Thanks for sharing Ummi.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Lea. It was really calm when I went, since I avoided the peak hours. But Laos, on the whole is a lot calmer and quieter than neighboring countries, in my opinion.

    • ummi

      Ya, kak Bell. Memang agak penat juga sebenarnya, terutama untuk yang jarang bersenam. Tapi at least dia takde la kena hiking betul2, masuk hutan semua tu. Semoga kak Bell pun berpeluang untuk ke Laos bila covid dah terkawal nanti.

    • ummi

      Betul tu, sis. Cuma waktu saya pergi tu, cuaca agak mendung dan berawan, jadi tak nampak sangat pemandangannya. Apa pun, tetap rasa puas bila berjaya sampai puncak.

    • ummi

      That’s right, Grace. With its location right in the heart of town, and only 300+ steps to get to the top, it would be a shame not to climb this hill if you’re in Luang Prabang.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Khairil. Personally I memang prefer travel sorang. Tapi bagi yang suka travel ramai2, dah tentu seronok mendaki bukit ni bersama kawan2, ambil group photo, dsb. πŸ™‚

  2. Airah

    Seronok baca travel entry macam ni sebab dah lama semua orang tak dapat travel even dalam negara pun. Semangat nak kumpul duit and travel once dah boleh nanti

  3. Nina Mirza

    Wahhh cantiknya view dia. Rindunya lahai nak hiking. Agak penat dan mencabar juga kadang-kadang tapi bila dah sampai puncak lihat pemandangan dia puas rasanya..hilang segala penat lelahnya.

  4. Kitkat Nelfei

    Great, another interesting place to be visited if I get a chance to go Laos in near future.. high up is always the best to go kan especially we can have a better view of the entire city!

    • ummi

      You’re right, Kitkat. High up is always the best place to view a city (and sunset/sunrise) from. Each place surely has one — if not a mountain, then a building.

    • ummi

      You definitely should, Kelly. Luang Prabang is so small anyway, I’m sure you must have seen the hill when you were in town. πŸ™‚

  5. Pingback:Kuang Si Waterfall – A Must-Visit Attraction in Luang Prabang, Laos – Ummi Goes Where?

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