Why You Should Climb Phousi Hill in Luang Prabang Laos

One of the Best Things to do in Luang Prabang

Climbing the 355 steps of Phousi (also spelled Phou si) Hill in Luang Prabang was a top item on our Laos adventure checklist, but we hadn’t anticipated the rain that accompanied our climb. I love the rain, just not when I’m hiking or climbing steps that are prone to be slippery. It was a memorable and enchanting experience nonetheless. And the view didn’t disappoint either. Phousi Hill, also known as Mount Phousi, is centrally located in Luang Prabang, Laos. This sacred hill is adorned with numerous Buddhist shrines, temples, and statues, making it a prominent religious site for Buddhists in the region. It is a serene sanctuary for meditation and prayer and a popular tourist destination for exercise, and a great city view.

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A Rainy Start to Climb Phousi Hill

Climbing Phousi Hill, a 100 m high hill in the center of the old town of Luang Prabang in Laos, was an unforgettable part of our journey. Positioned uniquely between the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, it promised a picturesque setting. That morning, we set out from the Belle Rive Boutique Hotel, our cozy home away from home during our 9-day stay in Laos. Armed with rented bicycles and a sense of adventure, my husband Steven and I pedaled through the grayness. A soft squeak from my front tire added a rhythmic accompaniment to our early morning ride. Little did we know the rain would come early and play a pivotal role in our Phousi Hill escapade, setting the stage for an unforgettable day.

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The Winding Staircase

You know Iove me some temples, lol.Arriving at the base of Phousi Hill, two majestic white dragons, guardians of this sacred site, greeted us. The red-brick staircase, though weathered in places, beckoned us upward. I couldn’t resist capturing the ever-expanding view of Luang Prabang with each step. While Steven raced ahead, I strolled, pausing trying to read inspirational signs and savoring the spiritual atmosphere. It takes about 15-20 minutes to climb the Phousi Hill in the middle of the city, but the views give you the feeling you are much higher than you really are.


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Ascending to the Summit

After reaching the zenith of the first staircase, we stumbled upon a dimly lit cave with a subtle inscription about Buddha’s foot. However, the darkness deterred our exploration. We continued to the right, where a ticket booth marked the entrance to the stupa crowning Phousi Hill after the climb. The stunning view continued to evolve as the Mekong River unveiled itself in all its splendor. More stairs beckoned, adorned with Buddha statues named after the days of the week, each gleaming in gold. Serpentine sculptures, some ebony and others silver, lined our path, guiding us to the pinnacle.

A Majestic Stupa

Reaching the summit, we encountered a massive stupa, its grandeur almost impossible to capture without a wide-angle lens, which I didn’t lug up the hill. At the top of the hill stands That Chomsi, a golden pagoda crowned with a 7-tiered parasol commissioned by King Anourat in 1804. Adjacent to the stupa, there is a small viharn that shelters a large seated Buddha image, surrounded by smaller ones. The golden That Chomsi is visible, glistening in the sunlight, from all around Luang Prabang.

You may want to do some research beforehand because, unsurprisingly, nothing is translated into English. If you enter next to the Mekong and the Royal Palace Museum, you can purchase a map that includes a bit of information about the temple, stupa, Buddhas, and the cave.

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We sat there, soaking in the beauty of Luang Prabang from this elevated spot. We didn’t fully grasp everything we saw, but that was perfectly fine. At the time, we were the only tourists on the hill. The only other person there was a vendor selling bottled water. Although the view was amazing, the impending rain clouds somewhat limited it. However, those same clouds made the air and heat more bearable. I highly recommend the climb, regardless of the visibility, for the opportunity to see the temple and all the Buddhas. Anyone who can comfortably walk up stairs can make the trek; you don’t have to be a seasoned hiker.

The Descent and Unexpected Rain

As we reluctantly descended to street level, we were struck as to how fast the clouds turned into a rainstorm. Just as we were about to return to the hotel, the heavens opened up, unleashing a torrential downpour. We faced the daunting task of navigating the slippery hill, the rain-soaked streets, and the light traffic that separated us from dry clothes.

Summoning every ounce of determination, I pedaled uphill with unwavering determination not to dismount my trusty steed and push it up the hill like I had done the day before. The prospect of getting soaked provided a powerful motivator that translated directly into peddling power.

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Unique Perspective and a Little Exercise

We were incredibly fortunate to have completed our Phousi Hill expedition before the skies opened. As we hurried back to our hotel, drenched but exhilarated, we couldn’t help but reflect on the stunning vistas we had witnessed and the unique perspective we gained on Luang Prabang. It was a day we would forever cherish, reminding us, again, that rain couldn’t dampen our thirst for adventure and discovery.

This was another moment I had to pinch myself; there are moments when I can’t recall life without traveling. I never forget how blessed I am to see so many beautiful places with my own eyes. I have my health, the desire, and the resources to step outside my comfort zone, which, after visiting 80+ countries, remains my favorite place to be.

Phousi Hill means “Sacred” hill in Laotian. Trust me, its an appropriate name. However, Phousi Hill offers more than just spiritual significance; it’s a popular tourist attraction in the city. Ascending to its summit provides exercise and rewards adventurers with an aerial view of the lush greenery, the winding Mekong River, and the surrounding landscape.

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It is open from 6 am to 7 pm daily and is accessible from either side of the hill. The closing time is not enforced to allow people to comfortably view the sunset from the small platform at the the top of the hill. Note entrance to the hill is free, but if you’d like to access the temple you must pay a 20,000 Kip fee. That’s approximately $2.50 (based on current exchange rate). That’s a small price to pay for what you get in return.

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    1. Stacey A. Peters

      Thank you! Climbing Phousi Hill was an amazing adventure. We’re glad you enjoyed reading about it. Stay tuned for more exciting travel stories!

    1. Stacey A. Peters

      Laos is unique– it is still off the beaten trail so you can experience the country in its natural state still which I really loved. I can’t wait to go back again.

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