Luang Prabang sits in the tropics, at the same latitude as southern Mexico. The 2,300-foot elevation gives it warm days and pleasantly cool nights throughout most of the year.
In January, when temperatures hover between the high 50s and low 80s, Luang Prabang dresses in bright costumes and celebrates its biggest Buddhist festival, Boun Pha Wet. This commemorates the rebirth of the Buddha as the compassionate prince Vessantara, and sees processions in the streets and recitations by monks in the temples.
Temperatures rise into the 90s during low season, in spring, and the air becomes progressively stickier and the monsoon rains approach. The Boun Pi Mai, or Laotian New Year, in early April celebrates their arrival. Luang Prabang is decorated with bright bunting, Laotians parade in traditional costume, and Buddhas are removed from the temples and washed with flower water. This water is then collected and thrown on locals and tourists alike. Prepare to be doused.
The rains diminish in late July in time for the colorful Boun Khao Padab Dinh boat races on the Nam Khan River. These are held in honor of the naga—dragon-like water spirits associated with agricultural fertility. There is a similar festival in October, when boats built and decorated in the scores of villages near Luang Prabang are brought to the town, filled with ritual flowers, and ceremonially set alight on the river.
Temperatures cool in late October, skies are blue, and there’s barely a drop of rain, making this the best time to visit the city or to take a trek into the surrounding hills. Be sure to visit one of the Hmong villages in December. This is when the villagers dress in intricately weaved skirts and shirts, don sparkling silver jewelry, and celebrate harvest with a weeklong festival of traditional music and dance.