The Twin Temples of Wat Hosian Voravihane and Wat Phra Mahathat

Slightly west of the Luang Prabang city center are two old temples standing side by side: Wat Hosian Voravihane (also known as Wat Hua Xiang) and Wat Phra Mahathat (Wat Mahathat). The temples seem to share a plot of land, and it can be difficult to tell where one temple begins and the other one ends. Both are historical and beautiful, although less visited by tourists than many other popular temples in Luang Prabang.

Wat Hosian Varavihane (Wat Hua Xiang), Luang Prabang

Wat Hosian Varavihane, commonly called Wat Hua Xiang, is one of the lesser-known temples in Luang Prabang, Laos. This temple is less a tourist attraction than other popular temples in Luang Prabang, and therefore feels more authentic and off-the-beaten-path. Wat Hua Xiang is very much an active, working temple, and feels more "local" than the bigger tourist sites like Haw Phra Bang, Wat Xieng Thong, or Wat Mai.

Wat Hua Xiang, Luang Prabang
Wat Hua Xiang

Wat Hua Xiang is home to a school for local śrāmaṇera, or novice monks. These young boys undertake temporary ordination for a period of days, weeks, or months. Nearly every Laotian man ordains as a novice or a full monk at some period of his life. In fact, temporary ordination considered something of a rite of passage into manhood.

Another important feature of this temple are the beautiful and colorful murals painted on the outside of the main temple hall. These images depict scenes from the twenty-four past lives of the Buddha.

temple paintings depict storeis from the lives of the Buddha
temple paintings depict stories from the lives of the Buddha

Wat Hosian Voravihane (Wat Hua Xiang) is located at the intersection of Photisalath Road and Kingkitsalat Road in Luang Prabant (slightly southwest of the city center).


Wat Phra Mahathat (Wat Mahathat), Luang Prabang

Wat Phra Mahathat literally means "The Temple of the Great Stupa". Indeed, the large stone stupa, or chedi, is the main feature of this beautiful and historic Buddhist temple. The temple dates back to 1548, although it was destroyed and rebuilt in the early 20th century. Today, the only original construction at Wat Phra Mahathat in Luang Prabang is the Great Stupa which is its namesake.

Wat Phra Mahathat, Luang Prabang
Wat Phra Mahathat

The exterior walls of the main temple hall are decorated in scenes from the Ramayana, the Hindu epic that has become a part of Theravada Buddhist mythology and culture. Scenes from the Ramayana, especially those depicting Hanuman, the monkey god, are very popular motifs in Luang Prabang temples.

a beautiful Laotian Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang
beautiful old temple building with stone stupa

The columns supporting the temple roof are stenciled with an intricate design, and the gilt door is carved with heavenly scenes depicting Buddhist angels.

golden door at Wat Mahathat
the golden door at Wat Mahathat

Behind the temple hall stands the Phra Mahathat, the Great Stupa. A stupa, or chedi, is a Buddhist structure built to hold a holy relic. These relics could be teeth, hairs, or bones from powerful and important monks, members of the royal family, or even relics of Siddharhta Gautama, the Buddha himself.

an ancient stone Buddhist monument holds a holy relic
an ancient stone Buddhist monument holds a holy relic

Wat Phra Mahathat is located directly next door to Wat Hosian Voravihane.

Opening Hours

  • Both temples are open from 8:00am until 5:00pm, or approximately sunrise to sunset.


  • There is a small admission of 5.000 kip to visit Wat Phra Mahathat, although it is only sometimes enforced.

Location and map

  • Both temples are located next to each other, more or less on the same plot of land. The "twin temples" are both located at the intersection of Photisalath Road and Kingkitsalat Road in Luang Prabant (slightly southwest of the city center) and are easily accessible by foot from any part of Luang Prabang.