We report on a photonic crystal (PhC) etched into a 380 nm thick lithium niobate (LN) thin film deposited on a MgO substrate by pulsed laser deposition. The transmission properties of this device were assessed by optical near-field measurements and compared to the transmission spectra of the same PhC drilled into bulk LN and calculated by a two dimensional finite-difference time domain method. We show a strong improvement in the transmission properties of the LN PhC by etching it into a thin layer rather than into a 500 µm thick wafer. This result appears to be very promising for applications based on LN tunable PhCs.