The Most Incredible Places to Visit in Northern Laos

Welcome to the enchanting region of Northern Laos, where rugged mountains and diverse ethnic cultures converge to create a truly unique experience. Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, this region forms a part of the famed Golden Triangle, sharing its borders with China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The undulating terrain of Northern Laos is dominated by towering mountains that rise over 2,000 meters above sea level, making it a hiker's paradise. With its extensive network of trails cutting through lush green jungles and leading to remote ethnic minority villages, this region is a must-visit for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

The lower northern part of Laos is equally fascinating, with its rich cultural heritage and historical landmarks. Its quaint town centres are steeped in history, and its ancient sites, such as the Luang Prabang UNESCO World Heritage Site, offer a glimpse into Laos' glorious past.

The landscape of lower northern Laos is a sight to behold. The region is marked by karst mountains, plateaus, and meandering rivers, all of which contribute to its breathtaking beauty. The biologically rich forests that adorn the area are home to a plethora of exotic flora and fauna, making it a nature lover's paradise.

Whether you're a history buff or an adventure enthusiast, Northern Laos has something to offer everyone. Come and experience the magic of this enchanting region for yourself, and let it leave you spellbound.

Read more: Top Attractions in Luang Prabang, Laos

Table of Content
  1. Plain of Jars, Xieng Khouang
  2. Sea of Clouds, Phongsaly
  3. 400-Year Old Tea Plantation, Phongsaly
  4. Nam Ha National Protected Area
  5. The Gibbon Experience, Bokeo
  6. Souvannakhomkham Ancient City, Bokeo
  7. Nam Kat Waterfall, Oudomxay
  8. Wat Xieng Thong
  9. Alms Giving Ceremony, Luang Prabang
  10. Luang Prabang Night Market
  11. Viengxay Caves, Houaphanh
  12. Elephant Festival, Sayabouly

Places to Visit in Northern Laos
Places to Visit in Northern Laos

The Most Incredible Places to Visit in Northern Laos

Plain of Jars, Xieng Khouang

For those seeking a glimpse into the ancient history of Laos, the Plain of Jars is a truly fascinating destination. Located on a plateau in central Laos, this unique site gets its name from the more than 2,100 tubular-shaped megalithic stone jars that can be found there.

Used for funerary practices in the Iron Age, these jars are just one part of a larger serial property of 15 components. The Plain of Jars is an incredible testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the Iron Age civilisation that made and used them until it disappeared around 500 CE.

As you explore the site, you'll encounter large carved stone jars, stone discs, secondary burials, tombstones, quarries and funerary objects dating from 500 BCE to 500 CE. Each element is a fascinating glimpse into the customs and rituals of this ancient civilization, and a reminder of the enduring legacy of their culture.

The jars and associated elements are the most prominent evidence of this Iron Age civilization, and they offer a unique window into the past. As you stand among these towering stone jars, you can't help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the people who created them and the customs they represented.

So, come and explore the Plain of Jars for yourself. It's an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich history of Laos and witness the incredible creativity and ingenuity of its ancient civilisations.

Plain of Jars laos
Plain of Jars at Xieng Khouang, Laos

Sea of Clouds, Phongsaly

Across the mystical land of Phongsaly, nature's wonders and cultural diversity come together to create an unforgettable experience. This hidden gem has always been a traveler's paradise, with its breathtaking landscapes that boast of high mountains, lush forests, and cool weather, all waiting to be explored.

At an altitude of 1,400 meters, the town of Phongsaly offers a panoramic view of the valleys below, which fill with dramatic seas of clouds on crisp winter mornings. As the mist rises to coat the surrounding tea plantations, you'll be mesmerised by the sheer beauty of it all.

But Phongsaly is not just about its natural beauty. This region is home to one of the greatest concentrations of ethnic hill tribes in Southeast Asia. Immerse yourself in the local culture, and witness the unique traditions and customs of these tribes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Experience the thrill of trekking through the lush forests and up the high mountains, as you discover hidden waterfalls and stunning vistas at every turn. Or take a leisurely stroll through the charming town of Phongsaly, and soak in the local flavours and vibrant atmosphere.

Sea of Clouds laos
Sea of Clouds, Phongsaly

400-Year Old Tea Plantation, Phongsaly

Located in the heart of the Phunoy ethnic village of Ban Komaen, just 18km from Phongsaly Town, this 400 year-old plantation is a must-visit for anyone seeking an authentic tea experience.

According to tea experts, the plantation boasts of some of the oldest tea trees in the world, with a large root system that extends deep into the mineral-rich soil. It is this unique characteristic that gives 'Phongsaly Tea' its signature aroma and taste, making it a favourite among tea enthusiasts worldwide.

As you explore this enchanting plantation, you'll be awed by the sight of the oldest trees, standing tall at 6 metres with a trunk of up to 30 centimetres in diameter. Take a stroll through the lush greenery and savour the essence of this magical place.

To add to the experience, visitors are asked to make a small contribution of 5,000 kip to the village fund, supporting the local community and preserving this treasure for generations to come.

So, come and indulge your senses in the world-renowned 'Phongsaly Tea' and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of this ancient tea plantation. Let the aroma and taste of this exquisite tea leave you spellbound, and the memories of this enchanting place linger on forever.

Phongsaly Tea trees
400-Year Old Tea Plantation at Phongsaly, Laos

Nam Ha National Protected Area

Step into the untamed wilderness of Nam Ha National Protected Area, and embark on a journey of a lifetime. Choose your trail, and prepare to be amazed by the stunning vistas and rugged terrain that lie ahead.

Climb to the peaks that overlook the lush green mountains, or follow the winding trails that lead you through dense forests and across babbling streams on a bamboo raft. Every step of the way, you'll be surrounded by the unbridled beauty of nature, and the thrill of adventure.

As the sun sets, immerse yourself in the local culture by staying in an ethnic village home or lodge, where you'll be welcomed with open arms by the friendly locals. For those seeking a more immersive experience, camp under the jungle canopy, and listen to the sounds of the wild as you drift off to sleep. Or for a touch of luxury, retire to a forest retreat, and indulge in the tranquility and serenity of the surroundings.

The Luang Namtha Eco-guide Unit and STN tour operators offer a range of one- and multi-day treks to suit everyone, from the seasoned adventurer to the novice explorer. So, whether you're seeking an adrenaline rush or a peaceful escape, there's a trek for you. Come and experience the unspoiled beauty of Nam Ha National Protected Area, and let the wilderness leave you spellbound!

Nam Ha National Protected Area Laos
Nam Ha National Protected Area, Laos

The Gibbon Experience, Bokeo

Experience the thrill of soaring through the lush forest canopies and waking up to the sounds of gibbons in the world's highest tree houses. The Gibbon Experience has created an unforgettable adventure that not only satisfies your wanderlust but also helps to preserve the precious forest.

As you immerse yourself in this one-of-a-kind experience, you become a part of the bigger picture. Your presence in the forest has helped raise awareness for the need for conservation, which led to the establishment of the Nam Kan National Park.

But that's not all. Hundreds of forest people now make a living by participating in this conservation project. By visiting the treetops of The Gibbon Experience, you are not only protecting the National Park but also sustaining the livelihoods of a large community.

As you fly above the canopy, you'll witness first-hand the beauty and importance of preserving this natural wonder. And as you rest in the comfort of your majestic treetop abode, you'll be lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of gibbons, knowing that your visit has contributed to the greater good.

So, come and join The Gibbon Experience and be a part of something truly magnificent. Let the forest canopy and the gibbons enchant you, and let your presence make a difference.

The Gibbon Experience Bokeo
The Gibbon Experience at Bokeo, Laos | Photo by The Gibbon Experience

Souvannakhomkham Ancient City, Bokeo

Embark on a journey through time and discover the wondrous Souvannahkhomkham archaeological site, nestled just a mere hour upriver of Houai Xay. Boasting an intricate network of temples, stupas, and Buddha statues, this site has been reconstructed numerous times since its establishment in the 5th century. The present-day ruins are a testament to the Lane Xang Kingdom's glory, dating back to the 14th to 16th century. Don't miss out on this awe-inspiring adventure that will transport you to a bygone era.

Nam Kat Waterfall, Oudomxay

For those seeking adventure and a connection with nature, Nam Kat Waterfall is an absolute must-visit attraction in the Oudomxay Province. This breathtaking waterfall is a haven for thrill-seekers and nature-lovers alike, offering an array of activities that will leave you spellbound.

Get ready to immerse yourself in the great outdoors like never before. Take a dip in the cool, refreshing pools of the waterfall, or take your adventure to new heights by ziplining through the trees. If rock-climbing gets your heart racing, then you're in for a treat. And, for the ultimate experience, why not ride an elephant through the stunning surroundings?

If you prefer a more laid-back approach, wander through the lush forest at your own pace, either at ground level or on the cable bridge above the trees. At night, retire to one of the treehouses near the waterfall and sleep amongst the stars.

Nam Kat Waterfall truly has something for everyone. So, whether you're seeking an adrenaline rush or a peaceful escape, this enchanting destination has it all. Pack your bags, and get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of this natural oasis.

Nam Kat Waterfall Oudomxay
Nam Kat Waterfall, Oudomxay

Wat Xieng Thong

For those seeking a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong is an absolute must-visit destination. As one of the largest temples in the region, it boasts a stunning structure that exemplifies the 16th-century Lao architecture.

As you enter the temple, you'll be captivated by the intricate mosaic patterns, wall carvings, and rare Buddhist deities that adorn the walls. But it's the 12-metre-tall funeral carriage that truly steals the show. This awe-inspiring structure is a testament to the temple's historic significance and the ingenuity of the Lao people.

In the past, Wat Xieng Thong played a vital role in the coronation of Lao kings. And today, it continues to be an important gathering place for annual festivities in Luang Prabang. As you explore the temple, you'll feel the weight of history and the significance of its continued presence in modern times.

Despite its age, Wat Xieng Thong has been meticulously preserved, with repairs undertaken to the roof and gold leaf gilding and lacquering added to the walls and entrance. Each detail has been carefully crafted to maintain the temple's original form and beauty.

Wat Xieng Thong Laos
Wat Xieng Thong at Luang Prabang, Laos

Alms Giving Ceremony, Luang Prabang

For those seeking an authentic cultural experience in Luang Prabang, the alms-giving ceremony is an absolute must-see. This longstanding tradition has been a vital part of Lao Buddhist culture for centuries, and it's an incredible sight to behold.

As the sun rises each day, around 200 Buddhist monks depart from their temples and make their way through the streets of this UNESCO-listed town. The ceremony begins on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading out to all the side streets. It's a beautiful sight to see the monks in their vibrant robes, walking in silence as they gather their daily meal.

The tradition of alms-giving dates back to the 14th century and remains a vital part of daily life for the people of Luang Prabang. Locals wake early each day to prepare food for the monks and wait quietly by the roadside to give their gifts. It's a humbling experience to witness the generosity and devotion of the locals as they give back in this meaningful way.

As you watch the ceremony, you may also notice small children kneeling with baskets. The monks often share some of their alms with them so that they can take food back to their families. It's a touching reminder of the importance of community and the bonds that bring us together.

So, come and witness the beauty and significance of the alms-giving ceremony in Luang Prabang. It's an experience that will stay with you long after you've left this enchanting town.

Sai Bat Luang Prabang
Alms Giving Ceremony or Sai Bat at Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang Night Market

For those seeking an unforgettable shopping experience in Luang Prabang, the Night Market is an absolute must-visit. As the sun begins to set each day, the corner of Settathilat and Sisavangvong Roads in the town centre comes alive with the vibrant colours and energy of the hill-tribe traders.

From 5pm onwards, the entire length of the street is closed off to vehicles, creating a bustling pedestrian marketplace. The hill-tribe traders emerge with their incredible wares, including clothes, ceramics, lamps, blankets, bed covers, handicrafts and silk scarves. It's a feast for the senses as you wander through the market, taking in all of the sights, sounds and smells.

Many of the vendors come from the nearby Hmong Market, which disperses right before sunset. They bring with them the same collection of ethnic handicrafts and trinkets that they were selling there earlier in the day. It's a wonderful opportunity to support local artisans and take home a unique memento of your time in Luang Prabang.

As you explore the Night Market, you'll be struck by the vibrant colours and intricate designs of the handmade goods. Each item is a testament to the skill and creativity of the hill-tribe traders, and you can feel the passion and dedication that goes into each piece. Come and experience the magic of the Luang Prabang Night Market. It's an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and take home a piece of the town's vibrant spirit.

Luang Prabang Night Market Laos
Luang Prabang Night Market, Laos

Viengxay Caves, Houaphanh

For a truly unique and off-the-beaten-path adventure, the Viengxay Caves, also known as the "Hidden City," are a must-see destination. This network of caves was once used by the Pathet Lao, the revolutionary movement of Laos, during the Secret War.

Despite its rich history and stunning landscape, Vieng Xay remains a hidden gem, largely undiscovered by tourists. But for those willing to venture off the beaten path, the town offers an incredible experience that will leave you breathless.

Surrounded by towering limestone peaks and cliffs, Vieng Xay boasts hundreds of caves, seven of which are open to the public. With the guidance of an informative audio guide and a knowledgeable local guide, you'll explore each cave and learn about its fascinating history.

As you make your way through the caves, you'll feel transported to another time and place, as if you're walking in the footsteps of the Pathet Lao revolutionaries who once used these caves as their secret hideout.

Viengxay Caves Laos
Viengxay Caves at Houaphanh, Laos

Elephant Festival, Sayabouly

For lovers of unique and unforgettable travel experiences, the Elephant Festival in Laos is an absolute must-see event. This annual gathering, which began in 2006 thanks to the efforts of an NGO dedicated to working with elephants, has quickly become one of the country's most popular festivals.

For three incredible days, the charming provincial town is taken over by the majestic creatures that are so emblematic of Laos. The streets are filled with the sounds of parades and exercises, as fifty magnificent elephants strut their stuff and show off their impressive skills.

But the Elephant Festival is more than just a spectacle of incredible animals. It's a celebration of Laotian culture and traditions, with local artisans and vendors selling their wares in a bustling market that showcases the very best of the region. As the sun sets each night, the fun continues with lively concerts and performances that keep the party going late into the night.

Elephant Festival Laos
Elephant Festival at Sayabouly, Laos

Northern Laos is a unique place to visit in Southeast Asia for its culture, lush landscape and crumbling colonial buildings that blend into the environment like fairy tale houses. With its historical significance, Laos is a fascinating country to discover but most of all mysterious, with little known about it. If you can make an effort to travel to Northern Laos into its remote villages, you'll be rewarded with beautiful traditional crafts and friendly locals.

Capture every moment of your travels and culinary adventures and share them with us on Instagram! Remember to tag @rollinggrace or use the hashtag #RollingGrace. Happy travels!


Popular Posts