Luang Namtha Destination Guide
The province of Luang Namtha in northwestern Laos is a great place to get off the beaten path and explore a rugged and remote mountainous region. The Nam Ha National Protected Area (NPA) is located near the town and has been listed as an ASEAN Heritage Park since 2005. The NPA is home to a number of ethnic minorities as well as to several endangered wildlife species. The region offers great opportunities for Luang Namtha tourism activities such as trekking, cycling, kayaking, rafting, and walking.
One of the highlights of a Luang Namtha travel experience are local hill tribe treks, which can be booked through one of our Luang Namtha tours. They not only allow you to take in the picturesque landscape of Luang Namtha province, but give you an insight into the local history, culture, and the ethnic groups of Luang Namtha.
Check out the highlights of a visit to Luang Namtha in our Luang Namtha Destination Guide below. We offer locally led eco-friendly Luang Namtha tours to many of the highlights listed to fulfill your Luang Namtha tourism must-see's. You may also want to speak to your Luang Namtha guesthouse host or Luang Namtha hotel, as they can give you detailed local Luang Namtha tourism information. More general information about things to do around the country can be found in our Laos Country Guide. Laos also boasts a number of other tourist destinations including Champasak, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane and Xieng Khouang.
Things to See & Do in Luang Namtha
Luang Namtha, Laos, is slowly gaining a name for itself in Southeast Asia as a centre of eco-tourism and environment-friendly tours, such as the Luang Namtha tours featured on this website. The award-winning UNESCO-LNTA Nam Ha Ecotourism Project is being implemented by the Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA) as a community-based program in and around the Nam Ha NPA. The project is financially supported by the Government of New Zealand and is monitored and provided with technical assistance by the UNESCO Office of the Regional Advisor for Culture in Asia and the Pacific.
These are some of the Luang Namtha tourism attractions on offer:
Luang Namtha has a remote, off the beaten track feel to it, but makes an excellent base for exploring the province. Life in the town centres around its two markets and there are a small selection of places to buy handicrafts, though you will also find unique items in the surrounding villages.
The Luang Namtha Town Museum is the best place to get an idea about the history and rich cultural heritage of the province. The museum’s exhibits include a large collection of artefacts ranging from colonial period currency and traditional clothing to Khmu bronze drums and various religious articles.
We are able to arrange eco-friendly Luang Namtha tours and trips which explore Luang Namtha Town and the surrounding countryside.
A charming market town, Muang Long, attracts both travellers and locals. To enjoy the hustle and bustle of the weekly market, make sure you arrive early. The market is at its busiest in the mornings and almost all the food and merchandise is gone by early afternoon.
Quite unlike busy Muang Long, the town of Xieng Kok is calm and quiet. Travellers visit the town to see the traditional bamboo and wooden houses of Laos. Don't be surprised to see the town's livestock and cattle roaming and grazing through the main streets of the town!
More than 200,000 hectares of forestland are part of this protected area. The fauna includes almost 300 species of birds, reptiles and over 38 species of mammals, such as the Asiatic black bear, clouded leopards and sun bears.
A 2003 survey confirmed that a small number of the rare and endangered Black-cheeked Crested Gibbon lives in the remote forest districts of Muang Long, Nalea and Vieng Phoukha. Some of the birds spotted here are the Yellow-vented Warbler, Short-tailed Parrotbill, Rufous-throated Fulvetta, Pied Falconet, Grey-headed Lapwing, Green Cochoa and Blyth’s Kingfisher. Large populations of the Silver Pheasant also live here and the Crimson-breasted Woodpecker was spotted here for the first time in Laos.
Taking an eco-tour is a great way to see the highland forests and waterfalls. The Nam Ha NPA is the fourth largest protected area in Laos and also the fourth largest protected area in the subtropical forest zone of Northern Indochina.
Read more about the stunning Nam Ha National Protected Area
The attractive town of Muang Sing is located around two hours northeast of Luang Namtha Town, very close to the Chinese border. It offers a relaxed atmosphere, an abundance of local ethnic minority groups and is surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Its busy Sunday market is a vital connection between people on both sides of the border. Life in Muang Sing centres around the market and men and women in traditional dress is a common and spectacular sight. There's a lot to see and do in Muang Sing, as well as gorgeous local walks and guided trekking trips into the lush surrounding countryside.
Vieng Phouka is another great place to visit in Luang Namtha province, offering a refreshingly remote cultural experience. Trekking and hiking in the area surrounding here is a great opportunity to really get off the beaten track and explore an area that very few tourists get to see. Local ethnic groups include the Akha, Hmong, Khmu and Lahu and the town borders the Nam Ha Protected Area. You can also discover the ruins of an ancient city and explore a number of caves. The town itself is small, but extremely welcoming with friendly and curious locals.
The Ancient City
Kou Vieng, an ancient walled city can be visited whilst in Vieng Phouka. Not much is known about the city but there are many legends and stories surrounding it. The ancient city is located near an old French air field close to Ban Nong Kham village.
The little village of Ban Nam Dee is about 6 km from the city of Luang Namtha and visitors can take a taxi, a tuk-tuk or even walk the distance to the village. The stunning Ban Nam Dee waterfall can be reached after walking for about 1 km through the village and along a stream.
Wat Luang Kone is a good place to start if you are interested in visiting one of Luang Namtha's few temples or wats. This temple or wat is about 7 km from Luang Namtha town on the road to the airport, and looking around the temple complex will give you a fair idea about the province’s Buddhist history and traditions. What is interesting about Luang Namtha is that only 22% of the province's population are Buddhists, with the majority of the population practicing various forms of ancestor and spirit worship.
The stupa was originally constructed in 1628 to define the neutral zone between the Kingdom of Lanna, which was around Chiang Mai, and the Kingdom of Lane Xang, which was built around Luang Prabang. The old stupa was destroyed by an American bombing incident in 1966. The new stupa was constructed in 2003 near the ruins of the old one. The stupa is situated on a hill in the northeastern part of the Namtha valley, and near the village of Nam Ngaen.
Explore the mountains and forests of Northern Laos, visit remote ethnic villages, discover hidden waterfalls and caves, spot wildlife, and explore ruins of ancient civilisations. Luang Namtha is a great trekking destination. From walks with local guides through rural villages, to longer treks through the Nam Ha National Protected Area (NPA), trekking is a great way of exploring the province.
Boat trips down the Nam Ha River (inside the Nam Ha NPA) can be arranged in Namtha town and offer unique wildlife watching opportunities. You can also use boats as an alternative to road travel, such as along the Namtha River to the Mekong, with further connections to Luang Prabang or Houeixai (Thai Border crossing).
A physically challenging and adventurous way to see the natural wonders of Luang Namtha is to rent a cycle and explore the surrounding countryside. Cyclists sometimes take a weeklong tour of the neighbouring hills and villages. If you ride through the Namtha valley, you can visit the villages and lands of certain ethnic groups such as the Black Tai, Lantern and Tai Leu.
Kayaking is one of the most popular water-based tourist activities in Luang Namtha. The Nam Ha River surrounds a major part of the province and provides visitors with ample opportunities to sail up and down the river with halts at traditional villages such as Ban Sop Sim and Lantern.