What are the Must-Do of northern Laos to us ?

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

At ORLA Tours, we've been exploring Laos for more than 20 years. Thus, we can say that we know this country quite good. Through this article, we will share with you our experience by revealing our must-do in northern Laos. We will not mention areas overcrowded by tourists that you'll find in every guide book or blogs, but the places that are really worth visiting and that reflect the authenticity, cultural and natural beauty of Northern Laos.

Luang Prabang and its surroundings

Real jewel of Laos, the city of Luang Prabang is absolutely unmissable. This UNESCO World Heritage Site will delight those who are interested in history with its mix of traditional and colonial architecture. Lovers of idleness will also find happiness thanks to the massage places, swimming pools, bars and restaurants. With 45 temples and numerous religious celebrations, this city is a high place of Buddhist culture. You will understand that Luang Prabang is a must, which deserves to stay at least 2-3 days.

In addition to that, only 30 km away from the city is the Kuang Si waterfall. Bathing in natural turquoise water sounds like a dream no? It is the ideal place to spend a relaxing day, having lunch in a paradise setting and walking in the jungle. The best option is to arrive early in the morning before 10am, because you will be probably alone there.

We also highly recommend Tad Sae waterfalls, but only from August to December, otherwise there is no water. Leave the first tourist basins to go deep in nature along the waterfall. After a while you will not come across anyone. The main advantage of this place is that it’s a natural waterfall and an elephant sanctuary as well. The pachyderms are well treated, and walks with pod are prohibited.

Last must-do for us, the Pak Ou caves. They are home to thousands of small Buddha effigies. This high place of Buddhist culture is easily accessible by boat via a cruise on the Mekong River.

> Family adventure in Luang Prabang, 7-day trip

Cruise on the Mekong, 1 or 2 days

You are planning a combined trip Thailand / Laos? You cannot miss this cruise. From Houay Xai at the Thai border, embark on a slow boat and enjoy the tranquil rhythm of the Mekong.

After 6 - 7 hours cruising, you will arrive in Pakbeng, your city stopover to spend the night. You will re-embark the next morning for the second part of your journey.

After 6-7 hours sailing on the mystic Mekong, you will arrive in Luang Prabang in the afternoon. These two days of cruise are for us the most charming way to reach Thailand from Laos. And it is possible to do it in both ways.

For travelers staying only in Laos, it is also possible to do a Mekong cruise for 1 or 2 days.

> Laos Mekong Cruise website, Mekong cruise & tailor-made trip in Laos

The area of Nongkhiaw, its hiking trails and tribe villages

Only 3 hours drive north-east of Luang Prabang, Nongkhiaw is the perfect starting point for authentic adventures. Wild jungle trails, pirogue cruises, mountain scenery, all the ingredients are there for unforgettable treks. Add to that one or two nights homestay and you have the recipe for a unique adventure, close to local people.

For less adventurous travelers, this heavenly city is also the perfect place to relax. Contemplate the Nam Ou River that flows peacefully, enjoy a massage, or visit the morning market with exotic products.

> Ethnic immersion, 6-day tour

Tribe encounters in Luang Namtha or Phongsaly for adventurous travelers

400-year-old tea trees in Phongsaly, does that sound familiar to you? If the answer is no, it's normal. This wonderful province is still very little visited by tourists. It must be said that it is not exactly on the standard itineraries. Succession of mountains offer absolutely incredible panoramas. The remote location of this town allowed it to keep its authenticity. Thus, by visiting the local markets, it will not be rare to meet local people dressed with traditional costumes of different ethnic groups. It is therefore a real leap in time that awaits you while discovering rural Laos.

For those who love trekking and encountering ethnic groups, you should absolutely not miss Luang NamTha. This town, surrounded by rice fields, is the ideal starting point for hiking in the jungle. You can also go down rivers on air canoes. Many ethnic groups, such as the Lanten, still live in the area, perpetuating ancestral way of living in their wooden houses. Jungle trekking, downhill rapids, and encounters with ethnic groups, this is the perfect combination for Indiana Jones-style adventurers.

> Remote tribes, Hike into Akha & Hmong countries, 10-day tour

Elephant conservation center of Sayabouri

Many false ideas are heard about elephant camps. Most people think that pachyderms are abused. But note that Laos is working hard to provide good living conditions. Thus, many camps are transformed into sanctuaries. The difference is respect for the animal. In these sanctuaries, animals are cared for, well treated, and especially, backpacking on pods are prohibited. We therefore strongly recommend you to visit the Sayabouri camp. They offer 2-day stays to learn more about animals. Funded 90% by the visits of the tourists, your stay there will help them maintain the place.

> Visit their website

Well, now you know what for us are the beauties of northern Laos. We did not mention Vang Vieng which is very popular, because it is the opposite of the authentic Laos that we like. Same for the capital, Vientiane, it does not deserve the detour according to us. Some monuments are splendid, but the city itself has no charm.

Do not hesitate to contact us to organize your tailor-made stay in Laos.

We wish a nice journey to you all !

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