Regions of Northern Laos
Northern Laos consists of the provinces of Phongsali, Udomxai, Luang Namtha, Bokeo, Sainyabuli, Luang Prabang, and Houaphan. The Northern Laos is mostly known for its mountainous scenery and diverse ethnic minority population. The population comprises with 13 minority ethnic groups: Khammu, Thai Dam, Thai Daeng, Yao, Leu, Hor, Hmong, Akha, Yang, Bid, Lolo and others. Each minority ethnic group has their own identity, language and culture, making Northern Laos a very diverse region.
Exploring Northern Laos
Religious sites in Northern Laos
Wat Ou-Tai Temple- situated in Ban Ou- Tai Village, Phongsali Province, this temple was constructed over 500 years ago. Within the monastery, there is Hor Thane Keo (place where Buddha Images are kept), which is made from mud and decorated with the arts in its original form.
Wat Luang Ou-Neua Temple- located in Ban Ou Neua Village, this temple was constructed at approximately the same time as Wat Ou-Tai. The temple is adorned with traditional fine art techniques and houses a large Buddha image and other smaller Buddha statue.
That Phou Xay Stupa- another site located in the Phongsali Province, at the top of the hill, Wat Luang Ou-Neua Temple can be reached by walking up 400 stairs.
Natural Protected Areas in Northern Laos
Phou Daen Din- this NBCA is situated in the Pongsali Province, at the northernmost part of the country, covering the area of 2,220 sq. km. Its inhabitants include Elephants, gibbons and fish eagles.
Nam Ha NPA- situated in the Luang Namtha Province, this NPA covers 2,224 sq km. The site is known for housing clouded leopard, leopard, and tiger species, as well as a wide range of bird species and villages of local tribes, where tourists stay can experience local life.
Nam Et NPA- located in the Houaphan Province, this area covers almost 2,000 sq km. It also covers parts of the Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang provinces. This NPA is home to all wild cat species of Indochina. It is also a mountainous area, with the highest peak at 2,052 m.
Nam Xam- another NPA located in the Houaphan Province in Northern Laos. It is a real wildlife haven, housing many rare species, such as a great number of gibbon species, small elephant population, marbled cat, Blyth’s kingfisher, and beautiful nuthatch. It is also home to two bird species not recorded in any other NPA: brown-throated tree-creeper and yellow-bellied weasel.
Phou Loei- this NPA is spreads across two provinces in Northern Laos; Houaphan and Luang Prabang. It covers the area of 1,465 sq km on the border of those two provinces. The area is rich in bamboo and grassland terrains.
Other natural sites in Northern Laos
Muong Sing District- this former garrison town and the most northern outpost during the time of French colonial rule, was also the center of the Sipsongpana civilization. It is situated in the Luang Namtha Province.
Wat Ban Pakla Temple- this complex of temples contains a large number of structures including an ordination hall, a meditation hall, quarters where the monks live, a drum hall and several other buildings. It is best known for its 400 year old Pra Xaek Kham “Gold plated Buddha Image”, which is considered very sacred and worshiped by the locals. The complex is situated in the Udomxai Province.
Luang Prabang- this city is listed as a World Heritage City. Nestled in the valley, surrounded by high mountains and situated along the Mekong and its tributaries, the town was once the capital of Laos. It made the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its architecture, which combines the colonial French and traditional Lao styles. It is home to many beautiful temples, considered among the most beautiful in Southeast Asia.
Viengxay- this small town is located in the northern part of Laos, just 52km from the Vietnamese border, in the Houaphanh Province. This is home to a landscape of limestone mountains, inside which a vast labyrinth of caves unfolds. From 1964 to 1973, some 400 caves hosted more than 20,000 Lao nationalists and provided the perfect hideout to escape from the invading troops. This underground even contains a school, a shop, a hospital, and all many other edifices, typically seen in surface cities.
Muang Sing- located some 60km northwest of Luang Namtha City, is a small town, with many villages still occupied by local indigenous tribes, which is possible to visit and enjoy the local way of life.
Saleu and Nasala Villages- these villages, located in the Xiengkhor District, Houaphan Province, are known for the high quality weaving products.
Tham Than Souphanouvong Cave- this cave plays a very special role for Lao people and their history. The former revolutionary leader and later the President, Souphanouvong established the cave as a base in 1964. The cave is situated in the Houaphan Province.
Tham Than Khamtay Cave- this cave, formerly the revolutionary hideout of the President Khamtay Siphandone, consists of many compartments such as meeting rooms, reception rooms and a research room. Like the Tham Than Souphanouvong and some other caves, including Tham Than Kaysone Cave, is situated in the Houaphan Province.
Bokeo Nature Reserve- this reserve, located in the Bokeo Province in Northern Laos, is best known for the rediscovery of the black crested gibbon species.
Kwang Si Waterfall- located 29km south of Luang Prabang, this is the largest waterfall in the province, and one of the largest in the country. It has a drop of some 50 meters. Nestled in the tropical jungle area, it is also home to a number of protected species, most notably the Asian black bears.
Muang La Hot Springs- located 28 km from Oudomxay town, Muang La is a small idyllic district town situated in the Nam Phaak valley.
Northern Laos certainly has a lot more to offer to a curious tourist, since new mysterious places and species are being discovered every year in this mountainous region. This region of Laos seems to be a perfect place for backpackers and adventure seeking tourists, and promises to reveal a lot more in the future.