Things to do in Luang Namtha
Although lack of beaches and being overlooked than the neighbours in South East Asia, Laos is a more laidback, off the beaten path country which is really worth a visit with many top attractions including Vientiane – capital city of Laos, Luang Prabang – a historic UNESCO heritage old town or Vang Vieng – a paradise of outdoor theme, etc. For adventure seekers, don’t miss Luang Namtha – a region with full of undiscovered trails and remote ethnic villages.
Lying on the bank of the Nam Tha River, Luang Namtha is the largest city of Northwest Laos. This is home to over 30 distinct ethnic groups, such as Hmong, Akha, Lanten, Khamu, etc and famous with its Nam Ha National Protected Area. This destination is truly a hidden gem for nature lovers who are looking for adventurous activities including trekking, hiking, biking, kayaking in pristine landscapes or learning more about the hill tribes. Today, the access to this area also becomes easier than ever due to the improved road conditions.
Here is list of best things to do in Luang Namtha. Check it out!
- Trek at Nam Ha National Protected Area
- Visit the Authentic Ethnic Villages
- Live like a local
- Create your own souvenir with local artisans
- Kayak along Luang Namtha rivers
- Shop at Morning Market and Join Cooking Class
- Visit top attractions of Luang Namtha
- Check out Nam Dee Waterfall
- Motorbike or Cycle in the surrounding area
- Take a boat trip
- Have a food adventure at the night market
- In the soothing Herbal sauna
Trek at Nam Ha National Protected Area
At the area of 2,224 km2 (860 square miles), Nam Ha National Protected Area (Nam Ha NPA) is an ASEAN Heritage Park, the only one in Laos. This destination is one of the most interesting things to do in Luang Namtha and make your Laos trip more completed.. This is home to a variety of ethnic groups and diversity of flora and fauna. Nam Ha NPA becomes the most favourite trekking route which bring a true forest experience and great place for bird watching.
Depending on your schedule & interest, your trek can be done within one day or last more 2-3 days. The longer days you spend, the more experience you get, such as explore the ancient forest, cross the river, meet the villagers at remote areas…
Visit the Authentic Ethnic Villages
As a home to many ethnic groups living in Luang Namtha, visiting the authentic villages is great way to learn about the cultures and ways of life. This is also the chance for you to interact with the locals and see how different cultures have influenced their lives and crafts.
You can visit Nam Dee Village (Ban Nam Di), home of the Lao Huay or Lanten community. Around 5 kilometers outside of Luang Namtha, this is famous for bamboo papermaking and indigo dye. Or visit Nam Mat Mai – Akha village to have chat with the villagers or even try on their costumes. Just be aware that the road leading to the village can be dirt and very bumpy.
Live like a local
A memorable experience that you should try is living as a local for a night to get the warmth and hospitality of rural life. You can cook or be hosted with the family, try new activity, experience what it is like a day of the villager’s life. This is sure to be a fulfilling and educational one.
Create your own souvenir with local artisans
There will be unique products of handicrafts that each ethnic village specializes in, such as cotton, silk, bamboo weaving, paper, whiskey making, etc. Attending a class to learn how to create objects with local artisans such as bamboo baskets or knives will be fantastic, and you can bring them as your own souvenir, too. Let’s challenge yourself to do the best.
Kayak along Luang Namtha rivers
Experience a kayak along Nam Ha and Nam Tha, two of the most important rivers in Luang Namtha should not be missed. You can enjoy the calming river as well as navigate your way through some rapids and make some stops along the river to spot the wildlife in the lush forests or visit the ethnic villages located in the jungles.
Shop at Morning Market and Join Cooking Class
Immerse yourself in the local life by strolling through the morning market. There will be a huge range of local products including delicious fruits, vegetables and hearty breakfast with a steaming hot bowl of noodles. The market also includes some other delicacies such as animal skin, pig’s heads and even edible silkworms.
This is also opportunity to learn about the new ingredients and try your hand at using them to cook delicious local dishes in a cooking class.
Visit top attractions of Luang Namtha
Luang Nam Tha Museum
This is a beautiful building in the town which house items from ancient times to recent wars in the region. These include traditional clothing of the ethnic minority, ancient textiles, musical instruments, pottery pieces, statues of the Buddha and exhibits that tell the story of Lao’s history.
Also called Luang Namtha Stupa or Samakkhixay Stupa, this is viewed to be Luang Namtha’s iconic landmark. Completed in 2008 on the base of the two that was lost, Golden Stupa represents friendship between a northern Thai King and Laos King. Set at the top of the hill, you can get a great view of the city surrounded by majestic mountains or luckily to catch the sunset from the stupa.
That Phum Phuk
Built in 2003, this is a Buddhist temple in Luang Namtha which is a model of the original stupa that was bombed during the Second Indochina War. Also located on a grassy hill, this one offers great views over the northwest part of Luang Namtha on a visit.
Phieng Ngam Handicraft Center
For those who are textile and fashion lovers, Phieng Ngam Handicraft Center is as your right choice. This is showcase of textile and craft made by Tai Dieng tribe with products on sales. In addition, visitors can enjoy the demonstration from the skilled weavers and even have chance to try it yourself.
Check out Nam Dee Waterfall
Go out of town and enjoy your time at waterfall on the environs of Luang Namtha, why not? Nam Dee Waterfall is very popular in the area and this is a good place to cool down. However, the look of waterfall will be not impressive in the dry season so you should consider your visit if your travel is not in right season.
Motorbike or Cycle in the surrounding area
There are many choices to get around Luang Namtha such as renting a motorbike or bicycle. For long distances, motorbike is better work that allows you to travel more quickly. Some local villages and towns on the outskirts of the city such as Muang Nalae, Vieng Phouka or Muang Sing can be on your list of discovery.
In short distances or just to stay fairly local then you can rent a bicycle. One of popular biking route is leading up to the border with China with a stop at Boten village.
Whatever experience that you want, a guided tour is still the best, not just for safety, a right direction but a deeper understanding the destination of visit.
Take a boat trip
Give a try to take a scenic boat trip from Luang Namtha to Huay Xai which can take around 2 days and worth if you want to experience some slow travel on the water. During this trip, you can take a break from the boat and accommodate in the local villages or guesthouse. However, a charter boat to Huay Xai will cost expensive, especially when you are not as part of a group and boats may not run in dry season due to low water level. So, plan it accordingly.
Have a food adventure at the night market
Unlike the night markets in the main hubs of Vientiane or Luang Prabang, night market in Luang Namtha is like a simple hawker center more on food affair. Not really much to shop but this is one of best places to try some local food such as grill meat, mango sticky rice, papaya salad, spring roll, soup, noodles…However, there also includes several exotic menus like beetles, offal, barbecued bats, fried crickets, ‘balut’, and more. Don’t forget to ask if something strange that you are not sure before tasting to avoid any problem.
In the soothing Herbal sauna
Like much of Laos, Luang Namtha is known for its soothing herbal saunas. Soak yourself in the bask of nice herbal scent after a long day is great way to refresh and reenergize. There are normally two sections for men and women and they are heated by a central stove. At the end of the steam bath after the body cleansed, you can choose to take a full body massage as a happy healing of the day.
Tips for travelling in Luang Namtha
Get enough information before trip to have your outstanding trekking experience while in Luang Namtha.
- The trek in Luang Namtha, especially in the Nam Ha NPA is real trekking so prepare to challenge yourself on the steep uphill and slippery downhill sections, especially in wet season;
- Check out the temperature of your travel month to get proper packing. Rainy season (May to October) can be amazing for kayak along the rivers and enjoy the sight of lush green farmlands and field, but not best time for trekking in Nam Ha NPA. Dry season comes with cold weather, especially in December and January at around 15oC or heat up over 30oC in March and April;
- Wear pants and long sleeves while trekking;
- Bring some necessary personal items such as refillable water bottles, snacks, toiletries, first aid band, soap, insect repellent, sun protection, universal adapter;
- Prepare trekking or comfortable shoes, swimsuit (conservative, sarong for women), conservative clothes for the temples;
- Shower can take place by the river or using a bucket of water. Female trekkers should wear sarongs and do as the locals;
- Toilets can be the squat variety or even a “dig your own” style.
A wide range of Luang Namtha tours and excursions can be catered to fit your requirements and needs. The options vary in length and if longer than one day, include overnight stays at local villages. Feel absolutely free to contact our travel consultant team for the best customized itinerary as you wish.