Luang Namtha is an up-and-coming tourist destination, making its way up the leaderboards to becoming one of the most visited spots not only in the country but also in Asia – and for good reason. Its landscapes of mountains and grasslands, combined with the rich culture and traditions of the local friendly ethnic groups make for the desired eco-adventure just like trekking nam ha national biodiversity conservation area and kayaking nam ha national park. Easiest way to get around is Cycling Luang Namtha
Fast-paced motorcycles, cars, and heavy traffic aren’t things you’ll typically find in Luang Namtha, and they certainly aren’t going to be the best modes of transportation when exploring all the sights the green province has to offer. Thankfully, the terrain of the area is practically made for cycling – an environmentally friendly and healthy way to get around and see the scenery. It’s a good 20-60 km drive through both paved and dirt roads but it’s well worth it for the stunning views of countrysides and rice paddies.
- 1 How to get to Luang Namtha
- 2 Best things to do in Luang Namtha by Cycling Luang Namtha
- 3 1. Have breakfast at the morning market
- 4 2. Visit Luang Namtha Museum
- 5 3. Luang Namtha Stupa
- 6 4. Pompouk Stupa
- 7 5. Akha Village (Nam Mat Mai Village)
- 8 6. Handicraft Center for Lunch
- 9 Things to do in Ba Nam Dee Village (Still in Luang Namtha)
- 10 Where to Stay in Luang Namtha
- 11 Where to eat:
How to get to Luang Namtha
1.Fly from Vientiane Laos
2 Bus from Luang Prabang
You may check the bus schedules from major cities of Laos to Luang Namtha here
Best things to do in Luang Namtha by Cycling Luang Namtha
There are many things to see and do in Luang Namtha, and the following are just a few which are accessible by bike. You can rent your own at various locations around the city, such as the main street and tourism center, for as little as 10,000 kip per day. There are a variety of different bikes available, but it’s best to book a mountain bike to help you get through some of the more rough terrains, especially if you’re visiting during the rainy months.
1. Have breakfast at the morning market
The morning market is one of the most frequented areas for locals when purchasing groceries for the day, with a plethora of fresh produce like locally grown fruits and veggies. Aside from raw goods, you can also find stalls that serve heartier morning meals including hot noodles, Lao spring rolls, and even some rather special delicacies like fried silkworms and pig faces. Handmade souvenirs like bags, baskets, and locally crafted mortar and pestle sets are also available for purchase.
You can park your bike at the lot near the entrance for just 1000 kip.
2. Visit Luang Namtha Museum
If you want to catch a clearer glimpse behind the history of the beautiful city of Luang Namtha, then a visit to the museum is a great choice for a reasonable entrance fee of 10,000 kip. It’s home to various historical and culturally-valuable artefacts, like the clothing of the ethnic groups in the area and various weapons used during wars faced by Laos. Even if you don’t decide to go inside, the view of the museum’s structure from the road is already a sight to behold in and of itself.
Opening Hours: 8:30-3:30 PM Monday to Friday
3. Luang Namtha Stupa
The Luang Namtha Stupa, also known as the Samakkhi Xay Stupa, is a golden temple up a hill constructed many years ago as a symbol of friendship between the Thai and Lao kingdoms. Nowadays, however, the temple seen at the site is merely a reconstruction – but still a very symbolic relic nonetheless. The beautiful structure which glimmers from afar is considered to be Luang Namtha’s central landmark.
Biking to the stupa involves a bit of an uphill battle considering the temple’s location, so if you’re an inexperienced biker or would rather just rest – you can park your bikes near the cafe at the foot of the hill. Take note that visitors who would want to enter the stupa need to have their shoulders and knees fully covered.
4. Pompouk Stupa
Be sure to park your bikes at the start of the route before visiting, because the Pompouk Stupa is accessible only via a long and rather steep set of stairs. The stupa, located in Nam Ngaen Village, was built in the 1600s and since destroyed during the war, reconstructed into the main golden stupa available for visit today. The ruins of the old stupa are still available for viewing, although all that remains is the layered foundation. The hilly nature of the stupa also makes it a great viewing point over the Northwest area of Luang Namtha.
5. Akha Village (Nam Mat Mai Village)
Biking here is the difficult part – there is a steep descent on dirt road then at the bottom it splits into a bridge over water. The bridge is wide enough to have the bikes pass through, although I still felt slightly scared – I managed in the end, however. Once you arrive, you can get off and walk alongside your bike through the village streets and go meet the friendly locals. And when I say friendly, they really are friendly! The children, especially, will be so excited to see you. They’ll even run after you! So cute. They’ll try to sell you some of their bracelets as well – up to you if you want it, but every purchase really helps support the livelihood of the community.
6. Handicraft Center for Lunch
Next up, we headed to the Phien Ngam Handicraft Center where we were shown the beautiful textile handicrafts made by the villagers. Aside from purchasing some of their works, we were also able to learn how to weave them ourselves! You learn how the process works – from the production of silk by the silkworms, to thread, to yarn, to dyeing. It really is a learning experience. The handicraft center is a particularly great place to purchase souvenirs, especially considering they have cheaper prices compared to that in the market – around 50,000 to 200,000 kip per piece.
After the educational weaving lesson, we had a delicious Lao lunch coupled with a view of the blue skies foregrounded by the refreshing sight of rice paddies. Really reminded me of Vietnam.
For those who would like to continue on with the village experience, you can do what we did – returned our bikes to the city and traveled by minivan to the Ba Nam Dee Village.
Things to do in Ba Nam Dee Village (Still in Luang Namtha)
The drive to Ba Nam Dee village involves traversing through stretches of dirt road – not a particularly easy feat even equipped with mountain bikes, which is why we decided upon replacing our mode of transportation with a much more convenient minivan. If you still have the energy and determination to finish the 5.5km bike ride, however, it’s more than possible! Aside from a minivan, you can also hail a tuktuk to see the village where the Lanten tribe reside.
Here are some of the best things you can do when visiting the Nam Dee Village, to make the most out of the excursion:
1. Observe the people and their way of living
The villagers originally hail from the Southern portion of China long ago, and yet their traditions and culture live on to this day giving us the privilege of witnessing their practices – their daily clothing even consists of complex and beautiful ethnic garb. A visit is the perfect opportunity to get to know the people and their way of living, which can be done with even more depth via the homestay programs they have available to book.
2. Watch their craft
The locals specialize in making bamboo paper and indigo dye. We were able to learn all about how the products are made. In particular, the bamboo paper results from soaking pulped young bamboo, spreading them out onto a flat surface and adding a sticky substance extracted from locally grown plants, allowing the mixture to dry under the sun (preferably near the banks of the river) to form the final product.
3. See the Nam Dee Waterfalls
The Nam Dee Waterfalls are a great spot to visit for when you want to cool down, the water flowing through large relatively even steps that appear quite similar to a staircase. The hike to the falls takes quite a bit of effort but the view is well worth it in the end….if you’re there during the wet season. We went during the summer, so unfortunately the waterfalls were quite dry at the time. There is still a handicraft center nearby where you can purchase more goods from the locals, however.
The entrance fee to the Nam Dee Waterfalls costs 10,000 kip.
4. See the Lanten Tribe write traditional Chinese script
The crafted bamboo paper made by the locals is commonly used to write Chinese script; usually for writing down rituals. The way they write is very elegant, and satisfying to watch even for hours and hours on end. Given that the Lanten originally hail from China, many words are similar to the traditional language save for the usage of phrases which are considered obsolete in modern times.
Where to Stay in Luang Namtha
Given that Luang Namtha isn’t exactly what you would call a hypermodern bustling city, there aren’t any chain hotels and resorts to choose from when staying the night. However, there are a relatively decent amount of guesthouses and homestays which will not only allow you a venue to sleep for the night, but bring you even closer to Lao culture thanks to their heartwarming hospitality.
1. Zuela Guesthouse
One of the great parts about the Zuela Guesthouse is its proximity to the Luang Namtha night market – just right across! So you can eat a hefty dinner and and rest, with nothing in between you and your comfortable bed but a couple minutes walk. The guesthouse is designed with a wooden theme, making the rooms feel very homey, warm and cute. They have all the necessary amenities like a western shower, toilet, and sink.
A one-night stay at the Zuela Guesthouse costs ~220,000 kip or 25 USD. ( check rates or book here )
2. Thoulasith Guesthouse
Thoulasith really gives off more of a hotel-feeling, with big rooms and fancier amenities, furniture, and bedrooms. The best part of the stay is the access to the balcony where you can sit outside with some snacks or drinks, and just admire the view.
A one-night stay at the Thoulasith Guesthouse costs ~220,000 kip or 25 USD ( check rates or book here)
We stayed at the Ban Vieng Homestay, a homestay at a village relatively close to Luang Namtha, which was a really good experience for me! It reminded me of my Nepal homestays. They showed us local blessings and even held us a Baci – a ceremony held for many different special occasions including welcoming guests, involving tying strings around your wrists to encourage good luck.
The only issue we really had is that nobody else in the village spoke English so it was a bit hard to communicate. However, the place is huge and clean, plus the bathrooms come fully equipped with heaters, showers, and a western toilet. The family really is super sweet, it was just a communication problem.
A one-night stay at Vieng Neua costs ~220,000 kip or 25 USD complete with homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Where to eat:
1. Zuela Café
Breakfast at the Zuela Cafe is complimentary if you’re staying at their guest house, but you can come visit whether or not you have a room booked. They have both Lao and Western dishes as well as a great selection of freshly baked goods.
2. Manychan Restaurant
Manychan wins in one particular attribute: variety. Aside from a plethora of Lao food, they also serve up Thai, Vietnamese, and Western cuisine to satisfy any cravings you might be having.
3. Luang Namtha Night Market
Similar to many night markets and hawker centers in other countries, the Luang Namtha Night Market is a foodie galore with all sort of different Lao eats ranging from savory meals like grilled skewers and veggies to more sweet selections like sticky mango rice and fresh seasonal fruits.
And there you have it! It really is amazing the sights and sounds you can reach in Luang Namtha with nothing but the clothes on your back and a sturdy mountain bicycle! An adventure city just waiting to be explored – so what are you waiting for? Book your very own trip, see and feel for yourself the wonderful experiences Laos has to offer.