Northern Laos Overview

Bordered by Thailand in the west and south, China to the north and Vietnam to the east, Northern Laos is filled with mountainous terrain, meandering river valleys, lush forests and stunning waterfalls. The capital of Laos, bustling Vientiane, is located here, as well as sophisticated and regal Luang Prabang.

Devastated by the Indochina Wars, the region has spent decades rebuilding their lives and communities, and remnants from this traumatic experience are common. Gargantuan caves used by the population to escape bombs can be visited, and the region still struggles with unexploded ordnances.

The peninsula of Luang Prabang, famous for its plethora of temples and monasteries.

Despite this, the people here are amongst the most friendly and welcoming you will ever meet, always happy to help or share a Lao beer or some Lao-Lao whiskey; they will make you feel like a long-lost son returning home.

In the majority of Northern Laos, the climate is very forgiving by South East Asian standards, usually ranging from 20 to 30 degrees depending on the time of year. Once you start to make your way south towards Vientiane and Vang Vieng however, the heat is cranked up, surpassing 30 degrees and occasionally going above 40. The climate can be classified as a tropical monsoon climate, with the rainy season lasting from May through October, followed by a cool dry season from November through February and a hot dry season in March and April.

The area is also incredibly ethnically diverse, sporting dozens of various ethnic minorities, like the Hmong, Khmu and Tai Dam people, usually living in hill tribes in small rural communities. Visiting these charming villages will transport you into what feels like a different time, with the people there living the traditional lifestyle of their ancestors.

Saffron-clad Buddhist monks are a common sight everywhere in Northern Laos.

Jaw-ping natural sights are everywhere here, including towering mountains covered in lush forest, majestic rivers meandering through valleys draped in fog and amazingly beautiful waterfalls. To take advantage of all this spectacular scenery, you have a plethora of options. Nong Khiaw or Muang Khua are great places to trek up the green mountains, and Nam Ha National Park near Luang Namtha is amazing for delving deep into the jungle in the hopes of observing some endangered wildlife. While there are so many scenic waterfalls that it might seem almost overwhelming, Kuang Si, just outside of Luang Prabang, is the clear standout, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful natural scenes in the world.

For cosmopolitan travellers, the lively streets of Vientiane or comparatively relaxed Luang Prabang are destinations that cannot be missed. Aside from an active nightlife and great culinary options, there are a multitude of authentic Laotian cultural experiences to be had as well, including traditional Laotian storytelling at Garavek Storytelling in Luang Prabang, and dance, art and music performances at The Centre Culturel et de Cooperation Linguistique in Vientiane.

One of our guests interacting with local people in a small village in the rural northern countryside.

On the adventurous side of things, Vang Vieng has transformed itself from a party town to an adventure town, offering activities like ziplining, rock –climbing and rafting.

Finally, Northern Laos also has a staggering array of delicious food. Matsutake mushrooms, considered an extravagant delicacy in much of the world, can be consumed in abundance in Xieng Khuang province. More traditional Laotian food like larb (a meat salad), barbeque and Mok Phaa (steamed fish in banana leaves) can be found anywhere and are mouth-watering experiences as well. Up in Phongsali, delicious Chinese tea is produced, and the regional specialty Khao Soi is positively exquisite.

Start planning your trip to this magnificent part of the world today, and discover countless authentic experiences in the beating heart of Laos.

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