Must see attractions in Northern Laos

  • Top ChoiceSights in Xieng Khuang & Hua Phan Provinces

    Vieng Xai Caves

    Joining a truly fascinating 18-point tour is the only way to see Vieng Xai's seven most important war-shelter cave complexes, set in beautiful gardens backed by fabulous karst scenery. A local guide unlocks each site while an audio guide gives a wealth of first-hand background information and historical context. The Kaysone Phomvihane Cave still has its air-circulation pump in working order and is the most memorable of the caves. Tours leave from the cave office at 9am and 1pm. If you want a tour outside of these two times, you'll have to pay a 50,000K surcharge per group.

  • Sights in Plain of Jars

    Jar Site 1

    The biggest and most accessible, Site 1 of the Plain of Jars features over 300 jars relatively close-packed on a pair of hilly slopes pocked with bomb craters. The biggest jar, Hai Jeuam, weighs around 25 tonnes, stands more than 2.5m high and is said to have been the mythical victory cup of Khun Jeuam. The bare, hilly landscape is appealing, although the views of Phonsavan airport seem discordant. There is a cafe, a gift shop and toilets near the entrance. Pay your entrance fee at the small Plain of Jars Visitor Centre, which offers an informative museum-style display on the history of the jars and theories relating to their use.

  • Sights in Nong Khiaw

    Pha Daeng Peak Viewpoint

    Reached by a testing though thoroughly doable 1½-hour walk on a decent path up Pha Daeng mountain, directly above the town, this viewpoint offers an unforgettable panorama. Drink up the sunset view (but bring a strong torch for your descent) or head here at 6am to witness the valley below veiled in mist, with the mountain peaks painted gold. Pay the admission fee to the guy in the kiosk at the bottom. You'll find him by a sign and an old bombshell on the left side of the road.

  • Sights in Plain of Jars

    Jar Site 3

    The 150-jar Site 3 of the Plain of Jars sits on a hillside in pretty woodland near Ban Lat Khai village. The access road to Lat Khai leads east beside a motorbike-repair hut just before Ban Xiang Di (Ban Siang Dii). The ticket booth is beside a simple local restaurant that offers fĕr (rice noodles; 30,000K). The jars are accessed via a little wooden footbridge and an attractive 10-minute walk (or wade, depending on the season) through rice fields.

  • Sights in Xieng Khuang & Hua Phan Provinces

    Tham Nok Ann

    Tham Nok Ann is a soaring, well-lit cavern through which a river passes beneath awesome rock formations. It's dripping, creepy and very atmospheric, with a set of stairs leading up to an adjacent cave complex that once housed a Vietnamese military hospital. You could previously take a boat trip deeper into the cave, like a mini Tham Kong Lor experience with some huge jellyfish-like rock formations visible, but in recent years it has only been open for viewing on foot due to limited visitor numbers. Look for a signpost on the main road about 5km before Vieng Xai and follow the small track around to the right until it dead-ends at an entrance booth and small suspension bridge.

  • Sights in Nong Khiaw

    Sleeping Woman Viewpoint

    This viewpoint rivals that of Pha Daeng Peak Viewpoint for its widescreen drama of surging karsts and mountains, with the boats on the river far below like floating blue crayons. It's an hour's climb up a marked pathway, and while another route down is offered it's not sufficiently marked, so it's wise to descend by the same path. If you're here for sunset, on the way back down head to Hive Bar opposite the entrance to grab a cold drink on the terrace.

  • Sights in Northwestern Laos

    Wat Namkeo Luang

    Wat Namkeo Luang is one of the most visually striking monastic buildings in Muang Sing. It features an entry porch with red-tongued golden naga (river serpent) and an unusually tall and ornate gilded stupa. Some villagers still draw water from shaduf-style lever wells in the slowly gentrifying bâhn (the general Lao word for house or village) opposite. Nearby you can also find a modest Lak Bâan spirit-totem, but touching it would cause serious offence.

  • Sights in Plain of Jars

    Jar Site 2

    Site 2 of the Plain of Jars is a pair of hillocks divided by a shallow gully that forms the access lane. This rises 700m from the ticket desk in what becomes a muddy slither in wet conditions. To the left, in thin woodlands, look for a cracked stone urn through which a tree has managed to grow. To the right another set of jars sits on a grassy knoll with panoramas of layered hills, paddies and cow fields. Basic cold drinks are available at the ticket booth.

  • Sights in Northwestern Laos

    That Xieng Tung

    Around 6km southeast of Muang Sing, That Xieng Tung sits on a grassy plateau dotted with sacred trees, 1km up a rough access track that branches south off the Luang Namtha road 200m after Km 52. This place really comes alive at festival time (full moon of the 12th lunar month, between late October and mid-November), with a carnival atmosphere, traditional dance performances and Buddhist merit-makers offering candles and flowers around the base of the stupa.

  • Sights in Nong Khiaw

    Tham Pha Thok

    Around 2km east along Rte 1C, Tham Pha Thok is a series of caves in a limestone cliff where villagers and Pathet Lao eluded bombing during the Second Indochine War. The first cave is around 30m high and accessed by wooden stairway. Continue to the second, somewhat-claustrophobic cave, 300m along a dark passage through the cliff. We recommend bringing your own torch rather than renting a weak one.

  • Sights in Northwestern Laos

    Tribal Museum

    The most distinctive of the old Lao-French buildings is home to the two-room Tribal Museum, which boasts costume displays downstairs and six cases of cultural artefacts upstairs. Watching a 40-minute video on the Akha people costs 5000K extra.

  • Sights in Northwestern Laos

    Morning Market

    A real treat for the early bird, here you can find all manner of things from quail eggs to freshly butchered meat, seasonal produce to utensils, and even live eels in buckets.

  • Sights in Northwestern Laos

    Old Market

    The old market is in a rather sorry state and feels all but abandoned, but a new market has been built behind the old structure. Head to the right side of it to find Thai Lü ladies selling woven silk runners, skirts and other vibrant handicrafts.