Located: Northwestern Laos
Total area: 9,391 square kilometers
Population: 195,753 (2023)
5 Districts: Namtha, Muang Sing, Muang Long, Viengphoukha & Nalae
Capital of the province: Namtha
Luang Namtha, literally “Royal Sugar Palm” or “Royal Green River”, is located in the north of the country. The Mekong river constitutes the northwest border of the province. From 1966 to 1976 it formed, together with Bokeo, the province of Houakhong. The province borders with Yunnan, China to the north, Oudomxay Province to the east and southeast, Bokeo Province to the southwest, and Shan State, Myanmar to the northwest.
Best known as a stopover point on the backpacker trail from China to Laos, and as an alternative to the long and cramped boat journey between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha has become increasingly popular as a starting point for hill tribe treks, especially those into the Luang NamTha National Biodiversity Conservation Area. This NPA consists mainly of evergreen forest and wildlife include wild cattle such as guar and banteng, Asian wild dogs, tigers, clouded leopard, bears, monkeys and gibbons and also muntjac.
The province is one of the main sugar cane and rubber producing areas of Laos with numerous plantations.
There are some 20 temples in Muang Sing, including Wat Sing Jai and Wat Namkeo. The anthropological Luang Namtha Museum is located in Luang Namtha.
Archaeological evidence, including stone tools and cliff paintings, suggest that Luang Namtha Province was inhabited as early as 6,000 years ago.
Beginning in the first half of the 19th century, the area fell under Siamese domination and suffered from numerous conflicts. From the mid-16th until the early 19th century it came under the control of Burma. In the first half of the 19th century, it was under Siamese rule and was involved in many battles
In 1894, the French, British and Siamese colonists, decided that this province will be administered by the French. The border was also redrawn, with the Mekong River serving as the northern border between French colony of Indochina and British colony of Burma until France withdrew from Indochina in the late 1950s.
NAM HA NATIONAL PROTECTED AREA
Nam Ha national protected Area (NPA) in the northern province of Luang Namtha covers some of the most significant and largest wilderness areas in Laos Altitudes ringing from river valleys and plans to the northern highland peaks support a broad suite of habitats with a biodiversity of national importance. This is an area of outstanding beauty, breathtaking mountain views, and cultural interest of ASEAN Heritage parks. Most of the Nam Ha NPA is covered by mixed deciduous forest; with a range of mountains running to the border with china along the top of this are mainly dry evergreen forest and some grassland. Three large rivers, Nam Tha, Nam Fa, and Nam Long, drain southward to the Mekong fed by a dense network of tributary streams. Nam Ha NPA is easily accessible from Luang Namtha town, Muang Sing and Vieng Phoukha. Ecotourism activities in and around the Nam Ha NPA offer visitors a unique opportunity to explore the diverse environments, stay in traditional villages and support local conservation programs.
KAO RAO CAVE
Vieng Phoukha District is surrounded by karst Limestone Mountains that have many interesting and beautiful caves. Formed by centuries of weathering that has gradually carved huge caverns out of the porous limestone, Vieng Phoukha’s caves have some of the most beautiful underground formations in northern Laos. During prehistoric times many of the caves might have been inhabited by people, but today they primarily support nesting swifts and thousands of roosting bats of over a dozen species. Some of the most accessible are the caves near Nam Eng Village (Tham Kao Rao) and the network of caverns at the base of the Phou Prasat limestone formation near Tha Luang Village.
LUANG NAMTHA NIGHT MARKET
Hang out at Luang Namtha Night Market and enjoy local food and drinks You cannot leave Luang Namtha without spending at least one evening at Luang Namtha’s night market. If you want to experience an authentic local night out, this is the place to be. The night market of Luang Namtha opens every single day. Tightly thronged with tribeswomen and locals hawking freshly made broths, noodles and chicken on spits, with everything veiled in a stratosphere of smoke. Great for cheap quick eats. If you’re feeling brave try the rhinoceros beetles, duck chicks in embryos, grilled intestines and bile soup!
MUANG SING MORNING MARKET
Muang Sing Market is still the heart of the town and attracts people from the entire region to buy fresh foods and products for daily use imported from China. Best time to visit the market is between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning: retailers from all the ethnic groups arrive to sell vegetables, fruits and meat, and Tai Lue women present their famous noodles. It’s also a great place to look for local handicrafts purchased by Tai Dam, Tai Lue and other ethnic groups. Try the local food such as soybean paste, waffles and local sweets (‘Kainom’) often made from sticky rice and coconut.