Sayabouly Province


Located: northwestern Laos

Total area: 16,389 square kilometers

Population: 401,376 (2023)

11 Districts: Sayabouly, Khop, Hongsa, Ngeun, Xienghone, Phiang, Paklay, Kenethao, Saysathan, Botene & Thongmixay

Capital of province: Sainyabuli, Xaignabouli, Xayaburi or Xayaboury

  • Elephants still used for transport

  • Ethnic diversity include Malabri hunter-gatherers

  • Nam Phui NPA contains many large animals

  • Tai Lue weaving

Sayabouly Province is situated in the northwest of Laos, sharing borders with Vientiane Province and Luang Prabang Province in the east, and Thailand in the west. This mountainous province has several peaks with altitudes of more than 1,000 meters. Travelling to this rugged landscape will reveal many beautiful mountains and flower gardens. The local people earn their living via agricultural products such as growing rice, cucumbers, cotton, cabbage, beans and sugarcane. Elephants continue to be used for loading and transporting heavy items. The province is also an important agricultural producer of rice, cotton, peanuts, sesame, maize and oranges.

The Malabri, one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer groups in Southeast Asia inhabit the forests in the province’s western region. Other ethnic groups located in the province include the Khmu, Tai Dam, Tai Lue, Htin, Phai, Kri, and Akha. In Muang Ngeun District are ethnic Tai Lue villages, which still build traditional houses constructed with characteristic high-sloping roofs. Muang Ngeun’s old Tai Lue style temples include Wat Ban Khon with its unique natural fiber murals and decorations, and Wat Si Boun Yeun with its charming view of the town.

Sayabouly has the largest number of elephants in Laos, which are commonly used to carry heavy items to and from fields and forest. Visit the Lao Elephant Conservation Center for a half-day trip. Also of interest in Hongsa is Wat Simoungkhoun with its astonishing collection of Buddha images and the old city walls of an ancient settlement whose history is shrouded in mystery. In Sayabouly town, located on the banks of the Nam Houng River, amid a beautiful backdrop of green fields and the Pha Xang Mountain range are Wat Sibounheuang with its ancient foundations dating back to the 16th century or perhaps earlier; Wat Siphandon with its unique diamond-shaped stupa and Wat Sisavangvong. Between Vientiane and Sayabouly town is Paklay, a small town located on the Mekong River banks with French colonial buildings and traditional Lao-style wooden houses.

The 1,912 square kilometers Nam Phui National Protected Area has steep and rugged ridges composed mostly of Mesozoic sandstones and shales with summits along the Thai border that reach 1,790 meters.  The NPA has a substantial wild elephant population, with an estimated 350 animals. Gibbon, gaur, tiger, dhole, serow, silvered langur, Asiatic black bear, and possibly even Sumatran rhinos are some of the other large animals found in the area. Don’t miss the scenic waterfalls Nam Tok Na Kha, Nam Tok Ban Kum, and Tad Ham Waterfall found in the southern part of the province.

The art of Tai Lue weaving is still practiced in many Tai Lue villages throughout the province. Villages can be visited to learn about the production process and to purchase textiles. Many villages also work in cotton, organically grown in the province.


Dropping 15 meters over massive rocks into a large, clear pool, Tad Ham Waterfall marks a point in the Nam Ham River where a legendary search ended. According to a generations-old story, Boten had a fishpond housing a giant, poisonous serpent. A bamboo fence kept the creature inside, but one-day the 12-nostril snake transformed into a huge crab and snatched the king’s daughter, prompting the king to rename the river, Thanang (Young Woman). A fortune teller and elders searched for the girl along the Nam Hoy River, and found her red shirt at a deep section they named Vang Sadaeng (deep red water). They continued into the evening, saw rabbits at a set of rapids, and branded them Kaeng Katay (Rabbit Rapids). A bit further upstream, they lit candles, and designated this point Kaeng Thian (Candle Rapids). Then rain fell, triggering another change in the river’s name to Nam Ham. They continued the expedition until reaching the Nam Ham Waterfall, and couldn’t go on. Location: Visitors can retrace the way to the falls along a 3 kilometers road from the Boten District center. A trail from the road leads to the peak of Phou Phadaeng (Red Mountain), one of the area’s highest, and a great view of the red limestone formations all the way to Thailand.

A natural heaven for Asian elephant in the Lao PDR. Enjoy a unique experience and contribute to the conservation of Asia’s most iconic species. The Elephant Conservation Center hosts Laos’ first hospital dedicated to elephants that are victims of logging accidents or affected by diseases. Located in Sayabouly (3 hours by road from Luang Prabang) the center is staffed with an international team of elephant vets and offers free veterinary care services, an emergency unit, a breeding center, a mahout vocational center and the most extensive elephant information center in country. The Elephant Conservation Center is not just another elephant camp. It provides a global approach to the resolution of various problems striking the last elephants of Laos. Through a dedicated team of international conservationists and vets, programmes are implemented on site and beyond. ElefantAsia, an internationally recognised organisation, runs Laos’ elephant conservation programme from the facility. A true private-public partnership, the Elephant Conservation Center cooperates with multiple conservation organisations around the world.

This cave is 3,560 meters length – cover 4 villages; Na Thang, Keo, Pak Houng and Houay Keng Village. Don’t miss activities are trekking, cave explore, home stay, local food, traditional folk song, and river sightseeing.

Ethnic groups migrated via southern china to xienghone municipal center hundreds of year ago, and established villages united by the Lane Xang Kingdom in to Xieng Lom (city of wind). According to local lore, the residents’ ancestors were hunting and stumbled in to 27-metertall stupa on a 40 m2 square base. A stone inscription, house in side wat Xienlom temple, states the Burmese-style stupa was built 1304, and every year on the full moon of the Buddhist calendar’s 5 month, ethnic Yuan and Tai Lue from 10 surrounding villages pay homage at the side, and cerebrate for seven days.