Laos Adventure: Ultimate Guide to Plan a Trip to Luang Namtha
Luang Namtha - an ASEAN Heritage Site is one of South East Asia’s premier trekking destinations.
The mountainous center of Luang Namtha Province has been designated as the Nam Ha National Protected Area and strectches from the Chinese border through the middle of the province, covering over 222,400 hectares. Luang Namtha is known as the birthpace of ecotourism in Laos and has many options for exploration, some of which are only available on a seasonal basis.
How to plan a trip in Luang Namtha
What to do in Luang Namtha
The highlights of this area are the impressive Nam Ha national protected area’s mountainous jungle and the different ethnic minority villages residing outside its borders.
You have a wide range of tour selection from the gentle day walks or bike trips through the villages and rice paddies of Luang Namtha valley to the multiple trekking and rafting adventures such as Nam Ha Forest Camping (3-day), Trek Ban Nam Lai Village (2 days), Trek Nam Ha (7 days), Trek Old China Road (2 days), etc. Some of the best things to do in Luang Namthan include:
- Trek and bird watch in Nam Ha National Protected Area
- Go kayaking, glide through the rainforest in Nam Ha National Protected Area
- Enjoy the local dishes at minority restaurant
- Admire a grand stupa That Phum Phuk
- Visit the Luang Nam Tha Museum
- Discover the night market
- Motorbike in the surrounding area
- Cycle to the village of Boten
To plan your trekking trip in Luang Namtha and also combine the outdoor activities during the trip, just answer these questions:
Do you want to explore the culture or the nature or a mix of both?
Do you want to trek, go kayaking or bicycle or all of them?
How many days do you want to go for?
Do you want to stay overnight in the forest immersed in nature?
Once you have decided what you want to do it will be much easier finding a tour that fits the bill instead of being inundated by all the options.
Find a professional tour operator
In Luang Namtha (as in the rest of Asia) you get what you pay for; the cheaper tour agencies usually won’t have equipment, guides, accommodations, food and itineraries as good as the slightly more pricey ones. Some operators try to cut the cost by not actually going into the Nam Ha National Protected Area. Ultimately shortcuts taken here to save a few dollars could jeopardise the traveler during the trip. Find out if your tour company supports local villagers, guides, and what they do to maintain their jungle trails and jungle houses.
Get a group together
If you go on your trip with a group of travelers like you, it will not only be cheaper but also be much more interesting. Putting your trust in a prestigious tour agency is the best way to get a chance connecting with many like-minded friends. You can even be really proactive about forming a group by going around town yourself and finding out if nice people you meet want to join you. You can also check the group sign-up list, see where the people are from and how old they are to ensure it is a good fit for you, a good tour operator will give you the chance to meet them beforehand.
Tips for trekking in Luang Namtha
One of the most common comments people make about trekking in the Nam Ha National Protected Area is “that was harder than I expected” so, be prepared to challenge yourself on the steep uphill and often slippery (especially in wet season) downhill sections of the mountainous NPA jungles. A trek in Luang Namtha is definitely not a gentle walk in the park as some people expect, it is real trekking! Trekking in the primary (first growth) forest is the most challenging but also the most rewarding. Other things you should expect from your trek are:
- Insects; wear long sleeves and pants while trekking and at night.
- You probably will have to carry your own water (3 or 4.5 litres per day) for the duration of the days walking.
- Showering will usually be in a river or using a bucket of water; so bring soap. Girls should do as the local females and wear sarongs.
- Toilets will be of the squat variety, or a ‘dig your own’; BYO toilet paper is a very good idea.
Now you should be informed enough to have an outstanding trekking experience while in Luang Namtha.
Among the Luang Namtha trekking routes, Nam Ha Forest trek route is the most popular. This trek is entirely within the Nam Ha National Protected Area, an ASEAN Heritage Site. The 3 days trek is entirely in the forest. This is a trip for those who want a true forest experience. The villagers of a Khmu village will host us at our first forest camp deep in the forest. At the second camp Akha villagers will be your hosts. The camps, built out of bamboo and wood by the villagers themselves, are places to immerse oneself in the beauty of the jungle. Along the way, local Khmu and Akha guides will explain the forest products used by villagers for food, medicine, materials and religious ceremonies. Rise early on the third day for the sunrise and go with an Akha bird caller to learn how the Akha can call wild birds in.
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