This blog post is inspired by one of our most common questions at Forest Retreat Laos from tourists to Luang Namtha “what is there to see and do around the town on bicycle?”…
Luang Namtha town is situated on the western side of a huge, flat valley surrounded 360° by green, rolling mountains (with the Namha national protected area (NPA) beginning just behind the first set of mountains). Beautiful rice paddies and the river with charming villages and their agricultural crops on its banks mostly take up this flat valley.
You can go on an organized cycling tour and see quite a bit more or you can create trip by yourself at your own pace.
A great place to explore Lao local culture and nature…
The valley is very flat, there is little traffic and the main roads are all nicely sealed which makes it a great place to explore on 2 wheels, bicycles and motorbikes can be rented, from 3 places in town for just a few dollars per day. There is a wide range of 2-wheeled vehicles to choose from.
A 30km circuit of the valley can be made by following the main roads, which basically skirt the valley and you can make some small detours to get to the most scenic spots:
The highlights of Luang Namtha valley:
– Surround yourself in a virtual ocean of rice paddies dotted with bamboo huts, which stretches uninterrupted 20 km to the mountains.
– Climb the hill to check out the view of the pretty valley and mountains at the new stupa (best at sunrise or sunset) 2 km from the town.
– Check out some of the interesting, traditional local minority villages either along the banks of the Namtha River, at the Nam Dee waterfall or at the edge of rice paddies.
– Go down to the river for a swim (depending on the season) and take a stroll along the riverbanks passed the traditional bamboo fenced food crops of the local village.
– Climb the many steps up to the old, ruined stupa and enjoy the view and ambience from the top.
– Go to a little roadside food stall or local Beer Lao hangout and enjoy a beer and a snack along the way.
If you don’t want to do a circuit around the valley you can just do various side trips in one area with many things to see. Here is the link to the best map of the area
Here is our favorite half-day itinerary that takes in most of the best sights:
1. Travel a few km to the roundabout at the north end of town and turn right over the Nam Tha River bridge go up the road towards the rice fields for 1 km or so until you see the sign on the left for Nam Dee waterfall.
2. Travel up this dirt road for about 4km you will go past small villages towards the jungle. At the end of the road you cross the river to your left is Nam Dee waterfall, which is worth the 10-minute walk through the jungle to see it (2,000 kip admission). To the right is Nam Dee village.
3. The real attraction here is the village, which is a traditional Lanten minority village, where they still wear their traditional dress of Indigo blue died cloth and makes their livelihood from the river. This village is very scenic and also makes bamboo paper in the river, which you can purchase.
4. Follow the Nam Dee road back to the main road and turn left onto it. Travel up the road for about 2.5 km and you will pass the Tai Dam (Black Tai) village of Ban Pa Poua, just before the bridge you can turn left onto a little dirt road and follow the road to the river and end up at a charming little village, have a swim here or stroll along the river bank framed with dinky little bamboo-fenced crops.
5. Head back out onto the main road and turn right to head out into the rice paddies proper. Head out about 1km more passed Thong Dee village (Ban) to see them in all their glory. Walk out into a little rice paddy hut and chill for a few hours enjoying the scenery. This is the best place in the district to watch the sunset over the mountains.
Another nice 3-4 hour excursion is to go up to the (new) stupa; That Luang Namtha on the hill behind the town and follow the newly sealed road in front of it about 10 km south out of town through villages and rice paddies to the (old) stupa, Poum Pouk Stupa. A very scenic and a pleasant ride, you also pass through a couple of ethnic minority villages along the way to complete the experience!