Trekking in Oudomxay

Oudomxay is fast becoming a trekking hotspot, highlighted by a day-long subterranean hike through the Chom Ong Cave complex and the jungle trail to Nam Kat Waterfall and its nature park.

 

You’ll find easy-to-access treks for all levels, with ethnic homestays. These treks and others can be organized by the Oudomxay Provincial Tourism Department and local operators and hotels.

Treks around Oudomxay Town

Embark on a 1-day trek around Oudomxay Town, also called Muang Xay. Explore the largest cave complex in Laos, visit ethnic villages, and play at a waterfall park, whether you’re into a tough climb or pleasant walk in nature.

Cultural Hiking Tour

This 1-day trek starts at the market, where locals sell vegetables and forest products. The hike continues to an old temple at Ban Thin, and continues through a rice field for 40 minutes to a Hmong village. You’ll experience their culture while watching women embroider, blacksmiths make knives, and kids at school and play. The next stop is a Tai Lue village, famous for their homemade noodles and distilling lao khao (rice whisky). Next, stop at a Ban Hoei Ou (Khmu) and sip lao hai (rice wine) from a large community jar. Finish the day with a 5-km walk back to town.

Chom Ong Cave Trek
Trek underground for some 6 hours at Chom Ong Cave about 45 km from Oudomxay Town. The journey begins at Chom Ongthai (Khmu) and a trail up a creek, through rice fields, and into a forest. An hour later, you’ll reach Chom Ong Cave, Asia’s 10th longest, and the source of the Nam Kaang River. First explored in 2009, the cave system rambles almost 16 km through a 4-km mountain ridge with parallel, interconnecting passages: one dry and one with a river. For spelunkers, there are several side passages to exits in the spacious labyrinth. Most are as large as 20x35-metres. The average exploration lasts 4-6 hours.

Nam Kat Waterfall Trek

Head out on a strenuous 13.5-km forest trek from Ban Faen to one of Oudomxay’s top natural attractions, Nam Kat Waterfall. Start with a 500-metre march up Pha Daeng Mountain for a picnic lunch with a valley view. Then, descend along a stream, and clamber over boulders as you close in on the 20-metre-high cascades with smaller cataracts emptying into a natural swimming pool. The adventure continues inside the Nam Kat Nature Park. You can fly on a zip line, cross a canopy cable bridge, go rock climbing or biking, hang out in a tree house, and ride elephants.

Note: a shorter 2-km trek from Ban Faen to the falls is also available.  

Cultural Waterfall Trek

Take a pleasant 2-hour forest walk with a cultural village experience on the way to Tha Meun Waterfall. Start with a 40-minute ride from Oudomxay Town to Ban Tha Meun, where you’ll observe locals create handicrafts. Then it’s time to hit the trail with a guide, who explains forest products you’ll see along the way. Arrive at the falls for a picnic lunch and swim, before an easy walk back to the village, with time to inspect their temple.    

Muang La

Muang La is located 28 km north of Oudomxay Town on Route 2E towards Phongsaly. Though many tours embark from Muang Xay, they focus on the Muang La area. The Nam Phaak riverside town presents a hub for 1 to 3-day treks. The journeys take in Khmu life and homestays, Phachao Singkham Temple, Luang Cave, handicraft lessons, waterfalls, and hot springs. 

1-Day Muang La Tour

This easy trek leaves Muang Xay towards Muang La at 08:00 and stops at ethnic villages to watch daily activities, basket making, and lao khao alcohol production. Continue to Paradise Mountain and Buddha’s footprint, and on to Muang La and its local handicraft centre. After lunch, trek to Ban Vangvanh to experience Khmu life. Next, follow the Nam Phaak River, and cross it on a bamboo raft. The path follows the river to Phachao Singkham Temple and a walk to the hot springs before the ride back to town.

A No Akha Visit

Start the tour at the Muang Xay market, before heading off to Muang La and Phachao Singkham Temple, salt mine, and hot spring. Next, follow a dirt road to Ban A No, passing several Akha villages along the way. After lunch at A No, walk through the Akha village, as the guide explains their culture, traditions, and handicrafts such as weaving. Climb to a former French airfield for a great village view. Continue to Ban Tauser, a Hmong village that opens their doors to their houses and explains their way of life. Then it’s back to Muang Xay. 

2-Day Khmu Trek

Take off on a 2-day ethnic trek, and immerse yourself in Khmu culture while stopping at natural sites. Start at Ban Samak Khixay between Muang Xay and La Towns, and hike through rice paddies to Singkham Buddha Cave. After a picnic lunch, continue to Ban Tanong Po, your Khmu village homestay destination. Meet the villagers, learn how to cook traditional Khmu dishes, and watch locals make handicrafts. The next day, step onto a forest trail and visit Luang Cave. Along the way, the local guide explains traditional hunting methods and shares the secrets of medicinal plants. Return to Ban Tanong Po to say farewell, and then hike to Ban Samakeexay on Route 2E and a ride to Muang Xay.

Khmu Immersion
This 3-day challenging trek touches on several natural attractions including Singkham Buddha Cave, Luang Cave, a pristine limestone forest, and the Houai Khai Waterfall. Start the day’s 4-hour trek from Ban Sam Ma Khixay, and reach Singkham Cave in 60 minutes. Continue through the forest as the local guide explains traditional hunting skills, shares his knowledge of the secrets of medicinal plants, and provides details on local farming. The day ends at Ban Tanongpor (Khmu) for a homestay.

Begin your 6-hour march to Ban Pavee, with plenty to explore on the way. Stop at the sizeable Tham Luang Cave, said to have sheltered 500 locals during the Indochinese War amid its décor of limestone formations. The trail continues through a forest of tall bamboo to Ban Pavee and your homestay. Arrive in time for a bath at a small waterfall pool, before a traditional Khmu dinner with the village headman and elders for an insightful cultural interchange. A morning downhill walk along a stream leads to a road to hot springs and Buddha image before a ride to Muang La.

Stretching the Border

Take a bus 80 km north of town towards Phongsaly for a 3-day jungle adventure, which kicks off at Ban Kokphao. You’ll trek 90 minutes to Ban Nammatai, inhabited by Tai Yang people, who migrated from Vietnam centuries ago. Continue through rice fields to Ban Phonsawat for your Khmu homestay. Head into the jungle the next morning to an isolated Akha village. Walk through the village and learn about their distinct lifestyle, and have lunch in a traditional house. Trek further to Ban Pangsom (Khmu) for a homestay. A 4-hour walk through a bamboo forest ends at Ban Laksamsipjet and transportation to town.     

Beng District Pottery Trail

Combine nature and culture on this 2-day trek to Beng District’s waterfall and Ban Yor pottery village for a Tai Lue homestay. Depart Oudomxay Town early for the 47-km drive to Ban Thameun in Beng, where a guide leads you 4 km through the jungle to the two-tiered Tad Nam Chae Waterfall. Return to Ban Thameun and watch locals weave of looms to create Tai Lue patterns. You can even try your hand at operating the shuttle and pedals.

Continue 6 km to Ban Yor and your Tai Lue homestay. Have dinner, listen to traditional music, and learn their dance steps before bed. The next morning, learn cotton thread and natural dyeing processes. The highlight of your stay comes when you participate in pottery making, for which Ban Yor is famous. You’ll dig for the proper clay, prepare it, throw a pot on the wheel and decorate it. Then you can try basket weaving as the kiln fires your pot.

 

Oudomxay: The Heart of Northern Laos

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