Laos is one of the most unique countries in Southeast Asia. The country is home to amazing landscapes and a diverse variety of wildlife. National Parks in Laos is a good way to enjoy nature and have a fantastic experience.
Laos doesn’t have a coastline so; they have to take advantage of the rich nature with many forests and animals. For nature lovers, this country is so dreamy. It was love at first sight when we enter Laos for the first time. We can ensure, you will have outstanding experiences once you will get there.
Although Laos government does not protect these areas in any meaningful way, they are trying to change this. They want to take advantage of ecotourism and make this a source of income.
Local people are getting involved, guides are being trained. Efforts had been made for the last years and now Laos has established rules for the extensive set of protected areas. The country is trying to adapt to tourism but, without losing its most attractive features. They are focused on ecotourism. We loved every second spent in this country. So, if you are going on a trip through Southeast Asia you must include Laos.
It isn't easy to plan a good itinerary but, you can seek help here. Also, don't forget to visit some of the national parks in Laos referred below.
Nam Ha National Biodiversity Conservation Area (northeastern Laos)
In the Luang Namtha Province, northern of Laos is located the Nam Ha National Biodiversity Conservation Area. This area is so important because it incorporates a significant bird area conservation.
The Nam Tha, the Nam Fa, and the Nam Long river are located here and drain into the famous Mekong river.
Various ethnic groups live in the conservation area. Ecotourism here is especially important to the economic welfare of the local communities. The ethnic minorities depend on trekkers passing through as part of their livelihood.
At least 38 species of large mammals, birds, butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles make the place unique.
Nam Ha like other areas faces some environmental threats. The number one is, slash and burn agriculture. Harvesting timber, hunting wildlife, and clearance of forested land for rubber plantations are others.
In 2003 this conservation area was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park, the only one in Laos. In 2006 the Nam Ha Ecotourism Project won an Equator Prize. The project plays a crucial part to educate villagers about the necessity of preserving the forest and the environmental effects of hunting wildlife. Also, created economic and employment opportunities for local people.
Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area (Champasak)
The protected area of Dong Hua Sao has great sustainable use of natural resources. It is one of the most visited ecotourism destinations. The park is in the Champasak area but, rises from the Mekong river lowlands eastwards into the Bolaven Plateau.
In the 50s the area wasn’t huge as today, with many ethnic minorities living there. During wartime, the minorities migrated to lowland areas. At the time coffee growing was introduced and in the 80s there was established coffee plantations.
In 1993 the area was renamed and covered the current area of 1,100 square kilometers. The habitat is a semi-dry evergreen forest. Some elevations in the area near the plateau can reach almost 1,300 meters.
Here you can spot the endangered yellow-cheeked gibbon, rare hornbills, giant butterflies, and grey-faced tit-babbler. In the wetland is common to see green peafowl, Siamese crocodiles, and hog deer.
Like most of the protected areas, the risk of environmental threats is high. Forest conservation for coffee plantations is number one. Destructive fishing practices, overcollection of forest products, hunting, and use of the wetlands for agriculture and fishing are other treats.
In the Don Hua Sao National Protected Area, you can visit the most stunning waterfall in Laos, the Tad Fane waterfall.
Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area can easily be accessed following route 13 south and from Pakse-Paksong north.
Bokeo Nature Reserve (Bokeo Province)
Just located nearby the border with Thailand, Bokeo Nature Reserve is an amazing experience. Here is the home of the rare black-cheeked gibbon. Previously, thought to be extinct, but now thriving in the region.
The protected area was created to safeguard wildlife and primary rainforest. It comprises a large area (475 square miles) and is characterized by forest and mountainous terrain.
The name Bokeo means ‘the pearl mine’ and it was because long ago, the region was a reserve of gems. Now, visitors go there to find the true gems, the natural environment, pristine and carefully preserved.
Bokeo is a place of rare biodiversity. You not only can encounter black cheeked gibbon but also, tigers, bears, Asian elephants, chimpanzees, wild water buffalos, and many kinds of birds and insects.
This is the truly ecotourism experience. The Gibbon Experience is a conservation project which was created after the discovery of black cheeked gibbon. They operate in two components. One is the Gibbon viewing huts, known as the canopy and another is the Waterfall Gibbon Experience, which involves 3 hours of trekking to a location deep in the reserve.
The Gibbon Experience is a role model in ecotourism, exploring and protecting the environment. The project has government approval. With the tours they also created jobs for local workers, support indigenous peoples to develop sustainable agriculture and preserve nature.
We just can’t recommend enough Bokeo Nature Reserve. It is such an overwhelming feeling when you step into this immense and majestic land. This is for sure one of the greatest national parks in Laos.
Phou Khao Khuay National Protected Area (Vientiane)
Along 40 kilometers, located in the northern of Vientiane is Phou Khao Khuay National Protected Area. It was declared a protected area in 1993. It is bordered by the large Nam Ngum reservoir/artificial lake in the northeast.
The place is immense, one of the biggest national parks in Laos. Includes a large mountain range with sandstone cliffs, river gorges, and another three large rivers with tributaries that flow into the famous Mekong.
There is great biodiversity there. The forest comprises many types of species. Animals can be found everywhere in the parks, like elephants, bears, tigers white-cheeked gibbons, amphibians, reptiles, langurs, and many birds. Inside the park you can also find, three little villages usually housing ethnic groups.
In 2005 has set the Ban Na Elephant Watch Tower and Homestay. This was to give a unique opportunity for visitors to spot wild elephants at night. Nowadays, the Tourism Office of Laos is reporting no elephants in Phou Khao Khuay.
Is possible to visit two waterfalls, Tad Leuk and Tad Xay in the eastern area of the park. Another amazing experience is to stay with a local family in a traditional open-plan Laos house. In Ban Hatkai village is possible, the homestay is part of a community-based project.
You can reach the park on a day tour from the capital Vientiane. There are several people that organized this individually, or if you prefer rent a motorbike and drive until there. The best option is going with the popular Green Discovery, they offer diverse packages.
Dong Natad National Protected Area (Savannakhet)
Just 15 km away from Savannakhet is located Dong Natad Protected Area. You can visit by taking a ride on a bicycle, motorbike or tuk-tuk. This is one of the unique national parks in Laos, where you can observe rare species and plants.
The area has a lake called, Nong Lom. There you can see wild birds and rare plants. This place totally worth a visit. But here you can also visit one of the most important religious sites in Laos, That Ing Hang stupa, and the remains of the ancient city of Muang Kao.
In the dense forest, you can find two little villages. They live here for about 400 years in harmony with nature. It’s so spectacular to see, people from the villages collect what the forest gives. Like honey, fruits, oils, resins, medical plants, and respect nature.
Dong Natad National Protected Area is recently focused on attracting more tourists. They want tourism interested in natural attractions and compatible with local residents’ lifestyles.
It is really nice to have a local guide; they are well trained and speak English. Also, you are helping the local community, as part of the revenue generated stays there.
Dong Phou Vieng National Protected Area (central Laos)
When you think of an ecotourism destination in Laos, the name Dong Phou Vieng National Protected Area is one of the most talked about. Located in the Savannakhet province, in central Laos.
The place was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Vietnam war. Along the way it visible the destruction caused by the US bombing of Laos during that time.
The protected area is home to a large variety of animal species. Dense vegetation and rock formations with major mountain peaks can be found. Like other parks in Laos, there is an abundance of animal species. The gibbons, leaf monkeys, giant muntjac, jackal, tigers, pangolins, even python and king cobra. It is possible to observe birds such as different species of hornbill and vulture.
The Katang ethnic group lives in the park. You are welcome to stay with them and learn the local customs.
The major threat to Dong Phou Vieng National Protected Area is environmental threats. Hunting and poaching of endangered species are still present. Although the government tries to combat this, the pangolin is one of the most treated animals.
The expansion of rice fields and destructive fishing practices not helping among the treats to natural habitats.
Trekking is a major activity in the park, like other national parks in Laos. Take your chance in the dense jungle or catch a boat on the Xebanghieng river. It’s a branch of the Mekong that flows through the heart of the protected area.
Phou Daen Din National Protected Area (Phongsali – border with Vietnam)
On the border with Vietnam, northern Laos there is Phou Den Din National Protected Area. The area is hilly but, doesn’t keep the biodiversity away.
Although it is not as easy as other protected areas, it can be reached by boat or on foot. It’s the lesser-visited of the national protected areas. This is due to the access, but if you go you will discover an amazing place.
A large part of the Phou Den Din National Protected Area is uninhabited. At least by humans, because wildlife is reported. Here you can see gibbons, elephants, leopards, tigers, sun bears, and even Asian black bears. The population of lesser fish eagles and crested kingfishers is also high.
Along the jungle path, you will find small villages with some ethnic minorities. Within the area, three temple complexes and stone carvings are located. No in use, and the historical and cultural value is unknown.
If you really want to visit this place you will have to consider taking the boat along the Nam Ou. Keep in mind it is risky as the river has rapids. From Phongsaly, you can reach by a short drive to Ban Hatxa and them a half-day boat journey or a 2 days walk.
It isn't the most accessible national park in Laos. But, it is an exclusive experience. It is like entering a ‘lost kingdom’.
Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area (Khammuan)
Before as known as Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area this place was Khammouane Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area.
Located in the Khammouane province. There is a limestone tower karst, which is known as the Annamite Range. As this is a karst area, 50% of the landscape is rocky. The rest is dry evergreen forest and scrubland.
This is one of the most important protected areas in Laos. Mainly because it is home to a number of rare newly discovered species. One of these discoveries includes the Laotian rock rat, an unusual finding. So, Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area is one of the most important national parks in Laos.
It is estimated to live a big variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. But, the most notable is a large number of bats, 41 species. Tam Houay Si cave is home to 22 species.
The distinctive experiences in the protected area are numerous. One of them includes the famous 7,5 km-long navigable Konglor cave. Other caves contain Buddhist relics. In 2018 a floristic inventory was carried out in the Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area, showing a new record in the flora checklist.
You have many options to visit the protected area. A day trip to caves, or cultural sites; guided adventures into the remotest parts of the park from a day to a week. Many activities can be found, such as trekking, kayaking, boating, or biking.
Several villages offered overnight stay. It’s a great opportunity to know more about the people who live in this part of Laos.
If you visit Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area you are also helping local communities. A bigger part of the income from guided tours, activities, and overnight stay is to help local people.
Xe Pian National Protect Area (Salavan – border with Cambodia)
Xe Pian National Protected área located not far from Pakse, also borders Cambodia. Recently the parking area has been extended, making it even bigger than it was.
The area was classified only in 1993. But this is one of the most important national parks in Laos. As it is one of the most biologically important in the country,
There are three important rivers crossing along, the Xe Pian, Xe Kong, and Xe Khampho. Many species have been thriving. Rare wildlife, like gaur, Asian black bear, elephants, yellow-cheeked gibbon live there.
Activities like, trekking and canoeing with a local guide, support and provide opportunities for local villagers. Efforts have been made because of environmental threats. Environmentalists are against fertilizer plants and hydropower projects in the park. Many species have been hunting and poaching for international trade.
The park wetlands are suffering from agricultural activities. Golden apple snails are a growing problem since they eat rice and grass.
To get to Xe Pian National Protected Area you can hire a tuk-tuk, go by bus, or by a tour with a local guide. The access road to the park is still unpaved and it can be challenging in the rainy season.
Laos is an extraordinary country for nature lovers. There is always something to fit for everyone. If you want to take the best advantage you can check out some of the best tours to do in Laos here.