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Phongsali (Phongsali also Pongsali) is a city in the far North of Laos, the capital of the eponymous province (Phongsali on the map). The province borders China and Vietnam. The population of slightly more than 15 thousand people, and this is one of the largest cities in this part of the country.

Phongsali – popular with tourists and travelers the place, but the town itself is of little interest to tourists. Go here in order to make the trekking a trekking in the ethnic mountain village, a predominantly ethnic Akha (Akha), natives of Burma and have Tibetan origin. There is also Khmu (Khmu), Yao (Yao), Hmong (Hmong), tai ly (Tai Lue), Lolo (Lolo). All in all, the province has 15 ethnic groups and 40 subgroups. But the city itself Pongsali almost entirely inhabited by Chinese immigrants from the Yunnan province.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Phongsaly is from November to April, this time is considered to be the dry season. Not to mention, from March to April, the temperature can reach to its highest rate: about 30°C. Due to the mountainous topography and fresh rural atmosphere, the weather in Phongsali is manageable around the year. Even in its hottest point, the weather can be really eased.

Start from May to October, the rain will take place throughout the region. July to September would rain the most. Hence, you should bring along an umbrella but you better avoid this season, the path up the mountains will be more difficult and the rains may interfere with your outside activities.

Check the below table for the general idea of Phongsaly weather throughout the year.

Month Avg. High (°C) Avg. Mean (°C) Avg. Low (°C)
Jan 25.7 18.7 11.4
Feb 29.4 20.8 11.1
Mar 30.9 23 13.4
Apr 32.6 26.3 17.8
May 32.2 27.7 20.9
Jun 30.9 27.4 22.3
Jul 30 26.9 22.4
Aug 30.3 26.8 22.1
Sep 30.6 26.6 21.6
Oct 29.5 25 19.5
Nov 27.7 22.3 16
Dec 25.3 19.3 13.2

Phongsaly’s current weather and 7-day forecast


You will be surprised by some of the unique things to do and places you can explore at this hidden destination.

Let's explore in the list below:

Climb Mount Phou Fa

Whoever went to Phongsali, they would never forget the astounding charming site of its symbol: mount Phou Fa. What a wonderful place to take bunch of spectacular photos when sunrise and sunset from the peak of the mountain.

Besides, you can also catch a view of mystery villages and stupas that hide behind the densely mist. Not from the top of mount Phou Fa that you can enjoy, the 4000 stair steps journey is also a memorable experience as well. Those are what tourists urging for.

Explore the Ancient Temples

Not only archeologist that are totally attracted by the time - honored temple of Phongsali but even normal travelers as well. There are many stupas, temples that were established for hundred years and still in rather good condition. In particular, one of the worth visiting temples would be Way Ou-Tai, which is in Ban Ou - Tai village and believed to be over 500 years old. It had reversed its building structure and was made by mud and brick.

Other than that, you can visit the Wat Luang Ou - Neua stupas, which is near Gnot - Ou district. The remarkable Buddhist monastery Tai Lue style is said to be built in 1445. The Phou Xay on the hill is also gorgeous, it costs 400 stair steps to be in the place.

Trekking in Interested

Phongsali is a famous destination for trekking. It provides fresh air and a lovely country view. First, you will roll yourself in the plain town, then you take the dusty track, it will take you to most remote and outskirts of the province, where you can observe people doing agriculture on small yard of paddy field, locals live in lovely leaf cottages, kids running and playing in the cool river.

You also have the opportunity to meet the villages of ethnic tribes, such as the Tai, Phou Noy, Akha, Lue, Ho. Each tribe owns a unique cultural aspects, costumes, traditional handicrafts and their custom.

Learn about Ethnic Culture at the Local Museum

In the central town, the museum of ethnic stirs tourist curiosity up. A ticket for encountering diverse ethnic culture is a low price to pay. The museum riches in ethnic culture, costumes, languages, local landmarks. Some tribe’s culture is displayed are mostly from Khmu, Tai Lue, Akha, Hor. In each tribe, they provide different styles of handicrafts, textile, artifacts, but they have a thing in common, which is the beauty. Hours of interestingness are ready to take.

Gather Tea Leaf

People know most about the city is its high quality of green tea produced. It is pretty far from the city center, there’s a small village called Ban Komean, where owns the over 400 - year old tea plantation. Pay a visit to this rural area, you definitely lost in romantic, authentic tea jungles and beautiful rural life.

Thing is going to turn from best to excellent when you join the locals harvesting tea leaf. Moreover, they also allow you to take part in the complicated tea making progress, from gathering tea leaves to drying, roasting stages by hands. After making green tea, you are able to taste Phongsali special.

Phongsali Hotel (412042) 

Dishes $1-3. Phongsali offers the largest menu, mostly Chinese food plus a few Lao dishes.

Phoufa Hotel (412057) 

Dishes $0.90- The hotel serves surprisingly good central Lao food, a relief from standard Chinese-influenced Phongsali fare and its obsession with pork fat.

There are several noodle shops on the main street through town towards the market; bowls of foe are among the cheapest in the country. Chinese beer is cheap all over town, while Beerlao is relatively expensive. The local lao-lao is tinted green with herbs and is quite a smooth tipple. Good Chinese- style tea is also available.

Phongsali has three places to stay now. 

Phongsali Hotel (412042) 

Dorm beds US$1.15, rooms with cold-water bath US$3.40, with hot-water bath US$4.50- 5.65. The Chinese-built Phongsali, in a centrally located four-storey building, is said to be the highest structure' in the province. The hotel offers 28 plain rooms, most with three beds and good mattresses. The staff speak Lao, Phu Noi and Chinese.

Laksun Hotel 

Rooms US$1.70. Opposite the Phongsali Hotel, the rustic Laksun is a two-storey, metal-roofed wooden structure with a few basic rooms with mosquito nets. There's a cosy restaurant downstairs.

Phoufa Hotel (412057) 

Rooms US$5.65. The wooden Phoufa, on the hill of the same name (Phu Fa), was a walled- in Chinese consulate and military base in the 1960s. Secret tunnels crisscrossing the hill can still be seen. Recently upgraded, the Phoufa is now the best place to stay and eat in Phongsali. The hotel commands a good view of the area from the pleasant terrace, complete with a beer garden. Down- stairs is an attractive restaurant with an open fireplace (see the following Places to Eat section) Hat Sa Hat Sa, a stopover for visitors heading for Phongsali via boat, has a guest-house with multi-bed rooms for US$0.90 per person.

By Air

Phongsali’s airport is actually in Boun Neua, some 42 km west of Phonsali town, and is officially known as Bounneau Airport (Airport code: PCQ). As of 2018, there is flight service with Lao Skyway on select days to/from Vientiane, departing at 11:00. The price is around 900,000 kip one-way. 

The situation with Lao Skyway and the flight does change—flights are cancelled when there’s fog, which is common—so do check on the current situation before making plans.

Check Lao Skyway to get more information

By Bus

There are two bus stations in Phongsali—the “main bus station” and the “Hat Sa bus station”.

The main bus station is located three kilometres to the west of Phongsali town by the main road. When arriving to that station, a shared tuk-tuk/minivan transfer into town costs 10,000 kip per person.

Departing Phongsali, the bus schedule sometimes changes with the season and demand, so it is best to verify the details the day before—please take the following as a guideline only. Arrive at the bus station and buy a ticket an hour before the scheduled departure time.

Boun Neua: departs at 06:00. Costs 15,000 kip.

Boun Tai: departs at 07:15. Costs 35,000 kip.

Luang Nam Tha: take bus to Udomxai. You will not make it in time to connect, a one night layover in Udomxai is required.

Luang Prabang: departs at 08:00, 14:00. Costs 130,000 kip and takes 15 hours.

Muang Khua / Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam: departs at 07:00. Costs 60,000 kip.

Ou Neua: departs at 08:00. Costs 60,000 kip.

Udomxai: departs at 08:00, 14:00. Costs 80,000 kip and takes 8-9 hours.

Vientiane: departs at 08:30, 14:00. Costs 250,000 kip.

The Hat Sa bus station, is to the east of town, about a kilometre from the centre. There is one departure a day at 08:00 (costs 15,000 kip and takes 1 hour) to Hat Sa village, arriving in time to catch the boat down the Nam Ou river to Muang Khua.

The road to Phongsali from Udomxai was notoriously one of the worst road journeys in Laos. It used to be a rough, nauseating ride in a Frankenstein bus, a big lumbering monster that looked welded together from scrap metal. However, the road conditions have greatly improved in recent years and as of 2018, most of the route was decently paved by Lao standards.

When roads are paved, they also tend to use better buses. While there’s no guarantee, the route is now done with a coach bus with air-con and loud speakers to blast Lao pop music. At least the repetitive beat drowns out the sound of retching—all the fresh asphalt in the world won’t change the fact that locals can’t handle the sinuous mountain roads and switchbacks at all. Plastic bags are handed out at the start.

We recommend you check the latest bus schedule and price via

By Boat

Due to damming on the Nam Ou river, the journey from Hat Sat to Muang Khua, Muang Ngoi or Nong Kiaow is a two-day affair involving both public boat and land transport around the dams with an overnight pit stop in Muang Khua. Take the bus to Hat Sa or Muang Khua to get on the Nam Ou.

Contact us for full details on the journey.

Getting around

In terms of distances, Phongsali is easy to manage on foot though the town is situated on the slopes of Mount Phou Fa, so there’s a fair amount of climbing up or down hills to see sights like the market, old Chinese quarter and viewpoint.

Tuk tuks, sawng taews (Pickup trucks with benches), and boats are available in district centres, and offer an easy way to travel around the province. You can also rent bicycles for about $1-2 per day. Motorbikes are available for hire in Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, and Oudomxay.

Tour operators offer transportation and itineraries to popular attractions and activities, with guides adding greater insight into the province’s historical, cultural and natural sites.

Contact us for full details on the journey.

Due to its great ethnic diversity, several distinct new years celebrations take place in Phongsali. While Pi Mai Lao (Lao new year) is the biggest festival, it is also celebrated all over the country and can be enjoyed elsewhere like in Luang Prabang or Vientiane.

More unique to Phongsali is Boun Greu, or Khmu new year. Held in January, every village in the area celebrates on a separate day, giving you the chance to attend the festivities numerous times should you so wish. In Phongsali town itself this festival is only held once every three years, with the next event scheduled for 2021.

There is also Kin Jieng, or Hor New Year, when Phongsali town erupts in a dazzling cacophony of fireworks. Held after the year’s harvest, Kin Jieng is a time for locals to thank the spirit of the land and wish for a plentiful harvest in the coming year.


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A notice issued by Luang Prabang provincial office says that Luang Prabang will arrange Boun Hor Khaopadapdin, an annual festival held to feed spirits with home-made parcels of food, and the boat racing activities along Namkhan River. 

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