Covering an area of 348 sq km, Phu Kradung
(Bell Mountain) National Park has a 60-km plateau at its summit, 1,350 m above sea level. Certain plants that thrive in the cool climate can only be found here on the plateau. Legend has it that the steep-sided, flat-topped mountain rings like a bell when struck with a staff. Highlights include the numerous falls dotting the park, which are most impressive in October, Pha Nok An (Swallow Cliff) with breathtaking sunrise views, and Pha Lomsak with beautiful panorama of rolling hills and valleys below.
Phu Rua (Boat Mountain) National Park derives its name from its highest peak, which is shaped like a Chinese junk boat. Standing 1,365 m above sea level, it offers spectacular view of Loei and Laos. It is possible to drive to the summit, passing several bizarre rock formations along the way, with the most interesting being ‘Hin Tao' (tortoise rock). The park has a number of marked trails leading through beautiful landscaped meadows, rock gardens, waterfalls, and evergreen forests. Phu Rua is also famous for being one of the coolest areas in Thailand, with a recorded low temperature of –4 degrees Celsius in 1981.
A newly established park in the Phu Kradung District is the Phu Pamarn National Park featuring many caves and several falls.
Located on a high plateau with an elevation of 1,550 meters, the year-round cool temperatures of Phu Luang (Royal Mountain) Wildlife Sanctuary makes it possible to view cold weather thriving plants and flowers that cannot be seen elsewhere. Its highlights are the numerous, beautiful waterfalls, walking trails among pine tree forest and grassy, wildflower fields, and spectacular viewing points. The popular 3 days / 2 night hike to the summit, requires a permit and a forest ranger guide.
Located in Dan Sai District, Phra That Sri Song Rak was built in 1560 during the Ayutthaya period as a token of friendship and mutual support between the kingdoms of Ayutthaya and Krung Sri Satana Kanahut (Vientiane).
The architectural structure of Phra That Satcha was designed to resemble blossomed lotus flowers with 3-layered petals, one meter high each, encircling around the main pagoda. Similar in style to Phra That Phanom, the pagoda is 33-meters high and is capped with the white 7-tiered umbrella, symbol of monarchy.
Situated on the south bank of the Mekong River, many of the temples and teakwood chophouses in Chiang Khan reflect the Laotian influence. Wat Mahathat is considered to be the town's oldest temple, having been built in 1654, and shows French colonial influence in its colonnades and shutters. Similar features can also be seen at Wat Tha Kak, which has red-stained exterior walls.
Nearby, the scenic and narrow Kaeng Khut Khu rapids appear in the middle of the Mekong River. Shaped by the swift currents for countless years, the large, multi-colored rocks are unique creations of beauty. During the dry seasons (February to May), tiny islands emerge among the low volume torrents. Restaurants specializing in spicy northeastern food and freshwater fish dishes line the riverbank.
The Suan Hin Pa Ngam (Beautiful Cliff and Stone Garden) is a concrete mountain eroded over time into a beautiful garden of bizarre rock formations, similar to the one in Kunming, China. A curvy path meanders around the different formations and passes by 2 spectacular waterfalls, the Suan Horm (Aromatic Garden) Fall and the Piang Din Fall (Only Soil Fall).
Travelling by long-tail boat or road downstream will take you to the small, picturesque town of Pak Chom on the riverbank. During the 1970s and 1980s, the town received greater interest due to the establishment of Ban Winai, a Laotian-Hmong refugee camp of 15,000 inhabitants who fled Laos when the Laotian monarchy was overthrown, and the country controlled by the Pathet Lao Communist group in 1975. The camp was disbanded in 1992.