Loei: 7 Awesome Things To Do
With beautiful views over the Mekong River and sweeping vistas of mountainous terrain, Loei is a hidden gem that’s relatively unknown to most international tourists. If you’re interested in getting off the overcrowded tourist trail in Thailand, then this guide has been carefully curated for you.
After living in Loei for 5 months, we put together the ultimate list of things to do within the province – from experiencing the world famous Ghost Festival to hiking some of Thailand’s best trails, there’s an adventure for every type of traveler.
As a heritage-rich town nestled on the banks of the Mekong, Chiang Khan is a culture and adventure lover’s ideal destination. From giving morning alms to monks on walking street (ถนนคนเดินเชียงคาน) to exploring mountaintop temples and glass skybridges with breathtaking views, Chiang Khan offers the most diverse experiences that Loei has to offer.
We lived in this charming little town for ~2 months and it has become our top recommendation for places to visit in the province – if you could only visit one area, this is it.
For an in-depth travel guide on Chiang Khan, CLICK HERE.
Known for its misty mountains and surreal sunrise views, Phu Ruea is the most naturally scenic area of Loei along with being the coldest – it’s one of the coldest locations within Thailand.
In addition to its natural beauty and cool weather, Phu Ruea is also home to some of Thailand’s most-detailed temples and several wildlife conservancies. We were fortunate enough to spend over a month living here and miss every moment of it.
For an in-depth travel guide on Phu Ruea, CLICK HERE.
Eclipsed by the popularity of Phu Kradueng, the little-visited national park of Phu Suan Sai is a nature lover’s paradise that features an overnight hiking trail. To get to the park’s mountaintop campsite, you’ll need to walk through steep dirt paths that weave through an untouched rainforest – even rare flowers like the Sapria Himalayana can be found here.
In the morning, hikers are rewarded with a stunning view of rolling hills that are enshrouded in mist. In our humble option, Phu Suan Sai is the best hiking trail in Isaan.
For an in-depth guide on hiking Phu Suan Sai, CLICK HERE.
As a more popular trekking destination than rustic Phu Suan Sai, the overbuilt trails of Phu Kradueng offer a novel experience that’ll make hiking in the hot and humid Thai climate bearable.
With fully-equipped rest stops (think fresh coconut water and food) every kilometer, leagues of porters to carry your heavy belongings, and multiple days worth of activities on the mountaintop (temples, waterfalls, and viewpoints), Phu Kradueng is essentially the Disney Land of hiking in South East Asia. Overall, it’s a great trail for both casual hikers and experienced backpackers.
For an in-depth guide to hiking Phu Kradueng, CLICK HERE.
On the border of Loei and Nong Bua Lampu, there’s a cave temple that’s arguably Thailand’s best.
Known as Wat Tham Erawan, this massive cave temple complex is located in a remote area that doesn’t see too many visitors. Given its low foot traffic, this temple is popular with Buddhist monks on pilgrimage as its considered to be the grounds of where a powerful spirit resides. While this may not be the easiest temple to get to, getting to explore its cavern is worth the effort.
For an in-depth guide on Wat Tham Erawan, CLICK HERE.
Perched on a hill ~2 kilometers outside the sleepy town of Dan Sai, Wat Neramit Wipatsana is an immaculately constructed temple that’s made of clay laterite bricks, pink granite, makha wood, and ceramic tiles – in total, it took 14 years and 197 million baht to build.
What makes Wat Neramit Wipatsana truly worth visiting is the incredible attention to detail – throughout the temple grounds, murals with intricate patterns (that took 8 years to paint) adorn the walls. Throughout Thailand there’s no other temple like this place – it’s a must-visit in Loei
For a Google GPS location on Wat Neramit Wipatsana, CLICK HERE.
The best time we had during our stay in Loei was hands-down the world famous Phi Ta Khon Festival (ผีตาโขน), where masked participants paraded for 3 days on the streets of Dan Sai.
While Phi Ta Khon is an enthralling experience for visitors, it’s primarily a time-honored and important form of ancestor worship for the locals. If your trip to Loei happens to coincide within the festival’s timeframe, it’s a must-see event that’ll become a memory you’ll never forget.
For a photo essay on the Phi Ta Khon Festival, CLICK HERE.
Loei is a large province, so we recommend staying in your preferred area of choice or basing yourself in Mueang Loei if you have a car and are willing to go on long daytrips. Within Mueang Loei, the Loei Palace Hotel is the best accommodation in the city and it’s reasonably priced relative to the large size of the room.
For a more wallet-friendly stay, Indigo Space is a well-kept guesthouse that’s on average 300 baht cheaper than the Loei Palace Hotel.
Chiang Khan, Dan Sai, and Phu Ruea are worth visiting year-round while Phu Kradueng and Phu Suan Sai are only open from November – May.
In general, the best time to visit Loei will be outside of Isaan’s burning season (March – May), during which a thick haze will pollute the sky and cloud the many beautiful views the province has to offer.
For accurate weather updates, be sure to check out the Thai government’s meteorological website, HERE.
1) you can fly into Loei Airport and rent a car or book a taxi from there, 2) you can drive from your current location in Thailand (best option for exploring the province), or 3) you can take a bus from a major city to Mueang Loei or Chiang Khan, then rent a motorbike on arrival.
For online timetables of bus and flights to Loei, check out 12go.
Loei is definitely worth visiting for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path destination that showcases the beauty of northeast Thailand. Nestled in the heart of the country’s mountainous region, Loei offers a unique and authentic travel experience.
For travelers that want a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventures, Loei provides a quieter and less touristy experience compared to other popular destinations in Thailand. If you appreciate untouched landscapes, cultural immersion, and exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, Loei is well worth a visit.
The ideal duration for your visit to Loei depends on your personal interests, the activities you wish to undertake, and the pace at which you prefer to explore. However, to fully appreciate the beauty and diversity of Loei, we recommended that you try to spend at least 3 to 5 days in the province.
By spending 3 to 5 days in Loei, you can strike a balance between immersing yourself in the province’s natural wonders, experiencing its rich culture, engaging in thrilling adventures, and having time for relaxation and exploration. This timeframe allows you to appreciate the beauty of Loei at a relaxed pace, ensuring that you can fully immerse yourself in the unique offerings of this off-the-beaten-path destination.
Tip #1: When visiting Dan Sai, consider combining your trip with a multi-day stop at Phitsanulok’s Noen Maprang district – it’s a beautiful rural destination that’s great for relaxation.
Tip #2: While not many international tourists visit Loei, certain areas (like Chiang Khan and Phu Kradueng) are relatively popular with Thai tourists. This means that weekends and government holidays can get pretty busy. If possible, try to visit during the week as it’ll be relatively empty.
Tip #3: If driving from Bangkok, take a slight detour to visit Wat Pha Sorn Kaew in Phetchabun – it’s Thailand’s most beautiful temple and worth the extra driving time.