Located about 300 km northwest from Hanoi along Highway 6, Son La is gifted by fresh and cool temperate, beautiful scenery, and favourable transportation system. Son La has great potential to develop tourism through its natural resources and human resources. The province has many pristine jungles, interesting caves, hot mineral springs, the lake area of the Da River, Moc Chau Plateau, historic and cultural sites and specialties. There are 12 ethnic groups with their own culture, traditions, and spiritual life. Many special festivals are formed and developed. These conditions offer strong potential for the development of local tourism services.
Currently, Son La has three main tourism products in 6 major groups: medical, entertainment tourism; sightseeing tourism; cultural tourism; ecotourism; community tourism, and spiritual tourism.
Sightseeing tours of the Northwestern provinces, including Hanoi, Son La and Dien Bien, include visits to ethnic villages of Chieng Yen Commune, Van Ho Commune, Moc Chau Plateau and other surrounding areas; Then Luong traditional brocade weaving village; cave systems in Yen Son commune; cultural historical monuments in Son La City; tours to Hum village, Bo village, and medical tours to hot mineral springs of Mong village and the vicinity.
Sightseeing tours to Son La hydropower reservoir area: Son La City- Quynh Nhai- Muong La, a visit to historical Son La Prison, King Le Thanh Tong and the community tourism site, hot mineral springs of the Mong village, Hua La commune and its vicinity, Son La hydropower plant, Son La hydropower lake, Huoi Quang, community tourism, Pom Min hot bath, Ngoc Chien commune, Muong La district, Pa Uon Bridge and Quy Nhai traditional ethnic festivals.
Spiritual tours: Moc Chau- Yen Chau- Son La city- Quynh Nhai: visits to Son Moc Huong Cave, Chien Vien Temple of Moc Chau district, Nha Nhung of Yen Chau district, Buddhist historic site of Son La, Son La Prison, King Le Thai Tong Temple, and Han Temple of Quynh Nhai District.
In the past year, there has been a growing number of tourists from Yen Bai going along Highway 32 to visit Ngoc Chien, Muong La District, Son La province and tourists from Lao Cai from Highway 279 to visit Quynh Nhai District. Many tourists are interested in community and spiritual tourism in these two districts.
Thanks to the attention of the provincial Party Committee, People’s Council and People’s Committee, Son La has attracted many domestic and foreign tourists through many promotion programmes and typical tourism products.
Cultural festivals that are held every year attract many international and domestic visitors to Moc Chau. Moc Chau has many untouched green pastures where visitors can see dairy herds grazing leisurely. The green tea fields stretch far and wide. Tourists can have more experience with farmers harvesting young green tea leaves. Tourists can also visit dairy farms, enjoying the taste of milk products while experiencing a quiet space of pasture, green tea hills and romantic nights in the plateau. Moc Chau is also known for a pine forest area of Ang Village. The pines stretch over brown red earth hills, traditional stilt houses hidden inside the green canopy, side streams, and lakes, which help create a stunning natural landscape. Besides pines resorts, “Het Cha” festival held on the fifteenth day after the Lunar New Year highlights the spirits of the Thai people. Sounds of the guitars, drums, pan, traditional dances and folk songs, along with food and beverage of the ethnic groups living in the northwestern mountains, have interested many travellers.
Waterway tourism in the hydroelectric reservoir of the Da River is really fascinating. From the upstream of the Da River to Son La, Dien Bien, and Lai Chau, travellers can visit some attractions like Hoa Binh hydropower, one of the largest hydro-power plants in the Southeast Asia, Pa Uon Bridge, a record bridge of the South East Asia, and Lai Chau hydropower; experience the cultural life, festivals, traditional crafts, cuisine and unique diversity of the ethnic minorities along the Da River; enjoy adventure tours like sports, boating on the water of the Ngoi Hoa Bay (Hoa Binh), explore caves in the North (Dien Bien); have cruise along the Da River; experience spiritual tourism tours to Thac Bo Temple (Hoa Binh), Nang Han Temple (Son La), the Temple of the King Le Thai To; explore Thac Bo Cave (Hoa Binh), Mo Tang Me Cave (Son La) and other cave systems.
The Da River is well known for its plentiful natural scenery, historical culture and human values that will create many attractive tourism products. The province will be a very attractive place for both domestic and international tourists to promote the river reservoir area.
The objectives of the master plan for tourism development is to make hydropower reservoirs of Son La a driving force for tourism development in the province and become a national tourist area in the future. The province also focuses on promoting many types of tours like sightseeing tours, eco-tourism tours, community tours, weekend tours, which help preserve the nation’s cultural identity and contribute to developing the socio- economy, eradicating hunger and alleviating poverty, maintaining security, defence, social order and safety.
On 29 February, 2016, by the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Son La province organised the first “beautiful photos of Son La landscape” contest. The Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism has partnered with 8 other northwestern provinces and other provinces and cities nationwide to attract more people to take part in the contest.
The first contest was held widely throughout the province and others nationwide, attracting 80 photographers sending 308 photos, and one first prizes, two second prizes, three third prizes and five consolation prizes were awarded. Some photos have been printed as gifts for tourists to Son La.
Along with natural scenery, visitors can enjoy delicious dishes in the country like dried beef, smoked pork, chicken, sticky rices, Van Ho snails, Yen Chau mango and especially yogurt dishes that are made from fresh milk. Son La is recognised not only for its charming attractions, but also the hospitality of its residents.