Xayabuli is a province of Laos, located in the northwest of the country. Xayabuli Province covers an area of 16,389 square kilometres (6,328 sq mi). The province borders Bokeo Province and Oudomxai Province to the north, Luang Prabang Province and Vientiane Province to the east, and (from the south clockwise) the Thai provinces Loei, Phitsanulok, Uttaradit, Nan and Phayao.
Xayabuli is the only Laotian province that is completely to the west of the Mekong River. (Champasak province also has several districts located west of the Mekong river including Mounlapamok, Soukama and Phontong districts.) The province is quite mountainous with the Luang Prabang Range running roughly in a north-south direction and forming a natural border with the Thai highlands. Sainyabuli town is the capital of the province. Xayabuli has the largest concentration of elephants in Laos.
The province is rich in timber and lignite, and is considered the rice basket of northern Laos, since most other northern provinces are too mountainous to grow enough rice. Other important crops include maize, oranges, cotton, peanuts, sesame, sugarcane and vegetables such as cucumbers, cabbage, and beans.
Sayabouly has the largest number of elephants in Laos, which are commonly used to carry heavy items to and from fields and forest. In Hongsa District, elephant riding tours can be arranged and a visit to the Lao Elephant Conservation Center is a nice half-day trip. Also of interest in Hongsa is Wat Simoungkhoun with its astonishing collection of Buddha images and the old city walls of an ancient settlement whose history is shrouded in mystery. In Sayabouly town, located on the banks of the Nam Houng River, amid a beautiful backdrop of green fields and the Pha Xang Mountain range are Wat Sibounheuang with its ancient foundations dating back to the 16th century or perhaps earlier; Wat Siphandon with its unique diamond-shaped stupa and Wat Sisavangvong. Between Vientiane and Sayabouly town is Paklay, a small town located on the Mekong River banks with French colonial buildings, traditional Lao-style wooden houses.
The 1,912 square kilometers Nam Phui National Protected Area has steep and rugged ridges composed mostly of Mesozoic sandstones and shales with summits along the Thai border that reach 1,790 meters. The NPA has a substantial wild elephant population, with an estimated 350 animals. Gibbon, gaur, tiger, dhole, serow, silvered langur, Asiatic black bear, and possibly even Sumatran rhinos are some of the other large animals found in the area. Don’t miss the scenic waterfalls Nam Tok Na Kha, Nam Tok Ban Kum, and Tad Ham Waterfall found in the southern part of the province.
The art of Tai Lue weaving is still practiced in many Tai Lue villages throughout the province. Villages can be visited to learn about the production process and to purchase textiles. Many villages also work in cotton, organically grown in the province.