Sakon Nakhon is 647 km from Bangkok. It has an area of 9,605 km², mostly in the Phu Phan mountains. It has many forest temple meditation retreats.
Sakon Nakhon is a Buddhist town with five Buddhist stupas. Its history dates back three thousand years. Legend says that Nongharn town, now Sakon Nakhon, was built in 11th century when the Khmer ruled this region. When the Khmer lost their power, the town was under the rules of Lanxang or Laotian Kingdom. It was renamed “Muang Chiang Mai Nongharn”. When the town joined Siam, it was renamed again as “Sakon Thavapi”. In 1830, during the reign of King Rama III, it was renamed “Sakon Nakhon”.
A mix of Thai and Lao is spoken in Sakon Nakhon. Central Thai is perfectly acceptable. There are few expats living in the city and few foreign visitors, but don't expect English to be widely spoken or to see English translations beyond road signs. Locals will do their best to help you with whatever English they know, but it's advisable to dive headfirst into learning the dialect and start mixing with the locals.
From Bangkok, take Hwy 2 to Saraburi and turn right onto Hwy 2, via Nakhon Ratchasima, Ban Phai of Khon Kaen Province to Ban Tha Phra. Get onto Hwy 23 via Maha Sarakham and Kalasin, then use Hwy 213 to Sakon Nakhon. (7-9 hr respecting speed limits)
- Kalasin 128 km southeast
- Nakhon Phanom 93 km northeast
- Nong Khai 210 km northwest
- Udon Thani 159 km west
The Transport Co. Thailand and private bus companies operate daily service from Bangkok to Sakon Nakhon. Buses leave the Northeast Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) daily.
The State Railway of Thailand operates daily trains from Bangkok to Udon Thani, where tourists can catch a bus to Sakon Nakhon, 159 km away (3-4 hours, 100 baht, air-con. Buses going to Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan may stop in Sakon Nakhon). The night train from Bangkok usually departs at 20:00, and is supposed to reach Udon Thani around 06:00 but 09:00 is more likely. Around 1,000 baht for a soft bed in a 2-bed first-class cabin with air-con.)
Nok Air flies from Bangkok to Sakon Nakhon (900-2,500 baht one-way; 15 kg checked in luggage included).
Air Asia flies from Bangkok to Sakon Nakhon (200-1,300 baht one-way since 2014; checked in luggage is a low-cost extra).
You can get around by bus, samlor, and motored tricycle that are available in the city. Fare is negotiated.
There is no rental company catering for tourists, but you can arrange in almost any motorcycle shop, or any guesthouse, a daily rental for around 100-200 baht, or monthly for 1,500-2,000 baht.
- 1 Phra That Choeng Chum (พระธาตุเชิงชุม). It is built to cover footprints of four Buddhas, namely Phra Kakusantha, Phra Konakom, Phra Kassapa, and Phra Kodom or Phra Sri Ariyametrei (The present Lord Buddha). Next to Phra That is the chapel that houses Luang Por Ong Saen, a sacred Buddha statue of the province. It is featured on the reverse of the ten satang coin.
- 2 Nong Harn (หนองหาร). With a depth of three to eight metres, the lake supports agriculture, livestock farming, and a fishery. There are more than 20 islets in the lake such as Ko Don Sawan, the biggest islet where a deserted temple and ancient Buddha images are found.
- Somdej Phra Srinagarindra Park (สวนสมเด็จพระศรีนครินทร์). The park's compound includes an ancient pond, called Sra Pangthong. The park includes beautiful flowers and trees, jungle, water park, rock garden, exercise area, and a 69-m-high fountain.
- The 60th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen Park (สวนเทิดพระเกียรติ ๖๐ พรรษา มหาราชินี). The park includes a botanical garden, pavilion, fountain, viewpoint, and bird sanctuary.
- Freshwater Fish Aquarium (สถานแสดงพันธุ์ปลาน้ำจืด), Sai Sawang Rd. The Freshwater Fishery Station aquarium features different species of freshwater fish native to Isan.
- Sakon Nakhon Cultural Centre (ศูนย์วัฒนธรรมจังหวัดสกลนคร). The centre features tools, belongings, history, and documents of different ethnic groups.
- Phra That Dum (พระธาตุดุม). The lone stupa is built with laterite in the same period as Phra That Narai Jeng Veng, but the stupa is smaller and without a base. The lintel featuring God Vishnu in reclining position is placed on the northern arch. There are carvings depicting gods riding different animals over the Rahu.
- Archan Man Purithattha Thera Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์บริขารอาจารย์มั่น ภูริทัตตเถระ). The museum houses a bronze statue of Archan Man Purithatto and the glass case that houses his ashes that turned into crystal. The display, including his tools, is placed on a marble altar and his life history is shown nearby.
- Sapan Khom or Sapan Hin (สะพานขอม หรือสะพานหิน). It is considered as an ancient bridge to link Sakon Nakhon and the countryside as this area once was swamp. The present bridge is made from laterite, replacing the old one that was removed for road construction.
- Phra That Narai Cheng Weng (ปราสาทพระธาตุนารายณ์เจงเวง). The lone stupa is built from sandstone on a laterite base and carved beautifully. Its lintel features Lord Krisna killing a lion in Bapuan Khmer art. The art appearing on this stupa is quite similar to many other Khmer ruins found in Isan.
- Phu Phan Rajanivet Palace (พระตำหนักภูพานราชนิเวศน์). The palace is the royal residence of the king, queen, and royal family during their missions in northeast Thailand.
- Phu Phan National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูพาน). The park features limestone mountains and different forest such as deciduous dipterocarp forest, jungle rain forest, or mixed deciduous forest. Wildlife found in the park include langur, civet, and slow loris.
- Phra That Phu Pek (พระธาตุภูเพ็ก). this ancient Khmer Ruin was built from sandstone, standing on a laterite base.
- Tham Seri Thai (ถ้ำเสรีไทย). During WWII, Seri Thai used this cave for arms and food storage as it is well camouflaged by lush vegetation.
- Phu Phan Mountain Range (เทือกเขาภูพาน). The range is quite well known, but remote, at the border of Sakon Nakhon and Kalasin.
- Namtok Kham Hom and Kong Ping Ngu (น้ำตกคำหอม และ โค้งปิ้งงู). The entrance to Namtok Kham Hom winds like a grilled snake, or Kong Ping Ngu in Thai.
- Pha Nang Mern and Lan Sao E (ผานางเมิน และลานสาวเอ้). It is quite a nice place for camping and for watching the sunset view. Below the cliff, there is a track leading to Lan Sao E, literally, "the place for the lady to show beautiful attire".
- Pha Savoey (ผาเสวย). In Kalasin, the cliff heading south is the place where the king once visited and ate lunch.
- Namtok Huay Yai (น้ำตกห้วยใหญ่). The falls are 12 km from park headquarters. It cascades via several steps amid dense jungle.
- Namtok Preecha Sooksan (น้ำตกปรีชาสุขสันต์). The 12-m-wide falls cascade down the mountain.
- Stone Arch (Thang Pi Pan) (สะพานหินธรรมชาติ [ทางผีผ่าน]). The stone arch, 1.5 m wide and 8 m long, bridges two groups of rocks together creating a shelter underneath it.
- Phu Thai ethnic group at Ban None Hom (ชาวภูไท บ้านโนนหอม). have immigrated from the left side of Mekong River to settle down here over a century ago.
- Cliff carving at Phu Pha Yon (ภาพรอยสลักผาสามพันปีที่ภูผายล). Phu Pha Yon, the mountain in the compound of meditation centre houses cliff carvings featuring lifestyles of the local people in the pre-historical period.
- Phra That Phu Pek (พระธาตุภูเพ็ก). Phra That Phu Pek is believed to have been built in the 11th century to serve as a Hindu temple. It was adapted to serve Buddhism later.
- Wat Tham Kham or Phu Kham (วัดถ้ำขาม หรือ ภูขาม). The temple once was a meditation place of Archan Fan Archaro. The temple also houses ashes of Phra Archan Tet Tetrangsi, now a pilgrimage site.
- Archan Fan Archaro Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์อาจารย์ฝั้น อาจาโร). The museum, in the shape of a pagoda and three folds of lotus, houses a life-size statue of Archan Fan in a sitting posture with a stick in his hand. The other exhibits include ashes in glass box and tools, as well as his history.
- Wat Kham Pramong (วัดคำประมง). This temple served as a meditation place for Phra Kru Santi Worayan (Luang Pu Sim Buddharo).
- Nam Oun Dam (เขื่อนน้ำอูน). The clay dam, managed by the Royal Irrigation Department, is built to preserve water from the Nam Oun, a tributary of the Songkram River which originates in the Phu Phan Range.
- Prasart Ban Panna (ปราสาทบ้านพันนา). The Khmer ruin has a lone stupa with a rectangular laterite base and baray around. It is believed to have been built in the same period as Phra That Phu Pek.
- Phra That Sri Mongkol (พระธาตุศรีมงคล). The rectangular pagoda is decorated in modern design and stucco. Its base contains decorations in terracotta featuring history of Lord Buddha. The modern design is a renovation of the old pagoda which had only a laterite core.
- Tham Phra Buddha Saiyard (Tham Phra Thong or Phu Pha Thong) (ถ้ำพระพุทธไสยาสน์ [ถ้ำพระทอง หรือภูผาทอง]). The cave is at Tambon Kor Kiew, 9 km from Amphoe Warich Phume.
- Phu Ang Sor (ภูอ่างศอ). The mountain is in Tambon Kham Bor, 18 km from Amphoe Warich Phume.
- Wat Tham Apai Damrong Tham or Wat Tham Phuang and the Museum of Archan Wan Uttamo (วัดถ้ำอภัยดำรงธรรม หรือวัดถ้ำพวง และพิพิธภัณฑ์อาจารย์วัน อุตตโม). The temple has a four-gabled marble pavilion with a double roof. Its ground floor features paintings of the history of the famous monk Archan Wan.
- Phu Pha Lek National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูผาเหล็ก). The park encloses part of the Phu Phan Range with Phu Ang Sor as its highest peak. Most areas are covered with deciduous dipterocarp forest, mixed dipterocarp forest, dry evergreen forest, various kinds of bamboo and herbs. Wild hogs, barking deer, mouse deer and various birds are found. Attractions in the park include:
- Pha Suriyan (ผาสุริยันต์). The towering cliff on the top of Phu Pha Lek offers nice view point and sun rise view.
- Pha Dong Kor (ผาดงก่อ). The cliff is on the peak of Phu Pha Lek, part of Phu Phan range. It is special with a huge rock at the cliff edge.
- Pha Nam Joke (ผาน้ำโจ้ก). This high cliff on the peak of Phu Pha Lek offers views of Huay Huad Reservoir and a panorama of Udon Thani and Khon Kaen.
- Pha Pak Wan Pre-historical Painting (ภาพเขียนก่อนประวัติศาสตร์ผาผักหวาน). The 3,600-year-old painting is on a big rock at Ban Phu Takham. It features women standing in line and holding each other's shoulders.
- Lan U-sa Sawan (ลานอุษาสวรรค์). The plateau, covering 2.5 km² in area, is on top of Phu Pha Lek. It comprises forest, mountain, rock and grassland, and looks like a man-made garden.
- Dinosaur graveyard (สุสานไดโนเสาร์). Many fossils have been found in the middle of the Phu Pha Lek Mountain and at the forested edge of Phu Phan. Fossils of plant and petrified wood have also been found.
- Hor Song Dao (หอส่องดาว). The observatory is at 700 m elevation on Phu Pha Lek's peak. With a full panoramic view, it is a good place to observe the stars and meteor showers.
- Nam Phung Dam (เขื่อนน้ำพุง). The first rockfill dam in northeast Thailand is 1,720 m (5,640 ft) long and 40 m (130 ft) high. The dam generates electricity for Sakon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom.
- Thai So Cultural Centre (ศูนย์วัฒนธรรมไทยโส้). The centre features tools of Thai So, an ethnic group that migrated from the left side of the Mekong River.
- Phu Pha Yon National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูผายล). It features plateau and sandstone mountain, blanketed by deciduous dipterocarp forest, dry evergreen forest, hill evergreen forest. The trees found in the park include thingar, Lagerstroemia calyculata Kurz, Irvingia malayana. Wildlife found includes barking deer, sambar deer, Asiatic wild dog. Attractions in the park include:
- Huay Huad Reservoir (อ่างเก็บน้ำห้วยหวด). It was created by the irrigation dam at the initiative of the king. There is a strangely shaped rock, by the pavilion on the right side of the reservoir.
- Namtok Kham Sang (น้ำตกคำน้ำสร้าง). With a height of 25 m (82 ft), these are the highest falls in the park. The falls are 1.8 km from park headquarters.
- Phu Pha Yon (ภูผายล). The mountain has beautiful scenery. Its cliff houses carvings which can be dated back to over 3,000 years ago.
- Pha Paya Tao Ngoy (ผาพญาเต่างอย). There is a rock in "ngoy tortoise" shape which is going towards Phung Stream. Locals believe that the tortoise represents fertile land and named the village Ban Tao Ngoy.
- Lan Dusita (ลานดุสิตา). The vast rock plain turns colourful in late rainy season when various tiny flowers are in full bloom.
- Wax Castle Procession. Held during the 12th-15th days of the waxing moon in October to mark the end of Buddhist Lent. On the night of 13th day, people join to decorate wax castles at Ming Muang Field. On the 14th day, wax castles from different temples will join the procession, roaming the municipality to Wat Phra That Cherngchum Woravihara. Isan people believe that the wax will welcome Lord Buddha who comes back from heaven to help all creatures on earth. Communities from around the Sakon Nakhon province spend a considerable amount of time and money constructing large model Buddhist temples out of wax. It draws quite a large number of Thai tourists, and a few expats as well, but is still relatively unknown to foreign tourists. As Buddhist Lent is determined by the lunar calendar, it is held in October, but not on the same day each year.
- Huai Huat Reservoir (30 km south of Sakon Nakhon on Rte 2339). The reservoir is a part of Huai Huat National Park, a consequence of Huai Huat Dam construction. Fronting the reservoir are a royal hall, a flower garden, and a natural arrangement of various forms of rocks.
- Nam Phung Dam (45 km west of Sakon Nakhon on Rte 22 to Udon Thani, then 8 km south on Phang Khon-Waritchaphum Rd). Huge dam provides a sanctuary for numerous teals. A trip to Mae Un Waterfall and a fishing trip are some examples of various activities at the dam.
- Nam Un Dam (At Kut Bak). A multipurpose dam. 172 m long and 40 m high, it dams up a huge lake with a surface area of about 6,000 acres.
- Nong Han Lake (หนองหาร). A 32-km² lake in Sakon Nakhon is a popular place of relaxation. Its offshore isles, particularly the Don Sawan, are both beautiful and restful and can be easily reached by hired boats. However, if you are considering swimming here, read Sakon Nakhon#Stay safe first.
- Phu Phan National Park (25 km on Sakon Nakhon-Kalasin Rte 213). The park is scattered with limestone mountains, groves, and savannahs with several natural attractions such as Tat Ton Waterfall and Kham Hom Waterfall. Foreigners pay 10 times what the Thais pay to enter.
- Songkran Festival. Songkran is Thailand's traditional New Years from the 13-15 Apr annually. Do not think Songkran is just for the big cities as seemingly the entire town comes out to play for several days of water throwing madness. It is about the best fun you can have in Sakon. Most of the action takes place from the temple Wat Phra That Choeng Chum and several blocks to the northwest.
- Ruam Nam Jai Tha iSakon Fair and Red Cross Fair (งานรวมน้ำใจไทสกลและงานกาชาด) - Held at the beginning of each year by the city hall, the fair comprises floats showing cultures and tradition of different ethnic groups in the province such as Phu Thai, So, Yor, Saek, Ka Lerng, Kula, Vietnamese, and Chinese. The float parade starts from Ming Muang Field at 14:00 and travels via Sukkasem Rd to city hall. The other entertainments include a folk culture contest, a traditional dinner, and stage performances.
- So Ram Luk Festival (งานเทศกาลโส้รำลึก) - The festival to commemorate the So ethnic group is held annually on the 4th waxing moon of March at Amphoe Kusumal. Traditional rites conducted by a number of So people start in late morning.
- Boon Mahachart Festival and Boon Bangfai or Rocket Festival, Amphoe Phang Kone (งานบุญมหาชาติและบุญบั้งไฟ อำเภอพังโคน) - The festivals are held annually in the first week of May. Its activities include the local rocket contest, Mahachart Preying, Phang Kone Cuisine Festival, and the local rocket parade.
- Boat race (งานประเพณีแข่งเรือ) - Held at the same time as the wax castle procession, the ancient boat race takes place at Phang Thong Pond or Tha Nang Arb, Ban Tha Wat.
- Ban Charn Arts and Crafts Centre (ศูนย์ศิลปาชีพบ้านจาร) - At Ban Charn, Tambon Mueng, Amphoe Ban Muang, the centre is a production base and training hub for weaving silk and local textiles, as well as blacksmithing and wood carving.
- Ban Pan Mor (บ้านปั้นหม้อ) - The pottery village Ban Chiang Krua is in Tambon Chiang Krua, Amphoe Muang, 15 km from Sakon Nakhon city via Hwy 22. The farmers here receive additional earnings through the pottery business.
- Wha Yai and Ban Don Daeng Weaving Village (หมู่บ้านทอผ้าบ้านวาใหญ่ บ้านดอนแดง) - In Amphoe Arkat Amnuay, the villages are well known for woven cotton, silk dyed in Khit-style. All textiles are dyed with natural dyes.
- 1 Big C Shopping Centre (corner of Khu Mueang Rd and Jai Pah Suk Rd). Daily 09:00-22:00. General shopping. There's a food court, a MK Restaurant and a decent sushi stand.
- Kut Na Kham Arts and Crafts Centre (at Ban Kut Na Kham, Charoen Sin, 112 km from Sakon Nakhon). Where pottery, fabrics, and wood carvings are made by hand to unique designs.
- 2 Makro (1 km west of centre on Rte 22 to Udon Thani). Cheap bulk purchases.
- 3 Robinson (east from the centre). Groceries and assorted goods, with much higher pricing than Big C or Lotus.
- 4 Tedsaban Market (corner of Pracha Rat Rd and Khu Mueang Rd). Primarily a vegetable market, but you can also buy some cheap clothes (especially at night when the market expands to the opposite side of the street) and other odds-and-ends. It's also a great place to pick up a quick Thai meal in a plastic bag.
- 5 Tesco Lotus (west, just out of the centre, on Rte 22 to Udon Thani). Superstore.
- Baijak Coffee & Steak House (behind the PTT petrol station just outside of town on the highway to Udon Thani), ☎ . 11:00-21:00. Excellent little steak house. English menus.
- 1 Ban Fa Prong Coffee & Bakery (from Big C supermarket, follow Rop Mueang St east for 900 m; the restaurant is on the right before the corner with Charoen Mueang), ☎ . 07:00-21:00. Delicious range of Thai, Isaan, French, and international cuisine with menu in English. Air-con, English spoken, nice set of international desserts. 50-200 baht.
- 2 Dog Meat (Ban Tha Rae, north of Nong Han Lake on the road to Nakhon Phanom). Dog meat is sold to those meat-eaters desperate to taste sour and spicy dog-bone soup, peppery dog meat salad, or dark spicy smoked dog sausage. Gourmets say the meat, boiled or fried, is particularly succulent and tastes like deer. Dog oil is said claimed to be a useful ointment for scratches or burned skin. The thought of eating dog horrifies most Thais, and the promotion of canine cuisine is not something the Tourism Authority of Thailand is keen to support.
- 3 Green Corner (Rat Phatthana Rd, opposite the city's main bus terminal). A modern bakery and restaurant. Sells Thai and Western meals. Popular with expats and foreigners also because it's one of the few restaurants that has an English language menu and air-con.
- 4 Pon Yang Kham (15 km southeast of Sakon Nakhon on Rte 223 between the military camp and Non Hom town). A butchery specialising in the production and distribution of high quality beef from charolais and limousin French cattle breeds. Supplies high-end restaurants in Bangkok. Also has an affordable restaurant at noon. 50-300 baht.
- 5 Rajaphat University Restaurant (on Rte 22 to Udon Thani, after crossing Rte 223). 30-200 baht.
- 6 Sakon Nakhon Farmers Market (AKA bypass market) (southwest of Sakhon Nakhon at intersection of Rte 213 (to Kalasin) and Rte 223 to Mukdahan (AKA bypass intersection)). Daily 16:00-19:00. Fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, meat, fish, takeaway food, and an amazing range of insects, frogs, birds, snakes, larvae, worms.
- Sakhon Steak and Sandwich House (ITU Rd, at entrance to the PLR Apartments). 08:00-23:00. Western and Turkish menu with good prices.
- 7 Tesco Lotus (road to Udon Thani). Supermarket with food court. 20-100 baht.
- Golden Pond (Tor Phatthana Rd). A popular discothèque.
- Patchachin (corner Prem Prida Rd and Mankhalai Rd). Thai pub and restaurant. Very popular with younger affluent Thais. No English language menus.
- Soi Jet, Suk Kasem Soi 7 (in a small alley off Suk Kasem Rd). Hard to find but serves good quality Thai food. It is another pub popular with younger, affluent Thais looking for a more relaxed night out. Thai-language menu only.
- Welcome Bar (Tor Phatthana Rd). The local expat bar.
- AP Place Hotel, 525 Ratbamrung Rd, ☎ .
- 1 Baan Esan Country House, 166 Dong Pattana Soi 1 (Sakonnakhon-Udon Rte 22 close to Rajaphat University), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Cute traditional northeastern-style guesthouse five minutes from Sakon Nakhon airport, with a beautiful garden and landscaping. Jasmin and fragrant flowers, orchids, spa, sauna, and hot tub spa. Wi-Fi, satellite TV. English spoken. Inclusive breakfast, with latte and cappuccini, very flexible owners who often arrange delicious home made meals, arrange takeaway deliveries in the guesthouse, arrange transport from/to the airport. Offers motorbike rental. Daily, 500-2,000 baht; monthly, 3,500-6,000 baht.
- Dusit Hotel, 1784 Yuwa Phatthana, ☎ .
- [dead link] Imperial Sakon Hotel, 1892 Sukkasem Rd, ☎ .
- 2 M.J. The Majestic Hotel, 399 Khu Muang Rd, ☎ .
- N.H. Elegant Hotel, 1636/32 Rop Mueang Rd, ☎ .
- PLR Apartments, ITU Rd (Near football stadium), ☎ . Check-in: 10:00, check-out: 12:00. All rooms are fully furnished. 26 inch LCD TV, water heater, cable TV, 24 hour security, laundry service. 300 baht per day; 3,000 baht per month.
Swimming in Nong Han is risky because of parasitic liver flukes.