LAOS ADVENTURE TOUR

Length

13 DAYS

Type of tour

CULTURE/NATURE

Type of service

PRIVATE

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TRIP OVERVIEW

  The Laos Adventure Tour takes you on an unconventional travel experience in close contact with local culture and traditions, enriched with 2 days of trekking in the forests of northern Laos off the beaten track.

Explore the Muang Sing district on the border with Myanmar and China and continue to Oudomxay on a scenic route through picturesque scenery.

Visit Luang Prabang, ‘City of the Golden Buddha‘, the legendary capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom, located on the peninsula at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam rivers, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

Admire the beauty of the Kuang Si waterfalls and cruise the Mekong River to discover the Pak Ou Caves, or the Thousand Buddha Caves, an important place of worship and pilgrimage for centuries.

Visit Vang Vieng, the town framed by a backdrop of karst mountains, lush forests and impressive caves, as well as Vientiane, the quiet capital of Laos on the banks of the Mekong River.

Explore southern Laos for an unforgettable nature experience at Plateau Bolaven, the incredible Tad FaneLi Phi and Khone Papheng waterfalls, as well as Don Khong and Don Khone in the ‘4000 Islands‘ area.

* Please bear in mind that on this trip you may not always be able to find high standard accommodation, hence it is essential to adapt to local comforts.

This sample itinerary starts in Houay Xai (Laos-Thai border) and ends in Pakse. It can be customised to suit your travel needs or combined with other itineraries in Thailand and Laos, as well as an overland trip to Cambodia.

Laos Adventure Tour - map © In Asia Travel

DOWNLOAD ITINERARY

Length : 13D 12N
From : HOUAY XAI (Thailand border)
To : PAKSE (or continue to Cambodia)
Destinations : Houay Xai, Luang Namtha, Ban Nalam, Muang Sing, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Pakse, Plateau Bolaven, Tad Lo, Champassak, Don Khong, 4000 island

ITINERARY

01. HOUAY XAI - LUANG NAMTHA

Rural village North LaosRural village North Laos

Welcome meeting by our staff upon your arrival at the Houay Xai (Laos) – Chiang Khong (Thailand) border. 

Transfer to Luang Namtha to visit the local villages of Ban Nam Chang, inhabited by the Lao Houay minority, as well as Ban Poong, inhabited by the Tai Leu minority, known for the production of the famous rice whiskey “Lao Lao”.

Along the way we stop to visit some hillside villages.

At the end of the visit, we check-in to our hotel in Luang Namtha.

Included : Private pick up at the border, tour guide, private transportation and hotel

02. 1˚PART TREKKING - BAN NALAM

Trekking North LaosTrekking North Laos

After breakfast, car transfer to Ban Jaluensouk village (about 30 minutes) inhabited by the Khmu minority, starting point of the wonderful 2-day trekking experience with an overnight stay in the tribal village.

We follow a trail to the top of the hill and continue through an area of lush rice paddies and tropical forests, guided by an authentic tribal guide who will show us the survival methods of the locals and the collective progress of environmental conservation. Along the way we meet villagers on their way to local markets to sell their produce.

Packed lunch in the forest during the trek.

Afterwards we continue downstream to Ban Nalan Tai village, on the banks of the Nam Ha River, for an overnight stay at a local house (*).

* In order to fairly contribute to the rural economy, overnight stays with local families vary between Ban Nalan Tai and Ban Nam Goy villages. Therefore, we will decide on the spot whether to stay in Ban Nalan Tai or Ban Nam Goy, depending on availability and the presence of other visitors. Should we stay overnight in Ban Nam Goy, the trek goes on for another 40 minutes.

– Trekking: duration approximately 5h-6h / medium difficulty

– Packed lunch and dinner at the local house (Laotian dishes)
– Since the local house where we spend the night is not a tourist facility, it offers very basic arrangements, with shared rooms and bathrooms.
– 
Overnight accommodation is on the ground and a thin mattress with mosquito net is provided.
– Given the extremely rural environment, there is no electricity and no internet connection.

Included : Homestay, breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour guide, tribal guide, trekking permit and private transportation 

03. 2˚PART TREKKING - NAM HA - LUANG NAMTHA

Hill tribe village LaosHill tribe village

After breakfast at the local house, we continue our hike through the forest towards the Nam Ha River.

The area is populated by many monkeys and deer, with strict silence and a little luck we may be able to spot some. 

Picnic lunch in the forest with the locals.

We cross the river bridge in the afternoon and enter Nam Ha National Park. Here the trail follows a stream through dense jungle where it is possible to spot a few wild animal tracks.

The trail then emerges amidst green paddy fields and continues to the river, which we cross in a small wooden boat. On the opposite bank of the river, we visit the Ban Hat Yawng village.

From here we can decide to get back to Luang Namtha by river, aboard a traditional long-tail-boat (about 1h30) where we can spot some bird species, or by land (about 1h) along a road that is likely to be very bumpy but with some excellent lookout points.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, lunch, tour guide, tribal guide, trekking permits

04. MUANG SING

Local village at Muang SingLocal village at Muang Sing

Morning transfer to Muang Sing, in the homonymous district, on the border with Myanmar and China.

The rural village is set in a landscape of mountains with an elevation between 500 and 2000 meters, with beautiful forests and cultivated fields, inhabited by the Tai Lue and Tai Neua minorities in the valley and Akha in the hills.

After lunch we visit some Akha villages and the Xieng Kok village to learn about local traditions.

Afterwards, transfer and accommodation at the guesthouse in Muang Sing.

Included : Guesthouse, breakfast, tour guide, private transportation 

05. OUDOMXAI

Laos © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelRemote areas of Laos

After breakfast we visit the Muang Sing tribal market in the heart of the town, where we meet locals from various villages in the region.

As with all markets in Asia, the ideal time to observe the lively local lifestyle is early in the morning, between 7 and 8 am.

Traders from the various ethnic groups gather to sell all kinds of goods: meat, vegetables, fruit, noodles, soybean paste, waffles, local sweets such as Kainom made from coconut and sticky rice. There is plenty of opportunity to find unique souvenirs produced by the hill tribe plus plenty of great photo opportunities.

Next, we visit the Ethnological Museum, in the old wood and brick building once home to the ‘Little Prince’ as Phanya Sekong was nicknamed and who ruled this area in the early 20th century.

We learn about local history and culture through the collection of traditional tools used by the major ethnic groups and some precious religious symbols preserved for centuries by the people of Muang Sing.

After that, we head into Oudomxai province, home to 23 ethnic groups such as Hmong and Khmu.

The landscape along the way is very charming, with many ethnic villages, largely covered by forests and crops.

Due to road conditions, the duration of the transfer may vary depending on weather conditions which sometimes cause landslides on hairpin bends, resulting in delays until the road is restored. This means that delays may occur in the travel schedule.

These are the unforeseen events of an authentic adventure trip, but also a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local reality.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, tickets, private transportation

06. LUANG PRABANG - PAK OU

Buddha statues at Pak Ou cavesBuddha statues at Pak Ou caves

Morning transfer to Luang Prabang following a route immersed in an incredible scenery of karst mountains and rice fields.

On the way we stop to few villages inhabited by Kamu, Thai and H’Mong Dam tribes. Next we continue to Ban Pakou where we will stop for lunch.

In the afternoon we board for a short river cruise to Pak Ou Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Caves. Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Ou rivers, they are one of the must-see sights on a trip to Laos.

The sanctuary consists of two large limestone caves: Tham Ting, the lower cavity, which can be reached by climbing the 30-step staircase, and Tham Theung, the upper cavity, which can be reached by climbing the 70-step staircase.

The Pak Ou caves have been an important place of worship for many centuries for the faithful, who offer a Buddha image as a gift when they make a pilgrimage there. As a result of this tradition, today both cavities house thousands of statues of Buddha of different sizes, from a few centimeters to about 2 meters, in different styles and spiritual positions (mudras), from meditation to ascent to nirvana. 

Afterwards we continue to Luang Prabang, the ‘City of the Golden Buddha’, the ancient capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom located on the peninsula at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam rivers, UNESCO World Heritage since 1995, whose origins date back to the ancient city Muang Sua built in 698.  

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, tickets, boat, private transportation 

07. LUANG PRABANG - KUANG SI

Kuang Si waterfallsKuang Si waterfalls

At 5:30am we witness the Tak Bak ceremony, the monks’ quest, an ancient Asian Buddhist religious tradition practiced with constancy only in Luang Prabang. Every morning, for the past 2,500 years, hundreds of monks walk barefoot from their temples to the centre of the city. Forming a long line, they slowly walk through the streets to collect alms, especially ‘sticky rice’, donated by the faithful, who wait silently on the pavements, in exchange for prayers and blessings.

Once finished, we return to the hotel for breakfast. We then continue our tour of the most important attractions.

We visit the National Museum: formerly the Royal Palace, it now houses an important collection of valuables including statues of Buddha and many other objects donated by visiting dignitaries to the court of Luang Prabang.

Next we visit the Wat Sene Souk Haram temple, or ‘Temple of 100,000 Treasures‘, built in 1718 using 100,000 stones extracted from the Mekong River, and Wat Xieng Thong, or ‘Monastery of the Golden City‘, founded in 1560, one of the most important in Luang Prabang, known for the grace and elegance of its architecture.

Afterwards, we visit Wat Visoun, built in 1513, Wat Aham, or ‘Monastery of the Blossoming Heart‘, built at the beginning of the 19th century as a place of meditation and a meeting place between animist and Buddhist cultures, and the Wat Mai, ‘New Monastery‘, built at the end of the 18th century, one of the most complex and picturesque temples in the city, richly decorated and easily distinguishable by its unique five-level roof.

We continue to the outskirts of Luang Prabang to the incredible Kuang Si waterfalls. Along the way we visit some villages inhabited by ethnic minorities. Once at the falls, there is plenty of free time for a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters, to explore the trails that lead into the forest, or simply to relax surrounded by this beautiful natural setting.

Late in the afternoon we climb Mount Phousi to visit the sacred golden stupa and admire the beautiful city skyline and a romantic sunset over the Mekong.

A walk to the Night Market on Luang Prabang’s main street in the evening is definitely worthwhile, as you can meet local traders selling handicrafts from the area’s ethnic minorities.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, tickets and private transportation 

08. VANG VIENG

Vang Vieng viewVang Vieng view

After breakfast we visit the TAEC, ‘The Art and Ethnology Center‘, the ethnology centre dedicated to more than 20 ethnic groups and committed to preserve the art and lifestyle of the Laotian minorities. Operating since 2007, it offers visitors permanent exhibitions on ethnic culture and an extensive collection of artefacts.

Next, we move on to Vang Vieng. Rather than a town, Vang Vieng is a large village where the real highlight is the undeniable beauty of the karst landscape and the unexplored caves, some of which have names that recur in local mythology and are said to be inhabited by spirits.

During the transfer, the landscape is very interesting and gives us an insight into the daily lifestyle of the hill tribe

On arrival in Vang Vieng we visit Tham Chang Cave, the most famous and full of fascinating stories. It was once used as an impregnable refuge during the devastating raids of northern Chinese predators. An electrical system now lights the way to the upper cave from where you can see the superb surrounding landscape and the Nam Song River through a gap in the limestone wall.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, tickets and private transportation 

09. VIENTIANE

That Luang Stupa © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelThat Luang Stupa

In the morning we transfer to Vientiane, the quiet capital of Laos on the banks of the Mekong River.

On arrival in Vientiane we visit the most significant landmarks such as Wat Si Saket, known for its thousands images of Buddha that, according to local belief, protected the temple during the Siamese invasion of 1828.

We continue to Wat Ho Prakeo, built in 1865 to house the famous Emerald Buddha, and to That Luang Stupa, considered the most important monument in Laos. The latter, according to local belief, houses a relic of the Buddha brought over in the 3rd century BC.

We conclude our visits to Vientiane at the Patuxai, or ‘Laotian Gate of Triumph‘ the monument dedicated to the fallen of all wars.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, tickets and private transportation 

10. BOULAVEN PLATEAU

Tad Fan waterfalls © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelTad Fan waterfalls

After breakfast transfer to the airport for the domestic flight to Pakse, the former capital of the Champasak Kingdom, today the provincial capital as well as the second largest and most populous city in Laos.

On arrival we transfer to Plateau Bolaven, situated between the Annamite Mountain range and the Mekong River, crossed by numerous rivers and framed by a picturesque natural landscape of forests, coffee, tea, cardamom and banana plantations as well as dozens of waterfalls.

The name Bolaven comes from the Laven ethnic group that has historically dominated this area. At an altitude of 1,000 to 1,350 metres above sea level, the plateau welcomes us with cooler temperatures than the rest of the country.

Following this, we visit the incredible Tad Fane waterfalls in the natural setting of the Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area near the village of Ban Lak.

The Champee and Pak Koot rivers flow off the plateau and come together here to create the two branches of the waterfall which, with a 120-metre drop, fall over the steep cliff creating what seems to be an endless flow of water.

In the afternoon we continue with a hike to Dan Sin Say Plateau, crossing the suspension bridge and then we continuw through coffee plantations and local villages inhabited by Laven, Alak, Katu and Suay tribes.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, domestic flight, tickets, private transportation

11. WAT PHU - 4000 ISLANDS

Wat Phu © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelWat Phu Temple

Morning transfer to Champasak to visit the ruins of Wat Phu Temple, at the base of Mount Phu Kao. The temple was built as early as the 5th century, during the pre-Angkorian period, however, most of the ruins visible today date back to the 11th and 13th centuries, during the Angkorian period.

Compared to other temples of the same period, the structure is developed according to a unique architecture, evolving towards the top of the mountain and ending with a sanctuary dedicated to the deity Shiva. Wat Phu Temple has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.

In the afternoon we carry on south to Si Phan Don, the area better known as the ‘4000 Islands‘, which corresponds with the widest point of the Mekong river bed, with a maximum of 12 km during the rainy season.

This site is called “4000 islands” because thousands of islands of different sizes surface during the “dry” season (November to May) as the water level of the Mekong decreases.

Upon arrival we head to Don Khong Island. Plenty of free time to explore the surroundings at your pace.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, tickets and private transportation

12. DON KHONE - PAKSE

Li Phi waterfalls © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelLi Phi waterfalls

After breakfast we travel to Ban Khone village on Don Khone Island.

Several references and artefacts from the French Indochina period are visible in the area, such as some dwellings and an original locomotive from that period on a section of the old railway built for commercial purposes with the aim, though never achieved, of reaching China by bypassing the rapids of the Mekong River.

Next, we travel to Li Phi Falls, also known as Samphamith Falls, which mark the natural border between Laos and Cambodia.

In the afternoon we continue by boat to Ban Nakasang jetty and drive south to the Khone Phapeng waterfalls, the largest in Southeast Asia.

Afterwards, we return to Done Khong Island for an overnight stay.

Included : Hotel, breakfast, tour guide, tickets and private transportation

13. PAKSE - DEPARTURE

Transfer to Pakse airport in time for your departure flight.

This itinerary can be extended into Cambodia by crossing the Don Kralor land border.

Included : Breakfast, private transportation to airport

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