LAOS NATURE TOUR

Length

18 DAYS

Type of tour

NATURE

Type of service

PRIVATE

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TRIP OVERVIEW

  The Laos Nature Tour is definitely one of the less conventional journeys, as in addition to the more popular locations, remote areas of northern and central Laos off the beaten track are included.

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

Discover the northern Laos at Luang Namtha, home to 23 ethnic groups, hike to tribal villages to learn about traditions and life style, and explore the incredible Konglor cave in central Laos.

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 is entirely overland, starts in Luang Prabang and ends in Pakse. It can be customised to suit your travel needs or combined with other trips in Laos, as well as an overland trip to Cambodia.

Nature Tour Laos - map © In Asia Travel

DOWNLOAD ITINERARY

Length : 18D 17N
From : LUANG PRABANG
To :PAKSE (or continue to Cambodia)
Destinations : Luang Prabang, Pakbeng, Luang Namtha, Oudomxai, Muang Sing, Muang La, Muong Ngoy, Xieng Khouang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Konglor, Pakse, Plateau Bolaven, Tad Lo, Champassak, Don Khong, 4000 island

ITINERARY

01. ARRIVE IN LUANG PRABANG

Luang Prabang view - LaosLuang Prabang view

Welcome meeting by our staff upon arrival in Luang Prabang, 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. Transfer to the hotel and check-in.

Included : Private pick up from them airport, private transportation and hotel

02. LUANG PRABANG

National MuseumNational Museum

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. We continue along the quiet streets lined with buildings from the French colonial period to admire their architecture and learn about their original function.

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, 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, and the Wat Phonphao, on the small hill which offers a great view of Luang Prabang, known for its beautiful architecture.

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 

03. KUANG SI AND LOCAL VILLAGES

Kuang Si waterfallsKuang Si waterfalls

After breakfast, transfer to Ban Long Lao to visit the Khmu Ban Long Lao and Nung Ban Long Lao Song ethnic villages. We observe the local lifestyle of these two ethnic groups who, despite considerable cultural differences, can peacefully share the same environment, work activities and school.

Next, we head towards the outskirts of Luang Prabang to the incredible Kuang Si waterfalls. Along the way we make a short stop (about 40 minutes) at the Buffalo Dairy Farm and to some villages inhabited by ethnic minorities.

Once at the waterfalls, free time is available for a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters, to explore the trails that lead into the forest or simply to relax surrounded by this enchanting natural setting.

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

04. PAK OU CAVE - PAKBENG

Buddha statues at Pak Ou cavesBuddha statues at Pak Ou caves

After breakfast we head to the pier and embark on a river cruise to Pakbeng. On the way we stop at 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. During the cruise we admire the typical Laotian rural landscape and the local lifestyle. 

Afterwards we visit the village of Ban Baw, known for the production of “Lao Lao”, the famous rice whiskey.

Arrival in Pakbeng before sunset and check-in at the hotel.

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

05. OUDOMXAI - LUANG NAMTHA

Laos © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelRemote areas of Laos

After breakfast we visit the Pakbeng local market, an interesting experience to learn about the daily life of the hill-tribes.

Afterwards we move on to Luang Namtha following a route through the mountainous and remote areas of northern Laos.

On the way we will stop several times to visits the villages in Oudomxay province, home to 23 ethnic groups such as Hmong and Khmu.

In the afternoon we continue the transfer to Luang Namtha.

Included : Guesthouse, breakfast, tour guide, private transportation

06. 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 few hill tribal villages, the stupa Chieng Tung, the villages of Ban Nam Ded and Ban Nam Mai.

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

Included : Guesthouse, breakfast, tour guide, private transportation 

07. MUANG LA

Remote-village-LaosHill tribe village

After breakfast we visit Muang Sing village.

Afterwards, we begin our transfer to Muang La, the rural village dominated by the Pha Chiao Sing Kham temple.

After arriving in Muang La in the afternoon, check in at the guesthouse.

Following this, we visit the surrounding area to observe the lifestyle of the Khamu tribe.

We continue to the Phra Chao Song Kham shrine, an important religious landmark for local pilgrims.

Included : Guesthouse, breakfast, tour guide and private transportation 

08. TREKKING TO PAK KHAI AND BAN PHAVIE

Rural area LaosRural area Laos

Early in the morning we head to Pak Khai following a route that offers beautiful views of the Pak Nam River, terraced rice paddies and small riverside villages.

We begin our trek following the stream through the lush vegetation. During the hike we meet local people engaged in typical local activities: working in the rice fields, hunting and fishing in the stream.

We continue into the rainforest and after approximately 1h30′ we reach the hilltop village of Ban Phavie, inhabited by the Khamu tribe.

In the afternoon we visit the waterfalls in the surrounding area where we enjoy a refreshing swim, weather permitting, lulled by the gentle breeze and the peaceful natural setting.

At approximately 2.30 p.m. we start the journey back to Muang La.

Included : Guesthouse, breakfast, picnic lunch, tour guide, trekking permit and private transportation 

09. MUONG KHOUA – MUONG NGOY

Hill tribe LaosHill tribe

After breakfast we head to Muang Khoua pier for the river transfer to Muang Ngoy on a traditional boat.

Slowly cruising down the Nam Ou River we pass through the incredible natural scenery of this part of Laos, still untouched by mass tourism, and watch the slow flow of daily life of the locals who live near the river.

In the afternoon we reach the village of Ban Sopjam.

After checking in at the guesthouse we visit the village.

Included : Homestay, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner, tour guide and private transportation 

10. NONG KHIAW – LUANG PRABANG

After breakfast we visit Muong Ngoy Neau village.

Afterwards, we continue with the boat transfer to Nong Khiaw and drive to Luang Prabang along a very scenic route.

During the transfer we stop to visit the Ban Na Yang tribal village inhabited by the Thai Lui minority.

Arrival in Luang Prabang in the afternoon and check-in at the hotel.

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

11. PLAIN OF JARS

Plain of jarsPlain of Jars

Morning transfer to Xieng Khoang, the province heavily affected by the American bombardment during the Second Indochina War (Vietnam War).

The path is very enchanting and reflects the authenticity of Lao landscapes. It is unusual to come across other tourists in this area as it is still off the beaten track. The transfer is slightly long and includes a few stops to admire and take pictures of the scenery.

We reach the Plain of Jars, the large archaeological site with hundreds of large jars scattered over the plateau.

Archaeologists claim that the jars are around 2,000 years old, although no concrete explanation has yet been found as to what they were used for, whether they were burial urns or were merely used to store the popular rice wine.

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

12. VANG VIENG

Vang Vieng viewVang Vieng view

After breakfast we visit the colourful market of Phonsavan, where we meet locals from various tribal villages in the region.

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 the way stop at Thampra to visit to the image of Buddha build more than 200 years ago, and to some villages inhabited by Hmong minority.

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 

13. 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 

14. KONG LOR CAVE

Kong Lor cave © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelKong Lor cave

After breakfast we start the transfer to Khammouane, the remote province in central Laos. Along the way we stop to visit the interesting Ban Ton Na Mae Hmong market.

Throughout the transfer we are surrounded by a backdrop of beautiful limestone mountains, local villages and rice paddies. We stop at the Khoun Kham lookout point to marvel at the impressive scenery.

Once in Ban Kong Lor, we board a small boat to sail into the incredible Kong Lor cave, which is crossed by the river for 7 kilometres. Slowly we are swallowed up by the darkness of the incredibly large cave which is almost 100 metres high.

As we proceed silently into the cave, the boat’s lighthouse allows us to catch a glimpse of the walls that have been sculpted by the flow of water over millions of years. This is just a foretaste of the spectacle that awaits us halfway along the route where we can dock and visit the incredible and gigantic stalactites and stalagmites on foot.

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

15. BOLAVEN PLATEU

Bolaven Plateu © Gabriele Stoia - In Asia TravelBolaven Plateu

After breakfast we continue our journey to the southern provinces of Laos.

Once in Savanakhet we visit the French Quarter, the stupa That Inhang, and the Soundra Salt Factory to observe the salt production process.

In the afternoon we visit Don Khor, the village specialised in Buddhist religious carvings for temples.

Afterwards, transfer to Plateau Bolaven.

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

16. BOLAVEN PLATEU - CHAMPASSAK

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

After breakfast we visit Bolaven Plateu, 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 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.

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

17. 4000 ISLANDS

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

In the morning we continue 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.

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.

In the afternoon we travel to Li Phi Falls, also known as Samphamith Falls, which mark the natural border between Laos and Cambodia. Afterwards we return by boat to Ban Nakasang jetty and drive south to the Khone Phapeng waterfalls, the largest in Southeast Asia.

At the end, we return to Done Khong Island for an overnight stay.

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

18. 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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