Our most comprehensive tour of Laos takes you all the way from the Chinese border in the far north down through Luang Prabang to the Cambodia border in the south. Variety is guaranteed.
Laos is at its best when you get the chance to experience the variety of landscapes and cultures that exist in the wider country. From the hill country in the north to the Mekong water world of the south this holiday packs in an incredible range of experiences that largely revolve around the natural world and people.
Day 1: Depart on your overnight flight to Vientiane
Day 2: On arrival met and private transfer to your hotel for 2 nights in Vientiane
Day 3: Afternoon private guided city tour
Day 4: Short flight to Luang Namtha (3 nights) in northern Laos. Gateway to adventure
Day 5: Full day walking tour along trails through countryside, farms and villages
Day 6: Full tour to Muang Sing in the far north, close to the Chinese border
Day 7: Drive through area of outstanding natural beauty to Muang La (2 nights)
Day 8: Enjoy a day trekking through the villages and surrounding hill country
Day 9: Take picturesque 4 hour boat ride along Nam Ou River to Nong Khiaw for 1 night
Day 10: Travel to Luang Prabang stopping at Pak Ou Caves. 3 nights Luang Prabang
Day 11: Up early for Alms procession and city walking tour
Day 12: Full day Elephant mahout training day
Day 13: Fly south to Pakse. 1 night Bolaven Plateau, an extinct volcano. Afternoon walk to waterfalls and unique landscapes
Day 14: Back down to Mekong for 2 nights by the river in Champasak. Afternoon tour Wat Phou temple
Day 15: Full day tour to 4,000 islands & waterfalls on Cambodia border
Day 16: Fly home overnight via Vientiane. Add beach stay or Bangkok stopover
Day 17: Arrive home
Day 1: UK Airport / Vientiane
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Vientiane via Bangkok or Hanoi. If you’d like to break your journey an add-on in either is easily added.
Day 2: Arrive Vientiane
On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to the city centre where you check in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights. The rest of the day is free to recover from the journey and explore your immediate environs.
Day 3: Vientiane - Private Guided City Tour (B / L)
This morning enjoy a tour of the city’s historical highlights. Start at beautiful Wat Sisaket, whose walls are home to thousands of miniature Buddha statues and was the only temple left intact after the Siamese invasion in 1828. Then head over to Hor Pha Keo, a religious museum showcasing a fine collection of Lao and Khmer art. Continue on to Patouxai, the Victory Monument, with panoramic views of town. Finally end up at That Luang, the holiest site in Laos and its national symbol.
After lunch in a local restaurant, travel to Xieng Khouan Buddha Park. Here a renegade monk formed his own sect and began to carve magnificent, eerie statues out of concrete, based on Hindu, Buddhist and Brahman iconography. He began in 1958 and continued on until the Communist takeover of Laos in 1975, when he fled across the border to Nong Khai, Thailand and sculpted a new park. This is a surreal “Buddhisneyland” full of interesting photographic opportunities!
The collision of cultures in Vientiane has resulted in a superb variety of restaurants and so this evening we recommend you take to the streets, perhaps stopping for a drink and watching the sun set over the Mekong.
Day 4: Vientiane - Fly to Luang Namtha (B / L)
Time to leave the city and head to the hill country in the far north of Laos. On arrival met and transferred to the Boat Landing for 3 nights. The rest of the afternoon is free to settle in and take a walk through the town. As you are now essentially on the very edge of the Himalayan foothills you will be experiencing mountain weather that can be cool in the evening. Layers are your best bet and footwear that is comfortable when wet is recommended.
Day 5: Luang Namtha - Full day hike into the surrounding hill country (B / L)
This day trek is ideal for someone who wants to do some trail hiking, see different types of agriculture and mixed forest and visit a variety of nearby ethnic groups. The tour has an easy and a more challenging option. The tour starts on the broad open rice fields of the Namtha Valley at the Lanten Village of Ban Nam Dee. It wanders up into the hills above the valley through a local reserve forest. You will see terraced upland rice paddies and visit the Sida ethnic group, a Tibeto-Burman group which only has two villages in Laos. On the way back return to the starting point of Ban Nam Dee and refresh yourself at the village’s waterfall. Evening free.
Day 6: Luang Namtha - Muang Sing - Hill Tribe Villages (B / L)
This morning your guide and driver will collect you for a tour to Muang Sing in the far north, close to the Chinese border. Muang Sing is a region of historical significance as a crossroads for trade, known as the “Tea Horse Trail”, taking mule caravans through Laos to China and Tibet. It was also at the heart of the opium trail. A region of strategic importance and conflict, the tribes who settled here understandably chose the high mountain slopes to build their villages and still today they retain a traditional and diverse feel. It’s the countryside that really draws visitors and your guide will take you up into the hills to enjoy the mountain scenery and to visit a variety of different villages and the market that runs through the town.
Day 7: Luang Namtha to Muang La Overland (B / L)
After breakfast leave for Muang La which is 2 hours away. On the way visit Pra Xack Kham Temple with its sacred 400 year old Buddha image, that is widely worshipped by the local people due to its reputed supernatural powers. The road passes through beautiful landscapes of steep mountains and lush jungle. Stop along the way at a small local restaurant and enjoy the stunning panoramic views. On arrival the rest of the day is free to relax at the beautiful Muang La Resort for 2 nights. Nothing else is planned for the rest of the day so you can stroll around the village or just relax in the beautiful riverside setting, enjoy a massage or some time in the natural hot springs than run through the hotel.
Day 8: Muang La - Hill Tribe Walking Day (B / L)
This morning head out into the hills to meet Ikhos and H’Mong villagers - two typical communities of Laos. The track offers an incredible climb up to 1,000m where you will have a panoramic view of the stunning hill country. You will visit first the beautiful and isolated village of Ikhos. This community from Yunna and Tibet has remained extremely traditional. Lunch will be taken whilst enjoying a magnificent view. After lunch visit the H’Mong village of Ban Tauser (a 45 minute walk). This ethnic group, originating from the high steppes of Tibet, still has many traditional customs. Back at the hotel late afternoon.
Day 9: Muang La to Nong Khiaw by boat (B / L)
Travel north to Muang Khua a beautiful spot on the bank of the Nam Ou River, down which you'll enjoy a boat trip to Nong Khiaw (4 hours). Relax and enjoy river life as it passes by and there will be time to stop along the way to visit local villages.
Nong Khiaw is a small village picturesquely sandwiched between the jagged limestone mountains and coffee coloured waters of the Nam Ou River. You'll stay at the Nong Kiau Riverside Resort, the perfect place to absorb the remarkable scenery, as it squeezes every bit out of its magnificent location looking over the river and across to the mountains.
Day 10: Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang (B / L) - Pak Ou Caves
This morning continue your journey to Luang Prabang by car, stopping at the Pak Ou Caves along the way. The caves rest high in the limestone cliffs and house thousands of Buddha statues that were hidden from the looting Chinese Haw. The caves were converted into Buddhist temples in the 15th century and are used as a site for old Buddha images that can no longer be venerated in a temple, either because they are damaged or the temple they were displayed in has been destroyed. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant near the caves and then head on to Luang Prabang where you check-in to your choice of hotel for 3 nights. Don’t miss the superb night market that runs through the centre of town every night.
Day 11: Luang Prabang - Private Guided Almsgiving & City Tour (B / L)
It feels to some that the city is bathed in Buddhism and this feeling is at its most accessible each morning as monks rise early for the silent alms procession. Today rise at dawn to watch this beautiful, understated and authentic tradition with your private guide. On the way back to the hotel they will take you to the Morning Market, a feast of local and somewhat unusual (to us) produce. After a leisurely breakfast join your guide for a private guided Walking tour around this beautiful World Heritage town, visiting a number of Wats (temples), the Royal Palace and central market. Luang Prabang is best experienced by foot (we can arrange a car) and is home to a growing number of niche shops and galleries. The morning finishes with a climb up the 328 steps up Phousi Mountain for superb views of the area. Lunch will be in a local restaurant and then the rest of the afternoon is free.
Day 12: Luang Prabang - Mahout Training Day - Small Group (B / L)
This morning you’ll be driven about 10kms to the Elephant Village, a centre with a focus on the protection and rehabilitation of elephants in Laos. On arrival meet the camp manager and hear about the work carried out by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers in caring for the elephants.
Next, climb aboard an elephant for a jungle walk. You can either ride on the howdah, a wooden chair, or for a more authentic experience on the neck of the elephant. Then it’s time to learn some elephant whispering secrets from the mahouts. Their crash course includes tips on how to control these massive animals gently, gracefully and respectfully. The tips will come in handy when you get to bathe with them later!
After enjoying buffet lunch at the restaurant take a wander around the village and see the elephant hospital or join in feeding these gentle giants. Next it’s bath time with your elephant on the banks of the Nam Khan River. This is something you won’t soon forget as you will have loads of fun getting wet and wild with your elephant. After returning your elephant to camp, take a short boat trip down the river for a dip in the exquisite Tad Sae Waterfall.
Day 13: Fly Luang Prabang / Pakse (Southern Laos) - Bolaven Plateau (B / L)
Early transfer to the airport for the short flight to Pakse, gateway to the south. On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to the Tad Fane Resort for 1 night. This is located high on the Bolaven Plateau, formed by an ancient volcano and one of the most scenic spots in the region, full of beautiful landscapes made up of forests, rivers and waterfalls. At an altitude of over 1,000 metres, the scenery is very different to that seen in most of the country and even at the hottest time it rarely rises above 27°C.
Check-in, enjoy lunch and then your private guide will rejoin you for an afternoon tour that involves a leisurely 3 hour hike exploring the plateau. This hike goes through a local village, coffee plantations, over a hanging bridge and on to the plains. Huge boulders, epiphytes and wild orchids abound. Large pine trees grow here, giving it a wholly different character of landscape. One of the prime draws is Tad Fane Waterfall whose twin streams dramatically cascade into a 200m deep gorge. Evening free and as you will be relatively high up you may need a jumper or light jacket in the evening.
Southern Laos is one of the most beautiful and least developed parts of the country, where the Mekong River breaks down into a myriad of arms and channels that surround tiny islands, sandbars and islets to create a water world, home to rare flora and fauna including the freshwater dolphin. During the rainy season this section of the Mekong fills out to a breadth of 14km, the river’s widest reach along its 4350km journey from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea.
Day 14: Bolaven Plateau - Wat Phu Temple - River Resort, Champasak (B / L)
This morning your guide will show you a bit more of the area before travelling back down to the river and across to the famous Khmer Temple complex of Wat Phu which pre-dates Angkor Wat and may even be its blueprint. Climb through the complex and you’ll be rewarded with a great view down to the Mekong. From here travel a short distance to the River Resort for 2 nights by the Mekong. If you have time this is a great spot to add a few nights R&R after such an extensive tour.
Day 15: Champasak - 4,000 Islands with Boat Tour (B / L)
Today your guide will collect you for a day exploring the southern border area of Laos, which is approximately 100 kms away, so you’ll have a chance to see the surrounding countryside and villages, following the Mekong all the way (by car). Start with a boat ride to Asia’s largest waterfalls on Cambodia’s border. Khone Phapeng & Li Phi Falls were the major obstacles that thwarted the French in their efforts to open the Mekong River to navigation. Here live some 50-100 Irrawaddy dolphins and if you’re lucky you'll see them. Lunch in a local restaurant. This afternoon walk along the small gauge railway and Colonial Bridge that were built by the French to circumnavigate the falls and open up the region. Back at the hotel early evening.
Day 16: Champasak (B)- Flight home overnight via Vientiane
Morning airport transfer and flight home via Vientiane arriving home the following morning.
Extra….If you’d like to add a beach stay this can be arranged. As most flights are via Bangkok, Thailand would be the most cost effective and direct.
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas International airport departure taxes if payable locally
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Hotels in Vientiane
The delightfully friendly Capital is the perfect place to start a holiday in Laos
Hotels in Nam Ha
Jungle playground to explore by foot, raft, kayak or bicycle
Hotels in Muang La
Idyllic riverside location nestled in untrammelled hills at the heart of the underdeveloped north
Hotels in Nong Khiaw
Picturesquely sandwiched between the jagged limestone mountains and coffee coloured waters of the Nam Ou River
Hotels in Luang Prabang
This UNESCO World Heritage city is very special and should not be missed
Hotels on Bolaven Plateau
Formed by an ancient volcano, full of beautiful landscapes made up of forests, rivers and waterfalls
Hotels in Champasak
You'll find beautiful Mekong riverside hotels in this Ancient Khmer outpost and entrance to Southern Laos