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Royal Palace (Haw Kham) in Luang Prabang

Laos North & South

2024 Small Group Departure - Example 12 Day Tour
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On this 12-day small-group adventure, discover Laos by traveling from the charming Northern Highlands to the serene Southern Serenity. An amazing experience awaits you on this immersive journey that starts in Luang Prabang and ends in Pakse. Experience the diverse landscapes as you trek through lush jungles, picturesque rice terraces, and remote villages. Engage with local communities, discovering their unique traditions and savoring authentic cuisine. This hiking expedition is a blend of challenging hikes with moments of relaxation. Explore the ancient temples of Luang Prabang, cruise the Mekong River, and unwind amidst the serene beauty of the Bolaven Plateau. Your expert guides will lead you off the beaten path, unveiling hidden gems and sharing insights into Laos' rich cultural tapestry.
Golden Sleeping Buddha, Mount Phou Si, Luang PrabangSunset over the Mekong RiverKuang Si WaterfallWat Xieng Thong temple, Luang PrabanEvening view over Luang PrabangWat Phu castle at ChampasakPak Ou cave near Luang PhabangTad Fane Waterfall, Bolaven PlateauWat Phu Champasak templeLi Phi waterfalls, Southern LaosWat Phu Champasak temple in Pakse LaosRoyal Palace (Haw Kham) in Luang Prabang
Highlights
  • Visit Luang Prabang's UNESCO World Heritage Site with an expert local guide
  • Hike to the majestic Kuang Sy Waterfall and enjoy lunch in a local home
  • Experience a relaxing cruise in the Nam Ou River and visit the Pak Ou Caves
  • Explore Paksong, the capital of coffee production and the Bolaven plateau
  • Discover Si Phan Don, the archipelago of 4,000 islands
  • Visit a local family and learn traditional homemade rice paper
  • See the Vat Phou, a pre-Angkorian temple and a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Stroll around Champassak, the most charming village in Laos
Places Visited
Activity Level: Easy Active
Moderately active but not overly strenuous. This level includes activities like casual cycling, yoga, or excursions/activities that typically last 3-5 hours total each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive in Luang Prabang, Laos

Upon arrival at Luang Prabang Airport, transfer to the hotel on your own. The guide will meet you in the early evening and take you to a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2: Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is one of the most beautiful cities in Southeast Asia, with its perfect location at the meeting point of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers and the foot of an age-old mountain range. Discover the most iconic and culturally significant locations in Luang Prabang. With the help of your expert local guide, they will share their knowledge of the city's history, architecture, and culture.

Today, the home of the National Museum, the Royal Palace, boasts an extensive collection of priceless artifacts once owned by the royal family and a wide variety of statues found in the area's temples. Here, you can see the Phrabang Buddha, considered the most sacred artifact of Laos and given its name to the city.

Take a local motorboat to the most well-known Buddhist site in Luang Prabang, the Pak Ou caves. On this Mekong River excursion, you can witness how the locals live along the river's banks as it flows past quaint villages and towering karst cliffs. Once you arrive after the boat ride and climb the stairs to the entrance, you will see thousands of Buddha statues inside the caves.

In a charming setting not far from Pak Ou Caves, savor a meal cooked by the locals and served on a Sala, a traditional Lao bamboo platform with a view of the river. This is your chance to savor regional food while taking in the tranquil surroundings. After lunch, continue by boat for 2 hours back to Luang Prabang. Once you arrive in Luang Prabang, visit the Vat Mai, built at the end of the 15th century. It is a highly sacred shrine with an incredible roof.

​In the afternoon, you can do an optional excursion and visit a traditional Baci ceremony in a local house. This tradition is one of the most popular in Laos and accompanies any significant life event.

Day 3: Luang Prabang

You will be picked up by your guide and then take a short trip, traveling through the valley and passing local villages along the way. After reaching the Hmong ethnic community of Ban Long Lao Kao, you will have the opportunity to visit and take in the sights of the village. Then, start your walk to the famous Kuang Sy waterfalls, walking through vegetable gardens, rice fields, and forests under the shade of hardwood trees, such as rosewood and ebony. After arriving at the Kuang Sy waterfalls, enjoy a delicious lunch at a local restaurant. Take a rest or take the chance to go swimming before heading back to Luang Prabang.

Rest of the day at leisure, or visit the night market at your own pace.

Distance and duration of the hike: 8 kilometers or approx. 5 miles (about 3 hours and 30 minutes); can be around 4–5 hours in rainy season
 

Day 4: Luang Prabang | Nong Khiaw

After breakfast, travel from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw, then visit Nong Kiew View Point. Nong Khiaw is a town in northern Laos, bordered by some of the most incredible limestone mountains on the banks of the serene Nam Ou River. Today, you will discover the beautiful natural environment with a hike to the top of the peak along a small path. Savor the sense of adventure that comes with moving at your speed up a hill covered in a thick forest. Along the trail, you’ll find places to sit and rest on bamboo benches and get your breath back before continuing your upward exploration. You can use the ropes that have been placed at various points along the route to help with your effort. You will be rewarded with a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of Nong Khiaw and the Ou River winding through the surrounding mountains at the top of the mountain, leaving you perhaps a little breathless but victorious! You will return to the town after stopping at the bamboo saline at the top to take in the breathtaking view.


Duration of the hike Nong Kiew View Point: 4 kilometers or approx. 2.5miles, 2 to 3 hours (around 1 hour, 30 minutes to the viewpoint, 45 minutes to descend)
Level: 1 (maybe a bit more if it is hot or the guests aren’t physically prepared; it is 430 meters or 1,410 feet of ascent)
Distance from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw: 137 km or approx. 85 miles, 3.5 to 4-hour driving

Day 5: Nong Khiaw | Muang Ngoy

Today, take a boat trip from Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoi. Your easy walk starts right in the center of Muang Ngoi. After the first 30 minutes, you will have the chance to stop at Tam Khang Cave, the former sheltering cave for local villagers during the Indochina War (1960–1972). After visiting (and, if you wish, a short bath in the rock pool to cool off), you’ll walk further through lush vegetation and cross some rice paddies to reach Ban Na village. Here, there is the possibility to explore community life by walking around the village or enjoying the views of rice fields and the surrounding hills from a small restaurant terrace. After a pleasant relaxation break, it will be time to head back to Muang Ngoi.

At a good time, take a boat transfer from Muang Ngoi back to Nong Khiaw.

Duration of the boat from Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoi: 1.5 hours driving

Day 6: Nong Khiaw | Luang Prabang

After breakfast, you will travel from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang. You are free in the afternoon after arriving at the hotel.

In the afternoon, you can explore Luang Prabang, visit shops, buy souvenirs, or stay in your hotel to relax. You can do an optional excursion by tasting some popular Lao dishes on a gastronomic walking tour near the city center.

Distance from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw: 137 km or approx. 85 miles, 3.5 to 4 hour driving
 

Day 7: Luang Prabang | Fly to Pakse | Bolaven

After checking out, you will meet your guide and driver and travel to Luang Prabang Airport for your flight to Pakse. Upon arrival at Pakse airport, you will meet the guide and travel to Bolaven on a waterfall tour.

Bolaven is renowned for its altitude and subsequent cool weather. Known for its many waterfalls and coffee plantations, it provides a pleasant break from the lowlands' heat during the dry season. Each waterfall is more stunning than the last. Located east of Pakse, you will have the opportunity to discover two of the most impressive falls of the Plateau. The Tad Fan waterfalls, which rise from the jungle and form two streams of water that pour down in parallel from a height of 120 meters, are believed to be among the highest in the country. You will enjoy a short walk around to see the coffee plantation and catch a glimpse of the local workers, or do some shopping for traditional crafts if you feel like it. Your optional hike will continue to the Tad Yuang waterfalls, cascading down from a gorge 60 meters deep and stretching through the surrounding National Biodiversity Conservation Area. After descending the stairs to the bottom, you can unwind at the panoramic restaurant while sipping the well-known coffee or take in the beauty provided by the surrounding environment from the viewing platform.

Distance and duration of the hike: 3.5 kilometers, or approx/ 2 miles, 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Distance from Pakse to Bolaven: 41 kilometers, or approx 25.5 miles, and 45 minutes by car.
 

Day 8: Bolaven Adventure Activities

After breakfast, you’ll head to Paksong, the Laotian capital of coffee production and the gateway to the Bolaven plateau at an altitude of 1,300 meters. French colonists first planted coffee, banana, and rubber trees in this breathtakingly beautiful and authentic area. Today, it is home to several Mon-Khmer ethnic groups. Nowadays, the coffee produced on this land is globally recognized.

The Bolaven region has many undiscovered treasures along off-beaten paths that are most appreciated on a Jeep excursion. A passionate coffee farmer greets you and guides you to a stunning waterfall where you can unwind and take a bath before extending an invitation for you to visit his property. You can stride across his plantations and watch a traditional coffee roast. Take a short stroll to explore the little paths that wind around plantations, fields, and forests. You will eventually reach the lunch site, situated in a calm and picturesque area. Once you’ve had your fill of delicious local dishes, you will get back in your Jeep for a sensational excursion to the far reaches of the Bolaven plateau to visit remote bamboo villages from the Laven and Souay ethnic minorities, where you will have the sensation of having stepped back in time.

Distance and duration: 20 kilometers, or approx/ 12.5 miles, from the hotel in Bolaven.
Duration: From 9:00 to 17:30

Day 9: Bolaven | Muang Khong

Savor your leisurely breakfast this morning and make the most of your time in Bolaven.

After leaving behind the splendid scenery of the Bolaven Highlands, you will start to feel the temperature getting warmer as you head down to Pakse, where you will have lunch. Stop along the way at a tea or coffee shop to see the local blacksmiths.

After lunch, enjoy a final few moments taking in this part of Southern Laos’ countryside before traveling by road to the island of Don Khong. Siphandone, the archipelago of 4,000 islands, is the perfect place to feel the laid-back atmosphere of Southern Laos. On the way, visit Vat Hatxaikhun and Ban Ponsaad.

Distances: Bolaven-Pakse: 50 kilometers, or 31 miles (1 hour). Pakse-Don Khong (Si Phan Done): 150 kilometers or 93 miles (3 hours).

Day 10: Muang Khong | Don Khong Island Activities

After traveling by car to the south of Don Khong Island, you will visit a local family in a lowland Lao village to learn about the production of traditional homemade rice paper and rice noodles. Then, your journey will continue by boat to Don Som Island, where you will stop at Ban Thapho, where the locals will teach you how to make farmers' hats with palm leaves, which can be taken home as handmade souvenirs. After another short boat trip, you will have the opportunity to stop and discover the old Keng Koum temple, which mixes Buddhist and Hindu influences, before continuing further down the Mekong River to Don Thorlathee island, where local villagers make their livings by selling handicrafts made by bamboo weaving. Don Khone Island is the next stop after a quick sail to Don Xang Island, where you can stroll through a natural setting.

On Don Khone Island, you will begin with a visit to the famous Liphi waterfalls and the old locomotive from the French colonial era by Samlor, or Tuk Tuk. You can discover the local life and enjoy incredible views of the Mekong River.

Then, you will travel back to Don Khong Island by car after crossing the Nakasang boat pier on the mainland.
 

Day 11: Muang Khong | Muang Champassak

Enjoy your breakfast before heading back north to Champasak.

Upon arrival in Champasak, visit the Vat Phou temple. Vat Phou is a pre-Angkorian temple complex listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On arrival, you will be transferred by electric car, passing two artificial lakes, to the sacred Mount Phou Kao. After that, you will stroll to the ancient axis, marked by stone pillars, which leads to the first terrace, where the abandoned Khmer Hindu palaces with exquisite sculptures stand silently. From there, antique stairs bordered by frangipani trees lead up to a third temple with a unique structure dedicated to the Lord Shiva. Your exploration will continue behind the temple, where you can see a natural spring and stone animal carvings, before walking back to the entrance.

Distance from Champasak: 8 kilometers, or approx 5 miles (20 minutes).
Duration of the visit: About 1 hour, 30 minutes

Proceed to Wat Phanon by foot from Vat Muang Kang. The countryside around Champasak is among the most charming in Laos. Discover Champasak with a walk starting at Vat Muang Kang, the oldest active temple in Champasak, which combines elements of French colonial and Lao Buddhist architecture. Situated beside the Mekong River, the setting provides stunning vistas and a serene ambiance. Enjoy a stroll in the gardens and see scattered historical buildings and a wooden dormitory for the monks. From there, walk on a path shadowed by bamboo trees, passing through traditional villages where the local people make sticky rice boxes, handicrafts, and food specialties. During the walk, you will enjoy picturesque scenery on the mighty Mekong before arriving at Vat Phanon.

At the end of the afternoon, embark on the boat to Don Daeng Island and have free time to enjoy the La Folie Lodge resort.

Transportation: Si Phan Don to Champasak is 150 kilometers (93 miles) or a 3-hour drive.

Day 12: Pakse | Return Home

  • 1 Breakfast
Depending on your departure flight, this morning is at leisure or to explore the nearby villages on foot at your own pace.

Then, you will embark on the cruise from Don Daeng island back to Champasak and travel to Pakse airport for your departure flight.

Transportation: Champasak to Pakse airport is 40 kilometers (24 miles) or a 50-minute drive.
Note: Check-out at the hotel will be at noon at the latest.
 

Accommodations

Villa Saykham

Villa Saykham
Villa Saykham
Villa Saykham

Phaxang Resort Nong Khiaw

Phaxang Resort Nong Khiaw
Phaxang Resort Nong Khiaw
Common area

Sabaidee Valley Resort

Sabaidee Valley Resort
Outdoor area
Swimming pool area

Pon Arena Hotel

Pon Arena Hotel
Pon Arena Hotel
Pon Arena Hotel

La Folie Lodge

La Folie Lodge
La Folie Lodge

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$1,938 2-3 travelers

Notes

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Included
  • 11 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 1 Dinner
  • 11 Nights Accommodations
  • 11 Days Locally Hosted Guide Service
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • All transfers mentioned in the itinerary
  • All sightseeing, guiding and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • All local boat rentals, as mentioned in the program
  • Professional local English-speaking guides throughout your tour (1 in the North and 1 in the South)
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Passport or Visa fees
  • International flight tickets and airport taxes. All internal and regional flight tickets in economy class

Map

When to Go

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Typically not offered during this period because of weather conditions.

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