15 DAYS NORTHERN LAOS EXPERIENCE
- Tour code: LPA09
- Duration: 15 days 14 nights
- Visit the must-see attractions in Luang Prabang and its surroundings
- Cruise to the powerful Mekong in Pakbeng
- Visit the nature of Luang Namtha, have dinner and spend the night with the locals
- Discover the Namkat waterfalls and stay at the comfortable Namkat Yola Pa Resort, paradise nestled inside the pristine green jungle.
- Nam Ou River Cruise lazy, and visit an interesting place en route
- Exploring the 100 famous waterfalls
- Discover the Nam Nern Night Safari, the last home for some endangered species
- Reveal the mysteries of the plain of jars
- Discover the exciting Vientiane, the capital of Lao PD
Day 1: LUANG PRABANG – ARRIVAL
On arrival at the Luang Prabang airport, you will be met and transferred to check in the hotel.
Situated in the centre of northern Laos, Luang Prabang is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding cultural, historic and architectural values and its harmonious relationship between the natural and built environment.
You are free to stroll around the city for your own first impression of this ancient city.
The welcome dinner will be served at the local restaurant with the traditional dance & folk song, the best chance to experience the Lao culture.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 2: LUANG PRABANG – KUANG SI WATERFALLS
Wake up as the sun rises, we will prepare to join the most sacred tradition of Laos, the daily morning alms giving, which dates to the 14th century. More than 200 Buddhist monks depart from various temple to gather their daily meal from the faithful residents sitting quietly on the streets. From there, we will visit the temporary morning market near the former Royal Palace. Just set on the ground, the local people come here to barter their day’s catch from rice, to vegetable, to fish, or chicken.
After breakfast, we visit Royal Palace Museum, which was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family. Our next stop in the city is the magnificent Wat Xiengthong a superb piece of Lao temple architecture, which presents a sweeping two-tiered roof and ornate mosaics including a beautiful ‘tree of life ‘glass montage on the rear temple wall.
We will also take a look at the Traditional Art & Ethnology Center, which is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the many ethnic groups existing in Laos both today and in the past. Laos is also known for its traditional crafts, we will take a short visit to the Ock Pop Tock Living Craft Center, where you will have a short tour so you get information about Silk, about weaver, about the Women that work in the Centre.
This then takes us to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall, which is the biggest in the Luang Prabang area with three tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into spectacular azure pools before flowing downstream. The pools also make great swimming holes and are very popular with both tourists and locals. You can also see up close Asiatic bears at the Bear Rescue Centre along the jungle walk to the waterfall.
Before returning to Luang Prabang, we stop to visit the Kuang Si Falls Butterfly Park (closed from 15 APR – 30 JUN; 01- 14 SEP, & 01 JAN every year), whose mission is to create a research centre studying and publishing about Laos butterflies, host plants and preservation.
Arriving in Luang Prabang, we ascend the 329 steps to the top of Phousi Hill for a beautiful sunset view of the city and its glowing reflection on the Mekong River.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 3: LUANG PRABANG – PAK OU CAVES – PAKBENG
Our driver will pick you up from your hotel/guesthouse at 6:30 AM, and transport you to the boat pier.
The boat leaves at 7:00 AM for the upstream cruise to Pakbeng. French breakfast is served onboard after the introduction of the crew. Shortly thereafter, we will stop to visit the famous Pak Ou Caves (Tham Ting) and its thousands of Buddha images. For lunch, local food is served onboard.
Then, you will have free time for relaxing in the afternoon, until the boat arrives in Pakbeng at dusk. You will be served a typical snack and drink on board in the afternoon. Here, you will retreat to your accommodation for the night.
Departure schedule of Shompoo Cruise: every TUESDAY / THURSDAY / SATURDAY / SUNDAY)
Day 4: PAKBENG – OUDOMXAY – LUANG NAMTHA
For early risers visit the morning market where residents of the nearby villages and hill tribes gather to buy and exchange their goods.
After lunch at the lodge, you will leave for Luang Nam Tha. On the way, you can observe the local rural life, local markets on the side of the road, clear views on corn and banana plantations and amazing views over the mountains.
You will pass through the provincial capital, Oudomxay. Once a very sleepy town, this has become an important trading hub and shows the changes which are happening rapidly in the region. This makes the final leg of the journey, away from the busy town and in to unspoiled nature, all the more exciting. The contrast also highlights just how special the experiences are in the remaining wilderness. Luang Nam Tha, which is located on the banks of the Namtha River, is a land of rugged mountains and beautiful tropical forests and shares its border with China and Myanmar. We arrive in Luang Nam Tha in the afternoon.
Overnight in Luang Nam Tha
Day 5: LUANG NAMTHA – EXCURSION & HOMESTAY + GUIDE
After breakfast at the hotel, our guide will pick you up. From there, we will take a short visit to the Luang Namtha museum. Then visit Luang Namtha Stupa that you will see excellent view of Luang Namtha city. Continue to the old Phou Pouk Stupa, visit Ban Nam Ngean “Tai Dam” and Ban Pieng Ngam “Tai Deang” both of them are famous for their many different handicrafts, walk around the villages to see & learning how to process Lao Whisky making, traditional weaving, black smith, bamboo basket making.
From there, we will transfer to the village of Ban Nam Dee “Lanten” along a dirt road for 6 km. Today you will learn & practice how to make paper from young bamboo, natural dyeing & the traditional weaving, participate the traditional Baci-ceremony & local music, taste local meals, talk about village history with owner homestay & go to bed.
Day 6: LUANG NAMTHA – OUDOMXAY – NAMKAT YOLA PA
The local market also attracts numerous ethnic minorities who converge from the surrounding mountainsides or valley to barter and trade their goods. We then transfer directly to Oudomxay, which is residence to a mixture of 23 ethnic minority groups. We make a few rest stops along the way, which gives you the opportunity to see the ethnic minority groups.
Upon arrival in Oudomxay, we will transfer directly to Namkat Yola Pa Resort, which locates 30Km from Oudomxay center. The resort is famous for its pure natural surround with the thick jungle, and especially the amazing Namkat Waterfalls, which we will explore in the next days. Upon arrival, check in your riverside bungalow. Free for the rest of the day at the resort pool, or just relax and enjoy the sound of nature.
Overnight at Namkat Waterfalls
Day 7: NAMKAT WATERFALLS EXPERIENCE
We depart from the resort and cycle upwards to the Namkat Waterfall. You will sense the fresh smell of nature as the road is surrounded by thick forest. The cycling trip towards the waterfall will take about 2 hours. We will park our bikes at the entrance point of the waterfall, and walk towards the waterfall by flying bridges walk.
Picnic lunch will be served at the waterfall. We will spend about 1.5 hour there. After lunch we will do zip-lining back to the entrance/meeting point where we parked the bikes and cycle back to the resort.
Overnight at Namkat Yola Pa Resort
Day 8: NAMKAT – MUANG KHUA – MUANG NGOI
In the morning, we will depart for Muang Khua, the small town along the way to Tay Trang Border with Vietnam. On arrival at the town, you may spend an hour to visit the old bamboo bridge that connecting the town and the beautiful H’Mong village of Ban Natoun.
Afterward, we will board on a long-tail boat downstream the Nam Ou River to Muang Ngoi, the village in the middle of nowhere. The scenery along the way is said to be the most beautiful part of the gently Nam Ou River. We arrive in Muang Ngoi just in time to catch the sunset before checking in your simple guesthouse.
Overnight in Muang Ngoi
Day 9: MUANG NGOI – BAN SOP KONG – NONG KHIAW
After a local breakfast, time to explore the village. Here, we will trek to the local village of Ban Na, and the caves of Tham Kaang, which is said to have the supernatural powers.
After this we continue onwards to Tad Mork which is located close to the ethnic Khmu village of Ban Sop Kong, an hour trek from the river.
At the waterfall, we shall have time to swim and enjoy a picnic lunch. After enjoying our time at the waterfall we head back to the river where to return back to Nong Khiaw via boat.
We will head off down the river through a narrow gorge where we stop at another small but fascinating village. The last part of today cruise is 30 minutes cruise down to Nong Khiaw whilst the sun is setting.
Overnight in Nong Khiaw
Day 10: NONG KHIAW – 100 WATERFALLS + GUIDE
Start this day of adventure with a peaceful boat ride on the Nam Ou River where you will be able to explore a small Lao village along the riverside. Learn about the villagers and their way of life along this Northern Laos River before beginning the ‘100 Waterfalls Adventure Trail’!
Walking through small streams and rice paddies, you will arrive at the bottom of the 100 Waterfalls which were only first explored in October 2008! For the next few hours you will see only water and jungle and hear the constant sound of clear waterfall cascades. The pools around you are very inviting for a refreshing splash.
Your guide will lead you through the cascades and prepare a local style lunch that you can enjoy on the falls surrounded by amazingly green nature.
A small village trail on the top of the ‘100 Waterfalls’ will lead us on our hike back down into the valley, offering wide views over the expansive Nam Ou valley.
Once back in the village we will have some more time to experience the daily life of the Nam Ou riverside village before heading back to Nong Khiaw (Nong Khiau) by boat.
Overnight in Nong Khiaw
Day 11: NONG KHIAW – BAN SONKHUA
Today, we will drive through the most rural and least developed part of Laos via Vieng Kham to Muang Hiam. These back roads are a perfect way to venture off the beaten track and explore the real Laos. We see very few other travelers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs.
The drive can be challenging on some parts of our journey due to poor road conditions; however the verdant and rugged mountain scenery combined with the colorful local population makes for a memorable experience.
Arriving in Muang Hiam, we have ample time to stroll around this small town before continue to drive to the Khmu village of Ban Son Khua. This village is the entrance to the Nam Et – Phou Louay NPA, where we will explore the next day with Nam Nern Night Safari.
Dinner with the host famil and overnight in Ban Son Khua
Day 12: NAM NERN NIGHT SAFARI
After breakfast depart for the Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA (National Protected Area).
Here you will experience the Nam Nern Night Safari and stay in a simple ecolodge, all of which has been developed with the local community. Learn about wildlife conservation, medicinal plants, traditional agriculture and the history of the Secret War from your local Khmu guide.
Upon arrival at Ban Son Koua, an ethnic Khmu Village, village guides and boatmen will meet you and take you on a short tour of the village where you will learn about the animist tradition of appeasing the village spirit.
Then embark on a 1.5 hour journey to the park substation on the Nam Nern River by long-tail boat, along the way learning about upland rice cultivation and having opportunities to spot monitor lizards and bird life.
After arriving at the park substation, you will enjoy a lunch prepared by the village cooking group. After lunch, receive a briefing by park staff about the on-the-ground efforts in protecting tigers and their prey. Around the middle of the afternoon you will depart for the night safari.
Stopping near a salt lick, you will hike into the forest. Your local guide, a skilled hunter and tracker, will explain how local people track deer and other wild ungulates. The guides point out evidence of wildlife, such a tracks or scat at the salt lick.
The boats will continue upriver to the dinner site, a sandy, flat bank, where you will have a picnic dinner around a campfire. After dinner, your guides tell Khmu folktales and stories about dragons, wildlife, and ghosts. They educate you about the species of animals they may see during the spotlighting and explain the rules and expectations for spotlighting.
Depending on the amount of moonlight, depart for the night spotlighting 1-2 hours after dark, floating down river with engines off. There is only one light per boat. Only guides use the light, to avoid scaring the animals. The guides and boat drivers communicate via hand signals to avoid talking that might disturb the animals. The boat is very quiet so as not to disturb the animals. Animals that may be seen include Sambar Deer, Otters, and Barking Deer, various species of Civets, Slow Loris, Porcupine and Owls (Hogbadgers, Asian golden cat and wild dogs have also been seen).
At the end of the spotlighting, the boats arrive at the evening camp. Before going to bed you will be able to check out a variety of insects attracted to the black light set up near the substation.
Overnight in Nam Nern
Day 13: NAM NERN – XIENG KHUANG
Before breakfast, your local guide will take you on a walk around the jungle, teaching you the use of medicinal plants and explaining the history of the site, which was once a major settlement during the Secret War. After breakfast, the boats float back to the village at a relaxing pace with engines off, pointing out birds along the way.
Upon arrival in the village, you will be invited to try earthen jar rice wine (lao hai). After that continue driving about 3 hours to Xieng Khouang. Along the way enjoy the beautiful scenery and see local village life. You will stop for lunch at a local restaurant.
Xieng Khouang is a town that has been totally rebuilt after being destroyed during the secret war in Laos. The town is now located 30 km away from where it was originally. Today, Xieng Khouang, locally called “Phonsavan” is the gateway to the Plain of Jars.
After checking into your hotel, if you still have the energy, you can visit the MAG Center in the town. MAG is a humanitarian organization clearing the remnants of conflict for the benefit of local communities worldwide. Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed nation in the world (per capita). Free entry, open everyday from 08:00h – 20:00h
Overnight in Xieng Khouang
Day 14: XIENG KHUANG – VIENTIANE (FLIGHT)
In the morning, enjoy a half day trip to Muang Khoun. Muang Khoun one place in the old provincial capital that was not been destroyed by the American bombings during the secret war. Muang Khoun is home to unique sitting giant Buddha as well of some old pagodas that lies in ruins. The foundation and columns of Wat Pia Wat are still standing and close to this site, there is also an old 30m stupa constructed in the Lan Xang/Lanna period.
After that, we drive back to tow and visit the “Plain of Jars”, which is an impressive archaeological site where hundred of large stone jars are scattered all over a plateau. These huge jars are supposedly over 2,000 years old, but most of archaeologists still question their purpose. We have time today to explore the Plain of Jars site 1 and some nearby villages, populated by the Hmong hill tribe and Tai Dam people; they are very poor but possess a vibrant local culture and an interesting history. We then transfer out to the airport to take the flight to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos.
Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Vientiane
Day 15: VIENTIANE – CITY TOUR – DEPARTURE
In the morning, we will first visit the major sights of the capital; including the oldest Wat Sisaket, the temple with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. On the way to Lao’s national icon, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, we stop enroute to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph.
We are then free before taking the departure flight
- Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
- Private car transportation with aircon as stated
- English speaking tour guide
- A bottle of mineral water
- Meals as indicated
- Boat trip
- Entrance fee in each destination
- Visa and Insurance fees
- International & Domestic fights
- Drinks, tips and personal expenses
- Any other items and services not mentioned in the program