19 DAYS UNCOVER THE MYSTERIES
- Tour code: LPA11
- Duration: 19 days 18 nights
- Cultural immersion with the soft city tour, and joining the spiritual Baci ceremony
- Exploring the last romance of Luang Prabang, the hidden villages, and waterfalls
- Travelling the back road to Muang Hiam, via Pakxeng, Samsoun, and Viengthong
- Exploring the Nam Nerm Night Safari, the last home of some endangered species in Laos (including the tigers)
- Uncover the mysterious Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang
- Driving through the back road to Paksan, and Konglor villages
- Exploring the longest caves in Laos, the Konglor caves
- Experience the Thakhek loop via Thabak, Ban Nam Yen, Thalang, some some hidden caves
- Exploring the ruin of Wat Phou, the pre-Angkorian style temple in Champasak
- Admiring the panoramic view from the peak of mount Phou Asa
- Exploring Khone Phaphaeng waterfalls, the largest waterfalls of Southeast Asia
- Exploring the 4000-island area, locally called Siphandone
- Joining the Jeep tour in Bolaven Plateau, discovering the coffee trail, hidden waterfalls, and hill tribe villages
Day 1: LUANG PRABANG – ARRIVAL – CITY TOUR – BACI CEREMONY
On arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to check in the hotel.
After a soft rest, your city tour begins with a visit to the magnificent Wat Xiengthong temple with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture.
After that, you will visit Royal Palace Museum, which hosts a range of interesting artifacts.
If time permits, we will take a short walk around the small streets of city center, watching the life of local people, and visiting the traditional house of Heuan Chan, the Chantal wooden house dating back to 100 years old.
Late afternoon, we climb up to the top of Mount Phousi for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa as well as a panoramic sunset view of the city and the Mekong River.
After that, join a private Baci ceremony at a local family. The Baci ceremony as a traditional ritual of the Lao people expresses the spirituality of the country and is a highly memorable experience and a deep insight into Lao culture for the participants.
Dinner will be served after that for you to share with the host family. This is the best chance for you to have first impression of local life and culture.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 2: LUANG PRABANG – TAD HOYKHUA (CYCLING + TREKKING)
After departing at 8:30 am from your hotel, we cycle to the river bank and take a ferry to cross the mighty Mekong River to Ban Xeng Mene. We cycle off-road, exploring the area with several stops to take pictures before reaching the village of Ban Nakham.
The village is popular for sugar cane and Kaolam (sticky rice and beans in bamboo), which are tasty local treats. We continue to cycle along green rice fields stopping in different villages and tribes to see how the locals live their daily lives. After that, we continue cycling and pass the villages of Khmu and Lao Loum until we get to the beautiful waterfall, Tad Hoi Khua (Hundred families waterfall). We will have the picnic lunch by the falls while hearing the sound of the nature.
In the afternoon, we start climb to the top of the waterfall with a local guide for a hiking loop of around 2h30.
Once on the top enjoy a nice mountain view and discover the natural pool from the waterfall water spring and also some centenaries trees. Learn about the jungle vegetation, the tales of Hoi Khua waterfall and the local life style.
Continue by the governor’s trees plantations project with some wild field, enjoy the natural taste of some veggies found along the way and then walk back down to the coffee shop, take a short rest before back to Luang Prabang and cycle back to your hotel.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Approx. 5-6 hours cycling, 2.5 hours trekking
Day 3: LUANG PRABANG – BAN LONG LAO – KUANG SI WATERFALLS
We depart from your hotel and drive for around one hour west to Ban Xeng Mouk village where the trek starts.
We begin with a visit to the ethnic Khmu village of Ban Longlao Nung before heading to the nearby Hmong village of Ban Longlao Song. You will be able to observe the lifestyles of these two culturally very different minority groups and see how despite their differences they manage to work together on a day to day basis and even sharing the same school.
As we continue onwards the trail leads through rice paddys and vegetable fields before reaching the mountainous forest. Along the way we explore a cave which was used as a bomb shelter by the locals during the second Indochina war.
After visiting the cave one more hour of trekking brings us to one of the many springs which feeds Kuang Si waterfalls, here a beautiful pool full of sacred fish can be seen. After descending from the top of the waterfall we enjoy a Lao style lunch amongst some beautiful settings!
The afternoon is spent bathing and relaxing around the turquoise pools below the waterfall. You can also visit the bear conservation center which is located nearby and home to many bears which have been rescued from illegal farms.
Before returning to Luang Prabang we take a short walk to a nearby Khmu village of Ban Thapene which is home to some of the most beautiful pools of Kuang Si Waterfalls.
Approximately: 2 hours driving, 4 hours trekking
Day 4: LUANG PRABANG – PAK OU CAVES – PAKXENG – MUANG HIAM
Early morning, we will start our exploration of the northern Laos by driving through the most remote area of Laos to Muang Hiam via Pakxeng, Samsoun, and Vieng Thong. We will make a short stop at Ban Pak Ou, where we will take the small motorboat to visit the mysteries Pak Ou caves.
After that, our drive will pass the backroad via Pakxeng and Samsoun, the least visited area of Laos. Along the road, we will see very few travelers, who also share the same passion with us in the aim to find the new heaven.
We may make some stop to admire the view, visit the local villages, or just to stretch your legs. We arrive in Muang Hiam late afternoon. Transfer to your simple guesthouse.
Overnight In Muang Hiam
Day 5: MUANG HIAM – NAM NERN NIGHT SAFARI
After breakfast depart for Ban Sonkhua, which is the starting place for the discovery into 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 6: 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, we will drive over the plains to visit the Plain of Jars site 1 which locates just 3km from the town.
Overnight in Xieng Khuang
Day 7: XIENG KHUANG – MUANG KHOUN – PAKSAN
In the morning, drive to 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 will follow the southern road via Thathom, and Nam Cap to Paksan. This road is also not explored by the tourist, and you mostly see the local people.
We arrive in Paksan late afternoon.
Overnight in Paksan
Day 8: PAKSAN – KONG LOR CAVES
Our guide and driver will pick you up at the hotel at around 09:00AM, to begin the journey south along route 13. This first leg of the journey takes around 3 hours and it is interesting to have a quick stop at Wat Prabath Phonsane (‘Temple of the footprint of Buddha’).
You will then leave the highway and enter the Phou Hin Poun NPA (National Protected Area). The scenery will become much more spectacular, featuring limestone karsts, forests and rice paddies. From leaving the highway to reaching your destination will take approximately 2 hours.
On arrival in the small town of Ban Kong Lor you will check in, freshen up and then head out to explore the famous Kong Lor Caves.
You will be given life jackets and head torches before a short walk around to the main entrance of the cave. Upon entering the cave, you will board a long tail boat which will take you through the length of this spectacular cave along an underground section of the Hin Boun River – a length of 7.5km before you see daylight again!
The river flows all year and reveals vast formations of stalactites and stalagmites, which you will explore partly on foot whilst inside the cave. In places the cave is up to 90m wide and 100m high. The cave is still used by local villagers as an access route to the region beyond (it is far quicker than climbing over the mountains which this cave cuts through!).
Once out on the other side you can stop for refreshments and walk to local villages, enjoying the scenery and observing a simple way of life (discuss with your guide how far you would like to walk).
Return by boat, travelling ‘downstream’ through the cave, to Ban Kong Lor.
Overnight in Ban Kong Lor
Day 9: KONG LOR VILLAGE – THABAK – BAN NAM YEN – BAN THALANG
For early risers we recommend a walk at around 06:30am to explore the villages as they wake up and prepare for the day.
After breakfast, we will say goodbye to the lovely village and depart for Ban Thalang.
After one-hour drive, we will make the first stop in Ban Thabak, and enjoy the 02-hour boat ride along the Nam Theun river. The boat is made from the old aircraft oil tank, and suitable for up to 3 people per boat.
During the cruise, we enjoy the tranquil landscape of the along the bank of the river. We may stop at one or two local villages if you wish to see deeper into the local life.
After the simple lunch at local restaurant, we will drive further to Ban Nam Yen, to cool off and take a dip at the natural swimming pool. We will also make a short stop at Tham Mangkon cave (Dragon caves) before transferring directly to the beautiful village Tha Lang in Nakai District, where we will check in the simple Sabaidee Guesthouse.
The rest of the afternoon is free for your own exploration. You can choose to stroll along the river to admire the sunset, or go fishing on the lake (which is created by the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Dam).
Day 10: THA LANG – THAKHEK
Wake up early, you will prepare for your own breakfast with the help of Sabaidee Guesthouse owner. After that we depart for Thakhek, the capital town of Khammouane Province. Along the way, we will make a short stop to visit Nam Theun 2 Visitor Center, where we can have some information of this Hydropower project.
We then continue driving about 02 hours to the village of Ban Nakhang Xang, to meet the village guide, who leads the trek. Trek through secondary forest while the guide points out forest products that provide the local people with significant food resources. The trail passes through a cave that exits into a striking valley surrounded by towering cliffs and forest.
The picnic lunch will be served wherever you feel hungry, we recommend having it at Tham Hip, which offers the great panoramic view over the area.
We then continue the trail, following the shoreline of Nong Thao Lake, where trekkers can see local fishermen at work. At Tham Nong Paseum Cave, the adventurous can swim into the 400-metre-long cavern and explore its dramatic stalactites and stalagmites.
We then continue walking, and climb a bamboo stairway to the Buddha Cave, which was rediscovered in April 2004. The cave contains 229 bronze Buddhas that are said to be over 300 years old.
We arrive in Thakhek late afternoon, check in your hotel in town before taking a walk along the river to admire the sunset if you wish.
Overnight in Thakhek
Day 11: THAKHEK – SAVANNAKHET – PAKSE
After a leisurely breakfast, your guide will meet you around 09:30 to continue your journey south. The drive to Savannakhet takes approximately 1.5 hours. Before entering Savannakhet you will make a stop at the beautiful 16th Century temple of That Ing Hang. An impressive central stupa dominates a courtyard which is flanked by statues of Lord Buddha, in a style similar to Wat Sisaket temple in Vientiane. That Ing Hang is among the most revered temples in Laos and many Buddhists will travel here during December for the annual ‘Boun Phathat’ ceremony.
Continue in to Savannakhet. The city is most famous as the birthplace of the father of the Lao People’s DemocraticRepulic (Lao PDR), Kaysone Phomvihane, who was born here in 1920. Take a short tour of the architectural highlights, which include various French villas and the striking St. Teresa Catholic Church.
Visit the small but very interesting Dinosaur Museum. Dinosaur remains are being found nearby which are between 150,000,000 – 250,000,000 years old. You can speak to the resident paleontologists about their work and the proceeds from your visit help to keep this project going.
After lunch in a local restaurant it will be time to hit the road again for the drive to Pakse, which takes approximately 3.5 hours. Check in and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. On the confluence of the Mekong and the Sedone River, Pakse is the most important town in southern Laos. Pakse is the home a very important Vietnamese community, so if you visit this town during the Têt (Vietnamese New Year), do not be surprised if many shops are closed. This small city has a mixture of Chinese and French architecture and some lively markets.
Overnight in Pakse
Day 12: PAKSE – WAT PHOU – BAN KHIET NGONG
After breakfast, a short walking city tour of Pakse will show you some nice remnants of the French period before transferring by road to Wat Phou. The journey takes approximately 1 hour.
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou temple is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos. The temple was constructed in three levels: the bottom level is focused on the baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features quadrangular pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary itself. The temple was built by the rulers of the Khmer empire before the construction of Angkor Wat. The temple served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and still is one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.
After your visit, we continue in to Champassak to see samples of French colonial architecture before driving to Ban Khiet Ngong, which nested inside the Xe Pian NPA, the hidden charm of the southern Laos.
You are free for the rest of the day to stroll around the village, and its surrounding area.
Overnight at King Fisher Eco-lodge
Day 13: BAN KHIET NGONG – KHONE PHAPHAENG – KHONE ISLAND
After breakfast, we will start the 90 minute elephant ride through the forest (2 people per elephant) and up to Mount Asa. This tour is part of a community-based tourism project developed to help the local villagers and provide conservation awareness. Along the way, you will have stunning views of the Xe Pian National Park which is settled between Champasak and Attapeu provinces. Stretching along the Mekong with many wetlands and unspoiled forest
areas, this park offers a huge biodiversity with 29 recorded ecosystems. Birds species such as egrets, sarus crane and hornbill can occasionally be spotted and other inhabitants include wild elephant and gibbon.
After that, drive further south to visit Khone Phapheng. Khone Phapheng is considered the largest waterfall by volume in South East Asia; this is an impressive spot near the Lao-Cambodian border, set within an area which is teeming with wildlife, making this area one of the most breathtaking destinations in Laos.
Then, we drive back to Ban Nakasang, and take the boat venturing into the 4000-island area. Called “Sipandon” in Lao language, this area is where the Mekong stretches to over 14km wide. The river flows between an unknown number of islands, creating waterfalls and rapids.
Free for the rest of the day for your own exploration of the island. There is the option to rent the bike from the hotel, and cycle around the island to admire the beauties of the local village, and come back just in time to catch the sunset.
Overnight in 4000-island area.
Day 14: KHONE ISLAND – KHONG ISLAND – DAENG ISLAND
Following breakfast, we explore the local peaceful villages of Ban Khone, where you will see an array of relics from the French colonial era and retrace the old colonial past, including old French colonial buildings, and the remnants of the first Lao railway with its locomotive. We continue to discover the 4000 islands area by tuk tuk and visit the marvelous Liphi waterfall, also called the “Corridor of the Devil” one of the most beautiful waterfalls marking Lao border with Cambodia. If we are lucky, we may even see the rare freshwater Irrawaddy Mekong dolphin at Ban Hang
Afterwards, we will take the boat upstream the Mekong river to Khong island, the biggest island of the area. Here, you will have ample time to drive around the island, visit the local village, or just take a cup of coffee before continuing our drive back to Champasak.
Upon arrival in Champasak, we will take the boat crossing the Mekong river to the peaceful island of Daeng, which is named after very famous folk tale of the area. Upon arrival, you are welcomed by the host family before strolling around the island to stretch your legs and admire the local life.
The dinner will be served while the folk tales are told by the host family, and translated by your guide.
Overnight at the home of the host family, the real Lao experience.
Day 15: DAENG ISLAND – BOLAVEN PLATEAU
The breakfast will be prepared by the host family. We then say goodbye to our lovely host before taking the boat back to Champasak. Then depart for the Bolaven Plateau, a mountainous region home to dozens of hill tribes, waterfalls and coffee and tea plantations.
The first stop is the visit of Tad Lo waterfalls, a beautiful formation of three separate falls. From the bridge, you will first see Tad Hang and then Tad Lo in the distance. The most impressive of the three, Tad Suong, is located a further 10km upriver.
From there, we will drive to the small village of Ban Houay Houn, famous for its Katu textiles. Here, you will have the chance to observe the women weaving without a traditional loom but using their legs to stretch the fabric.
We continue our journey through the Paksong and Boloven Plateau. The Boloven Plateau is known for its cooler temperature being located high above the Mekong Valley.Rivers run off this high plateau in all directions and then plunge out to lush forests along in a series of spectacular surging waterfalls.
Overnight at Sinouk Coffee Resort
Day 16: JEEP TOUR (COFFEE TRAIL EXPERIENCE) – CAMPING
08:30AM, transfer to Paksong, where we will meet the Jeep tour specialist at Chai Coffee, and have some discussion with him there when enjoying a cup of coffee.
After that, we will hop on the Jeep and drive 30 minutes to Tad Moun Waterfalls, where we can enjoy the fresh cool water, and visit the nearby vegetable farm.
11:00 Am, we continue driving to the Coffee Farm of Mr. Khamsone via the 10KM bumpy and muddy road, which will take you 01 hour with your special Jeep car.
Upon arrival, Mr khamsone, the Coffee farm’s owner will take 1hr to demonstration about coffee Roasting step and finishing by a coffee cupping to Savor the different kind of coffee (Robusta, Arabica and Typica).
We will have the picnic lunch on the farm at around 1:30PM before walking to the nearby refugee cave, which is used as the hidden place by the local villagers during the war time.
After that, we will continue walking along the farm to see the volcano mountain named Phou Sanark where we can enjoy the view over the farm and the nearby villages during the sunset.
You can learn to cook Lao foods with the wife of Mr. Khamsone while preparing the dinner with her. Overnight at the tent camp at the coffee farm
Day 17: BACK TO BOLAVEN PLATEAU
09:00 AM: After breakfast we continue driving by JEEP for 14km or 1hr to Laven village name’s B Setkhord. In this village there are 500 families living in around 100 years old. So, during the France Indochina, these plateau call Laven plateau, which means: An area or the hometown of Laven people living.
Upon arrival, we can walk around, and our guide can tell you more stories about this village.
We then drive to Tad Say Waterfall where we will have the picnic lunch. After that we will drive to a Suay Village named B Darsia, where you can see many traditional house. 30% of the house here is still the traditionally built long house, and 60% is the traditional house. The house is the place, where many generations will share together. The family use the house for all daily activities such as cooking, eating, and sleeping.
We will arrive back to our hotel in Paksong late afternoon. Free for the rest of the day.
Overnight at Sinouk Coffee Resort
Day 18: TAD FANE – PAKSE
After breakfast, we will drive to a small ethnic village, and take some time to explore the village before heading off trekking through the Bolaven Plateau which is home to many tea and coffee plantations. We continue onwards until arriving at the amazing rock formations of Xing Sai Limestones, here we spend some time before continuing onwards to the towering Champi waterfall where we enjoy our picnic lunch.
At the waterfall we will take some time to swim and relax amongst the beautiful surroundings! After our lunch we continue on trekking through the dense forest for around three hours until arriving at the village of Ban Lak 38, where we meet our driver and transfer back to Pakse.
Free for the rest of the day for your own exploration of the town. Overnight in Pakse
NOTE: there is the option to enjoy the late afternoon cycling tour to Wat Phou Salao, which offer the panoramic sunset view of the area. Start at your hotel and ride along the river banks of Sedone and then the Mekong all the way to the Daoheuang Market. At the roundabout turn to the right to cross the Japanese bridge that spans the Mekong for 1,380 metres and turn left after about 400 metres.
After a small incline you will arrive at the parking and food stall area. Here you can either park your bicycle and take the stairs all the way up to the big golden Buddha and Wat Phou Salao (first half on concrete stairs, second half on wooden stairs that are in really bad condition) or continue straight on/slightly to the right on a concrete road.
If you decide to take this road, the ride is relatively long as you go around the back of the mountain. After some steep uphill biking (gradient of 12-15%, three times) the road takes you another 1.5km on the flat, back towards the front of the mountain. After a big right bend, your reward is a stunning panoramic view from the big golden Buddha looking over Pakse, the Mekong River, and the Bolaven Plateau in the distance.
Continue to Wat Phou Salao where you can take a rest and get a drink from the small shop before you return back the same way.
Day 19: PAKSE – DEPARTURE
You are free to stroll around the town before taking the departure flight
- Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
- Private car transportation with aircon as stated
- Jeep tour
- 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