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Laos Tour | Far North to Far South

Explore some of Southeast Asia’s most remote and unspoilt regions and discover some of its most sublime scenery and spectacular sights

A comprehensive Laos tour - Vientiane to Phnom Penh Overland

Our comprehensive Laos tour, ‘Far North to Far South’, follows one of the world’s greatest rivers through the heart of Indochina. Beginning in the laidback contemporary capital Vientiane, we’ll take a scenic ride on the brand new China-Lao railway to the historic and picturesque town of Luang Prabang, nestled in the mountains of the far north of Laos. From here we’ll travel to the remote northeast and the enigmatic Plain of Jars, before completing our loop to riverside Vientiane.

Our itinerary then proceeds south along the Mekong to the French-era river ports of Thakaek and Pakse where we’ll travel by boat up an underground river amid the surreal, karst landscapes of Hin Boun National Park as well as discovering the waterfalls and coffee plantations of the Boloven Plateau.

Continuing by boat our next destination is quaint Champassak town with its well-preserved French architecture and spectacular pre-Angkor and UNESCO-listed temple of Wat Phu. Farther still, along the border where Laos and Cambodia meet, we’ll explore the sublime scenery of Si Phan Don or the ‘4,000 Islands’ – an inland archipelago on the Mekong – after which the entire river tumbles over Southeast Asia’s, and indeed one of the world’s, largest yet least known waterfalls, Khone Phapaeng.

From here we cross the border into northern Cambodia and continue to follow the Mekong south to our final destination, Cambodia’s bustling capital Phnom Penh. Stops on the way include the Mekong’s (sadly) last pod of freshwater dolphins and the 12th-century, Angkorian temple of Wat Nokor.

Our south Laos tour is an unforgettable, fascinating and varied voyage by road, rail and river through some of Southeast Asia’s most remote and unspoilt areas, all 3 of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as some of its most sublime scenery and spectacular sights from the far south to far north.

Since airfares are fluctuating wildly at present, as well as varying considerably from period to period, our ‘with flight’ prices, below, are approximate only.

Includes: Meals: B x 18, L x 15, D x 9

Laos

Itinerary

Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.

mekong sunset at Vientiane

Day 1 - Arrival in Vientiane and introductory walking tour

Arrival in the Lao capital of Vientiane, on the banks of the Mekong River, and check-in to our centrally located hotel. Time to stretch your legs with an orientation walking tour before perhaps riverbank sundowners and a local-style welcome dinner at one of the town’s lively night markets.

Overnight: Vientiane Transport: Walk,  Meals: D, 

Mekong scenery near Luang Prabang

Day 2 - Luang Prabang - arrival and walking tour

Departure by train, (Lao’s recently constructed, first-ever rail line), through the spectacular central highlands to the ancient capital Luang Prabang. Mid-morning arrival and some time to relax before a boat trip up the Mekong to the mysterious Pak Ou Caves with their thousands of Buddha statues left by pilgrims over the centuries. Return to Luang Prabang for sunset and a chance to sample some of the region’s local specialities.

Overnight: Luang Prabang Transport: Train, Boat,  Meals: B, D, 

Wat Xiengthong, Luang Prabang

Day 3 - Luang Prabang - city walking tour

Nestled in the mountains, long isolated from the outside world, discover UNESCO-listed Luang Prabang’s fabulous temples, French period architecture and taste Lao delicacies (and the famous Lao beer!) in riverside cafes. A walking tour of the town includes the former king’s palace, now National Museum, Wat Xiengthong and Phu Si Temple. Afternoon at leisure to explore the picturesque lanes and famous hill-tribe handicraft market.

Overnight: Luang Prabang Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Day 4 - Luang Prabang - into the surrounding hills

A drive through the surrounding hills to visit the spectacular Kuang Si Waterfalls as well as the commendable Free the Bears rescue centre with an opportunity en-route to discover the fascinating and still very traditional village life of some of the area’s inhabitants.

Overnight: Luang Prabang Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Laos, Northern Laos tour, Plain of Jars

Day 5 - Phonsavan - overland to the Plain of Jars

Early departure for a drive along scenic mountain roads to Phonsavan in Xieng Khouang province – location of the famous and mysterious Plain of Jars. Stops on the way include Khmu and Hmong villages and a hidden cave temple that served as an army hospital during the Vietnam War. Late afternoon arrival and an atmospheric dusk visit to one of the famous jar sites.

Overnight: Phonsavan Transport: Minibus,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Laos, Wat Saket, Vientiane

Day 6 - Phonsavan to Vientiane - on to the capital

Morning visit to the Mines Action Group, (MAG), office to learn about the work they do in clearing land mines and unexploded ordnance in the area. We then travel out to the picturesque Jar Site 2 and begin our 1-hour trek along the ridge to the impressive Jar Site 3, consisting of over around 150 jars located on top of a hill and offering great views over the surrounding countryside. Lunch in Phonsavan before a flight to the Lao capital of Vientiane and time perhaps to stretch our legs with a stroll along the Mekong waterfront for sundowners in a riverside café.

Overnight: Vientiane Transport: Plane, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Laos, Vientiane, That Luang

Day 7 - Vientiane - city tour

Tour of the city’s varied sites including Si Saket Temple with its 1,000 Buddha images, the bustling morning market, Vientiane’s most famous monument – That Luang Stupa – and the unusual Buddha Park. A less cheerful, but highly informative stop will also be made at the excellent COPE exhibition centre, which highlights the problem of unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam War.

Overnight: Vientiane Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Laos, Hin Boun River

Day 8 - On the road - spectacular Khammoune Province

Leave Vientiane for a leisurely drive southeast to Khammouane, one of Laos’ most picturesque yet least-visited provinces. Stops along the way will include a 15th-century stupa and a lively Hmong, hill-tribe market! Afternoon arrival at our night’s riverside accommodation in remote Hin Boun set among dramatic limestone scenery.

Overnight: Hin Boun Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Laos, Konglor Cave, Hin Boun

Day 9 - Hin Boun - boat journey along an underground river

Departure by boat for an exploration of the incredible Konglor Cave. A 7-km long underground river running through the cavern is the only access to a hidden valley in the mountain’s interior. We’ll travel through the cave by boat for a short hike through the farmland and villages of this highly unusual feature before completing our day with a transfer to the nearby French-era river port of Thakaek, in time for sunset on the waterfront.

Overnight: Thakaek Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Laos, Hin Boun landscape

Day 10 - Thakaek - hike through jungle and caves

A fascinating trip through the area’s awe-inspiring limestone landscape. The morning will include a hike where our guide will introduce you to traditional forest food and medicines collected by the local inhabitants; a walk around the serene Nong Thao Lake to discover local fishing techniques and visits to a village and a secret 300-year-old cave temple.

Overnight: Thakaek Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Laos, Pakse sundowners

Day 11 - Pakse - drive from Thakaek and afternoon at leisure

Continue south along the Mekong Valley via Savannakhet, to another old river port, Pakse. Afternoon arrival with time at leisure to explore the local markets and temples, try out a traditional Lao-style spa, or just relax and take in the views from the hotel’s roof-top cafe?

Overnight: Pakse Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Laos, Boloven Plateau, Tad Yeuan Falls

Day 12 - Boloven Plateau - coffee plantations and waterfalls

Tour some of the sites of the Boloven Plateau, home to numerous ethnic minorities and the centre of Lao’s coffee-growing industry.  The day will include a visit to one of the area’s coffee plantations, a fascinating local market, and a chance to bathe in the spectacular Tad Yeuang Falls.

Overnight: Pakse Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Laos, Wat Phu

Day 13 - Champassak - down the Mekong to Wat Phu

Back on to the Mekong for a boat trip south to the charming little town of Champassak. A stroll to discover the numerous well-preserved French villas before an afternoon visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wat Phu – a pre-Angkor, Khmer temple dramatically situated on a mountainside overlooking the valley of the Mekong.

Overnight: Champassak Transport: Boat, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

The Four Thousand Islands

Day 14 - Don Khong - on to the 4,000 Islands

Morning departure on the Mekong Ferry for a visit to the atmospheric jungle ruins of Angkor-period Wat Tomo. From here we continue south to the 4,000 Islands for a stay at a superbly situated, riverside resort on Khong Island.

Overnight: Don Khong Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Laos, Kone Phapaeng Waterfall

Day 15 - The 4,000 Islands - by boat to Don Khone

Travel by boat through the 4,000 Islands – a stretch of the Mekong of truly outstanding natural beauty straddling the Lao/Cambodian border – to our day’s destination, picturesque Don Khone. Including a stop for a local-style lunch courtesy of the villagers.

Overnight: Khone Island Transport: Minibus, Boat,  Meals: B, L, 

Mekong Adventure, Laos, jungle tuk-tuk on Don Khone

Day 16 - Don Khone - morning island tour

The morning is spent exploring some of the sites of Khone island on foot and by tuk-tuk including the Liphi falls and old WW2 Japanese railway. The afternoon is at leisure for you to explore further on foot or by bicycle or just sit back and relax by the resort’s pool.

Overnight: Khone Island Transport: Boat, Walk, Tuk Tuk,  Meals: B, D, 

Laos climate

Day 17 - Into northern Cambodia - Kratie and freshwater dolphins

A stop at Khone Phapaeng – one of the world’s largest waterfalls – before crossing into northern Cambodia and the remote town of Stung Treng. Here we’ll continue south to Kratie town for an afternoon tour by a Cambodian rural development project including the rare freshwater dolphins and local village life.

Overnight: Kratie Transport: Minibus, Boat,  Meals: B, L, 

Cambodia, Wat Nokor

Day 18 - South along the Mekong to Phnom Penh

Continue south through Kampong Cham Province with a stop at the well-preserved 12th-century site of Wat Nokor and afternoon arrival in Phnom Penh. An evening farewell, Khmer-style dinner completes the tour.

Overnight: Phnom Penh Transport: Minibus,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Hotel 252 Phnom Penh

Day 19 - Phnom Penh - morning at leisure and end of tour

Morning at leisure in Phnom Penh; some last-minute market shopping at the Russian market or just relax by the pool with a departure at your convenience.

Transport: Taxi,  Meals: B, 

Print Itinerary

Details

The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.

Thailand and Laos tour, village scene

Just a few of the many highlights

From Laos' beautifully preserved Luang Prabang and the Plain of Jars, we'll follow the Mekong south through the spectacular scenery of Hin Boun and the 4,000 Islands to the World Heritage site of Wat Phu

  • Explore the ancient temples, colonial architecture, narrow lanes, bustling markets of World Heritage Luang Prabang
  • Visit the enigmatic, UNESCO-listed, Plain of Jars archeological site in remote Northeastern Laos
  • Visit the awesome Khone Phapaeng Falls - little known, yet one of the largest waterfalls (in volume) on the planet
  • An exciting boat journey up the underground river of Konglor Cave followed by a trek through the 'hidden valley'
  • Discover the Mekong's picturesque 4,000 Islands region in the far south of Laos
  • Includes all 3 of Laos's UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites

Air Departures (UK) *From

  • 1 June 24 3,375 GBP
  • 30 June 24 3,375 GBP
  • 27 July 24 3,375 GBP
  • 25 August 24 3,375 GBP
  • 22 September 24 3,375 GBP
  • 20 October 24 3,425 GBP
  • 17 November 24 3,425 GBP
  • 15 December 24 3,625 GBP
  • 12 January 25 3,475 GBP
  • 9 February 25 3,475 GBP

Land Departures

  • 2 June 24 2,925 GBP
  • 1 July 24 2,925 GBP
  • 28 July 24 2,925 GBP
  • 26 August 24 2,925 GBP
  • 23 September 24 2,925 GBP
  • 21 October 24 2,975 GBP
  • 18 November 24 2,975 GBP
  • 16 December 24 2,975 GBP
  • 13 January 25 3,025 GBP
  • 10 February 25 3,025 GBP

Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed

*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Luang Prabang

*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.

We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...

Villa Chitdara Luang Prabang

Villa Chitdara Luang Prabang view

  • 'French colonial' chic at Luang Prabang's Villa Chitdara
  • Friendly staff, a relaxed atmosphere and central location
  • Great spot for exploring the old World Heritage town
Laos, Chantapanya Hotel, Vientiane

Chanthapanya Hotel Vientiane view

  • Well-appointed rooms with pool, restaurant, bar and gym
  • Great location, a short walk from town centre and riverside
  • Centrally located yet quiet position
South Laos Tour, Spring River Resort

Spring River Resort Hin Boun view

  • Spectacular garden setting overlooked by limestone cliffs
  • Comfortable, traditional-style wooden chalets
  • Located on the banks of the picturesque Hin Boun River
Laos, Inthira Hotel, Thakaek

Inthira Hotel Thakaek view

  • The hotel is set in a renovated colonial period house
  • Central location in Thakaek Town close to the waterfront
  • Excellent in-house bar and restaurant
Laos, Pakse Hotel, Pakse

Pakse Hotel view

  • Splendid views from the hotel's rooftop bar and restaurant
  • Sip a cold one as you watch the sun set over the Mekong
  • Central but quiet location in the old port town
The Riviera Champassak Laos

The Riviera Champassak view

  • Riverside accommodation in Champassak Town
  • Comfortable boutique-style rooms with balconies
  • Well-placed bar and restaurant overlooking the Mekong
Seng Ahloune Resort 4000 Islands

Seng Ahloune Resort 4000 Islands

  • Scenic riverside location
  • Located on Khone Island in Sth Laos's scenic '4,000 Islands'
  • Traditional style wooden chalets
Hotel 252 Phnom Penh

Hotel 252 Phnom Penh view

  • Small, boutique-style and low-key
  • Quiet but central location near cafes and restaurants
  • Garden setting with pool and cafe
Patio Hotel and Urban Resort

Patio Hotel and Urban Resort view

  • Convenient central location nearby shops, cafes, restaurants
  • Comfortable, well-appointed and well-decorated
  • Spectacular rooftop infinity pool

*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.

Visa Info & Notes

Visas:
Laos:30-day tourist visas are issued at the visa-on-arrival counters at international airports and mosty land entry points. These are available for most nationalities with the exception of certain African and Middle Eastern countries and require a passport photo along with $40. (You can check the list at this link.) Additionally, Lao e-visas are now available and will speed up arrival formalities.

Cambodia: Although a 30-day tourist visa is issued at the border, somewhat tedious formalities at this remote border crossing make obtaining a visa in advance or e-visa strongly advisable. (Cost is $36)

The visa on arrival is payable in $US and may vary slightly from country to country. Most European passport holders plus South African, Australian and NZ are charged $30 with the exception of Swedish who pay $1 more and British who pay an extra $5.  US citizens are also charged $35 while, for reasons we can’t fathom, Canadians pay $41. (Note a $1 overtime fee is charged for public holidays, outside of standard office hours or whenever they feel like it.)

Both: Requirements are at least 6 months passport validity, a minimum of 1 blank page and 2 passport-sized photos. Both tourist visas are 1-page stick-on type and you’ll receive additional, regular-sized,  entry and exit stamps.

Your entry point for the Lao section of this tour is Wattay International Airport (Vientiane) and exit port is Veun Kham. Despite some older information we’ve seen online, the Cambodian crossing point is Don Kalor and your exit point is Pochentong International Airport (Phnom Penh). Also, in contrast to some info we’ve found, Cambodian e-vias are now accepted at Don Kalor.

Tipping: we recommend a kitty system for the smaller, daily tips such as hotel/restaurant staff and local guides and drivers. Amounts inevitably vary with group size but would generally be in the region of $3-4 per person, per day. With regards guides accompanying you for longer periods we’d recommend a separate tip of approximately $5 per person, per day though of course, this is always discretionary and performance-related. (Local currency or USD are fine.) 

Meals: Breakfasts are generally hotel buffets with lunch and dinners based on local food. Your tour leader will usually order a selection of dishes, local-style, while a number of meals are not included, which allows you to ‘do your own thing’ or take a break if you’re feeling ‘riced out’.

Although you may assume Lao cuisine is little-known outside of Laos the fact that it’s hugely popular in neighbouring Thailand is a good reference and indeed many well-known Thai dishes such as the famous green papaya salad (som tam) and spicy minced pork salad (laap) are of Lao origin. Certain dishes can be pretty firey – though your tour-leader can, of course, ask for them to be toned down – while the more Chinese and Vietnamese influenced dishes, which will be more familiar to foreign travellers, being generally mild.

Both vegan and vegetarian diets are easily catered to.

Accommodation: all choices fall into the comfortable 3* range and are en-suite and air-conditioned. We have posted a selection of sample accommodation on the lefthand hotel tab but please note that as we try and avoid the larger hotels, availability, in high season particularly, means we use several options in each destination.

Activities: note that no activities are compulsory and that any including, such as trekking, can be tailored for any fitness level or alternatives suggested.

Further info: more details and photos of our Mekong Adventure tour or check our suggested reading and viewing list here.

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