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Mekong Adventure | South Laos Tour

A fascinating journey overland and down river, following the Mekong through southern Laos into northern Cambodia

Off-the-beaten-track Laos tour

A 2-week Central and South Laos tour following the mighty Mekong by boat and by road from the riverside capital Vientiane through rarely-visited parts of southern and central Laos and into remote northeastern Cambodia.

The lesser-known central and southern parts of the country hide some of Lao’s – and indeed Southeast Asia’s – most sublime scenery including the awe-inspiring Tolkien-esque karst scenery of Hin Boun – where we’ll travel up an underground river to visit a hidden valley – the plantations and waterfalls of the Boloven Plateau, bucolic landscapes of the 4,000 Islands and, last but not least, the majestic Khone Phapaeng Falls on the Lao/Cambodian border. (One of the world’s largest, yet least-known, waterfalls.)

The tour also includes the charming French-period river ports of Thakaek and Pakse as well as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Wat Phu – a pre-Angkor Khmer temple spectacularly situated on a hillside overlooking the Mekong. Our three-day Cambodian section includes a tour organised by the Cambodian Rural Development project which offers some glimpses into traditional village life as well as a chance to see the rare freshwater dolphins that still inhabit this stretch of the Mekong River.

Our South Laos tour finishes over the border in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh so, for anyone with a few more days to spare, you can extend with a few days on the coast with our Kep and Kampot extension.

An unforgettable journey by land and river through some of the most spectacular, but little-known, scenery that Southeast Asia has to offer.

Also, note that for those with a bit more time on their hands an extended version of this tour includes 2 more of Lao’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. Beginning in the ancient mountain capital of Luang Prabang the extended trip takes you across the mountains of northeastern Laos to the enigmatic, and also recently UNESCO-listed site known as the Plain of Jars.

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

Laos

Itinerary

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

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Day 1 - Vientiane - arrival and Mekong sunset

Morning arrival in Vientiane and an afternoon at leisure in the Lao capital. Explore the local markets, stretch your legs with a stroll along the Mekong waterfront or just sit back in a riverbank cafe and watch the world go by. An evening welcome dinner introduces you to the little-known but tasty cuisine in a local-style restaurant.

Overnight: Vientiane Transport: Walk,  Meals: D, 

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Day 2 - Vientiane - tour of the city sights

Day tour of some of the city’s fascinating sites including Si Saket Temple with its 1,000 Buddha images, the bustling morning market, Vientiane’s most famous monument – the That Luang Stupa – plus the unusual Buddha Park. A less cheerful, but highly informative stop, will be made at the excellent COPE exhibition centre, highlighting a problem the local people face daily in the form of unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War.

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

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Day 3 - On the road - to spectacular Khammouane 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 traditional-style hill-tribe market. Afternoon arrival at Hin Boun, a remote village set among dramatic limestone scenery for our night’s accommodation in a charming riverside eco-resort.

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

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Day 4 - Hin Boun - boat journey along an underground river

Departure by boat for an exploration of the incredible Konglor Cave – a 7 km long cavern with spectacular stalactite formations and an underground river running from end to end. On leaving the cave we’ll hike through the hidden valley on the far side before completing our day with a transfer to the cute old French-era river port of Thakaek, in time perhaps for sunset on the waterfront.

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

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Day 5 - Thakaek - hike through jungle and caves

A fascinating trip through the area’s awesome limestone landscapes.  The morning will include a forest hike where local guides will introduce you to traditional jungle food and medicines; a walk around the serene Nong Thao Lake to discover local fishing techniques, village visits and a secret 300-year-old cave temple, only discovered in 2004.

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

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Day 6 - Pakse - drive from Thakaek and afternoon at leisure

Continue south along the Mekong Valley via Savannakhet, to another old French period river port, Pakse. Early afternoon arrival with time at leisure to stretch your legs along the riverbank, perhaps try out a Lao style herbal spa, or just take in the views from the hotel’s roof-top cafe?

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

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Day 7 - Boloven Plateau - coffee plantations and waterfalls

Tour of 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, 

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Day 8 - Champassak - down the Mekong to Wat Phu

Back on the Mekong River for a boat trip south to the small, historic town of Champassak. Afternoon tour of 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, Tuk Tuk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 9 - Continue south to the 4,000 Islands

late morning departure by Mekong ferry for a visit to another Angkor period site – the small but atmospheric jungle temple of Wat Tomo. From here we’ll continue south to the famous 4,000 Islands and Don Khong for an overnight stay at a superbly situated riverside resort.

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

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Day 10 - The 4,000 Islands - boat journey through the archipelago

Early morning visit to a lively and very traditional local market followed by an island hopping boat tour through the 4,000 Islands – a stretch of the Mekong of truly outstanding natural beauty – including a lunch courtesy of local villagers, to our day’s final destination the picturesque Khone Island.

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

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Day 11 - 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: Walk, Tuk Tuk,  Meals: B, D, 

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Day 12 - Into northern Cambodia - silk weaving 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 visit a women’s silk weaving co-operative before continuing 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, 

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Day 13 - 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, D, 

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Day 14 - 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.

Extra nights in Vientiane or Phnom Penh before or after your tour are available on request.

Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.

Overnight: Departure Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, 

Print Itinerary

Details

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

Cambodia, Siem Reap old town

Just a few of the many highlights

Travel up an underground river and hike through Hin Boun's incredible karst landscape, explore the Boloven Plateau, discover one of the world's greatest waterfalls and visit the UNESCO sites of Wat Phu and Preah Vihear

  • Visit the sights of Vientiane, Laos’s laid-back, friendly capital on the banks of the mighty Mekong River
  • Explore rarely visited Khammouane Province of Central Laos with the incredible limestone scenery of Hin Boun
  • Silk weaving and freshwater dolphins in remote northern Cambodia
  • Follow the Mekong and travel by road and by boat through southern Laos and northern Cambodia
  • Visit the spectacular World Heritage site of Wat Phu, an Angkor period temple, overlooking the Mekong Valley
  • Meet the exceptionally friendly and welcoming local people and, last but not least, sample the sumptuous and varied local cuisine

Air Departures (UK) *From

  • 26 January 23 2,700 GBP
  • 23 February 23 2,700 GBP
  • 25 March 23 2,700 GBP
  • 27 May 23 2,700 GBP
  • 24 June 23 2,700 GBP
  • 29 July 23 2,800 GBP
  • 26 August 23 2,700 GBP
  • 30 September 23 2,700 GBP
  • 28 October 23 2,750 GBP
  • 25 November 23 2,750 GBP

Land Departures

  • 27 January 23 1,900 GBP
  • 24 February 23 1,900 GBP
  • 26 March 23 1,900 GBP
  • 28 May 23 1,900 GBP
  • 25 June 23 1,900 GBP
  • 30 July 23 1,900 GBP
  • 27 August 23 1,900 GBP
  • 1 October 23 1,900 GBP
  • 29 October 23 1,950 GBP
  • 26 November 23 1,950 GBP

Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed

*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Vientiane

*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...

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

Visa Info & Notes

Laos: visas are available on arrival at Luang Prabang International Airport for between $30 & $42 depending upon nationality

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 visa or e-visa strongly advisable.

The fees are only payable in $US except for Thai/Lao land crossings where baht are accepted and this is where things do get slightly complicated as pricing does vary 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 and outside of standard Lao office hours.)

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.

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 then 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 offered, including 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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