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.
Includes: Meals: B x 13, L x 11, D x 6
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
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,
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,
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, D,
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, D,
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,
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. 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, D,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
Day 12 - Into northern Cambodia - 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. From here we continue south to Kratie town for an afternoon tour with a Cambodian rural development project including the rare freshwater dolphins and local village life.
Overnight: Kratie Transport: Minibus, Boat, Meals: B, L,
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, L, D,
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,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
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
- 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
- 21 December 23 2,850 GBP
- 17 January 24 2,750 GBP
- 14 February 24 2,795 GBP
- 14 March 24 2,750 GBP
- 9 May 24 2,750 GBP
- 6 June 24 2,750 GBP
- 5 July 24 2,750 GBP
- 1 August 24 2,750 GBP
- 22 December 23 1,995 GBP
- 18 January 24 1,995 GBP
- 15 February 24 1,995 GBP
- 15 March 24 1,950 GBP
- 10 May 24 1,950 GBP
- 7 June 24 1,950 GBP
- 6 July 24 1,950 GBP
- 2 August 24 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:30-day tourist visas are issued at the visa-on-arrival counters at international airports as well as any land entry point. These are available for most nationalities with the exception of certain African and Middle Eastern countries. (You can check the list at this link.) Additionally, Lao e-visas are now available and which will speed up arrival formalities. (The cost of either visa is between $30 and $60 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 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 to 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 featured on the itinerary, including trekking, can be tailored for any fitness level or alternatives suggested.
You deserve a holiday ?
Here is what out guest have to say about their experience on this tour...
" The tour exceeded my expectation, we saw amazing parts of the country off the usual tourist trail with packed days at a doable pace that allowed the tour group to dwell on the points of interest to them. I truly think that this is the best tour I have been on, not just because of the amazing country and their people but because of the management and tour approach. I would recommend it as a must-do if you love Asia. "
Colin and Jenny
" Every day was something different, we walked through the jungle, explored caves and sailed in wooden boats. We saw amazing temples and wooden huts that the locals lived in, we saw how people lived and how they dried peppers in their satellite dishes! There were sad parts too, understanding the legacy of the Vietnam war, unexploded bombs everywhere and maimed people. However, the people were great fun, as curious about us as we were about them. "
Kay & Michael
" The logistics were amazing – we were always met and everything ran smoothly. Some of the hotels were out of this world. We had some brilliant experiences and although there was a lot of travelling, we so enjoyed watching life from the window of the minibus. We loved meeting the people of Laos who were so friendly, and the guides very helpful. Thank you for a great experience. "
Pete and Vicki
" We could not fault our holiday. Any problems (and these were very few) were immediately sorted by the local guides, who were most solicitous. The local guides tailored our excursions to meet our interests and needs. All three guides were a credit to your company. "November 2019