A fascinating journey, overland and down river, following the Mekong through southern Laos and northern Cambodia
Off-the-beaten-track Laos tour
A 2-week Laos tour following the mighty Mekong by boat and by road from the riverside capital Vientiane all the way through rarely-visited central and southern Laos to the town of Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia.
The lesser-known south hides some of Laos’s – and indeed Southeast Asia’s – most sublime scenery including the awe-inspiring Tolkien-esque mountain scenery of Hin Boun, where we’ll travel up an underground river to visit a hidden valley, the plantations and waterfalls of the Boloven Platea, 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 falls.)
The tour also includes the charming French-period river ports of Thakaek and Pakse as well as the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Wat Phu – a pre-Angkor Khmer temple spectacularly situated on a hillside overlooking the Mekong and Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Preah Vihear Temple, perched on the edge of a sheer 600-metre cliff!
Our tour finishes in Siem Reap so for anyone with a few more days to spare you can add on a 3rd World Heritage site and visit, ( or even re-visit) the ruined jungle cities and vast temples of Angkor.
An unforgettable journey by land and river through some of the most spectacular, but little-known, scenery that Southeast Asia has to offer.
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 on 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 for sunset on the waterfront.
Overnight: Thakaek Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L,
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 food and medicines collected by the local inhabitants; a walk around the serene Nong Thao Lake to discover local fishing techniques, stopping in rarely visited villages; and a visit to a secret 300-year-old cave temple, only discovered in 2004. Afternoon return to Thakaek.
Overnight: Thakaek Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 6 - Pakse - drive from Thakaek and afternoon at leisure
Continue south along the Mekong Valley to another old French period river port, Pakse. Early afternoon arrival with time at leisure to stretch your legs along the riverbank, try out a Lao style spa, or just take in the views from the hotel’s roof-top cafe?
Overnight: Pakse Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, 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 to the Mekong 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 mountain side overlooking the valley of the Mekong.
Overnight: Champassak Transport: Boat, Walk, Tuk Tuk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 9 - Continue south to the 4,000 Islands
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 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 a tour around the island. From here we’ll continue south 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 the picturesque Khone Island.
Overnight: Khone Island Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 11 - Don Khone - Khone Phapaeng Falls and dolphins
Explore some of the islands on foot and by boat or kayak; visit Asia’s (and one of the world’s) largest waterfalls – the stunning Khonephapeng Falls – and with luck catch a glimpse of some of the rare freshwater dolphins which still inhabit this stretch of the river.
Overnight: Khone Island Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 12 - The Mekong - by boat into northern Cambodia and Preah Vihear Temple
Continuing down the Mekong we’ll follow the picturesque jungle-lined river into Cambodia and the remote town of Stung Treng. Here we’ll visit a women’s silk weaving co-operative before continuing overland to Sra-em Town and a late afternoon visit to the magnificent, UNESCO-listed site of Preah Vihear Temple perched atop a 600-metre cliff!
Overnight: Preah Vihear Transport: Minibus, Boat, Meals: B, D,
Day 13 - Overland to Siem Reap Town
Morning drive east along the foot of the Dandrek Escarpment with a stop at remote Anlong Veng – one of the Khmer Rouge’s last strongholds – before continuing to Siem Reap Town. Afternoon at leisure to check out the spa and pool or maybe some last-minute shopping in the market before an evening farewell, Khmer-style dinner.
Overnight: Siem Reap Transport: Minibus, Meals: B, D,
Day 14 - Siem Reap - morning at leisure and end of tour
Morning at leisure in Siem Reap; some last-minute market shopping, check out Apopo’s famous mine-detecting giant rats or just relax by the pool with a departure at your convenience.
Note for first-time visitors to Siem Reap we offer a leisurely paced but comprehensive 4-day tour of the famous Angkor temples.
Extra nights in Vientiane or Siem Reap 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 lining the banks of the mighty Mekong River
- Explore rarely visited Khammouane Province of Central Laos with the incredible limestone scenery of Hin Boun
- Sunrise at the awe-inspiring, cliff-top Cambodian World Heritage site of Preah Vihear
- Follow the Mekong and travel by road and by boat through southern Laos and northern Cambodia
- Visit the spectacular UNESCO 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)
- 27 November 19 2,475 GBP
- 28 December 19 2,675 GBP
- 22 January 20 2,475 GBP
- 18 February 20 2,475 GBP
- 17 March 20 2,475 GBP
- 14 April 20 2,475 GBP
- 12 May 20 2,475 GBP
- 6 June 20 2,475 GBP
- 1 July 20 2,475 GBP
- 28 July 20 2,575 GBP
- 25 August 20 2,575 GBP
- 25 September 20 2,475 GBP
- 25 October 20 2,475 GBP
- 26 November 20 2,475 GBP
- 27 December 20 2,675 GBP
- 28 November 19 1,625 GBP
- 29 December 19 1,625 GBP
- 23 January 20 1,625 GBP
- 19 February 20 1,625 GBP
- 18 March 20 1,625 GBP
- 15 April 20 1,625 GBP
- 13 May 20 1,625 GBP
- 7 June 20 1,625 GBP
- 2 July 20 1,625 GBP
- 29 July 20 1,625 GBP
- 26 August 20 1,625 GBP
- 26 September 20 1,625 GBP
- 26 October 20 1,625 GBP
- 27 November 20 1,625 GBP
- 28 December 20 1,625 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
- 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, Pakse 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
Seng Ahloune Resort, 4,000 Islands
- Scenic riverside location
- Located on Khone Island in Sth Laos's scenic '4,000 Islands'
- Traditional style wooden chalets
Preah Vihear Jaya Hotel, Sra Em view
- Comfy accommodation in rather remote Sra Em Town
- In-house swimming pool, bar and restaurant
- Convenient short drive to UNESCO site Preah Vihear
City River Hotel, Siem Reap view
- City River is out first choice in Cambodia's Siem Reap.
- Rooftop pool; spa, riverside location, super friendly staff
- Only a 5 minute walk from the bustling Old Market district
*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: 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.) For some reason, Swiss, Luxembourgeois and Russian passport holders are exempt from visas while any nationalities not included in the visa on arrival list will need to apply at a Lao embassy or consulate beforehand.
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. Please note that since many establishments are on the small size, swimming pools – with the exception of the 4,000 Island resorts – are not a common feature.
Activities: note that no activities are compulsory and that any offered, including trekking, can be tailored for any fitness level or alternatives suggested.
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. "