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Cycling, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang - 11 Days / 10 Nights
Cycling, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang - 11 Days / 10 Nights

Cycling, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang - 11 Days / 10 Nights

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Chiang Mai - Phayao - Phayao Lake - Chiang Kham - Nan - Hong Sa - Xayabouri - Ka Cham - Luang Prabang

This energetic journey between two of Asia’s most evocative cities covers some spectacular territory. Starting off in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital, the route proceeds through peaceful countryside and minority villages. The adventure continues into Laos, still one of the region’s unspoiled gems.

Day 1 - Chiang Mai - Arrival (D)

day_1_-_th-_chiang_mai-_ping_river-185Upon arrival, meet your guide at the airport to be transferred by air conditioned vehicle to your hotel in Chiang Mai. Drop your bags and freshen up before an afternoon to try out your wheels. 

It’s time to explore the highlights of this charismatic South East Asian city! What better place to start our day of discovery than the banks of the Mae Ping River! From here, we join the bustle of Waroros market by foot, a favorite for Chiang Mai locals for exotic species, colorful fruits, an endless variety of rice and bizarre new culinary delights.

Now we jump on our bikes and continue to Tapae Gate to explore ancient Chiang Mai by Bike. Tapae Gate is Chiang Mai's main entrance to the old walled city. In days gone by, it was the gate through which traders, diplomats and visiting monks passed when they had business in the city proper. From here, we cycle to Three Kings Monument and the city’s most beautiful temples Wat Chedi Luang, where the famous Emerald Buddha was once enshrined, and Wat Phra Singh, home to a very old and sacred Buddha image. Continue to Wat Chang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai to finish todays ride.

Transfer to hotel to freshen up before dinner. Enjoy your first evening in Chiang Mai with dinner at a restaurant on the Ping River before the chance to look around the famous Night Market.

Overnight in Chiang Mai

Distance & journey times:

Transfer from Chiang Mai Airport – Hotel: 15 minutes

Cycling distance up to: 10km

Difficulty: Easy 

Day 2 - Chiang Mai - Phayao (B,L,D)

This morning we depart early and transfer to Mae Rim to start cycling. Ride towards Bua Tong Waterfall, located in the spectacular Sri Lanna National Park, where you can enjoy some time in the limestone waterfall before we mount our bikes and ride further on the picturesque off -road. Caves, temples, and other local outlets are just a few of the things we will catch on our way. We arrive at a small village where we stop to catch our breath, take our bikes to the lake where our long tail boat drivers are waiting to help us board the boat and transfer the short 15 minute boat ride across the lake. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant nearby Mae Kuang Dam before we pick up our transfer to Phayao Lake in time to catch a sunset Kayak or Long tail boat ride on the lake before an evening of seafood delight.

Distance & journey time:

Transfer from Mae Kuang Dam to Phayao: 2.5 hours

Cycling distance up to: 80kms

Difficulty: Medium

Day 3 - Phayao - Chiang Kham (B,L,D)

Depart Phayao leaving this panoramic lake backdrop behind you as you head towards Chiang Kham, home to Tai Lue people. The Tai Lue people originate from Yunnan Province of southern China and migrated over 200 years ago.

Stop at a local restaurant for lunch with the backdrop of Doi Bussacarun, 1,826m mountain before continuing on your ride. Take in the Charm of the villages as you ride pass their traditional Thai style wooden homes on stilts and the friendly smiles of the locals. Before reaching the Village of Chiang Kham stop at the areas most renowned weaving house before Wat Nantaram, a Shan style structure temple and then our final stop will be at Baedang Bat Cave for sunset.

Overnight in Chiang Kham

Distance and journey time:

Transfer from Phayao Hotel to start of cycle: up to 15 mins

Cycling distance up to: 95km

Difficulty: Medium

Day 4 - Chiang Kham - Nan (B,L,D)

Enjoy breakfast in the serene surroundings of the resort this morning before heading into the jungle! Take a well-trodden jungle cycle loop enjoying the flora of this region before riding through rubber tree plantations back to the village. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant to try out the most delicious dish in the Phayao District. This afternoon take to the quiet back roads before joining the infamous route to Nan for your final leg of the day.

Dinner followed by a visit to the beautiful Wat Phumin and night market.

Overnight in Nan

Distance & journey time:

Transfer from Chiang Kham to Nan: 2 hours

Cycling distance up to: 90km

Difficulty: Hard

Day 5 - Nan - Border - Hongsa (B,L,D)

day_5_-_nan-185This morning we depart early and take on Nans incredibly natural roads. Cycle from your hotel through Nan’s sleepy town, witnessing portions of the old city and some ancient Wats, or temples, still exhibiting architecture dating back to the Lanna era, while others show the Thai Lue legacy, imported from China. Cycle towards the Nan River, catch a glimpse of the early morning rowing team as they race their long boats accommodating as many as 60 rowers. From here we cycle to the boarder where you will say goodbye to your Thai team.

Welcome to Laos!

Cross the border from Thailand to Laos at Muang Ngeune, where your Laos cycling guide will greet you. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before jumping on your bikes. Your introduction to cycling in Laos will be a gradual climb before a downhill ride to Hongsa. Most of the villages you will pass along the way are Tai Lue and have spectacularly layered rice fields.

In royal times, Laos was originally called Lane Xang, “Land of a Million Elephants”. Hongsa is a region that, to this day, is still home to wild elephants and hosts the annual Elephant Festival, used to honor the mighty pachyderms. Stop by Wat Simungkhun, which hosts an initiation pavilion, fashioned in attractive native style and a raised stone platform covering a large hole said to “lead to the end of the world”.

Arrive at Hongsa and check in to your Guesthouse. Freshen up before a stroll through town and dinner by the market.

Overnight in Hongsa

Distance and journey time:

Transfer: Up to 45 mins

Cycling distance in Thailand: Up to 50km

Cycling distance in Laos: 39km

Difficulty: Medium

Day 6 - Hongsa - Xayaboury ECC (B,L,D)

This morning pack your belongings and cycle out towards the capital of the region, Xayaboury. Today will be a challenging day as you face Laos’s mountainous terrain.

The first 30kms of cycling will be a small but continuous climb before a steep downhill for 4 km! The remainder of the ride is mostly flat until we reach the Elephant Conservation Center.

Located Southwest of Luang Prabang, Sayaboury is a mountainous province with peaks of more than 1000 meters. Travel to this remote province will reveal many beautiful mountains and flower gardens. The local people earn their living via agricultural products such as growing rice, cucumbers, cotton, cabbage, beans and sugarcane. It is also home to the largest population of elephants in Laos. Sayaboury is one of the most remote and difficult provinces to reach in Laos, where adventurous spirits will be rewarded with a unique cultural and authentic natural experience.

We will have several stops on route for lunch and snacks to enjoy the local villages, scenic rice fields and mountain pass views of the valley below.

Upon arrival at the Nam Tien Lake pier you can admire this majestic lake, with many islands, surrounded by untouched tropical forest. From the pier we take a long boat to the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC). On arrival local staff will welcome you before checking into your bamboo bungalow, built in a traditional style.

Before Dinner, walk the elephants to their nightly resting ground. You will witness the unique bond between the mahout and his elephant. Our experienced mahouts use vocal commands to steer the animals through the thick foliage.  As you stroll together with these magnificent creatures into the dense forest of Nam Tien, take a moment! This is the REAL land of elephants!  Your guide will give you some interesting information about the biodiversity of our protected forest.

Spend some time to taking in your surroundings from the viewpoint, go for a swim in the lake or visit the museum. During meal time, feel free to ask the experienced staff any questions or sit back and relax over a Lao style cocktail while enjoying the lake and mountain views!

Overnight at the ECC

Distance and journey time:

Cycling distance: Up to 86km

Difficulty: Hard

Boat Transfer: 10 Minutes

Day 7 - Xayaboury ECC (B,L,D)

On day two of your Elephant Conservation experience you will meet up with the elephants in the forest. After spending the night grazing in the jungle it is time for another bath. Enjoy strolling together with these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. If you wish, you can ask to ride the elephant, bareback, for a short time on their way through the forest, to get a physical feel for the animal.

Once they’ve had their fill of water they are brought to the Socialization Area. This is an area where the elephants can freely interact and is a big part of the day, recreating a semi-natural living environment. Follow the guide around the perimeter to learn more about the elephants. Take your time on the different platforms to see how a new herd is being formed. This rare opportunity will bring you closer to their natural life, something which is very special about our program and difficult to find anywhere else in Laos.

Lunch is served at one of the viewing platforms. You have time to relax and appreciate the surroundings. Following the forest picnic, we visit the resident mother and baby (calf) at the nursery. The mother’s mahout stays close by while she and her baby have a bath and play. It’s then time to board our boat for a trip back to the center in time to see the afternoon bath. You will meet our veterinarian or biologist again as they will conduct a target training session. All our elephants are being trained using ‘positive reinforcement’ techniques to facilitate any necessary treatments. We offer you the chance to follow their work from a safe distance and walk the elephant back to the forest.

If time allows, do the nearby trek through the forest to discover a hidden sacred Buddha footprint. You will learn about the local customs and be amazed by the beauty of the forest and landscapes. As you trek in the protected area of the elephant Sanctuary, your guide will teach you about the different uses of surrounding plants; some areas even host wild orchids.

Overnight at the ECC

Distance and journey time:

Trekking: Up to 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Day 8 - Xayaboury ECC - Ka Cham (B,L,D)

For the early risers you can head into the forest to say goodbye to your new friends and help walk them over to the center for a morning treat.

Enjoy your last breakfast, and pack up your belongings before we ride off towards the North East.

After crossing the Mekong River today’s ride will include a tricky 8km climb. After overcoming the most challenging part of the route you can enjoy views of a charming and colorful landscape before a slow ride down to the village of Ka Cham. Be careful of the sharp turns!

We’ll be staying overnight in this small town where Lao, Kamu and Hmong live harmoniously. The local resort is conveniently located by the Ka Cham Waterfall, where you can have an enjoyable swim before sharing a typical Hmong dinner. Listen to the relaxing sound of the waterfall and get a well-deserved sleep before tomorrow’s final stretch.

Overnight at Tad Ka Cham Resort

Distance and journey time:

Cycling distance: Up to 68km

Difficulty: Hard

Day 9 - Ka Cham - Luang Prabang (B,L)

day_9_-_monk_walking_outside_wat_sensoukarahm_-_lpq-185Say goodbye to your local hosts and enjoy a last dip in the waterfall before departing for Luang Prabang, the famous UNESCO heritage town of Laos. The road will still have a few sharp turns and small steep climbs but will be mainly downhill.

Check in to your hotel and freshen up before we take a short ride to the 3 Nagas restaurant for lunch where you can enjoy the choice of a western or Asian set menu.

The former royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang is a tranquil town that sits on the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Kham Rivers. In this half-day guided tour by city bike, you will discover the rich cultural and historical heritage of this charming town with visits to French Indochinese buildings and ancient Buddhist temples.

After lunch we begin our city tour by bike to the former Royal Palace (now the National Museum) where you will explore the history of Laos. Continue to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade. Next stop is Wat Xieng Thong, the most revered temple in Luang Prabang. Located at the end of the peninsula, close to the Mekong, this temple was built in 1560 by King Setthathirat and is decorated with ornate carvings and mosaics. Finish with the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre, a museum dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos’s ethnic minorities.  Traditional costumes, tools, and artifacts are on display alongside in-depth descriptions and written histories. It is a great opportunity to gain insight in to the Lao people (note: closed on Monday).

Enjoy your evening at leisure in one of the numerous restaurants Luang Prabang has to offer. Visit the colorful night market on the main street and the multiple shops in the old town!

Overnight in Luang Prabang

Distance and journey time:

Cycling distance: Up to 47km

Difficulty: Medium

Day 10 - Luang Prabang - Kuang Si (B,L,D)

day_9_-_monk_walking_outside_wat_sensoukarahm_-_lpq-185After breakfast, we’ll hop on our bikes and begin the 72km round trip ride on tarmac roads through the countryside to the beautiful Kuang Si waterfall. The ride is undulating but there are no serious climbs today.

Upon arrival to Kuang Sii we can visit the “free the bears” center and learn about bear conservation and protection in Laos. We can then follow a jungle path amongst the lush rainforest to the main part of the waterfall for a photo opportunity and weather permitting we can wander back down the path and take a swim in the cool turquoise water at the base of the cascade.

Enjoy a local picnic lunch by Son Phao overlooking the cascades. After lunch you can choose to cycle back to Luang Prabang or return by private bus.

The rest of the day is at leisure. In the early evening we meet up in the lobby and transfer to our farewell dinner at one of Luang Prabang’s most famous restaurants, L’Elephant, for a memorable gastronomic meal.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

Distance and journey time:

Cycling distance: Up to 72km. 36km one-way.

Difficulty: Medium

Day 11 - Luang Prabang Departure (B)

Today is at leisure before your departure to the airport and onward flight.


“An itinerary may at times be altered by our guides due to local conditions, the skill of participants and other unexpected circumstances. Our priority is always the experience and safety of our clients.”

Tour Duration: 11 Days / 10 Nights
Tour Operates: Year Round / On Demand
Tour Price: Available Upon Request

Rates vary frequently. Please contact us to get the best possible price based upon your travel period and specific touring needs.

Our services include:

  • Luggage transfer
  • Vehicles: (varies based on local conditions and vehicle sizes available). Private air-conditioned vehicle for transfer and back up as itinerary.
  • Bike, helmet, 1 refillable personal biking bottle per person
  • Plenty of water provided throughout the day when cycling
  • Snacks and local fruits
  • 1 ExoAdventure Certified English Speaking Guide
  • Additional local guide for 8-15 pax, 2 assistant guides for 16+ cyclists
  • 1 first aid kit per guide
  • Each guide will have a full set of travel bike tools
  • Tips for Drivers and Porters
  • Main support vehicle will have spare parts
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Sightseeing tickets where mentioned in the itinerary.
  •  Accommodation as listed above.
  • Flight reconfirmations
  • A/C Support Vehicles for Transfer and Back up. Backup vehicle for 5+pax.

Our services don’t include:

  • Visa arrangement
  • International and domestic flights
  • Meals other than mentioned above
  • Soft drinks, or beverages beyond water – we can add this into costs at agents request
  • Beverage and alcoholic drinks at mealtimes
  • Tips for Guides
  • Energy drinks or powders, performance bars, or performance gels (Gatorade, Powerbars, Gu, Isostar, etc)
  • Personal Travel Insurance
  • Personal expenditure (Laundry, telephone)
  • Any other services not clearly mentioned in the itinerary and in the inclusive portion.
  • Other language speaking guides

Important Notes:

  • We strongly recommend the purchase of travel insurance (covering emergency medical evacuation) for trips to Thailand and Laos.
  • Prices are valid 30 days from date of offer. Past this date price and conditions may be readjusted.
  • The cost of air tickets is subject to change without prior notice by the airlines.
  • Reservations during peak times (Christmas, New Year, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, National Holidays) may be subject to supplementary charges.
  • Rooms at hotels are available only from 1400 on arrival day till 1200 on departure date. A supplement will be added if early check-in or late check-out is desired.
  • Please note that all the above services & tours have yet to be booked, they are proposed for your information only and we will not make any reservations before we receive your confirmation to do so.
  • If one or some proposed service(s) is (are) not available at the moment of booking, we will try to find other possibilities/options or other similar service(s) in order to avoid changes to the program.
  • This trip can be done by Road Bike as well, but clients need provide their own bikes.

Creating Unique Touring Experiences

All the touring itineraries on this website have been carefully crafted by our in-country management teams and represent a series of experiences we can certainly recommend. However, we understand that every travel experience should be as unique and individual as each traveler. Our consultants are waiting to hear from you so that we can tailor or custom design a Multi Countries Adventure Tour to your individual specifications.

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EXO Travel Blog


icon-quote-l  I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed our trip with you from Houey Say to Luang Prabang. Thank you for your kindness, your help with everything from food to happy rooms, your good company and your music.I have so many good memories of our experiences, the hardest things often make the best ...  icon-quote-r

Rosemary Ward (Romey)

Exo Foundation