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Laos In Depth - 13 Days / 12 Nights
Laos In Depth - 13 Days / 12 Nights

Laos In Depth - 13 Days / 12 Nights

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Houey Xay - Pakbeng - Pak Ou - Luang Prabang - LPQ - Kuang Si Waterfall - Vang Vieng - Vientiane - Kong Lor Caves - Ban Kong Lor - Thakhek - Savannakhet - Salavan - Tad Etu - Wat Phou - Khong Island - Siphandon - Pakse

From North to South, this in-depth tour explores the wonders of Laos from its friendly people and intriguing spiritual culture to its diverse landscapes and natural wonders. Travelling beyond the touristy areas, you’ll discover a side of Laos untouched by the modern world.


Start your journey in the north at the Thai border where a two day journey down the Mekong begins. Floating down the world’s tenth longest river in a large wooden boat, you’ll discover the local rhythms of life along the river. Spend the night in the hillside town of Pakbeng and stop off at riverside villages to learn more about the local lifestyle.


Your boat journey ends in Luang Prabang, the spiritual capital of Laos. Dozens of temples fill the town and orange-robed monks wander about the tree-lined streets. Colonial buildings, colourful markets, and cascading waterfalls are all waiting to be explored in Luang Prabang.


Travel along mountain roads to the small town of Vang Vieng, situated on the banks of the Nam Song River and surrounded by limestone formations. Continue to Vientiane, whose laid-back pace is unlike any other capital city in the region.


Southern Laos is one of Asia’s hidden gems. Drive from Savanakhet to the Bolaven Plateau, an area of coffee plantations, local villages, and more towering waterfalls. The cool refreshing air of the highlands is relief from the hotter lowland areas.


The final stretch of the journey takes you to the Siphandon area, where the Mekong reaches its widest point in Laos and is dotted with thousands of small islands. The scenery is stunning as the water meanders along with rolling mountains in the background. The temple of Wat Phu is sure to leave a lasting impression, a 9th century building nestled amongst the hills of this tranquil area.


From north to south, each day of our ‘Laos in Depth’ tour shows you a different side of this magical country.

Day 1 - Houey Xay - Pakbeng (L,D)

Laos In Depth - 12 Days / 11 Nights - itinerary

Please arrive no later than 0800 at the border crossing point. Upon reaching the Lao border of Houay Xay, a representative from the Luang Say Cruises will be there to greet you and escort you to your shared cruise boat.  The cruise takes two days to reach Luang Prabang, with an overnight stop made in Pakbeng.

En route a stop is made to visit and admire the authentic rural life of hill tribe settlements.

Enjoy a delicious buffet lunch onboard the boat as you continue your cruise along the scenic Mekong River.

Late in the afternoon, you will reach the town of Pakbeng.  Halfway between Houay Xay and Luang Prabang, this small town is lined with wooden houses along a steep street on the hillside and is quite dynamic.  Depending on the rivers current, you may reach Pakbeng in time to watch the sun set over the river from the balcony of your room.

Overnight in Luang Say Lodge, Pakbeng


Distance and journey time:

Houay Xay border – Boat pier (3km): 7 min

Day 2 - Pakbeng - Pak Ou - Luang Prabang (B,L)

For early risers and at your discretion, visit the morning market where residents of the nearby villages and hill tribes gather to buy and exchange their goods.

Depart around 0830 for the second part of the journey.  As you cruise along the Mekong, stop at Ban Baw village to observe the processing traditional rice alcohol, called laolao.  Reboard the boat to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch.

Stop to visit the Pak Ou Caves, locally called Tam Ting, which contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. The statues range in size from a few centimeters tall to the size of a human, and the view from the mouth of the cave provides sweeping views of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers. The caves are as well a destination for local pilgrimages, especially during the Lao New Year period of Pii Mai.

Luang Prabang is a further 2 hours downstream from Pak Ou. Arrive in Luang Prabang early evening, before sunset.

You will be met by your private driver and guide for a transfer to your hotel.

Overnight in Luang Prabang


Distance and journey time:

Boat pier – Hotel (2km): 5 min

Day 3 - Luang Prabang (B)

Laos In Depth - 12 Days / 11 Nights - itinerary

This morning you will have a half-day guided tour of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Town. Your guide will pick you up from your hotel after breakfast.

Start your city tour at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, where you will explore the history of Laos. Continue on foot to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade. Finish the tour at 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.

The rest of the day is free at leisure.

Overnight in Luang Prabang


Day 4 - Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfall - Luang Prabang (B)

For early risers, there is a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting the alms.  As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents.  It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people. Return to the hotel for breakfast.

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel for a short transfer through the Luang Prabang countryside to Kuang Si Waterfalls. Along the way you will drive through beautiful landscapes of rice fields, hills, and small villages. There are also viewpoints overlooking the Mekong River.

Stop en-route to visit a small village which is home to one of the area’s many ethnic minorities. You will have an opportunity to learn about their traditions and culture, much of which has remained unchanged for centuries.

Upon reaching Kuang Si Waterfall, relax and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls is perfect for exploring on foot. For the adventurous, it is possible to walk to the top of the falls via a steep track where stunning views await you at the top.

These waterfalls cascade down a multilevel limestone formation creating a series of turquoise blue pools perfect for swimming in on a hot day (Note: when bathing please be respectful, wear a sarong and be careful not to show too much skin).

Before you leave you might like to visit the bear sanctuary which is next to the falls, run by Free The Bears Fund Inc. There are currently 23 Asiatic Black Bears living in the sanctuary, which has saved them from poaching. The main threat to these bears is poaching due to the use of their bile in Chinese medicine. You can read about their habits and observe their playful nature, whilst learning about the difficulties they are facing.

On the way back to Luang Prabang, you will stop at the Kuang Si Butterfly Park to visit the beautiful garden filled of hundreds of Laos’s butterflies! (Note: closed on Tuesday)

The rest of the day is free at leisure in Luang Prabang.

Overnight in Luang Prabang


Distance and journey time:

Luang Prabang – Kuang Si Waterfalls (32 Km): 45 min

Day 5 - Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng (B)

Laos In Depth - 12 Days / 11 Nights - itinerary

After breakfast depart for a drive down the spectacular Route 13 towards Vang Vieng, taking roughly 5. Stop in Kasi, a fruit growing area along the way. This journey takes you through spectacular scenery and you might want to stop regularly for photos. Please be aware that there are numerous sharp bends and you will climb/descend a lot of mountains along the way.

Arrive in Vang Vieng, a small town on the banks of the Nam Song River surrounded by spectacular limestone karst scenery.

The rest of the afternoon is free at leisure with your driver and guide at your disposal. You might like to explore nearby caves, villages and an organic farm where you can stop for Mulberry tea.

If you are feeling more active then options include cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, trekking and tubing. These activities are not included and depending on when you arrive you might not have time today.

Otherwise you might like to relax and enjoy the views. Do not forget to enjoy sunset on the Nam Song River!

Overnight in Vang Vieng


Distance and journey time:

Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng (230 Km): 5 hours

Day 6 - Vang Vieng - Vientiane (B)

Enjoy a leisurely morning before starting the drive to Vientiane. After roughly 1.5 hours from Vang Vieng you will reach Nam Ngum Lake, the largest in Laos and a very beautiful spot.

This artificial lake was built to produce electricity and was indeed the first hydroelectric dam ever built in Laos. The dam generates 160 Mega Watts of electric power (Electricity being one of the most significant sources of income in Laos).

You might like to stop for lunch here (not included) and can hire a simple local boat for a short tour of the lake (also not included).

From here the drive to Vientiane is around 2.5 hours and the rest of the day is free at leisure. You might like to stroll along the Mekong and shop in the evening market.

Overnight in Vientiane


Distance and journey time:

Vang Vieng – Vientiane (160 Km): 3-4 hours

Day 7 - Vientiane (B)

Laos In Depth - 12 Days / 11 Nights - itinerary

This morning, enjoy a guided tour to discover the hidden charms of Vientiane, whose name means ‘the city of sandal wood’. Vientiane is one of the quietest capitals in the world, far away from the bustle and hustle of other Asian capitals.

Your tour begins at the serene Wat Sisaket, the only temple left intact after the Siamese (Thai) invasion in 1828. It is one of the most beautiful temples in the capital, and its breezy teak covered hallways are filled with thousands of miniature Buddha statues.

Continue on to the nearby Wat Phra Keo. Used as a religious museum, Wat Phra Keo displays a collection of both Lao and Khmer works of art. Also nearby, is the Presidential Palace.  Although you are not allowed to visit inside, it is a good glimpse in to the town’s colonial past as this building formerly served as the French governor’s palace.

Visit COPE, an association working to help landmine victims. A visit to the center provides in-depth information about the history of the American/Vietnam war and the lasting impact of unexploded ordinances (UXO) in the area and the efforts underway to clear them.

This afternoon, continue to the Patuxay monument, Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can climb the stairs to the roof for sweeping panoramic views of the city.

Next, your tour takes you to That Luang, the holiest site in Laos. Constructed by King Setthethirat in the 16th century, the temple is resplendent as the sun is shines upon its towering golden spire.

Stop at Wat Simuang, the most popular and venerated temple in Vientiane, as it is considred the guardian of the spirit of the city. Upon its grounds, you will find an Angkorian-era pillar and it is a popular belief that if you circle it three times and make a wish, then that wish will come true.

As the day comes to a close, take a stroll along the banks of the Mekong River for sunset. This is a great chance to see local life and choose where you might like to eat and drink  tonight.

Overnight in Vientiane



Day 8 - Vientiane - Kong Lor Caves (B,L)

This morning you will be met by your driver and guide at 08:00 in Vientiane, to begin the journey south along route 13. This first leg of the journey takes around 3 hours and it is interesting to have a quick stop at Wat Prabath Phonsane (‘Temple of the footprint of Buddha’).

You will then leave the main road and enter the Phou Hin Poun NPA (National Protected Area). The scenery will become much more spectacular, featuring limestone karsts, forests and rice paddies. From leaving the main road to reaching your destination will take approximately 2 hours.

Your guide will have brought a picnic lunch from Vientiane so you can find a suitable spot for lunch and stop whenever you like. On arrival in the small town of Ban Kong Lor you will check in, freshen up and then head out to explore the famous Kong Lor Caves.

You will be given life jackets and head torches before a short walk around to the main entrance of the cave. Upon entering the cave, you will board a long tail boat which will take you through the length of this spectacular cave along an underground section of the HinBoun River - a length of 7.5km before you see daylight again!

The river flows all year and reveals vast formations of stalactites and stalagmites, which you will explore partly on foot whilst inside the cave. In places the cave is up to 90m wide and 100m high. The cave is still used by local villagers as an access route to the region beyond (it is far quicker than climbing over the mountains which this cave cuts through!).

Once out on the other side you can stop for refreshments and walk to local villages, enjoying the scenery and observing a simple way of life (discuss with your guide how far you would like to walk).

Return by boat, travelling ‘downstream’ through the cave, to Ban Kong Lor.

Overnight in Ban Kong Lor


Distance and journey time:

Vientiane – Kong Lor Caves (290 Km): 6 hours

Day 9 - Ban Kong Lor - Thakhek - Savannakhet (B)

Laos In Depth - 12 Days / 11 Nights - itinerary

This morning your guide will accompany you on a walk to explore the surrounding villages. Discuss with your guide what time and how far you would like to go, but we recommend going before breakfast. Early mornings can be the most interesting, as locals are preparing for their day and the soft morning sunshine fills the valley, making it very photogenic.

The drive to Thakhek will take approximately 4 hours and you will arrive in time for lunch at Inthira Thakhek (on your own account). Thakhek is a very sleepy town with some attractive colonial buildings.

The drive to Savannakhet takes approximately 1.5 hours. Before entering Savannakhet you will make a stop at the beautiful 16th Century temple of That Ing Hang. An impressive central stupa dominates a courtyard which is flanked by statues of Lord Buddha, in a style similar to Wat Sisaket in Vientiane. That Ing Hang is among the most revered temples in Laos and many Buddhists will travel here during December for the annual ‘Boun Phathat’ ceremony.

Continue in to Savannakhet. The city is most famous as the birthplace of the father of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Kaysone Phomvihane, who was born here in 1920. Take a short tour of the architectural highlights, which include various French villas and the striking St. Teresa Catholic Church.

Visit the small but very interesting Dinosaur Museum. Dinosaur remains are being found nearby which are between 150,000,000 – 250,000,000 years old. You can speak to the resident paleontologists about their work and the proceeds from your visit help to keep this project going.

The remainder of the day is free at leisure to enjoy a swim and take a stroll along the Mekong.

Overnight in Savannakhet


Distance and journey time:

Ban Kong Lor – Thakhek – Savannakhet: 5 hours

Day 10 - Savannakhet - Salavan - Tad Etu (B,L)

Set off early this morning for the drive to Salavan Province and the Bolaven Plateau, an area of highlands situated to the east of Pakse. Most of this region sits between 1000-1300 meters high and features dozens of coffee and tea plantations.  The Plateau is also home to various hilltribes, such as Lavens from which the region gets its name.

After lunch at a local restaurant, Tad Fane Waterfalls is located just 38km from Pakse at the door of the Bolavens Plateau and Dong Hua Sao protected area. These twin waterfalls stand 120m high and are certain to impress.  The falls are fed by the Champy and Pak Koot rivers whose waters join together deep in the dense jungle and as they emerge, they thunder down in to a deep gorge. (Note: Depending on the recent rains, the water level may vary greatly).

En route, stop to visit a coffee and/or tea plantation.  The beans grown in this region have become one of the most famous coffees in the world, which is sometimes called the “Champagne of coffee”. Lao coffee is cultivated almost exclusively in the cool fresh air of the Bolovens Plateau by the families who live in its 250 villages.

Overnight in Tad Etu


Distance and journey time:

Savannakhet – Salavan Province (210km): 5-6 hours

Bolaven Plateau – Tad Etu (40km): 2,5 hours

Day 11 - Tad Etu - Wat Phou - Khong Island (B,L)

Laos In Depth - 12 Days / 11 Nights - itinerary

After breakfast, transfer by road to Wat Phou.

Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos.  The temple was constructed in three levels: the bottom level is focused on the baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features quadrangular pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary itself.  The temple was built by the rulers of the Khmer empire before the construction of Angkor Wat.  The temple served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and still is one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.

Pass through the small town of Champasak, where French colonial buildings offer a great contrast to Wat Phou, and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.

Continue south to the 4000 Islands Region. Called “Sipandon” in Lao language, this area is where the Mekong stretches to over 14km wide. The river flows between an unknown number of islands, creating waterfalls and rapids. Take a short boat crossing to your accommodation, arriving in the late afternoon.

Overnight on Khong Island


Distance and journey time:

Tad Etu – Champasak (60km): 2 hours

Xe Pian National Park – Khong Island (130km): 1,5 hour

Day 12 - Khong Island - Siphandon - Pakse (B,L)

This morning you will explore on and around the peaceful islands of Don Det and Don Khone, where plantations and simple villages are almost all you will find. We recommend bicycles as the best way to explore, or a tuk-tuk if you prefer.

Visit the impressive Lippi falls, which are on the west of Don Khone, very close to the Cambodian border. Their original name, Tad Somphamit, means “trap spirit” and the locals revere these falls as they believe they act as a trap for bad spirits.

The islands played an important role during the French Colonial rule as they linked Laos to Cambodia and Southern Vietnam. To overpass the waterfalls, a railway and bridge were built, the perfect place to take your time and soak in the view.

Then take a short boat trip will give you the chance to spot the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin. Please note that sightings are far from guaranteed, but the mornings and late afternoon are best, when the water is cooler.

Continue your exploration and ease in to the slow pace of life, observing locals and taking your time. Lunch will be included at a local restaurant.

The final highlight in this area is the imposing Khone Papheng waterfalls, where you can take your time to admire the view. This is the only section of the Mekong which is impossible to navigate by boat and you will see why!

Late this afternoon, return to Pakse by land.

Overnight in Pakse


Distance and journey time:

Khong Island – Siphandon – Pakse (149 Km): 2.5 hours

Day 13 - Depart Pakse (B)

After breakfast transfer either to the Thai border or to the airport for your onward flight.


Distance and journey time:

Pakse – Pakse Airport (3km): 5min

Tour Duration: 13 Days / 12 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:

  • Hotel accommodation in shared twin/double room
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Tours and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicles
  • English speaking local guide (for other languages supplements apply)
  • All entrance fees as indicated in itinerary

Our Services do not include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately)
  • Meals other than mentioned above
  • Camera/video entrance fees
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel insurance, tips, visa
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above


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 Laos tour to your individual specifications.

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EXO Travel Blog


icon-quote-l  Just to let you know that we had a great trip. We liked most of the hotels and the guides. The guide in Hanoi was excellent, and in Luang Prabang very good.  icon-quote-r


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