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EXO Travel
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Exo Travel

OVERVIEW

Vang Vieng / Khammouane caves / Savannakhet / Luang Prabang / Plain of Jars / Pak Beng / Nong Khiaw / Nam Neun Night Safari / Viang Xai caves / Champassak / 4000 Islands / Pakse / Vientiane

The diverse landscapes and rich culture of Laos are only truly discovered through overland travel. Explore the country from north to south, connecting the main tourist sites with hidden gems far away from the tourist trail. Expect the unexpected on this in-depth Laos holiday.  

Exo Travel

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

Tour Highlights for Laos, a Journey Within
Overland adventure from North to South

Overland adventure from North to South

Travel the length of Laos from the far north to the deep south, crossing meandering rivers and winding along rural roads along the way.

Explore the natural beauty of Laos

Explore the natural beauty of Laos

Seek out wild animals on an adventurous night safari in the north, explore massive underground rivers and swim in cascading waterfalls. 

Discover the history of Laos

Discover the history of Laos

From dinosaur remains dating back 2.5 million years ago to the recent atrocities of war in the 1970s, discover the rich history of Laos through insightful, informative tours.

Exo Travel

ITINERARY

Laos, a Journey Within - 22 Days / 21 Nights

DAY 1 - Houey Xay - Pakbeng MealsMEALS [L]

Exo TravelHouey Xay – Pakbeng by boat (150 km): 6 hours

This comprehensive Laos journey begins with around 08:00 at the border town of Houey Xay. Please reach this border crossing point either early in the morning or the day before. Our guide and driver will be waiting at immigration to provide transport to the pier for the two-day slow boat cruise to Luang Prabang. En route, a stop will be made to visit to an ethnic village with a chance to learn first-hand about the traditional, rural life of these people.

A delicious lunch is served on board.

Arrive in Pakbeng where the night will be spent. Located halfway between Houay Xay and Luang Prabang, Pakbeng is an ideal stop for slow boats en route to the northern city. The town is built with wooden houses along a steep street on the hillside and has a tranquil, laid back vibe. Relax this evening, soaking up the Mekong sunset aboard the boat.

Overnight in Pakbeng

DAY 2 - Pakbeng - Pak Ou - Luang PrabangMealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelPakbeng – Luang Prabang by boat (130 km): 5 hours

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

Depart around 08:30 for the second part of the journey. While cruising along the Mekong, stop at Ban Baw village to observe the processing of traditional rice alcohol, called lao lao. Reboard the boat to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch.

Stop for a visit to the Pak Ou Caves, 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.

After a final 2 hour cruise, reach Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. Our guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport to the hotel for check in.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

DAY 3 - Luang Prabang - Cycling City TourMealsMEALS [B]

Begin the day around 08:30 with a hotel pick up from the guide alongside the adapted bikes. After doing a fitting and adjusting the bike, start the tour at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, to discover the history of Laos. Continue to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief.

Next visit Wat Visoun, the holiest temple in the city, followed by Wat Aham and Wat That, where the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are kept inside the large central stupa. Continue along the Nam Khan River to visit Wat Xieng Thong, the most revered temple in Luang Prabang.

In the afternoon, leave the town behind and head for Phosy Market. The guide will both explain and encourage sampling some of the delights on sale in the market. Purchasing fresh produce here is not only a unique experience, but it also directly supports the local vendors.

Continue the ride to Ock Pop Tock, a non-profit organization seeking to preserve traditional weaving techniques. Once an important trade and source of income for many Lao families, the tradition has slowly been disappearing in Laos. Take a short tour that introduces the process of silk weaving from the initial stages of creating the dyes to the final process of loom weaving.

Ride along the Mekong back into town for the final stop of the day. The Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre is dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos’ ethnic minorities, and it’s a great opportunity to gain insight into the Lao people (Note: closed on Mondays).

Return to the hotel by bike.  

Overnight in Luang Prabang

DAY 4 - Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfall - Luang Prabang MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelLuang Prabang – Kuang Si waterfalls (32 km): 45 min

For early-risers (05:30) there is a very special dawn visit to witness the monks leaving their pagodas to receive offerings of food from Luang Prabang residents. It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people. Return to the hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast, the guide will provide a hotel pickup and a short transfer to the Kuang Si Waterfalls. Stop en-route to visit a small ethnic village to learn about the local traditions and culture, much of which has remained unchanged for centuries.

Upon reaching Kuang Si Waterfall, enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings or explore the surrounding dense jungle on foot. For the adventurous, it is possible to walk to the top of the falls via a steep track where beautiful views await.

The waterfalls feed into turquoise blue pools perfect for swimming. It is possible to swim here, but please dress appropriately if doing so (not showing too much skin.)

Stop to enjoy a picnic lunch at the waterfalls.

On the route back, make an optional visit to the Free the Bears sanctuary, housing 23 Asiatic Bears which were rescued from poaching. Additionally, make a stop at the Kuang Si Butterfly Park where beautiful gardens are filled with hundreds of butterflies. (Note: closed on Tuesday)

The remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

DAY 5 - Luang Prabang - Phonsavan MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelLuang Prabang – Phonsavan (306 km): 6-7 hours

After breakfast, begin the 6-7 hour drive for Phonsavan. A stop will be made en route for lunch in a local restaurant.Upon arrival to  , the guide and driver will provide transport to the hotel for check in.

Xieng Khuang is a town that has been totally rebuilt after it was destroyed during the secret war in Laos. Today, Xieng Khuang, locally called “Phonsavan” is the gateway to the Plain of Jars.

After checking into the hotel, enjoy a city tour and visit the MAG Center in town. MAG is a humanitarian organization clearing the remnants of conflict for the benefit of local communities worldwide. Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed nation in the world (per capita). Free entry, open everyday from 08:00 – 20:00.

Overnight in Xieng Khouang

DAY 6 - Phonsavan MealsMEALS [B|L]

In the morning, begin the journey through Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars.

The Plain of Jars is a huge archaeological complex filled with mysterious 2,500-year-old stone jars sized from 70cm up to 3 or 4 meters. While several archaeologists have hypotheses about their existence, their true origin remains a mystery.

Today visit the 3 main sites and also pay a visit to the nearby local villages.  Site 1, the largest and closest to the town, is settled at Thong Hai Hin. Site 2 is at Hai Hin on Phou Salator. End the tour in Hai Hin Lat Khai at Site 3, which is the most impressive of the lot with over 150 jars. Close to the site, visit Ban Xieng Di where there is a small monastery with Buddha images. On the way back, pass areas that were important battlefields during the American secret war, still littered with bomb craters.

Please Note: The Plain of Jars was heavily bombed during the war; it is imperative to respect all signage and to stay along the defined trails due to bombs, UXO and landmines.

Lunch at a local restaurant in Phonsavan.

In the afternoon, enjoy a half day trip to Muang Khoun. Another site destroyed during the American bombings, Muang Khoun is home to unique sitting giant Buddha as well of some old pagodas that lies in ruins. The foundation and columns of Wat Phia Wat are still standing and nearby is an ancient 30m stupa constructed in the Lan Xang/Lanna period.

Return to Xieng Khouang.

Overnight in Xieng Khouang

DAY 7 - Xieng Khouang - Sam Neua MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelXieng Khouang – Sam Neua (258 km): 6-7 hours

After breakfast, depart with the private guide and driver for the journey by car to Sam Neua, taking approximately 6-7 hours. Along the way, enjoy the beautiful scenery and see local village life. Lunch will be had in a local restaurant.

After lunch, arrive in Sam Neua, check in to the hotel and take off for a tour of the town. The visit will include wanders through the Nam Sam River Promenade followed by Wat Phoxay Sanlam, which is home to a Buddha statue dating back to 1565. Visit weaving houses near the temple to see stunning cotton and silk textiles being made. Finish the tour with a visit to the market selling stunning Houaphanh textiles and clothes from different ethnic groups, woven bamboo items and traditional foods and animals.

Overnight in Sam Neua

DAY 8 - Sam Neua - Viengxay - Vieng Thong MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelSam Neua – Vieng Xai (30 km): 1 hour

After breakfast, drive to Viengxay (approximately 1 hour). Upon arrival, explore the traditional town and its surrounding limestone peaks and forests. The town contains hundreds of caves, which sheltered local people and the country's future leaders during the Vietnam/American War.

In the 1960s, when Laos was caught up in the middle of the war, more than 20,000 people lived in a 'hidden city' they built inside these limestone peaks. As they were only able to farm or work at night, the caves housed everything from schools and hospitals to markets a radio station and the headquarters of the Lao Patriotic Front.

Take an audio tour that tells the story of the 'hidden city,’ including interviews of people who lived through this time.

Lunch will be included at a local restaurant.

After the visit, drive back to Sam Neua.

Overnight in Sam Neua

DAY 9 - Nam Nern Night SafariMealsMEALS [B|L|D]

Exo TravelVieng Thong – Ban Son Koua: 1 hour

This morning, depart Sam Neua around 08:30 for the Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA (National Protected Area).

Staying in a simple ecolodge, experience a night safari, all of which has been developed and created by the local community. Learn about wildlife conservation, medicinal plants, traditional agriculture and the history of the Secret War from the local Khmu guide.

Shortly after arriving to Ban Son Koua, an ethnic Khmu Village, enjoy a local lunch.

Start with a village tour alongside local guides and boatmen learning about the animist tradition of appeasing the village spirit. Then embark on a 1.5 hour journey to the park substation on the Nam Nern River by longtail boat, learning about upland rice cultivation and spotting monitor lizards and bird life.

After lunch, receive a briefing by park staff about the on‐the‐ground efforts in protecting tigers and their prey. Around the middle of the afternoon, depart for the night safari. Stopping near a salt lick, hike into the forest. The local guide, a skilled hunter and tracker, will explain how local people track deer and other animals.

The boats will continue upriver to the dinner site, a sandy, flat bank, where a picnic dinner will be held around a campfire. After dinner, hear some Khmu folktales and learn about the species of animals that may be seen during the safari.

Depending on the amount of moonlight, depart for the night spotlighting 1-2 hours after dark. Silently float downriver with the engines off, using spotlights to see animals such as Sambar Deer, Otters, and Barking Deer, various species of Civets, Slow Loris, Porcupine and Owls.  

At the end of the spotlighting, the boats arrive at the evening camp. Before going to bed, check out the variety of insects attracted to the black light set up near the substation.

Overnight in Nam Nern

DAY 10 - Nam Nern Night Safari - Nong Khiaw MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelNam Nern – Nong Khiaw (210 km): 4 hours

Before breakfast, join the local guide on a walk through the jungle, learning about the use of medicinal plants and the history of the area. After breakfast, the boats float back to the village at a relaxing pace with engines off, pointing out birds along the way.

Upon arrival in the village, sample some earthen jar rice wine (lao hai). Before departing, fill out a wildlife monitoring form that is used to monitor wildlife abundance and indicate the amount of bonuses put into the village development fund from the tour costs. This is one of the keys to the success of the project because locals are therefore incentivized to preserve the wildlife and the habitat.

After lunch in a local restaurant, continue driving about 4 hours to Nong Khiaw.

After checking in to the hotel, enjoy the sunset over the river. There is a choice of local restaurants within walking distance.

Overnight in Nong Khiaw

DAY 11 - Nong Khiaw - Luang Prabang - Vang ViengMealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelNong Khiaw – Luang Prabang (134 km): 2.5 hours Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng (230 km): 5 hours

After breakfast, the guide and private car will provide transport from the hotel for the 2.5-hour drive to Luang Prabang.

On the way, enjoy lunch at Tangor restaurant.

After lunch, continue the trip down to Vang Vieng. Upon arrival in Vang Vieng, check in to the hotel and enjoy the beautiful limestone karst scenery. Sunset on the Nam Song River is not to be missed!

Overnight in Vang Vieng

DAY 12 - Vang ViengMealsMEALS [B]

Enjoy a flexible itinerary today. For the adventurous type, try out some trekking, kayaking, mountain biking or rock climbing. Most experiences can be done as half or full day at an extra cost.

Alternatively, embark on a guided tour inside the nearby Tham Jang Cave. Learn about local mythology associated with the cave as the guide shows the stalactites and stalagmites. Enjoy panoramic views from one of the vistas. Afterwards, take a dip in the caves natural spring waters.

Follow the visit up with an extensive organic farm, which specializes in producing a refreshing mulberry tea. Alternatively, explore the nearby local markets.

The afternoon is free at leisure.

Overnight in Vang Vieng

DAY 13 - Vang Vieng - Vientianev MealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelVang Vieng – Vientiane (160 km): 3-4 hours

After breakfast, check out of the hotel and begin the 3-4 hour drive south to Vientiane. Stop en route at the (surprising!) local market of Don Mak Kai.

The rest of the day is free at leisure in the peaceful capital. Enjoy the numerous cafes, restaurants and spas as well as shopping, including the evening market on the banks of the Mekong.

Overnight in Vientiane

DAY 14 - Vientiane Buddha Park & City Tour MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelVientiane – Buddha Park (24 km): 45 min

After breakfast, take the 45-minute drive to Buddha Park. On the way, stop and take photos of the Friendship Bridge linking Thailand and Laos.

Arrive at Buddha Park and enjoy a stroll around the park.  Also known as Xieng Khuan, this unusual park is filled with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. The quiet and tranquil setting along the Mekong River is a contrast to the slightly eccentric sculptures which were built in 1958 by a Lao shaman.

After visiting Buddha Park, start the drive back to Vientiane. En route, stop at the Lao Disabled Women Development Center. This center aims to bring practical skills to disabled women so that they can become self-sufficient, confident members of the community.

Lunch is at local Restaurant, established by Friends International. Makphet is a charity-run restaurant aiming to train the area’s street children in the hospitality industry.

After lunch, start with a tour to the 16th century That Luang, the holiest site in Laos. Then enjoy a  panoramic view over the city after climbing the stairs to the top of Patuxai, Vientiane’s own “Arc de Triomphe”.

Continue to Wat Sisaket, one of the most beautiful temples in the capital, followed by a visit 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.

Overnight in Vientiane

DAY 15 - Vientiane - Ban Kong Lor MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelVientiane – Ban Kong Lor (290 km): 6 hours

This morning after breakfast, begin the journey south from Vientiane. The first leg takes around 3 hours, with a quick stop at Wat Prabath Phansane (‘Temple of the footprint of Buddha’).

Lunch will be included at a local restaurant.

After lunch, 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 the final destination will take approximately 2 hours.

Upon arrival to the small town of Ban Kong Lor, the rest of the day is at leisure to admire the views. For those interested in walking through the surrounding villages, the guide will be happy to go along.

Overnight in Ban Kong Lor

DAY 16 - Kong Lor Caves - Thakhek MealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelBan Kong Lor – Kong Lor Caves (8 km): 5-10 min Ban Kong Lor – Thakhek (190 km): 3-4 hours

For early risers, we recommend a walk at around 06:30 to explore the villages as they wake up and prepare for the day.

After breakfast, take a short drive (5-10 minutes) towards the Kong Lor Caves. Wearing life jackets and head torches, begin the short walk to the entrance of the cave. Upon entering, board a longtail boat which will cover the length of this spectacular cave along the Hin Boun River - a length of 7.5km without daylight!

During the cruise, explore the formations of stalactites and stalagmites partially from the water and partially on foot.

Upon reaching the other side, stop for refreshments and walk to local villages. Enjoy the surrounding scenery observing the village’s simple way of life. Return by boat, travelling ‘downstream’ through the cave, to Ban Kong Lor. Enjoy an independent lunch before travelling further south.

The drive to Thakhek will take approximately 4 hours. Enjoy a relaxing evening and overnight in Thakhek. 

DAY 17 - Thakhek - Savannakhet - Pakse MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelThakhek – Savannakhet (150 km): 2 hours Savannakhet – Pakse (215 km): 3.5 hours

After a leisurely breakfast, meet the guide around 09:30 to continue the journey south. The drive to Savannakhet takes approximately 1.5 hours. Before entering Savannakhet, make a stop at the beautiful 16th century temple of That Ing Hang, one of the most revered temples in Laos.

Continue on to Savannakhet.

Upon arrival, 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. Speak to the resident paleontologists about their work; the proceeds from this visit help to keep the project going.

After lunch in a local restaurant, hit the road again for the drive to Pakse, which takes approximately 3.5 hours. Check in and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Pakse

DAY 18 - Pakse - Bolaven Plateau - Champasak MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelPakse – Bolaven Plateau – Champasak (40 km): 1 hour

Begin the day with a 09:00 pickup from the hotel for the short orientation tour of Pakse. Afterwards, depart for the Bolaven Plateau, a mountainous region home to dozens of hill tribes, waterfalls and coffee and tea plantations.

The first stops are at Tad Fane and Tad Yuang waterfalls. Tad Fane is a set of twin 120-meter-high waterfalls formed by the merging waters of the Champy and Pak Koot rivers. These impressive falls are situated on the edge of Dong Hua Sao protected area, 38km from Pakse

Note: water levels may vary accordingly to the previous rainy season.

Make a short stop in Paksong before continuing east to reach the Sinouk Coffee Resort. An expert in coffee will lead a visit through the coffee plantation, explaining all about the indigenous coffee trees and different processing stages.

After the visit, enjoy a delicious lunch. Most of the vegetables supplied to the meal come from the on-site organic garden. Following lunch, sample many different types of coffee.

On the drive back to Pakse, two stops will be made. The first stop is the visit of Tad Lo waterfalls, a beautiful formation of three separate falls. From the bridge guests will first see Tad Hang and then Tad Lo in the distance. The most impressive of the three, Tad Suong, is located a further 10km upriver.

The second stop is the small village of Ban Houay Houn, famous for its Katu textiles. Observe the village’s women weaving without a traditional loom, using their legs to stretch the fabric.

In the late afternoon you will transfer to the small town of Champasak, on the banks of the Mekong River.

Overnight in Champasak

DAY 19 - Exploring Wat Phou MealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelChampasak – Wat Phou (8 km): 15 min

After breakfast, pay a visit to Wat Phou. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits among 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 pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary. This site served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and still is one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.

The rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Champasak and the hotel’s facilities. Alternatively, set off on a bicycle to explore the town independently.

Overnight in Champasak

DAY 20 - Champasak - Don Khone MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelChampasak – Don Khong: 1.5 hours

After breakfast, enjoy Champasak and the surroundings.

Drive south to the 4,000 Islands Region. Called “Siphandon” 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.

Stop for lunch in a local restaurant along the way.

A boat crossing from the village of Ban Nakasang leads to the small island of Don Khone, home to plantations and simple villages.

This afternoon, explore the area on foot. The islands of Don Khone and neighbouring Don Det 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. Remnants of the railway and some colonial buildings still remain, making for the perfect place to relax and soak in the views.

Overnight on Don Khong

DAY 21 - 4000 Islands - Pakse MealsMEALS [B|L]

Exo TravelDon Khone – Pakse (130 km): 1.5 hour

Spend the morning on bicycles (alternatively, a tuk tuk) exploring Don Khone.

Visit the impressive Lippi falls, just 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.

Then take a short boat trip offering a 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 the exploration and ease into the slow pace of life. Lunch will be included at a local restaurant before you take a boat back to the mainland at Ban Nakasang.

Return to Pakse by road and arrive late this afternoon.

Overnight in Pakse

DAY 22 - Pakse - DepartureMealsMEALS [B]

After breakfast, the guide and private car will be waiting at the hotel to provide transport to the hotel for the departing flight. 

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IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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.
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