Northern Laos Explorer
If you’re fascinated by the ancient wisdom of mountain and jungle folk, come and explore northern Laos with us.
Bookended by Vientiane and Luang Prabang, we’ve built this trip to take you into the most remote villages, dense jungles and secret caves. It’s off the beaten track in an already little-travelled country, a place where ethnic minorities are steadfast in their traditions. Hankering for something a bit different? Tell us! We can mix and match destinations and activities to suit you.
The journeys are all part of the adventure in rural Laos. Most are by car transfer including four drives of three to six hours through dramatic mountain scenery. You’ll break up the long stretches with plenty of stops in interesting villages and viewpoints. There’s also one short domestic flight, and three boat transfers of two to five hours.
With a blend of history, culture, wildlife and outdoors activities, this is an amazing trip to experience Laos from every angle
In northern Laos, ethnic minorities are the majority. We’ve designed this trip to take you to remote Hmong, Khmu and Ikhor villages where you can learn about customs and traditions unchanged for generations
Few visitors venture north of Luang Prabang, but you’ll be rewarded with staggering scenery from jungles and grassy plains, to karst mountains and meandering rivers
Things to consider
Accommodation options are limited in rural areas so expect a warm welcome, but fairly basic facilities
As you'd expect, reaching isolated villages and remote wilderness involves some bumpy and winding roads!
We've included some fantastic hiking and kayaking that requires a good level of fitness. If this is not for you, let us know and we’ll tailor to suit you
Welcome to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Get stuck into the national cuisine on a visit to the night market, a firm favourite with the locals. We’ve handpicked your guide, who knows the best flavours and ingredients in Lao cooking. Whet your appetite with a few snacks, then sit down for sindat, a Lao barbecue for dinner. In the morning, delve into Vientiane’s history on a tour of the most beautiful temples, including the oldest, Wat Sisaket, home to thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo. You’ll also climb the steps to the top of Patuxai Monument and visit the COPE exhibition centre which tackles the issues of unexploded ordnance in Laos.
Tuck into a hearty Lao-style barbecue at a popular local restaurant
Explore Wat Prakeo, the former royal temple, and the Buddhas of Wat Sisaket
Visit the moving COPE centre dedicated to UXO victims
A short flight from Vientiane will bring you to Phonsavan, aka the Plain of Jars. Amid green rolling hills on a wide-open plateau, you’ll find a huge archaeological site littered with 2,000-year-old stone jars, up to 4 metres tall, part of an ancient burial practice. Sadly, during the US-Vietnam War, Laos earned the dubious distinction of the world’s most heavily bombed country per capita, and this corner of the country was especially affected. At the Mines Action Group office, you’ll learn how they’re slowly restoring safety to large swathes of countryside. You’ll also meet students studying English who are eager to talk to you about their hometown and life in rural Laos.
Discover the myths and legends surrounding the Plain of Jars
Learn how Mines Action Groups are tackling landmines in the region
Meet students from the Lone Buffalo Foundation, a UK-registered charity project
The finer detail
- Breakfast every day
- Five lunches; one in Nam Et Phou Louey NPA; one picnic lunch in Nong Khiaw; one picnic lunch on the boat to Muang La; one picnic lunch whilst trekking through villages; one at the MandaLao Elephant Sanctuary
- Two dinners: street food tour in Vientiane; one in Nam Et Phou Louey NPA
- Three full-day experiences: a visit to Plain of Jars sites 2 & 3, as well as a nearby community project; kayaking and hiking in Nong Khiaw; hike through ethnic minority villages in Muang La
- Six half-day experiences; city tour of Vientiane; a visit to Plain of Jars site 1; the Vieng Xai Caves; picnic breakfast at the Kuang Si waterfalls; Luang Prabang city tour; MandaLao elephant sanctuary
- Two evening experiences: street food tour in Vientiane; sunset cruise on the Mekong River
- Overnight stay in Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area including jungle based activities
- All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
- All internal transport & accommodation
Logistics and journey times
Car transfer from Vientiane Airport to hotel (15 minutes)
Flight from Vientiane to Phonsavan (30 minutes)
Car transfer from Phonsavan to Sam Neua (6 hours)
Car transfer & boat from Sam Neua to Nam Et (3 hours & 2 hours)
Boat & car transfer from Nam Et to Nong Khiaw (2 hours & 5 hours)
Boat & car transfer from Nong Khiaw to Muang La (5 hours & 1.5 hours)
Car transfer from Muang La to Luang Prabang (5 hours)
Car transfer from hotel to Luang Prabang Airport (15 minutes)
What's not included
- International flights
- Meals not mentioned
- Entrance fees to any sites not included in guided experiences
- Tips for guides & porters