Laos along the Mekong
This road trip takes you through a slice of authentic, rural life undisturbed by tourism. You’ll travel southern Laos, following the Mekong River, though stunning karst mountain scenery.
We’ve built this itinerary to help you escape the tourist trail in an already off-the-radar country. Traveling overland will bring you multi-tiered waterfalls, wild orchid forests, phenomenal caves and communities steeped in tradition. Speak to somebody who’s been there - our Laos specialists are full of ideas to create the perfect trip for you.
You’ll take a 45-minute flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, and the rest of the journey is overland following the Mekong River. There are three long car transfers of four to six hours, but the karst mountain landscape is spectacular, and you’ll stop at fascinating villages and temples en route.
While all visitors to Laos explore Luang Prabang, we’ve created this trip to show you the peaceful villages, waterfalls, caves and islands of southern Laos where few tourists venture
There’s more to Laos than monks (although you’ll meet them too). We’ll introduce you to farmers, fishermen, elephant handlers, coffee growers, stone carvers and more besides
If you’d like to spend more time on the river, we can tailor your trip to start with a cruise down the Mekong River from the Thai border into Luang Prabang
Things to consider
In several rural destinations the accommodation is basic, but this is all part of the simple charm of Laos countryside
Some roads are bendy and bumpy - not for the faint of heart. It’s part and parcel of getting off the beaten track, and you’ll be rewarded with unspoiled Mekong views and dramatic karst mountains
You’ll need a good level of fitness to handle the more active experiences. Sound too energetic? We can swap these out for something more leisurely
Luang Prabang is simply stunning. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, packed with temples, villas and monasteries, encircled by the river and jungle-clad mountains. Three days will fly by in a riot of color and culture. First, hop on a bicycle for a religious architecture tour and stop at the excellent Traditional Arts & Ethnology Center to learn about Lao textiles, crafts and music. Explore botanical gardens, Kuang Si Waterfall, a buffalo dairy farm, and meet retired elephants at an ethical sanctuary. In the early morning, take part in the ritual of alms giving to long lines of orange-robed monks, while at day end, cruise down the Mekong River to watch the sun set.
Hear tales of Luang Prabang’s illustrious past on a guided cycle tour
Play a part in the spiritual ritual of morning alms giving
Beat the crowds with an early morning visit to the emerald cascades of Kuang Si Waterfall
If Luang Prabang is an open-air museum, the capital Vientiane is a real working city replete with mopeds, markets and offices. There are pockets of history, and an insightful local guide will show you Patuxai Monument, a homage to the Arc de Triomphe, and royal temples housing thousands of Buddha statues. The place that really sticks in our memory is the moving COPE exhibition center which supports the victims of unexploded ordnance, a result of the heavy bombing Laos suffered during the Vietnam War. On your second day, it’s time to venture into the countryside. You’ll swim in multi-tiered pools at Tad-Xay Waterfall and hike through a forest to see wild orchids and visit a local village.
Explore Vientiane’s historic temples and Buddhist monuments
Discover the shocking impact of UXOs at the COPE center
Look out for wild orchids as you hike between Tad-Xay Waterfalls and scenic villages
The finer detail
- Breakfast every day
- Five lunches: one in Luang Prabang's botanical gardens; one at MandaLao Elephant Sanctuary; a picnic lunch at the waterfalls outside Vientiane; a picnic lunch in Kong Lor; one home-cooked lunch in the 4,000 Islands
- Three full day experiences: trek through the countryside of Vientiane to find wild orchids; tour of the coffee plantations and waterfalls of the Bolavean Plateau; explore the 4,000 Islands by boat and mountain bike
- Nine half day experiences: highlights tour of Luang Prabang; Luang Prabang's rural villages by bicycle; early morning visit to Kuang Si Waterfall combined with a stop at a buffalo dairy; boat trip to Luang Prabang's botanical gardens; visit the elephants of MandaLao Elephant Sanctuary; a private cruise on the Mekong River; city tour of Vientiane; visit Kong Lor Cave; a tour of the Wat Phou Temple Complex
- All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
- All internal transport & accommodation
Logistics and journey times
Flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane (45 minutes)
Car transfer from Vientiane to Kong Lor (4.5 hours)
Car transfer from Kong Lor to Thakhek via Kong Lor Cave (6 hours)
Car transfer from Thakhek to Pakse (6 hours)
Car transfer from Pakse to Champasak (1 hour)
Car transfer from Champasak to Pakse Airport (1 hour)
What's not included
- International flights
- Meals not mentioned
- Entrance fees to any sites not included in guided experiences
- Tips for guides & porters