Discover Laos

An Exploration of SE Asia’s Best Kept Secret!

Overview

Overview

Our trip in Laos is a journey of discovery along the mighty Mekong River. Join us on this  adventure, exploring some truly hidden places in a country that’s still off the radar of mainstream tourism. As we travel throughout this tranquil, unhurried land, we find everything an adventurer could wish for: lush rugged mountains, the mighty Mekong River and its tributaries, astonishing biodiversity, a wealth of ethnic cultures and a deeply rooted history epitomized by romantic Luang Prabang, where saffron robed monks move silently past ancient gleaming temples and evocative French colonial mansions.

Beginning in the very south in our Laos tour, we paddle into a calm reach of the Mekong River to watch the rare river dolphins surface around us. We cycle through rice paddies, visit an Angkor temple and chill out in Champasak, where time has stood still. From a traditional village we take elephant–friendly rides through the forest, and see these giants set free at night in the nearby wetlands. In the coffee growing area of the Bolaven Plateau we hike to a stunning waterfall, then head to the sleepy capital city of Vientiane to meet a world-renowned weaver.

Our tour of Laos continues to the northern highlands where we pass through wild mountains with unsurpassable views, stopping to paddle the tranquil Nam Song River amid dramatic karst landscapes. In Luang Prabang, we immerse ourselves in the history and beauty of this famous UNESCO World Heritage site, take a boat ride up the Mekong to a mysterious cave, and visit ethnic minority villages. On our final day we take a magical trek with elephants up through an enchanted forest, picnicking by a cool river and heading down along a series of glacial–blue waterfalls and picture–perfect pools. Back in Luang Prabang we share a final fabulous dinner to celebrate our Laos tour!

Itinerary

Itinerary Highlights

Laos is still below the tourist radar, yet offers everything an adventurer could wish for: lush rugged mountains, the mighty Mekong River, astonishing biodiversity, a wealth of ethnic cultures and a fascinating mix of Buddhist and French colonial heritage. This one-of-a-kind adventure takes in the whole of Laos: from the south where we kayak on the Mekong River to watch rare dolphins, put elephants to bed in the forest and hike to sheer waterfalls; to the north where we marvel at the royal city of Luang Prabang before going way off the beaten track for some minding blowing hikes and touching cultural encounters. Come discover Laos, before everyone else does!

Day 1

From your rooftop restaurant in Pakse, watch the setting sun bathe the Mekong River and surrounding hills in gold.

Day 2

Jump on a funky riverboat and head down the Mekong River to one of the fabled and laid-back Four Thousand Islands.

Day 3

Paddle quiet reaches of the Mekong River listening for the breath of the rare Mekong river dolphins.

Day 4

In an off the beaten track village, take an elephant friendly ride through a forest and in the evening watch mahouts send their elephants out to graze freely in lush wetlands.

Day 5

Wander through an ancient Angkor temple complex carved into a hillside amid massive trees. Overnight in a small, forgotten French colonial enclave.

Day 6

Head up to the cool heights of the Bolaven Plateau, to get the skinny from a local coffee farmer on how to grow the best beans. Hike to the top of a dizzying waterfall. Go for a refreshing swim.

Day 7

A short flight takes you to Vientiane, the sleepy capital of Laos, to meet a famous weaver and have dinner in a great restaurant that supports and trains street kids.

Day 8

Take in Vientane’s history on a cultural tour, then drive to Vang Vieng, set among stupendous karst formations.

Day 9

Paddle down the tranquil Nam Song River beneath soaring limestone cliffs, and beach your kayak at our riverside hotel just in time for lunch. In the afternoon: massages or more outdoor activity? The choice is yours!

Day 10

Have your cameras at the ready as we head through mind blowing mountainous landscapes. In Luang Prabang, soak in the ambiance of Buddhist and French colonial architecture. As evening falls, shop for ethnic treasures in the bustling Night Market.

Day 11

Rise early to the beating of gongs and watch hundreds of saffron-robed monks file out from their temples to receive alms. Hop onto a long riverboat and cruise up the rushing Mekong River to visit a revered cave. In a traditional village, take part in an ancient animist ceremony.

Day 12

Cross the Nam Khan river on an elephant-friendly ride, head through farms and jungle to your picnic site by a shady stream, then trek along the banks of a gorgeous series of waterfalls. Back in Luang Prabang, celebrate your discovery of Laos with the best French food and wine this side of Paris!

Day 13

Say goodbye to your travel companions and return home or continue with your onward journey.

Please note: this itinerary serves as an example of trip highlights and is subject to change.

Email us for a detailed itinerary.

We think of our itineraries as melodies: they have a beginning and an end, a certain arc, dramatic highlights and a few surprises. We like to improvise, to adapt to the mood of our guests or to circumstances that arise — an invitation to a traditional wedding, say, or a local ethnic festival…

Crafting beautiful, harmonious trips with delightful twists is our trade mark and passion.

FAQ

FAQ

What we will be discovering in Laos?

In a nutshell, a country that is still mostly way below the tourist radar, with a rich diversity of fascinating cultures, pristine forests, the mighty Mekong River, and a refreshingly slow pace of life– even in the capital city, Vientiane. Our trip takes you to the renowned highlights of Laos, like the gorgeous UNESCO Heritage town of Luang Prabang , and way beyond them, to hidden places that very few people ever visit. It’s a unique itinerary that no other company is offering. Discover it before everyone else does!

Where does the trip start and end?

We start in Pakse, in the south of Laos, and end in the magical royal city of Luang Prabang in the north.

How do I get to Pakse, and home from Luang Prabang?

You can fly to directly to Pakse from Bangkok, Thailand or from Siem Reap, Cambodia. If you are already in Laos, you can fly there from Vientiane, or, if you are feeling very adventurous, take the overnight sleeper bus! Returning from Luang Prabang, there are direct flights to Hanoi, Vietnam, Bangkok, Thailand and Siem Reap, Cambodia.

What are the physical activities on the trip and what level of fitness do I need?

A reasonable level of fitness is required. We will be doing some gentle paddling on the Mekong, going on fantastic hikes that we will pace to the needs of the group, cycling on flat terrain, and, as a possible option, riding on the neck of an elephant.

What is Lao food like?

Hugely diverse! The French colonized Laos, so during the trip you’ll enjoy great baguettes and pastries and good coffee, as well as some truly fine dining and good wines. You’ll also sample traditional Lao food – a variation on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine – spiced to your liking. And in some places we visit you can also find good Western food.

I’m a vegetarian, is that a problem?

Not at all, but please let us know in advance, and advise us on what you can’t eat.

Do I need a visa?

You will be issued with a visa on arrival at the airport. The cost is US$35 for US and European citizens and US$42 for Canadian citizens, payable in US cash only. Please make sure you have two passport photos with you. (If you forget, you will simply charged extra.)

Do I need any special insurance?

Medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, is mandatory on all our trips. We also strongly advise you to purchase trip cancellation insurance.

Do I need vaccinations?

Your routine vaccinations (tetanus/diphtheria, polio, etc.) must be up to date. Another general precaution for travelers anywhere in the world is a hepatitis A and possibly a typhoid vaccination.

What about malarial medication?

The areas we visit are fairly low risk for malaria. However, as there is presence of dengue fever (transmitted by mosquitoes) in Laos, it is advisable to opt for transmission protection (long sleeves/trousers, and regular applications of DEET insect repellent). Sensible precautions should ensure you do not get bitten. If you do decide to opt for malarial medication, we advise you to use Docxycline, however you should consult your local travel clinic or physician.

What does the trip price cover?

Airport transfers on the first and last days of the trip, all cultural tour guiding and entrance fees, all accommodation and meals.

What does the trip price not cover?

International and domestic flights, airport transfers not on the first or last days of the trip, alcoholic drinks, personal insurance and gratuities.

How can I access cash when I’m on the trip?

ATMs are readily available in Pakse, Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

What clothes and equipment will I need?

When you sign up for the trip, we will provide you with a comprehensive clothes and equipment list.

I’m travelling alone, is that a problem?

Absolutely not. We have many guests who travel with us on their own. They appreciate the camaraderie of our Hidden Places groups , and usually go home with new-found friends.

+ Add On Excursions

Siem Reap/Angkor Wat:

No journey to SE Asia is complete without a visit to the mystical Angkor temples around Siem Reap, Cambodia. Watch the sun rise over the stunning towers of Angkor Wat; sit in the roots of a giant tree to gaze at the peaceful four side faces of Bayon temple; marvel at the intricate carvings in Banteay Srei and hike through cool forest to the astounding riverbed carvings in Kbal Spean. As our knowledgeable guide brings history alive, you will be spellbound and moved by this incomparable UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Suggested length: 3 to 5 days
  • Please let us know your preferences and we will put an amazing excursion together for you.

Trip Details

Land Cost
From US $3,990 per person


Dates
Private: Nov through Mar


Length
13 days


Activities
Gentle hiking and kayaking; biking on flat ground; river boat cruising; elephant-friendly riding; cultural tours; village visits


Accommodation
12 nights hotels and lodges


Group Size
2–10


Begins/Ends
Pakse, Laos / Luang Prabang, Laos

  • Thank you for another great adventure into one of your hidden places!

    Margaret S Washington, DC, USA
  • You are true professionals in what you do. I already am looking forward to our next Hidden Places adventure.

    Mike S Burlington, ON, Canada
  • Wonderful always, magical at times, unforgettable forever. You continue to amaze us.

    Diane S Mount Vernon, WA, USA
  • "Thank you for a superb trip. It beat all of my expectations with such a variety of activities and places to see."

    Linda H Comox, BC, Canada
  • Words cannot express my heartfelt appreciation for our Discover Laos journey… I began our trip hoping to rediscover my soul and thanks to you both I not only rediscovered it, but replenished it with peace and joy.

    Jan C Burlington, ON, Canada
  • Maria, Dag, people like you are the gems of the earth. To be able to put together such an interesting agenda… and marry all participants into the friendliest of groups is fantastic.

    Rob C Alexandria, VA, USA

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