Laos Central Highlights
- Active Adventure
- Culture & Heritage
- Off The Beaten Path
Day 1 – 2 Luang Prabang – Xiengkhouang – Plain of Jars
- Head to Xieng Khouang for one of the most famous geological sites of Laos – the peculiar Plain of Jars 1 and 2
Day 3 – 5 Xiengkhouang – Vang Vieng
- Take a five–hour drive to Vang Vieng, visit Khmu village, kayak on the beautiful Nam Song River, discover limestone caves and visit Vang Vieng Elephant Sanctuary.
Day 6 – 7 Vang Vieng – Vientiane
- Enjoy a four–hour drive to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos.
- Vientiane city tour: Visit Patuxai Monument, COPE Visitor Centre, some famous temples, Lao National Museum, and Vientiane Central Market.
Day 8 Vientiane – Phou Khaokhuay
- Transfer 2.5 hours from Vientiane to Ban Hatkhai, one–hour boating on Nam Mang to Houay Xai, and 2 hours trekking to the waterfalls.
Day 9 – 16 Highlights in the Laos central region
- Venture off–the–beaten–path to destinations of Laos – Phou Khaokhuay, Paksan, Ban Konglor, Ban Thalang, Thakhek, and Xe Bangfai.
- There will be a variety of activities like trekking, kayaking, and boating.
- Discover cascading waterfalls, picturesque rivers to magnificent caves, and lovely local villages. Enjoy lunch by the great waterfalls in Hin Namno National Protected Area and cross to the other side of the border to Nakhan Phanom in Thailand.
Day 17 Thakhek – Nakhon Phanom – Departure
- Take an overland exit to Nakhon Phanom in Thailand, board your one–hour flight to Bangkok, and connect on to your flight home.
In 17 days, travel to all the highlights in the Laos central region. From Luang Prabang, head to Xieng Khouang and Phonsavanh for one of the most famous geological sites of Laos – the peculiar Plain of Jars 1 and 2. In Vang Vieng, enjoy kayaking down the Nam Song River, en-route visit the breathtaking caves in the area. After a full day at the Elephant Sanctuary, explore the highlights in the capital Vientiane. You will venture off-the-beaten-path to destinations of Laos – Phou Khaokhuay, Paksan, Ban Konglor, Ban Thalang, Thakhek and Xe Bangfai. There will be a variety of activities like trekking, kayaking and boating, so that you can fully experience the wonderful landscape. Including, cascading waterfalls, picturesque rivers to magnificent caves and lovely local villages. Wrap up this unforgettable journey as you enjoy lunch by the great waterfalls in Hin Namno National Protected Area and later cross to the other side of the border to Nakhan Phanom in Thailand.
You are picked up at your hotel in Luang Prabang and embark on a six-hour driver over the mountains to Xieng Khouang, and Phonsavanh in central Laos which is best-known for having been heavily bombed during Indochina War. But, of course, it is also famous for the historic Plain of Jars. Along the way, you can make some stops at villages to observe the rural life of local people, including ethnic minorities such as the Hmong people.
Arrival in Phonsavanh, the capital of Xieng Khouang province, and check into your hotel. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
Overnight in Phonsavanh
After breakfast at the hotel, meet your guide for a drive over the plains to visit the Plain of Jars site 1 before continuing to drive to the Plain of Jars 2. Here you have time to find out more about the still unclear history of the stone Jars which dated back to about 2000 years ago.
After lunch at a local restaurant, drive about 1 hour more to visit Muang Khoun, the old capital of Xieng Khouang where you will see some ruins left over from the war.
Overnight in Phonsavanh
After breakfast, meet your tour guide for a five-hour drive to Vang Vieng, a small town of 25,000 people sits alongside the Nam Song River. Limestone cliffs create a beautiful backdrop for the adventure-tourism oriented town. Vang Vieng is famous for its beautiful landscapes, hiking, and light adventure.
Arrive in Vang Vieng and check into your riverside resort. The rest of your day will be at your leisure. You may have a stroll around the town or take a short hike of 30 minutes to the summit of the Phatang Mountain viewpoint to admire the beautiful scenery of the rice-paddy laden valley and Vang Vieng.
Overnight in Vang Vieng
After breakfast, you are driven to Pha Tang around 18 km north of Vang Vieng. After an introduction to the basics of kayaking, you will set off down the beautiful Nam Song River which offers various small but fun rapids along the way to your first stop at Tham Xang Cave. Here you will walk up to the massive theater like cave while hearing about the local history about the area!
After emerging from the cave, continue to paddle to a picnic spot on the riverside where you enjoy your box lunch.
After lunch, continue to paddle down the river until you reach the next stop at the Organic Farm where mulberry tea and a variety of different fruit wines are produced.
Keep going further you will arrive at Tham None Cave, one of the largest caves in Vang Vieng! It served as a bomb shelter for local villagers during the Second Indochina War. However, today it is home to a bat family and the ‘Magic Stone of Vang Vieng’. The final leg of the journey will be a gentle paddle downstream to Vang Vieng where you will arrive just in time to catch the sunset.
Approximately: 4 hour-kayaking and 1.5-hour caving/walking.
Overnight in Vang Vieng
After breakfast, take a short drive (around 1.5 hours) to the outside of Vang Vieng through rural landscapes, agricultural areas, and forested hills to Vang Vieng Elephant Sanctuary.
Upon arrival, meet your guide and walk for 10-15 minutes to the Centre of the Sanctuary. Change into traditional Lao clothing and followed by an introductory lesson about elephant anatomy, history, and behavior. Soon after that, meet the elephants, feed, interact and play with the elephants in their natural home as you learn about their behavior and history. Take your time and have many photos with the elephants as you want.
Enjoy fresh fruit and traditional Lao food for lunch at the Sanctuary.
You will learn how to make herbal medicine balls, feed the Elephants, and then walk with the elephants to the lake. Bathe and brush the elephants. Take your chance to join the elephants for a therapeutic mud spa. Swim in the lake and take photos with them.
Walk the Elephant back to the Sanctuary. Change clothes and say goodbye to those friendly giants. The amazing time to enjoy the sunset before leaving the Sanctuary for your return drive to your hotel in Vang Vieng.
Overnight in Vang Vieng
After breakfast, enjoy a four-hour drive on the National Road No. 13 heading south through beautiful landscapes and mountains to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. On the way, stop at the Hmong Market to observe the daily lives of the locals. Around midday, arrive and check into your hotel in Vientiane. Take a short rest afterward.
Embark a short sightseeing tour of Vientiane. Begin with a visit to Patuxai Monument, also called Anousavari, and enjoy a panoramic view over the city from the top. It is Vientiane’s own Arc de Triomphe that is located at the top of Lan Xang Avenue, the Champs Elysees of the Lao capital.
Next, pay a visit to COPE Visitor Centre, a non-profit organization in Laos which provides prosthetic limbs, mobility assistance and rehabilitation for Lao people who can’t afford it. The war is still heavily present in Laos, the country that experienced the most bombings by the Vietnam War. Still today, a good deal of those unexploded ordnances (UXOs) explode as people work their fields and children play in the countryside. Laos is actively fighting the use of these cluster bombs and the COPE centre will depict and inform visitors on these issues. Your visit to COPE Visitor Centre will open your minds and your hearts.
Finish the tour and get back to your hotel where the balance of the day is at your leisure.
Overnight in Vientiane
The capital city of Laos, Vientiane, still feels like a sleepy city with relaxed charm, tree-lined boulevards, fascinating temples, and colorful markets. This city conjures up exotic images, with the curious mix of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French influences.
After breakfast, your guide and driver will pick you up for the further exploration of this charming city. Start with Vat Sisaket, the only temple left intact after the Siamese invasion in 1828. It shelters hundreds of statues of Buddha within its walls.
Continue with Wat Prakeo, now used as a religious museum where you can see Lao and Khmer works of art. It used to host the “Emerald Buddha” that is now on display at Bangkok’s Royal Palace.
Continue to visit the iconic Pha That Luang, a gleaming golden stupa which is perhaps the most important national monument in Laos.
After lunch at a local restaurant, you will uncover other important sites including Buddhist monasteries of Wat Ong Tue and Wat Haysoke. Next, visit Lao National Museum, the charming French Colonial Architecture building, and Wat Si Muang, a Khmer temple with a fascinating legend that still holds great significance among the Laotian community.
End your day at the Vientiane Central Market of Talat Sao and Talat Kouadin, where major goods are traded, including fresh food, household, textiles, gold, and silver. You may even see ancient souvenirs on display.
The rest of the day will be at your leisure. You may take a stroll along the Mekong Riverside, have a cold beer Lao while enjoying the cooling weather at sunset.
Overnight in Vientiane
After breakfast, you will be transferred to Ban Hatkhai, where a long-tail boat awaits to take you upstream on the Nam Mang, before continuing along with one of its tributaries, Houay Xai. End of the boat trip, embark on a 2 hour-trek passing through an evergreen canopy as you gain height. A picnic lunch will be served on the way.
After lunch, continue your trek. You will arrive at the magnificent pair of waterfalls Tad Xay and Pha Xay, particularly beautiful during and after the rainy season. You have some free time at Tad Xay which has a pool recommended for bathing. From there, a truck will take you to Phou Khaokhuay, where the night is spent at the house of a local family.
Summary: 2.5-hour transfer, 1-hour boating & 2-hour trekking
Overnight in Phou Khaokhuay
After an early breakfast, transfer to the Tad Leuk, a local tourist attraction amidst the mixed deciduous forest. A permanent exhibit at the Visitors’ Center gives you some good information on the flora and fauna of the national park. The Tad Leuk Nature Trail points out some interesting botanic details. After that, you will embark on a trek to Tad Leuk Waterfall.
After lunch at Tad Leuk, continue trekking following a path along the Nam Leuk to the Tad Sang (Elephant Waterfall) waterfall, another idyllic place for bathing and relaxation. Along the way, a large number of orchids can be seen, especially in the wet season. From here, you will hop on the minivan and take the direct transfer to Paksan where you will spend the night.
Summary: 3-hour transfer & 3-hour trekking
Overnight in Paksan
After breakfast, take a short transfer to Thang Beng, where you leave the highway and enter the Phou Hin Poun NPA (National Protected Area). The scenery will become much more spectacular, featuring limestone karsts, forests, and verdant rice paddies. Driving through the towering mountains of Khammouane to the Lao Loum village of Ban Na Hin where you will enjoy lunch and relax for a while.
Transfer to a nearby Nam Sanam waterfall and spend time swimming, relaxing, and enjoying sightseeing around the area. After that, commence a soft trek through old-growth forest back to Ban Nahin. From there, hop on the car again to continue the transfer to the Sainamhai Resort, where you will spend the night
Overnight in Sainamhai Resort
After breakfast, you will depart Sainamhai Resort and transfer to Laos’s most famous Kong Lor Caves. Life jackets and head torches will be provided before a short walk to the main entrance of the cave.
Upon entering the cave, you will board a long-tail boat for a journey through the length of this spectacular cave, along an underground section of the Hin Boun River. It will be 7.5km before you can see daylight again! The river flows all-year-round and reveals vast formations of stalactites and stalagmites, which can be explored partly on foot whilst inside the cave. In places, the cave is up to 90 meters wide and 100 meters 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 through which this cave cuts!).
Once out on the other side, stop for refreshments and walk to the local villages, enjoying the scenery, and observing a simple way of life. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the villages.
Return by boat, traveling ‘downstream’ through the cave to Ban Kong Lor where you will have a stroll through the villages surrounding Ban Kong Lor. The soft light of the late afternoon is arguably the most photogenic and you should meet lots of villagers as they walk home from the fields, markets, and schools. There are various options for walking routes, so again, it is best to discuss with our guide how far you wish to go.
Finish the tour and transfer to your hotel in Ban Kong Lor.
Tip: There is the chance to paddle the small traditional boat to explore the blue lagoon near Spring River Resort. You have the option to paddle the boat by yourselves or with the help of a villager
Overnight in Ban Kong Lor
After breakfast, say goodbye to the lovely village and depart for Ban Thalang. After one-hour driving, you will arrive in Ban Thabak, where you enjoy a 2-hour boat ride along the Nam Theun River. The boat is made from the old aircraft oil tank, and suitable for up to 3 people per boat.
During the boat trip, enjoy the tranquil landscape of the along the bank of the river. Make a stop at one or two local villages if you wish to see deeper into the local life.
Finish the boat trip and transfer to Ban Nam Yen, to cool off and take a dip at the natural swimming pool. You will also make a short stop at Tham Mangkon (Dragon caves) before transferring directly to the beautiful village of Tha Lang in Nakai District. The rest of the afternoon is free for your own exploration. You can choose to stroll along the river to admire the sunset or go fishing on the lake, which is created by the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Dam
Overnight in Tha Lang at a local Guesthouse
Wake up early, you will prepare for your own breakfast with the help of Sabaidee Guesthouse owner. After that, depart for Thakhek, the capital town of Khammouane Province. Along the way, you will make a short stop to visit Nam Theun 2 Visitor Center, where you can have some information about this Hydropower project.
Continue driving to the village of Ban Nakhang Xang, to meet the village guide, who leads you the trek through secondary forest, while the guide points out forest products that provide the local people with significant food resources. The trail passes through a cave that exits into a striking valley surrounded by towering cliffs and forest.
The picnic lunch will be served at Tham Hip, which offers a great panoramic view over the area.
Continue the trail, following the shoreline of Nong Thao Lake, where you can see local fishermen at work. Later you will arrive at Tham Nong Paseum Cave where you can swim into the 400-meter-long cavern and explore its dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. You will then continue walking and climbing a bamboo stairway to the Buddha Cave, which was rediscovered in April 2004. The cave contains 229 bronze Buddhas that are said to be over 300 years old.
Finish the tour and drive to Thakhek for the night.
Overnight in Thakhek
Depart Thathek and take a 4-hour drive on an unpaved road through a landscape of limestone mountains. Stop for lunch at the boat landing at Pak Thung.
After lunch, get on a local motorboat for the 2-hour trip passing forested karsts on the Xe Bang Fai River. Later you will arrive in the village of Ban Tham Namlort in Xe Bangfai and settle into the village homestay. Then you are free to take a walk to explore the village.
Tonight you will enjoy dinner with a local family who is your host for the night.
Summary: 4-hour transfer, 2-hour long tail boat
Overnight at a local homestay in Xe Bangfai
After breakfast, paddle in your inflatable kayaks steadily upstream through 5 rapids to the Xe Bangfai Cave. Paddle into the cave, where you will have time to explore the cave and see the amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Continue to addle on through the cave for 11 Km to the other side of the cave for a picnic lunch.
Continue to kayak. You will arrive and settle in your camp on the beach at the mouth of the cave. Spend time to relax and chill out.
Summary: 7 hours kayaking
Overnight at camp in tents
Rising early to enjoy breakfast. After that paddle your kayak for 500 meters to where a tractor will take you for 1 hour to the starting point. You will trek for 2 hours through an easy old forest filled with birds to a very large waterfall in the Hin Namno National Protected Area. Picnic lunch is served at the waterfall.
Walk back to the trailhead where the pick-up will be waiting to take you back to Thakhek for your last night of the journey.
Summary: 15-minute kayaking, 1-hour tractor, 4-hour trekking, 4-hour transfer
Overnight in Thakhek
After an early breakfast and check out you will be transferred to Laos-Thai border taking an overland exit to Nakhon Phanom in Thailand, one and a half hours away. From there, board your one-hour flight to Bangkok and connect on to your flight home or travel on to more adventures, we will help you with the planning.
This sample itinerary was created by our travel experts as inspiration for your next trip. Ready for your customization. You pick to suit your budget, desires, and cultural experiences. The price of this trip will vary, depending on the number of people in your party, dates of departure, and the availability of ground services. Please click on REQUEST A FREE QUOTE (above) and give us the necessary information to enable us to send you a FREE personalized quote within 48 hours if not sooner!
- Explore Plain of Jars under the history of the stone Jars which dated back to about 2000 years ago
- Join kayaking on the beautiful Nam Song River, experiencing the authentic lives, and its untouched nature along the way
- Visit historical Tham Xang Cave and the Organic Farm where mulberry tea and a variety of different fruit wines are produced
- Elephant Sanctuary tour, interact with Elephant, and learning the efforts to re-enforce our friends back to nature
- Visit various temple and museum in the laid-back capital of Vientiane
- Discovery the untouched nature along Nam Ou River, Mekong River, and the caves of Tham Konglor
- Trekking to the hidden villages in the mountainous area of central Laos
- 16 hotel buffet breakfasts.
- 2 dinners and 13 lunches at well-selected restaurants
- Your own private guide and driver for in-depth cultural touring based on your interests
- Firsthand, sophisticated destination knowledge and recommendations from our locally born travel specialists
- Itineraries that are customized according to your interests and preferences
- A seamless travel experience, including all logistics, hand-picked hotels and restaurants, private airport transfers, internal transportation, and entry visa assistance…etc
- Around-the-clock support from your travel designer and concierge before, during and after your trip
Private English speaking guide, accommodation, private tours and transfer, A/C vehicles, some main meals, all entrance fees, tax, and service charge.
What’s Not Included?
Your international flights from and to Laos, the entry visa to Laos, personal expense, tips to guide and driver.
Free service. No credit card required
Reviews on Our Service
Vietnam Luxury Vacation Review: Sightseeing, Culture, 12-Day Travel
Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Sightseeing, Rice Fields, Boat Rides, 18-Day Trip
We started searching for our tour for Vietnam / Cambodia back in October 2022 to start the tour in the first week of January 2023. We selected this travel agency, and contact name provided to us was Elly. She was extraordinary with her communication with us. Excellent English speaking language capability & excellent in communication on Whats app and email communication. We went back & forth few times to arrange the tour we wanted. She was very accommodating in arranging our schedule. We requested automobile tour for both countries, just for two of us.
We requested SUV FOR OUR COMFORT AND WE GOT IT!
We requested to get the high end hotel in each city and she gave us choices and not only that but send videos of each hotel for each City and then waited for us to decide which hotel we select. All the Hotels turned out to be one of the best we would expect to be. M/s Elly, personally came to visit with us on the evening of our first day tour. Very respectful and asked if she could do anything for us.I had requested before in our communication, if she would arrange for power converter for us, since my camera chargers are all in 110. So brought two power converters for us! Something, not everyone will do this kind of service. So all the kiddos to her!
as to the drivers in each city were very courteous, very professional and very careful in how and where they have to do driving.
our Guides in each city were so friendly, courteous and knowledgeable in where ever we visited. How ever wish two guides in Hue An and Ho Chi Minh City spoke English more clearly.
We only wish we had one extra day in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, , however, there is so much to see in the world! Perhaps next time will visit Vietnam.
As to Cambodia, same thing to express about site seeing and our Guide and drivers. Guides and drivers really made our travel thro’ the countries where we do not speak that language, made it so comfortable and enjoyable.
Hi Lam…hope you don’t mind me contacting you directly. My wife Barb & I (Paul) have just arrived home after completing a great tour of Vietnam which was organised through your company Asia Pioneer Travel.
We want to tell you personally how impressed were were with the level of service that we received…it was amazing and the best that we have experienced anywhere. After we made initial contact with you, you handed us over to Chloe to arrange the trip which she did in very quick time and the amount of detail that she went to was fantastic. From the moment that we walked out of Hanoi airport on arrival to see our guide waiting, we knew that we were in for a great trip. The drivers & guides were fantastic and Chloe was in contact by email constantly making sure that everything was going to plan & that we were happy. At one stage we need to vary the itinerary by extending accommodation & changing air tickets and Chloe did that without any fuss or bother.
We also met some wonderful Vietnamese people along the way and Ive got to say that they are our kind of people, very generous & friendly.
Enough of my ramblings, thanks for a great visit to Vietnam, and a special thank you to Chloe for looking after us in such a terrific manner…she is a very special caring lady.
Kind regards & I hope that we have the opportunity to use Asia Pioneer Travel again….Paul & Barb Little from Newcastle Australia
Superbly organised and very flexible
We travelled to Vietnam for two weeks, booking the whole trip through Lizzie at Asia Pioneer, including hotels, excursions, trips, guides and internal flights. Lizzie was so helpful and flexible, accommodating changes to our schedule until the last minute, especially as we missed our connecting flight in Dubai and arrived a day later than planned (our fault). Nothing was too much trouble, including getting my wallet back to me after I left it in the car taking us to the airport.
We started in Hanoi in the North and worked our way south to Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon), taking in Ha Long with its amazing sea stacks and sleeping on a boat, then to Sa Pa on the overnight sleeper train from Hanoi, with its wonderful countryside and rice terraces. Afterwards, we went to Hoi An for three days of relaxation. Hoi An probably my favourite place and three days are enough to cover it. Then onto Hue, the original capital, my least favourite place and then finally on to HMC, which was a real contrast to the North.
The 3-star hotels that Lizzie picked were very good and comfortable, and the guides were very knowledgeable. I would definitely use Asia Pioneer again for future Asia trips.