Laos North to South Pass (Min 14D)
Discover Laos, from north to south. Treat the Long Laos Pass as a tour and complete it in 14 days, or hop on and off and spend up to a year exploring Laos at your own pace.
Start in Chiang Mai and explore Thailand’s ‘capital of cool’ before heading north to Laos. Take a 2 day private slow boat journey through lush farmland, rugged mountains and jungles. We stop overnight at a remote village on the banks of the Mekong River where you’ll experience traditional village life during this unique homestay. The boat arrives in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang; marvel at the beautiful architecture, climb Mount Phousi, take a dip in the Kuang Si Waterfalls and try delicious street food at the night market.
Travel through mountainous terrain and past breathtaking views to Vang Vieng and go tubing, cycling, kayaking or rock climbing; before heading to Laos’ capital city; Vientiane. Venture into Southern Laos, a relatively untouched region that’s not easily accessible but is a genuine adventure travel paradise that can’t be missed; zip through a 7km long cave in a boat in Kong Lor, see soft shell turtles and Rhesus Macaque monkeys in Xe Champhone, and explore the 4000 Islands, an impressive island-studded delta within the Mekong River.
- Experience a tiny, remote Lao village on the banks of the Mekong River
- Zip through the 7 km long Kong Lor Cave on an underground river
- Visit the Monkey Forest and feed the Rhesus Macaque monkeys
Max group size:
- All transport: whether it be bus (comfortable and air conditioned private charter bus) boat, train, or even tuk-tuk!
- Local Tour Leader: Knowledgeable Local Guide to provide invaluable knowledge, support and insider insights and to assist with booking accommodation and activities at every destination.
- Reserved Accommodation: Have a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. Book through your Tour Leader and pay-as-you-go directly to the accommodation.
- Ultimate travel flexibility: pass is valid for up to 12 months from first day of travel and you can hop-on and off as much as you like
- Included Activities:White Temple entrance fee, Pak Ou Caves entrance fee, Tham Jang Cave entrance fee, Wat Prabat Phonsone entrance fee, Kong Lor National Park fee, Old Wat Taleow, Tad Ngeuang Waterfall, Wat Phou Temple entrance fee
Dates - Hop on / Hop Off Adventure:Wednesday or Sunday departures from Chiang Mai, year round
ARRIVAL IN CHIANG MAI
Sawadee, Sabaidee (hello)! Your adventures kicks off in popular Chiang Mai, an amazing city full of endless activity options, such as Thai cooking classes, bike tours or Muay Thai kickboxing. If you arrive early in the day feel free to visit a few of the 300 Buddhist temples in the city, the old walled city or the Tapae Gate. At 6pm you’ll meet your Tour Leader and new travel mates for a Welcome Night introduction. Afterwards, make the most of your first night by getting to know each other over a delicious Thai dinner and a few cold beverages.
Today is free for you to explore this historically rich city or partake in one of the many adventure activities on offer. If you’re looking for a bit of adrenaline we recommend Thailand’s most popular activity, the Flight of the Gibbon. This is an amazing tree-top adventure where you’ll swing like a monkey (or gibbon) and zip, fly, climb and crawl your way through an amazing jungle playground on the longest zip-line in Southeast Asia. This evening you can enjoy dinner at one of the many great restaurants then browse the night market, take in a ladyboy show or the Muay Thai boxing or head out for a few drinks with friends.
CHIANG MAI TO HOUAY XAI
This morning we depart Chiang Mai to head for the Thailand-Laos border. We’ll make a stop near Chiang Rai to check out the famous and intriguing White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Wat Rong is a unique modern Buddhist temple that features some curious statues and murals that include images from Star Wars and The Matrix, Freddie Kruger’s head hanging in the trees and a giant Predator emerging from the garden. We stop here long enough to grab a snack, stretch our legs and take a few photos before we continue on to cross the border into Laos. Once in Laos we take a short tuk- tuk ride into the chilled out town of Houay Xai, our stop for the night.
HOUAY XAI TO MEKONG RIVER HOMESTAY
Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat up the Mekong River to the tiny secluded village that will host you for an overnight homestay experience. Sit back and soak up this incredible journey as you wind your way through lush farmland, thriving jungle and rugged mountain scenery, drifting past water buffalo, locals fishing, and kids splashing in the shallows. We arrive in the village in the late afternoon. Here you will get a taste of traditional Lao village life by staying with a family in their home. Experience a special Baci (welcoming) Ceremony, swim in the river, visit the school and help the kids with an English lesson. Play a game of football with the kids, explore the local temple, go fishing and don’t forget to try the local whiskey.
MEKONG RIVER HOMESTAY TO LUANG PRABANG
We wave goodbye to the village and jump back aboard our private boat to head downriver to the famous limestone Pak Ou Caves. Pak Ou is an important pilgrimage site for Lao people, and here you will see thousands of Buddhist images that have been placed throughout the caves over hundreds of years. Jumping back on board our boat a short trip takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage town, Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang has an old world feel that gives you the sense you’ve stepped back in time into a picturesque postcard setting. The fusion of French colonial architecture with traditional Lao design set against a backdrop of misty mountains and lush green jungle makes this a truly majestic place.
Today is free for you to enjoy all this UNESCO World Heritage town has to offer. Luang Prabang is home to the National Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong (the oldest monastery in town), and has many ancient Buddhist temples and sacred sites to explore. Many people take a trip to the famous Kuang Si waterfalls, where the bright turquoise spring waters looks like it’s been photo-shopped, or you can get hands on and become an organic rice farmer for the day on the Rice Experience. You can spend the day cycling or trekking to rural villages, take a cooking class, and tonight head to the night market for a hassle-free bargaining experience and some delicious cheap local food.
LUANG PRABANG TO VANG VIENG
It’s an early start as we head south through mountainous terrain, on one of the most scenic journeys you’ll experience on the Laos travel route. Travel past mountain hill-tribe villages, vast green valleys and rolling hills; and we’ll make a special stop at the ‘loo with a view’. Our journey today takes us to the little riverside town Vang Vieng, best known for being the spot where you can take tubing trips down the Nam Song River stopping along the way at riverside bars and enjoying the beauty of Vang Vieng’s landscape as you float downstream. Upon arrival into Vang Vieng start partying or kick back and watch re-runs of old TV shows playing at the bars around town!
With its stunning natural scenery, adventurous outdoor activities and reputation for a party scene, it’s no surprise that Vang Vieng is a popular spot for travellers. The tubing experience is more sedate now than in days past, but it’s still a real highlight to float down the river soaking up the beautiful mountain surrounds. Aside from tubing, Vang Vieng offers great rock climbing and kayaking options. We also recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon, one of the best natural swimming holes in Laos. The fun doesn’t stop after an adventure filled day either! This evening, check out one of several international restaurants for a taste of home or head to one of the bars to really get the party started.
VANG VIENG TO VIENTIANE
Today we cruise through to the capital of Laos, stopping at the impressive Tham Jang Cave that was once used as a bunker in the 19th century during a Chinese invasion. On arrival in Vientiane your tour leader will point out the city’s main attractions including Putaxai, Pha That Luang, That Dam, the Presidential Palace, and the COPE centre – a non-profit organisation that educates visitors and raises awareness for victims of UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) and the Secret War. After check-in at our centrally located accommodation, you are free to explore the city, get a massage, go shopping, or people watch at one of the local restaurants by the river.
VIENTIANE TO KONG LOR (7KM CAVE)
An early escape this morning takes us away from the crowds and south to Kong Lor in the Phu Hin Bun National Park. About an hour into the journey we visit Wat Prabat Phonsone, the ‘Buddha’s Footprint,’ a popular and important pilgrimage site for local communities. Tonight you stay in the very rural and very remote Kong Lor village, surrounded by rice paddies, stunning limestone karst mountains and tobacco fields. This is a photographer’s paradise and the gateway to the famous Kong Lor Cave (Tham Kong Lor to the locals). You have free time this afternoon to venture deep into the 7km abyss by riding in a motorised canoe on an underground river through the mountain.
KONG LOR TO THAKHEK
Today is a short travel day as we head for the small town of Thakhek on the banks of the Mekong River. Thakhek is a major trading point and border town between Thailand and Laos. It has a strong French colonial influence and is a great base for hopping off to explore the Lao jungle, limestone cliffs, pristine rivers, lakes and hidden waterfalls in the nearby Phu Hin Bun National Park.
THAKEK TO XE CHAMPHONE
This is what it’s all about: getting totally off the beaten track! We head into the Xe Champhone wetlands – an area so remote that occasionally our buses can’t access it, so we have to jump on board an off-road truck. Today we’ll stop at Old Wat Taleow, a beautiful temple that was bombed during the Secret War and somehow the golden Buddha inside remained undamaged.Next stop is the 200-year-old Hotay Pidok Buddhist library, a fascinating stilt structure that’s home to thousands of Sanskrit scriptures and bamboo tablets. Before heading for our guesthouse in the small village of Ban Keng Kok we stop at Monkey Forest. On arrival, grab some bananas and venture into the forest to get up close with curious and friendly wild rhesus macaque monkeys.
XE CHAMPHONE TO PAKSE
Driving south this morning we head for the bright lights of Pakse. From here, you can check out the refreshingly cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau. The Plateau features a lush green landscape, fertile coffee and tea plantations, and many spectacular waterfalls – including the stunning Tad Ngeuang Waterfall where you can go for a swim. For those who want to experience a little adventure, Pakse is a great place to hop off the bus and experience the unforgettable Tree Top Explorer adventure. This amazing experience includes a trek through the jungle, tree house accommodation, wildlife spotting, thundering waterfalls, and a zip-line system that will have you flying through the tree-tops.
PAKSE TO DON DET (4000 ISLANDS)
An early start takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Wat Phou, an ancient Khmer temple and the former capital of the Khmer empire before the Angkor Wat. We allow time to explore the site and climb up to the mountain top temple for some spectacular views over the man-made reservoir. We’ll then head south to the backpacker mecca of Si Phan Don, Don Det, otherwise known as the 4000 Islands. Here you can experience the laidback lifestyle and natural beauty of Laos’ landlocked islands. Take a leisurely tubing trip down the Mekong River, float past locals fishing and people lounging on their bamboo riverside verandas. Take a boat trip to spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins; or cycle across to the neighbouring Don Khone Island to discover the remaining remnants of the only steam engine railway in Laos and marvel at the thunderous Li Phi waterfall.