Central and Southern Laos Insight

13 days / 12 nights

We begin our dip into central and southern Laos in the capital city of Vientiane, located on the banks of the Mekong River. Then we head to the national park of Hin Boun and the remarkable Tham Kong Lo Cave and a day long trek around Thakek. We continue through Savannakhet and Pakse before making a loop around the Bolaven Plateau and onto elephant trekking from our base at Kingfisher Lodge. No trip to the south would be complete without a visit to the incredible Wat Phu and the islands and waterfalls on the border with Cambodia.

In brief

  1. Day 1: Arrive Vientiane.
  2. Day 2: Vientiane city tour.
  3. Day 3: Vientiane to Hin Boun.
  4. Day 4: Hin Boun to Thakek via Tham Kong Lo Cave.
  5. Day 5: Thakek Trekking.
  6. Day 6: Thakek to Pakse.
  7. Day 7: Pakse to Tat Lo.
  8. Day 8: Tat Lo to Kingfisher.
  9. Day 9: Elephant Trekking.
  10. Day 10: Travel to the 4,000 Islands.
  11. Day 11: Wat Phu to Don Daeng.
  12. Day 12: Free day on Don Daeng.
  13. Day 13: Travel to Pakse. Departure.

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Vientiane.

Relax after your arrival in Vientiane.

Day 2: Vientiane city tour.

We can begin our tour with a visit to a local market before heading to the city’s major landmarks, including the historic temple of Wat Sisaket with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. We continue to the 'Arc de Triomphe' of Vientiane, or Patuxai as it is known locally. Built in the 1960s, the US-supplied cement was originally earmarked for a runway extension at the airport, but the Laotians found a much more creative use for it. We ascend the monument for some refreshing breezes and great views over this low-rise garden city. We end our morning with a visit to the COPE Centre to learn about the scourge of UXO in Laos. An optional lunch can be taken at the Mak Phet Restaurant, which trains disadvantaged youths. This afternoon we take a trip to the quirky yet impressive Buddha Park, an enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures along the Mekong river. We can call into the Lao Disabled Women’s Centre, or head straight for a sunset view across the Mekong.

Day 3: Vientiane to Hin Boun.

This morning we head eastwards to the central Lao province of Khammoune. En route we stop at Prabaht Ponsan, a stupa dating back to the 15th Century, which with its Budhha footprint, makes it an important religious site. After lunch and a market stop, we carry on into the mountainous surrounding area, stopping at Khoun Kham to admire the views. We also take a break at Ban Thabuk, the ‘bomb boat village’ where they use old bomb casings as boats, before reaching Hin Boun area by late afternoon.

Day 4: Hin Boun to Thakek via Tham Kong Lo Cave.

After breakfast, we drive to Kong Lor village and board a small local boat into the famous Tham Kong Lo Cave. We navigate through the cave, which is over 7km long and includes a spectacular cavern over 100m high, as well as a breathtaking stalagmite gallery which you can explore on foot. On the other side of the cave, we take a short walk past some tobacco drying huts to Ban Pon Ngam, a remote village, where you can enjoy your picnic lunch. Afterwards, we return through the cave by boat, and head for Thakek by car, in time for a stroll along the riverfront.

Day 5: Thakek Trekking.

We depart Thakek and follow the old French railway track that was never finished. On arrival at the village of Ban Nakhang Xang, we meet our village guides and begin our moderate trek, with the guides identifying items along the route. We encounter caves and the shoreline of a lake before we arrive at the 400m-long Tham Nong Paseum cave, where swimming is possible. After a local lunch, we visit Tham Pa Fa or Buddha cave, which was rediscovered in 2004. The cave contains 229 bronze Buddhas that are said to be centuries old. We return to our starting point by a different route through the forest and head back to Thakek.

Day 6: Thakek to Pakse.

We pay a visit to the 19thC monastery and stupa at Pha That Sikhottabong as we head south to Savannakhet in time for lunch. In the afternoon, we admire the old French Quarter of Savannakhet as well as the sacred That Ing hang stupa, before heading to the Soundra Salt Factory, to learn about the local working conditions. We then continue on, stopping to visit Don Khor, a village specializing in Buddha carvings for temples, before arriving in Pakse in early evening.

Day 7: Pakse to Tat Lo.

Today we head east into the Bolaven Plateau, known for its cooler temperatures. We take stops at Houey Ten, a Katu village specializing in knifemaking, a tea and coffee plantation, at Tat Fan Waterfall, a picturesque twin chute waterfall and a colourful ethnic market. Next we explore Ban Bong Neua, an Alak village that boasts a sacrificial altar before we arrive at the Tat Lo Waterfall, where you have the rest of the day at leisure.

Day 8: Tat Lo to Kingfisher.

After an early breakfast, we continue our tour of the Bolevan Plateau and visit head Pha Suam waterfall and explore the ethnic minority village of Lao Teung. We continue by road to Xe Pian National Park and Kingfisher Ecolodge where you have the rest of the afternoon at leisure. 

Day 9: Elephant Trekking.

We have the opportunity to enjoy a day of elephant trekking through paddy fields, jungle and wetlands, starting from the village of Khiet Ngong. We give the elephants a rest to enjoy our picnic lunch before continuing on a return trip to our starting point. Alternate options include mountain-biking or trekking on foot in the area surrounding Phu Asa.

Day 10: Travel to the 4,000 Islands.

After breakfast, we drive south to Ban Hatsaikhone, where we board a local private boat for a tour of the 4,000 Islands. We reach the picturesque island of Don Khone by lunchtime, and in the afternoon explore the island by bicycle, admiring some of the old French Colonial buildings and the beautiful Liphi Waterfall. We return to our boat and head back to Don Khong, for our overnight stay.

Day 11: Wat Phu to Don Daeng.

This morning we drive to the majestic Phakpeng Waterfall, “the Niagara of the East“, close to the Cambodian border. We then head north and visit the stunning Khmer temple of Wat Phu, set under the shadow of Lingaparvata Mountain, overlooking the Mekong River. Shrouded in mystery, the exact origins of this site are uncertain, but it is believed to have been sacred to early animist cultures. It is a magical place, rich in the spirituality of animism, Hinduism and Buddhism, the fusion religion which predominates in Laos today. To end the day, we travel by boat to the island of Don Daeng.

Day 12: Free day on Don Daeng.

You have a free day at leisure to explore the island.

Day 13: Travel to Pakse. Departure.

You transfer back to Pakse in time for your departing flight.