Northern Laos Adventure

10 days / 9 nights

This off-the-beaten-track trip is ecotourism at its most enjoyable, putting something tangible back into local communities throughout the most remote and wild areas of Northern Laos. We begin our adventures in with a wildlife encounter at the Bokeo Gibbon Experience, sleeping in a tree house and zip-lining through the protected Bokeo Nature Reserve to check out the Black Gibbons. Eco-trekking in the Nam Ha Protected Area and mountain-biking around the villages near Luang Namtha are next on the action-packed menu, followed by a beautiful boat ride downriver to the World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. One of the most atmospheric places in all Asia, this living museum with its signature wats and traditional colombage architecture is sure to charm. Our journey is complete with a boat ride upstream to discover the Buddhas of the Pak Ou Caves and a leisurely swim in the pristine turquoise waters of the Kuang Si Falls.

In brief

  1. Day 1: Arrive Huay Say and Transfer to the Gibbon Experience.
  2. Day 2: The Gibbon Experience.
  3. Day 3: Travel to Luang Namtha.
  4. Day 4: Trekking in Nam Ha Protected Area.
  5. Day 5: Mountain biking Around Luang Namtha.
  6. Day 6: Luang Namtha to Nong Khiaw.
  7. Day 7: Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang by Boat.
  8. Day 8: Sightseeing Including Museum and Temples.
  9. Day 9: Kuang Si Falls.
  10. Day 10: Free time to enjoy Luang Prabang before departure.

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Huay Say and Transfer to the Gibbon Experience.

We meet in Ban Huay Say and watch a safety instruction video at the Gibbon Experience Office. We then leave this border town and make our way to the Bokeo Nature Reserve. Once we reach Ban Toup Village, we sling on our backpacks and trek through the jungle. We’ll break for a picnic lunch and continue until we reach our tree house camp. On arrival we meet the team who will provide harness training and introduce us to the cable network. Then its time for us to move up into the tree tops and get settled into our new tree house home. Feel free to start discovering the surroundings of your tree house way up in the forest canopy. Dinner is served at your tree house.

Day 2: The Gibbon Experience.

Today is spent enjoying this unique experience as we learn more about the forest, the gibbons and this amazing environment that is their home. This is an amazing experience in Lao. A concept emerged; with the local people we build tree houses and a network of zip lines through the canopy of Bokeo Nature Reserve. We provide accommodation in the treetops and local guides ‘fly’ you through the forest to meet the wildlife. The funds received are reinvested to protect the forest. People from the mountainous forest have a deep knowledge of their environment, plants and wildlife. The Gibbon Experience relies upon the local people to operate inside Bokeo Nature Reserve.

Day 3: Travel to Luang Namtha.

After breakfast we have to say “goodbye” to our tree top home. Once back on the road we travel northeast on scenic National Highway 3, an incredible winding road which wraps around the mountainsides of northern Laos. We pass close to the Nam Ha protected area which is famous for its community-based ecotourism treks. We continue to Luang Namtha, our base for the night and check into a comfortable local hotel. We leave the rest of the day free to explore the local community.

Day 4: Trekking in Nam Ha Protected Area.

After breakfast, we begin our trek towards the isolated Akha village of Nam Yang. The Akha people lead a very traditional lifestyle which has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. We are welcomed into their village, high in the hills of the Nam Ha national Protected Area, to learn more about their lives. The views of the neighbouring hills and mountains make it worth the exercise. We enjoy a picnic lunch in the lush forest before our descent to the Black Tai village of Nam Ngaen. After learning something about the Black Tai way of life, we then continue back to Luang Namtha, stopping to visit the stupa of That Poum Pouk.

Day 5: Mountain biking Around Luang Namtha.

After breakfast, we begin to explore the beautiful Luang Namtha valley by bicycle. Our ride includes visits to ethnic minority villages of the Black Tai, Tai Leu and Lanten people where we can see traditional silk production and silk weaving, one of the most important cottage industries in this part of the country. We also have the chance to visit a local Lao-Lao distillery, a type of rice wine that is the moonshine of the mountains in northern Laos. The scenery is stunning and includes towering mountains and cascading rice terraces. We enjoy a traditional tribal lunch at a Tai Leu village. After lunch, we make a stop at a small waterfall and visit the That Poum Pouk Stupa before returning to Luang Namtha.

Day 6: Luang Namtha to Nong Khiaw.

Breakfast, drive overland heading southward to Nong Khiaw via Oudomxay; a small town that encompasses around 30,000 inhabitants. Oudomxay is the key intersection between Thailand, China, and Vietnam. Making a number of stops along the way to visit ethnic minority villages as Akhar, H’mong, Kh’mu... Lunch at local restaurant before continue driving to Nong Khiaw for checking into your hotel

Day 7: Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang by Boat.

After breakfast, we depart Nong Khiaw by boat and follow the pretty Nam Ou River, overshadowed by towering peaks and surrounded by lush jungle. After a couple of hours drifting downstream, we arrive at the river's mouth and enter the waters of the mighty Mekong. We visit the Pak Ou Caves, a sacred spot where thousands upon thousands of Buddhas were hidden for safekeeping during earlier invasions. Pilgrims have since added their own offerings and the caves are literally overflowing with Buddhas. After exploring the caves, we cross the river and have a local lunch on the banks of the Nam Ou River. We dine in traditional thatch bungalows overlooking a dramatic cliff face.

We travel by boat to the charming town of Luang Prabang, a living, breathing piece of Lao history, and check into our hotel. We leave the rest of the afternoon free to begin to explore this atmospheric Unesco World Heritage site.

Day 8: Sightseeing Including Museum and Temples.

In this morning, we begin to explore the historic town of Luang Prabang. We walk along Sisavangvong St, the heart of the old quarter and explore the National Museum, set in the former Royal Palace. Built in 1904, the palace is a blend of Laotian and French influences and houses many royal treasures. The most important item is the solid gold Pha Bang Buddha, a gift from the Khmer King to his son-in-law, Fa Ngum, founder of the Lao Kingdom. 

We then continue into the centre of Luang Prabang, exploring the narrow alleys that criss-cross the town, stopping to enjoy some views over the mighty Mekong River. We follow the river until we reach Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most celebrated temples in Laos. A magnificent structure, this is the quintessential Luang Prabang temple with a graceful sweeping roof that reaches almost to the floor. We then make our way to the beautiful temple of Wat Saen, originally built in 1718. There is the option of climbing Mt Phousi to explore the small temple here and enjoy sunset over this charming town. We then return to our hotel.

Day 9: Kuang Si Falls.

After breakfast, the destination is Ban Long Lao, a small Hmong village. From here you will walk through open farmland and forest trails to the Kuang Si Waterfall, which, while not very high, is striking in its lush jungle setting. Upon arrival there are plenty of opportunities to swim in the refreshing pools and enjoy a boxed picnic lunch. There is also a Bear Rescue Centre where captured bears have been taken from poachers and rehabilitated and cared for. We’ll take some more time for relaxation and swimming before heading back to Luang Prabang by late afternoon. There is also the option to visit Ban Phonesay, a village well known for its silk weavings once been published on the New York Time Magazine. Back to your hotel for a free & easy evening.

Day 10: Free time to enjoy Luang Prabang before departure.

As this World Heritage site is one of the most charming places in Asia, we leave today free to enjoy the best of Luang Prabang at our own pace. Browse the shops, frequent the cafes, visit the temples or simply rest and relax, this is Luang Prabang at its best. Then transfer to airport to catch the departure flight.