Everyone traveling to southeast Asia definitely has Vietnam and Thailand in mind. Most travellers will go to Cambodia as well. But what about Laos? It’s that forgotten country that many people skip, but you definitely shouldn’t. We didn’t know much about Laos and we loved getting to know everything about it by visiting it and learning on the way. It’s people and nature are from another world! Because of it’s shape, the distances between the main points of interest are long. So we recommend visiting Laos for at least 10 days. Two weeks would be ideal, and if you have three weeks you can even visit the remote villages on the mountains. Don’t forget to watch the video below to get an idea of what you will see during yourt trip. Here is what we consider the best Laos itinerary!
Itinerary for 2 weeks
Since it’s a long country it’s best to travel from North to South or vice-versa. In our case, we were coming from Cambodia so we started South to North. But you can adapt this guide to your needs depending where you are travelling from and where you will go after.
4000 islands – 2 days
This destination is in the Mekong river itself. The name 4000 islands refers to the thousands of islands that are in this part of the Mekong. Some are really small and others are big enough to host a town, like Don Khon or Don Det. We stayed in the smaller one, Don Det. Two days are enough to walk around the islands and do some of the activities around.
We are normally very selective when deciding what activities to do, otherwise our budget would run out quickly, but did the one-day kayaking tour and we really recommend it. The 18$ includes breakfast, lunch and entrance to the biggest (widest) waterfall in SE Asia (6$). We had great fun this day! The next day, we decided to relax by the pool (2$) to fight the heat. You can also rent a bike or go tubing in the Mekong.
From 4000 island you can arrange a bus to your next destination. The price always includes the “ferry” from the island to the mainland. The “ferry” is basically a traditional Lao small wooden boat!
- Accomodation: Dalom guesthouse
- Restaurants: Hathim Indian restaurant
Pakse and the Bolaven plateau route by motorbike – 4 days
The small town of Pakse is mostly visited by those who want to ride the Bolaven Plateau loop. This is a 3 day motorbike route where you will drive passing by small villages like Tad Lo, Pakxong and Champasak. During the route will see beautiful nature and the waterfalls of Tad La, Tad Yuang, Tad Fan, among others.
We actually did not do this loop ourselves so we can’t give tips from our experience. We meet people that did both the Pakse loop and the Thakhek loop and they liked the second one more. However, when we see pictures of the waterfalls of the Pakse loop we almost regret not going there…
Thakhek and the Thakhek loop by motorbike – 4 days
Again, another small town that is base for a motorbike route. Most people do this loop in 3-4 days, where you will drive up the mountains passing by the small villages. During this route you can visit several caves, a cool spring and the Kong Lor cave, which is the longest cave in the world with 7km. As there is a river going through, you can only visit it by boat. We actually wrote a full guide about the Thakhek loop with all our tips in this blog.
After the loop, we took a bus from Thakhek to Vientiane. You can buy the ticket directly at the bus station 30 minutes before the departure
- Motorbike rental: Wang Wang rental.
Vientiane – 1 day
The capital of the country does not have much to see. We spent just one day, visited the night market by the Mekong river and the next morning we walked around the city centre. There are some nice temples to see, but nothing too spectacular if you’ve seen other temples before. Most people use Vientiane as a stop over before heading North. From here you can take a bus to Vang Vieng or to Luang Prabang during day or night.
Vang Vieng – 1 day
Vang Vieng is known for being a backpacker town where you can go party and have “happy” shakes. Other activities offered in the town are tubing or going on a hot air balloon ride. It’s said that it’s the cheapest place in the world to do it, but we don’t think no one has really checked this information!
There are nice waterfalls to visit in a short ride from town. Most people go to Vang Vieng to party, and as a stop overbetween Vientiane and Luang Prabang. We actually skipped this town and went directly to Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang – 2 days
Another enchanting town by the Mekong river. Luang Prabang is small but there’s enough to do in and around it. You can visit the waterfalls, although during dry season there is only one, Kuang Si, 45 minutes ride from town. It’s the most beautiful waterfall we’ve seen, and you can swim there as well.
The night market in Luang Prabang is the best one we’ve seen in SE Asia. Clean, tidy, nice handmade things, big enough yet quiet… a perfect market to buy some presents!
You can walk up Mount Phousi to watch the sunset, but expect many other tourists to be there as well. On the way up there’s several temples and Buddhist statues. The entrance fee is 2.000 kip (2€) and it’s worth it. There are also many activities offered to interact with elephants. We did see some of the companies offering an “ethical” program, but we prefer to stay away from any of this activities…
There are a few temples in the town and other nice sites that you discover by just going for a walk around the town.
From Luang Prabang you can take a bus to Thailand or to Vietnam.
- Accomodation: Friendly house (only hostel in town with a pool!)
- Restaurant: Café croissant d’or. Cheapest food on the main street, best noodle soup ever! (the name sounds like it’s a bakery, but it’s just a local restaurant)
Got more time? Itinerary for 3 weeks
If you have more time to spend in Laos, we would recommend spending one extra day in 4000 islands, in Thakhek and in Luang Prabang to make your trip more relaxed. On top of that, you can continue your trip even more up North
The Northern villages – 4 days
From Luang Prabang you can book a trip to the Northen villages, or even better, rent a motorbike and go there by yourself. There are ethnic villages welcoming tourists that want to see how life really is for Laotians out of the touristic towns. Although we have not gone there ourselves, we understand from other travellers that is a very nice area. Please, make sure you ask before you take pictures of people and respect the places where you go as much as possible. Let’s keep these villages and their people as they are!
Only in Laos for 10 days?
If your trip is a bit shorter than two weeks, we recommend for your Laos itinerary to choose between Pakse and Thakhek instead of visiting both, and going directly to Luang Prabang skipping Vang Vieng. This way you will visit the best parts of Laos on a more relaxed way!
By the way, are you crossing the border between Cambodia and Laos? Please read this post and to be aware of the corruption going on on this border and how to go against it!
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