Cycling in Laos is blessed with some of Southeast Asia’s most stunning landscape. A typical trip to Laos with World Horizons includes cycling through rural back roads and spectacular forest covered mountains, exploring the major waterways of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers and visiting the ancient and exotic cities of Luang Prabang and Vientiane, imbued with a beauty and cultural richness reminiscent of a bygone era. Few countries could be more beautiful, with picturesque rural villages and people never short of a friendly smile.
The best time of year for cycling in Laos is between mid September to the end of March. Below is one of our most popular itinerary’s for schools, groups of friends and families alike. We can also take a few days off or add a few – it’s up to you. Costs vary according to the size of your group. So contact us now for a quote.
Day 1: Arrive Vientiane >> At the airport you’ll be met by your World Horizons guides and transferred to your hotel. After settling into your room we’ll bus to the famous landmarks of Pha That Luang, a gigantic golden stupa dating back to the 15th century, as well as Anusavaree, a replica of the Arche de Triomphe in Paris. Anusavaree is also commonly known as the ‘vertical runway’, as it was built in the sixties by cement that was donated by the CIA for what was supposed to be a new airport! Tonight we eat at a wonderful Lao restaurant complete with tradition dancing and music.

Day 2: Vientiane to Vang Vieng >> Today we travel by vehicle for four hours, and then cycle the last 10 km’s into Vang Vieng. With very little exposure to Western influences cycling is the best way to travel in Laos. It gives you a much more intimate experience with both the landscape and its people. When cycling you’ll be greeted constantly by children along the road singing out ‘Saba Dee’ – Lao for hello. Tonight we stay at the Thavonsouk Bungalows, a wonderful place surrounded by some of the most spectacular limestone cliffs in Southeast Asia.

Day 3: In and Around Vang Vieng >> Vang Vieng is fast becoming the adventure capital of Laos due to its many limestone caves, rivers, spectacular cliffs and cycling trails. Today we jump on the bikes and ride for a couple of hours to Phoukham Cave. Just in front of the cave is a fantastic natural pool that we’ll swim in before exploring its dark caverns – make sure you bring your torch for this one.

Day 4: Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang >> The road from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang travels through some of the most dramatic limestone karst formations in all Laos. You’ll start the morning by cycling from the Ban Sabai Guesthouse for about 20 to 30kms before climbing aboard the bus. It’s then another 4 hours or so before you reach Luang Prabang. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 Luang Prabang ranks alongside architectural treasures such as Angkor Wat and the great Taj Mahal. The UNESCO report identified 33 temples and 111 historic Lao-French buildings for specific restoration and sited Luang Prabang as the best-preserved traditional town in Southeast Asia. In Luang Prabang we’ll stay at the comfortable Sala Luang Prabang and tonight dine at the hotels great little restaurant overlooking the Mekong river.

Day 5: In and around Luang Prabang >> Kouangsi Waterfall is about 20km’s from the centre of Luang Prabang and situated in a lush tropical rainforest. From the car park we’ll visit the enclosure of a magnificent Asian Tiger that was found five years ago as a cub after poachers had killed its mother. We’ll then have a picnic surrounded by beautiful cascading pools of crystal clear water filtering through chasms of limestone, before walking to the top of the waterfall for a swim in a natural pool of breath taking beauty. In the cool of the afternoon we slowly cycle back down to Luang Prabang through paddy fields and small villages. For those who wish to ride back in the vehicles, that’s entirely OK. Tonight you’ll be dining at the wonderful Le Elephant. A beautifully presented French Restaurant, only 10 minutes walk from your hotel!

Day 6: In and around Luang Prabang >> This morning you’ll wake at the crack of dawn, so as to catch the town’s most extraordinary sight. Scores of saffron-robed monks file out of the monasteries and make their way barefoot through the streets, bearing gold-topped wooden alms bowls. Along the route, locals wait to present sticky rice and other food to the monks – thereby earning merit by performing this good deed. A long line of monks creates a swirl of orange, accentuated by the soft morning light; the scene is framed by russet monastery roofs, tall palm trees, and whitewashed colonial housing. Within an hour, the monks complete their rounds, and melt back into the monasteries. Although this ritual can be seen in numerous parts of Southeast Asia, it’s particularly striking in Luang Prabang because of the density of temples and the concentration of monks. Out of a population of 15,000 residents, there are over 500 monks in this former royal capital of Laos. Before breakfast you’ll also get a chance to see the morning food markets – everything from bats to snakes is on sale here. After breakfast it’s off to visit two of the more important and spectacular temples in Luang Prabang, and the former Royal Palace – now a museum. You are free to discover the many great lunch time restaurants on your own; and then further explore the wonders that this enchanting township has to offer. At the heart of Luang Prabang is Mount Phousi, a 150-meter-high rocky outcrop with forested slopes and dotted with sacred shrines and stupas.

Day 7: Luang Prabang to Nong Kiau >> After breakfast you farewell the friendly staff of your hotel and board small motorized boats that will take you up the magnificent waterways of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. After an hour and half you’ll stop at the amazing Pak Ou caves crammed with hundreds of Buddha statues. From Pak Ou you continue up the smaller Nam Ou taking time to stop at small remote villages, swim in pristine waters, and watch how the locals here have fished in this region for centuries. This is one of the great riverboat trips in Laos and a day you’ll never forget.

Day 8: Nong Kiau >> This morning you’ll visit Phatoke Cave, a fascinating place and just one of the many caves used as a refuge by the Pathet Lao during the bombing campaign of the US during the secret war. After lunch you’ll visit the Nong Kiau Primary School. According to UNICEF, Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world. Typically in every school outside the major population centres, there are children crammed into overcrowded classrooms. With all World Horizons trips we suggest putting a little something back into the region you’re travelling through. What we suggest is here is each person throwing in $50 each and buying school books and stationery that can be donated by the group during your visit. Before your departure we will organize for these supplies to be ready upon your arrival in Nong Kiau.

Day 9: Nong Kiau >> This morning you’re free to relax and enjoy your surroundings, maybe on your veranda overlooking the Nam Ou River with a good book and a cup a tea, or you may prefer to get out and explore a little on foot or by bike. It’s up to you this morning. After a lunch we’ll also take in a very relaxed game of pétanque (French game similar to bowls and the Italian game of bocce) at the school and then be welcomed more formally with what is known as a Basi Ritual. In essence this delightful ceremony celebrates important occasions as well as communal events of significance, and is an integral part of the life of the Lao people. It is also a ceremony that will make you feel a most welcomed and very special guest of this community.

Day 10: Nong Kiau to Udom Xai >> From Nong Kiau you’ll cycle the road to Udom Xai that winds through thick forested mountains, with a local population consisting mainly of Hmong and other highland dwellers. As you leave Nong Kiau the rugged limestone mountains characteristic of this delightful region line the road to your right. After 30kms of delightful cycling you’ll reach the small village of Pak Mong, jump onto the bus and continue on to Udom Xai arriving in the late afternoon.

Day 11: Udom Xai to Muang Beng >> Today is a biggish day of cycling arriving in Muang Beng by mid afternoon. Along the way we’ll see villages belonging to ethnic minorities of Hmong and Thai peoples. The Thais in this region are from the mountains in Southern China who long ago migrated south establishing the civilizations of Thailand, Laos and parts of Burma and Vietnam. At Muang Beng we have booked out the only guesthouse in town for our group. This is a great little place and tonight we’ll have a candle lit dinner served by our charming hosts.

Day 12: Muang Beng to Pakbeng >> This is our last day in the saddle and probably one of the most enjoyable for you as you’ll now be well and truly riding fit. We’ll get to the small riverside village of Pakbeng in the late afternoon and stay at the new and well appointed Pakbeng Lodge. All rooms have verandas that overlook the Mekong River and the Lodge restaurant serves some of the best food you’ll likely have in Laos.

Day 13: Pakbeng to Huay Xai >> This morning you travel by boat up the Mekong to Huay Xai. The Mekong River is one of the most important water ways in the world. The Lower Mekong River Basin (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) is home to approximately 60 million people. There are over 100 different ethnic groups living within the basin’s boundaries, making it one of the most culturally diverse regions of the world. Most inhabitants are rural farmers and fisherman. Often lacking access to basic government services, people in the basin are, on average, less well off than their fellow citizens outside the basin. What makes life tolerable for these people are the aquatic resources provided by the rivers and wetlands. From our private boat we’ll see people living as they have done for hundreds of years. We’ll also be stopping to visit villages and swim with the many children who are always playing along the river. We also hope to see working elephants dragging logs from the jungle for transport down river. Tonight you’ll stay in a small Guesthouse in Huay Xai. In the late afternoon you’ll be free to stroll around this quaint little provincial capital before settling into your last night in Laos.

Day 14: Huay Xai to Chang Rai >>This morning it’s good bye Laos as you cross the Mekong River into Thailand, and bus to Chang Rai for lunch before going to the airport and your onward flight home. Best if you can book a flight around 3pm out of Chang Ri, or you might want to stay on. If so we can drop you at your hotel after lunch.
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