Discover Laos, from north to south in 2 weeks! 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. From Houay Xai we take a 2 day private slow boat journey through lush farmland, rugged mountains and jungles. We stop overnight at a remote, riverside village where you'll experience traditional village life and stay in a 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 the country’s capital Vientiane to visit the capital city. Visit Kong Lor and travel by boat into the 7km river that winds its way through a spectacular cave; come face to face with Rhesus Macaque monkeys in a sacred monkey forest in Xe Champhone, and enjoy the cooler climate of Pakse in the south. Finish in the beautiful 4000 Islands or return to Pakse to continue to Cambodia or back to Thailand.
SEPTEMBER DEPARTURES: If you plan to depart in September 2017, please book via our Stray Travel Experts, email email@example.com with your name, the pass you would like to book and your intended start date.
Our mission is to get you off the beaten track amongst authentic local culture and our experienced crew has chosen some incredible destinations so you can see more and do more! 'Strademark' Places are the places you're less likely to find in the guide book but the ones you'll be talking about long after the adventure has ended.
- Only Stray visits a tiny, remote Lao village on the banks of the Mekong River. Experience traditional village life. Hang out with locals in their backyard, swim or play football with the kids. A very special part of the visit to this village is your opportunity to participate in a Baci (welcoming) ceremony.
- Zip through the 7km long Kong Lor Cave on an underground river! Considered a highlight of Laos, Kong Lor is not easy to get to on your own.
- Xe Champhone wetlands is that remote that sometimes our Stray buses can’t even access it and we have to jump on-board an off road truck just to get there. It’s one of the best places to see wildlife in their natural environment. Visit the Monkey Forest and feed the Rhesus Macaque monkeys and see Asiatic Softshell Turtles in Turtle Lake.
- Don Det is an iconic Stray stop at the southernmost part of Laos. These landlocked islands (otherwise known as 4000 Islands) provides the perfect spot to kick back during the day and then party the night away.
All transport: You'll travel in comfortable and air conditioned private charter buses and a traditional slow boat down the Mekong River.
Accommodation: 13 nights’ accommodation in a variety of comfortable hotels, hostels, guesthouses and a Laos village homestay.
Local Tour Leader: Knowledgeable local guide to provide commentary, support and local insider tips and advice.
Ultimate travel flexibility: Your flexi tour is valid for up to 12 months from first day of travel and you can hop-on and off as much as you like.
Meals: Some meals as included in the itinerary.
Top-Rated, Included Activities:
- Flight of the Gibbon zipline experience, Chiang Mai
- White Temple entrance fee, Chiang Rai
- Mekong River 2 Day Slow Boat Cruise
- Mekong River Homestay Experience - includes meals, activities and donation
- Pak Ou Caves entrance fee, near Luang Prabang
- Half day Rice Experience, Luang Prabang
- Half day Kuang Si Waterfall Tour and visit to Free the Bears rescue centre, Luang Prabang
- Tham Jang Cave entrance fee, near Vang Vieng
- Kong Lor guided boat trip
- Kong Lor National Park fee
- Wat Prabat Phonsone entrance fee
- Old Wat Taleow
- Hotay Pitok Library, Xe Champhone
- Turtle Lake entry donation, Xe Champhone
- Monkey Forest, Xe Champhone
- Tad Ngeuang Waterfall, near Pakse
- Wat Phou Temple entrance fee, near Pakse
|Laos Travel Guide
Start planning your adventure!
Here are a few of our favourite things to do in Vang Vieng, whether you’re a party animal or a nature hound..
Please note: Given the spontaneous nature of our trips, what we do each day might occasionally vary.
Starting travel after 1 October 2017?
You'll be travelling in the 17-18 season and the itinerary differs slightly from the itinerary below. We've also changed the name to the Long Laos (which is a bit easier to pronounce!)
Sawadee, Sabaidee (hello) and welcome to Stray!
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 at the Deejai Backpackers Hostel for a Welcome Night introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have about the upcoming trip. 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 you get to experience one of our favourite adventure activities, the Flight of the Gibbon zipline tour. After the swinging good adrenaline rush of the zip-line, you are free to enjoy dinner at one of the many great restaurants in Chiang Mai, then browse the night market, take in a ladyboy show or the Muay Thai boxing or head out for a few drinks with friends.
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 tuktuk ride into the chilled out town of Houay Xai, our stop for the night.
Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat up the Mekong River to the secluded village of Ban Pak Nguey. 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 Ban Pak Nguey 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.
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. 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.
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 plenty of other ancient Buddhist temples and sacred sites to explore. It’s a great place to spend a few days exploring, with options to discover rural villages by cycling or trekking the area, take a traditional Lao cooking class, kayak the Mekong River, shop at the night market or, for culture buffs, visit one of the many beautiful temples. So you get the most out of your stay in Luang Prabang, your itinerary includes the unforgettable half-day ‘Rice Experience’ and a trip to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls with entrance to the Free the Bears centre.
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 hill-tribe villages, vast green valleys and rolling hills; we’ll make a special stop at the ‘loo with a view’. Our journey today takes us to the little riverside town Vang Vieng, formerly known as the best place to take tubing trips down the Nam Song River to visit riverside bars and indulge in cheap booze. These days you can still go tubing, but now you get to enjoy the beauty of Vang Vieng's landscape without the sound of pounding bass in the background. Upon arrival into Vang Vieng there is plenty of time to go tubing, start partying or kick back and watch re-runs of old TV shows playing at the bars around town.
Today we cruise through to the capital of Laos, stopping at the impressive Tham Jang Cave that was once used as a bunker during a Chinese invasion in the 19th century. 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.
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, the gateway to the famous Kong Lor Cave and a great place to get out and go trekking or relax with a cold Beer Lao.
This morning you will head down to the cave (Tham Kong Lor to the locals) and venture deep into the 7km abyss! A ride in a traditional motorised canoe is included so you can take in the amazing rock formations and swim in the cool waters at the cave entrance. There may also be the option to travel to Ban Tabak village, to take a ride in a 'bomb boat’ made from the metal fuel casings of B52 bombers, dumped on Laos during the Secret War (this is subject to availability on the day).
Today is a short travel day as we head for the small town of Thakek on the banks of the Mekong River. Thakek 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.
This is what Stray is all about: getting totally off the beaten track! We head into the Xe Champhone wetlands - an area so remote that occasionally our Stray 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. Then it’s on to Turtle Lake where you might spot and possibly get to feed the sacred soft-shell turtles. 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 the aptly named Monkey Forest to get up close with curious and friendly wild rhesus macaque monkeys. Don’t forget to grab some bananas!
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 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.
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, otherwise known as the 4000 Islands. Here you can experience the laidback lifestyle and natural beauty of Laos’ landlocked islands with a leisurely tubing trip down the Mekong River, floating past locals fishing and people lounging on their bamboo riverside verandas. It’s also a great place to 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.
Your Stray trip officially ends here in Don Det – we hope you had a blast!
Starts: Chiang Mai
Days: Wednesday or Sunday
Time: 6pm Welcome Night at Deejai Backpackers
Tour: Welcome to Chiang Mai
|Chiang Mai (Arrive)||18:00||18:00|
Tour: Chiang Mai
|Chiang Mai (Free Day)||Free Day||Free Day|
Tour: Chiang Mai to Houay Xai
|Chiang Mai - Deejai Hostel (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
|Chiang Rai - Bus Terminal 2 (Phaholayotin Rd) (Depart)||12:15||12:15|
|Chiang Khong (Thai Border) (Depart)||14:30||14:30|
|Houay Xai (Laos Border) (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
Tour: Houay Xai to Ban Pak Nguey (Homestay)
|Houay Xai (Laos Border) - Oudomphone Hotel 2 (Depart)||07:30||07:30|
|Ban Pak Nguey (Homestay Village) (Arrive)||15:30||15:30|
Tour: Ban Pak Nguey (Homestay) to Luang Prabang
|Ban Pak Nguey - Boat Landing (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Pak Ou Caves (Depart)||14:00||14:00|
|Luang Prabang (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
Tour: Luang Prabang
|Luang Prabang (Free Day)||Free Day||Free Day|
Tour: Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
|Luang Prabang - Joma Bakery near the Post Office (Depart)||07:00||07:00|
|Vang Vieng (Arrive)||13:30||13:30|
Tour: Vang Vieng to Vientiane
|Vang Vieng - Seng Aloun Guesthouse (Depart)||10:00||10:00|
Tour: Vientiane to Kong Lor (7km Cave)
|Vientiane - Mixay Paradise Guesthouse (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Kong Lor (Arrive)||15:00||15:00|
Tour: Kong Lor (7km Cave)
|Kong Lor (Free Day)||Free Day||Free Day|
Tour: Kong Lor (7km Cave) to Thakek
|Kong Lor - Spring River Resort (Depart)||11:00||11:00|
Tour: Thakek to Xe Champhone
|Thakhek - Mekong Hotel (Depart)||07:30||07:30|
|Ban Lak 35 (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
|Xe Champhone (Arrive)||17:30||17:30|
Tour: Xe Champhone to Pakse
|Xe Champhone - Phonethavy Guesthouse (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Ban Khongxedon (Depart)||11:30||11:30|
Tour End: Pakse to Don Det (4000 Islands)
|Champasak - Wat Phou (Depart)||10:30||10:30|
|Ban Nakasang - Pier (Depart)||14:00||14:00|
|Don Det (Arrive)||14:30||14:30|
How It Works
A Flexi Tour is a unique combination of a guided hop-on, hop-off Stray pass with accommodation and activities, hand-picked by our Stray experts, included in the price.
This allows you to make the most of your time in Southeast Asia. You can still hop off anywhere, spend longer at your favourite places and opt for extra activities along the way.
Activities & Accommodation
We stay in a mix of family operated guesthouses, hostels, hotels and village homestays. Accommodation is included for all nights of the itinerary. If you choose to hop off, you'll need to arrange, and pay for, your own accommodation. Accommodation is twin-share (unless you upgrade to a single room). We do not match travellers who are not travelling together, so please only book the twin-share option if you are travelling with a companion.
We've chosen to include some top rated activities with this tour because we are all about ensuring you have the best possible experience in Southeast Asia! Check the 'What's Included' section on the highlights page for the full list. Your Tour Leader will also be able to recommend additional activities at each destination and you can book these through your Tour Leader (at your own expense) and pay direct to the operator.
Want to pay-as-you-go for accommodation and activities instead? Choose a hop-on hop-off travel pass.
HOW DO YOU HOP ON AND OFF THE BUS?
‘Hop off’ the bus anywhere along the route, even places in between the designated stops. Either plan to hop off in advance or do it spur of the moment – it’s up to you!
To hop back on, simply book your next travel date and pickup location through Stray Mate, your online Trip Manager (you'll receive your log in once you've booked).
The buses run twice a week so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days, but your Flexi Tour is valid for up to 12 months from your first day of travel, meaning you can hop on and off as often as you like, for as long as you like, up to a year!
SHORT ON TIME?
You are not required to hop off the bus at all! Feel free to use your pass like a tour and complete the itinerary in its ‘minimum days’. Either way you'll have a great time!
Our travellers are an energetic outgoing crowd who share a common objective: to have a great time! Most are aged between 18 - 30 although we have no maximum age because we believe age doesn't matter - it's more about having a thirst for adventure! We get a wide range of nationalities from all over the world with the majority from UK, Europe and America. Most of our travellers travel solo, some travel as part of a couple or group of friends.