Make the most of your two weeks in Laos

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Vang Vieng: Don't miss it during your two weeks in Laos
Vang Vieng: Don’t miss it during your two weeks in Laos

Laos is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that is still not so much invaded by tourists yet. However, it is just a question of time when the untouched nature, idyllic countryside and breathtaking views start to attract crowds of tourists. With our itinerary you’ll be able to make the most of your two weeks in Laos and explore both the north and the south of the country.

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Tips for traveling in Laos

We are not going to tell you when to go. The best time to visit Laos is just anytime it suits you. Don’t be afraid of the rainy season. It usually rains 1-2 hours per day which brings cool air and everything becomes incredibly green. We would like to offer you a few tips that might help you organize your two weeks in Laos.

1. Take into consideration that distances are not exactly short. Depending on which place you decide to visit the bus ride might take many hours, even one day.

2. If you decide to rent a motorbike, keep in mind that in some parts of Laos the roads might be challenging and even dangerous in the rainy season.

3. Laos is not cheap. The official reason is that everything gets imported as Laos doesn’t produce anything. This may seem strange when you look at all that fertile land around you. Anyway, there are things that are really expensive, for example organized tours.

 

4. The visa can be easily obtained at the arrival. The price is 30-35 dollars depending on your country of origin. The price is usually lower for ex-socialist countries.

5. Laos was the most heavily bombed country during the Vietnam war. In some parts you’ll still see the remains of bombshells or tanks. If you happen to be in a distant zone and come across something looking like that, be careful and don’t touch anything.

6. In small villages people usually speak little or no English. When ordering something from the menu make sure you indicate the chosen meal with your finger. Locals are often not able to read Latin letters so maybe indicate the Lao version of the meal. Like this you’ll make sure you get what you order.

A suggested itinerary for two weeks in Laos

Our first suggestion is not to rush and try to visit too many places. Otherwise your trip will change into packing and unpacking and sitting on uncomfortable buses. Our itinerary starts at the northern border with Thailand (coming from Chiang Rai) but you can adjust it to your needs.

Day 1 – Huay Xai

Sunset over Mekong in Huay Xai
Sunset over Mekong in Huay Xai

This is the very first village after the border and not a bad point for spending your first night in Laos. We stopped here for practical reasons. It was already after 2PM and the bus for our next destination was available only in the morning. However, you can enjoy a nice sunset over the Mekong river and have dinner in one of the many restaurants.

Day 2-3 – Luang Namtha

Luang Namtha - rice paddies
Luang Namtha – Rice paddies

Next morning take a bus to the village in the north called Luang Namtha. This place will give you a nice teaser of what you can expect from Laos. Infinite rice paddies, rolling green hills and tiny villages with ethnic groups living in a traditional way will make you want to know more. There are a few agencies that offer homestays in one of the villages, trekking or kayaking.

rice paddies around Luang Namtha 2
Rice paddies!

We decided to rent a motorbike and explore the area on our own since the tours were pretty expensive. Whichever direction you choose, the ride will be scenic. We were impressed especially at the neverending sea of rice paddies. In the evening you can go to the night market. Since it is just a few kms from China you will find some weird stuff but also a whole chicken or duck for just 30,000 kip!

Day 3-4 – Nong Khiaw

Nong Kiaw
Nong Khiaw

There is a direct morning bus (or actually a minivan) from Luang Namtha to Nong Khiaw. We were lucky to be the only travelers that day so had the whole minivan to ourselves. The road is very curvy and if you suffer from road-sickness you better take a pill beforehand. It’s not necessary to book tickets in advance, just show up one hour before the departure. A few kms before the arrival to Nong Khiaw impressive limestone hills appear and you will understand why you must not skip this place when two weeks in Laos.

Nong Khiaw - view from the bridge
Nong Khiaw – view from the bridge

The village is tiny but offers quite a number of activities. If you prefer organized tours you can do a one or two-day trekking with a homestay in one of the nearby villages with interesting ethnic groups. The river Ou that flows through the village is also great for kayaking. For those on a tight budget we recommend either hiking to the viewpoint to watch the sunset or the visit to the Patok cave. Bring a torch and see the place where the local people used to hide during the bomb raids.

Day 6-7-8 – Luang Prabang

Temple in Luang Prabang
Temple in Luang Prabang

We guarantee you will fall in love with this place full of nostalgic colonial architecture and laidback atmosphere. The town itself is not that big but you will not want to make just a stopover here. There are plenty of things to do and places to see so let’s mention at least a few of them.

Take at least one day to see all the stunning houses, temples and monasteries in the town. There are two different rivers, which makes the place even more picturesque. You can jump on a boat and do the sunset tour on the river Mekong. There are also many things to do in the surroundings of Luang Prabang.

Streets in Luang Prabang
Streets in Luang Prabang

Apart from the usual trekking and trips to ethnic villages, the absolute must is the Kuang Si waterfall. The cheapest option is to rent a motorbike, so that you can decide how much time you’re gonna hang around. Another option is a tuk-tuk ride but it’s usually expensive and not the most comfortable solution. You can also ask at any local agency and join a minivan morning or afternoon tour. The negative thing is that you only get to spend two hours at the waterfall. Save around one hour for exploring all the waterfall levels and taking pictures and the rest to the swimming in the ice cold water. You can combine the trip to the waterfall with visiting of the Pak Ou cave.

Kuang Si waterfall
Kuang Si waterfall

Wondering where to stay?

Try the Belle Rive Boutique Hotel. We had a really great time at this beautiful place facing the Mekong river. Apart from elegant and spacious rooms the hotel offers professionally trained English speaking staff that is always very attentive to the guests’ need. We had fresh croissants and fruit for breakfast and tasted a few meals from the menu. A sunset boat ride including a cold drink is included as well as bicycles that will easily take you around Luang Prabang. The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel will let you spend your days in style!

Wondering how to learn more about the Lao cuisine?

The best way to discover the secrets of a local cuisine is definitely by attending a cooking class. Tamarind is not only a restaurant, but also a highly demanded cooking school. You will prepare a few surprising and delicious meals that are typical for the Lao cuisine. The best thing is that you’ll prepare the whole dinner by yourself under the supervision of a helpful teacher. You will use the traditional ways of cooking and only fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Day 9-10 – Vang Vieng

Trekking in Vang Vieng
Trekking in Vang Vieng

Forget about what you read on the internet. Vang Vieng is no longer the backpackers’ party place like it used to be. It doesn’t matter what kind of traveler you are: You should not skip it during your two weeks in Laos. The list of the things to do in Vang Vieng is endless. If you’re not on a tight budget, try kayaking, ziplining or renting a buggy.

Vang Vieng blue lagoon
Blue lagoon

For those who don’t want to spend too much money on activities, you can rent a bike or a motorbike and head to one of the incredibly blue lagoons for a nice swim. The main one has also an impressive cave that is included in the entrance fee (prepare yourself for a short but tough hike). If you’re a fan of hiking, there are a few viewpoints in the area, from where you will see the picturesque countryside surrounded by limestone hills.

Day 11-12 – Vientiane

Patuxai Arc vientiane
Patuxai Arc

The truth is that the capital city of Laos is far from being beautiful. There are not so many things to see and the prices are high. However, make sure you find time to visit the nearby Buddha park around 30kms from Vientiane. Bus 14 leaving every 20mins from the centre stops directly at the entrance. The place is filled with bizarre statues and you will need about one hour to check it properly.

Buddha Park
Buddha Park

Apart from the park there is the famous Patuxai Arc and a few interesting temples such as Sisaket. Our personal tip is also to try noodle soup at one of the few local restaurants.

Day 12-13 – 4000 islands

Sunset in Dot Det Island
Sunset in Dot Det Island

It is a long way from Vientiane to 4000 islands and you might want to think about a stopover. It might be either Savannaket or Takhek, which are not very interesting and don’t offer much in terms of food and accommodation. However, if you have more time to spend and you’re comfortable with riding a motorbike, try one of the loops. The quality of roads depends on weather but the views are rewarding.

Cycling in Don Det
Cycling in Don Det

Most buses to 4000 islands start from Pakse. 4000 is a big number but only three of them have accomodation options for tourists. The first one – Don Dhet – is great for those traveling on budget and with a little money you will have a river bungalow with the Mekong view. All the roads on the islands are dirt so the best way to move around is by bike. To cross the bridge and get to the second island – Don Khon – you’ll have to pay a toll. Bicycle rides are pretty scenic and in the dry season you might find a few bathing spots. Anyway, 4000 islands are a perfect place to end your two weeks in Laos and relax.

Summary

Of course, there are more places worth visiting in Laos, but if you only have two weeks you simply cannot see them all. The country is big and moving around slow. See less and make sure you make the most of it.

Enjoy the photo gallery below!

Do you know any other places in Laos that everyone should see? Let us know in the comments!

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