Cycling in Laos

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Small group
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  • Exploring remote areas of Laos rarely visited by tourists
  • Spectacular mountain scenery, limestone cliffs, rice paddies and waterfalls
  • Traditional hill tribe villages
  • Slow cruise down the Mekong River


Cycling in Laos

Day 1 Start Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, ‘The Rose of the North’, is known for its temples, markets and the many colourful hilltribes that live in the area. Chiang Mai is a former religious and cultural centre. Twice coming under the control of the Burmese, there is a strong Burmese influence reflected in the architecture of the city. In the evening we can visit the night market where many of the hilltribe’s handicrafts can be seen. There will also be a group briefing in the evening with your leader to hear all about the trip ahead.

Day 2 Warm-up ride around Chiang Mai old town and visit Doi Suthep hilltop temple

After our bike fitting we start to explore Chiang Mai on two wheels. We will visit the old town, the temple of Vieng Kum Kam and numerous cultural highlights in the morning. We’ll stop for lunch before driving up to the hilltop temple of Doi Suthep, the most revered Buddhist shrine in the Chiang Mai region. On a clear day the temple affords an excellent view over Chiang Mai and its striking temple landscape. There will be the opportunity to listen to the monks chanting before returning to the city for a chance to try northern Thai cuisine at dinner.

Day 3 Transfer to Chiang Rai; cycle along the Thai/Burma border into the heart of the Golden Triangle

Leaving our hotel early we set off by bus to the Chiang Rai Province, the northern most province in Thailand (approx. 2.5 hours transfer). We visit the revered Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple) before cycling to Mae Sai. We journey (cycle and 1 hour transfer) into the heart of the Golden Triangle, the compact region where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet offering a heady mix of cultures and landscapes.

Day 4 Visit an Opium Museum; cycle towards border to Chiang Khong

The Opium Museum is our first stop today (after a 30 minute transfer) which highlights the history of opium from its natural properties to its illegal uses, and gives historical information on the Opium Wars that led to the fall of the Manchu Dynasty. The Golden Triangle was previously one of the most extensive producers of Opium until Afghanistan became the world’s largest producer. We’ll next start cycling at Chiang Saen following a quiet route towards Chiang Kong, which borders Laos. The cycling today is mostly flat with a few rolling hills passing through tobacco and corn plantations.

Day 5 Transfer into Laos; cycle to Luang Nam Tha

This morning we transfer across the border into Laos and onto the village of Ban Nam Chi (approx. 2.5 hour transfer), where we will start today’s cycling. Today we cycle through quiet jungle-lined roads marvelling at the mountainous landscape along the way and stopping for lunch in Vieng Phuou Ka before finish our cycle at our guesthouse in Luang Nam Tha. The Luang Nam Tha region is a land of 39 ethnic tribal groups. The Nam Tha river weaves itself through the countryside and has many ethnic tribal villages dotted along its length on one side and dense jungle of the national protected area on the other. There is a night market not too far from the hotel which provides the opportunity to feast on the local speciality of bamboo and green papaya salad or slow cooked Laotian pork belly.

Day 6 Rural cycle to the Udomxai province

We start the day with a ride from Luang Nam Tha to Udomxai. The town is formed by many small villages and is home to a wide variety of ethnic groups; Hmong, Tai Dam, Akha, Tai Lue and Yao. The cycling today will pass through rice paddies and rolling valleys with a few hill climbs before transferring to the town. After arriving in Udomxai, your leader will take the group for a walk around the centre of town including a walk up to Xaymoungkhoun temple, where you can see a Buddhist stupa aged more than 600 years and enjoy views of the city from here.

Day 7 Continue through Udomxai province to Pak Beng

We cycle directly from the hotel today journeying towards Pak Beng. The area is an important intersection between China and Vietnam and has a unique multicultural atmosphere. Located in the Nam Ko River basin and surrounded by scenic mountains the area is famed for its Chinese produce. We will stop for a late lunch before cycling a further 20km where we hop into the minivan and transfer (approx. 1 hour) to Pak Beng town for our overnight spot on the side of the Mekong.

Day 8 Board slow boat on the Mekong to Luang Prabang visiting Buddha Caves en route

Today we journey to Luang Prabang region by boat, cruising along the Mekong River which starts its journey high in the Tibetan Plateau, eventually emptying itself into the sea in the south of Vietnam. Its journey takes it through 7 different countries in Asia. Travelling slowly allows us to absorb the pace of the riverside settlements and marvel at the mist covered mountains towering above us. En route to Luang Prabang we will visit the famous Pak Ou Cave, cut out of the limestone banks which line the river at Pak Ou. These caves are filled with thousands of Buddha images brought by the surrounding villagers as a sign of their devotion. After visiting the caves, we then transfer (approx. 30 minutes) to our hotel in Luang Prabang for the next 2 nights.

Day 9 Cycle to beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls. Chance to see monks receiving alms at dawn

Approximately 25 km from Luang Prabang are the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls. We ride from our hotel, leaving Luang Prabang passing through a rural landscape of rice paddies and Lao Lum villages. Once at Kuang Si Waterfalls, we will have a picnic lunch and perhaps take a refreshing dip before cycling back to Luang Prabang where the rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping, or there may be a possibility for an orientation bike ride of the town (any entrance fees are not included). This evening there is a chance to visit the night market in town with beautiful traditional Lao and hilltribe textiles on sale. For those up at dawn there is chance to witness the daily parade of saffron-robed monks receiving alms.

Day 10 Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng

Today we drive south from Luang Prabang to Phou Khoun through more mountainous terrain (approx. 3 hours), passing through numerous Hmong villages. Once in Phou Khoun we pull out the bikes and start riding. The ride includes a superb winding descent with magnificent views of limestone karsts which gives the impression of entering into ‘Lord of the Rings’ territory’. This is followed by shorter climbs and easy riding through rice paddies and villages as we approach Baan Yao. The rest of the journey (approx. 2 hours) taken by bus to Vang Vieng, a popular town with plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy.

Day 11 Vang Vieng to Vientiane

This morning we transfer 2.5 hours from Vang Vieng to Pakkayong village where we start today’s ride. Passing through local rubber plantations, small villages and along the Nam Ngum river, we pause for lunch along the way until we reach Ban Don Noun village where we hop on the bus for a 45 minute-1 hour transfer to Vientiane, the sleepy capital of Laos. In the evening the perfect option is to retire for a refreshing beverage and watch the sunset over the Mekong River.

Day 12 Free morning to explore then cross over the Friendship Bridge into Thailand; board overnight train to Bangkok

This morning is free to shop or explore Vientiane before we start cycling in the early afternoon from our hotel across the Laos/Thailand border. After completing border formalities and farewelling Laos, we continue to ride (on the left in Thailand!) a short distance to Nong Khai railway station. Here we say good-bye to our Lao guide and the group will be transferred to a local hotel for a couple hours to relax before returning to the train station for our overnight train journey to Bangkok.

Day 13 Bangkok city tour; free time

On arrival in Bangkok we transfer to our hotel. Later in the morning we take a short walk to the Chao Praya River where we board a long tail boat for a tour of the local canals. Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East because of its intricate canal network. We get a glimpse of daily life as we pass locals selling their wares by the river. We will visit what to this day remains the home of the Thai Royal family at the Royal Palace complex followed by Wat Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most venerated images. Another highlight is Wat Pho, the largest temple in Bangkok, housing a 46m long, 15m high gold-plated reclining Buddha. We then head back to our hotel by ferry. This rest of the day is free for further exploration of this exciting city before we a final group dinner (optional).

Day 14 End Bangkok

For land only clients, the tour ends this morning in Bangkok after breakfast.


  • 10 nights hotels, 2 nights guesthouses, 1 night sleeper train
  • 10 days cycling with 90% vehicle support
  • Surfaces are nearly all good tarmac
  • Some tough climbs and long downhills
  • Group normally 7 to 18, plus local leaders
  • Countries visited: Laos, Thailand


  • All breakfasts and 1 dinner
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival & departure transfers
  • Local bike hire

Images courtesy of Exodus Travel