2-Week Adventure Itinerary in Northern Thailand & Laos

February 26, 2020


Planning an adventure in Thailand and Laos can be overwhelming since these countries have so much to offer. Intricate temples, sprawling night markets, lush jungles, and powerful rivers - these are just some of the things you can expect to find!

After our recent trip through northern Thailand and Laos, I created this detailed two-week adventure itinerary to help you explore this region's possibilities. I hope you'll use it as a guide as you plan your adventure and tweak it to fit your preferences!

More...

*This post may contain some affiliate links which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase something using the links. This won’t cost you anything extra but helps keep this blog going. Thank you for your support!

What Do I Mean by "Adventure Itinerary"?

There are a couple reasons that I'm calling this itinerary an "adventure itinerary". 

  • It includes a wide range of "adventure" and outdoor activities, plus...
  • Lots of public transportation and last-minute planning (flexibility needed!)

And although a couple of the stops only offer basic accommodations, overall this adventure itinerary is not a budget travel or backpacker's guide. 

Because of the range of activities and accommodations highlighted, I'd call it a mid-range traveler's itinerary, which tends to be my travel style.

Adventure Itinerary Overview

Although you can follow this itinerary in either direction, I'll start it in Chiang Rai - a town in northern Thailand. 

From there, the adventure crosses the border into Houayxay, Laos - a jumping off point for both the Gibbon Experience and a Mekong River Cruise. Next, the itinerary hops over to the quiet and incredibly picturesque town of Nong Khiaw, Laos. Finally, it ends in UNESCO World Heritage site - Luang Prabang. 

The total adventure itinerary is 14 days, but you'll also have to plan for travel time on either side. If you have more time, you can easily incorporate this itinerary into a longer trip throughout Laos and Thailand. Or, shorten it if you have less time for your trip. 

Let's get started!

Days 1-2: CHIANG RAI

Let's kick off this Thailand/Laos adventure itinerary in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Known for its unique temples, Chiang Rai has a relaxed vibe to it which makes it a great place to spend a couple days. 

Getting to Chiang Rai, Thailand

Since we're starting in Chiang Rai, first you'll need to get there. Coming from an international destination, flying is the easiest way to get to Chiang Rai.

Several flights from Bangkok arrive at the Chiang Rai International Airport each day. More than likely, you'll transfer in Bangkok to get to Chiang Rai as we did coming from Hong Kong.

If you're coming from somewhere else in Thailand or nearby in Southeast Asia, you may prefer not to fly. In that case, a bus is your best option.

It's also possible to take the train in Thailand as far as Chiang Mai, then catch a bus to Chiang Rai.  

Sample Itinerary in Chiang Rai

During a trip to Chiang Rai, I recommend spending one day exploring the temples in and around the city on your own. If you're comfortable driving one, rent a motorbike for the day to help you get around to the sights easily.

In the evening, head to a restaurant along the river for sunset or grab a couple drinks at a local bar*.

*Tip:  Grab is the local ride-sharing service in Thailand and many countries in Southeast Asia (but not Laos!). Be sure to download the Grab app before arriving so you're ready to start getting around Chiang Rai. 

Jeremy on red motorbike in parking lot

On your second day, either join a group tour or hire your own car for a day trip to see some sights outside of Chiang Rai. These may include a tea plantation, mountain garden, the Golden Triangle, and the Thai/Myanmar border town - Mae Sai.

In the evening after your tour, wander around Chiang Rai's night markets and soak in the local culture. 

Chiang Rai Itinerary Highlights 

After spending a couple days in Chiang Rai, I'll briefly share a few of the highlights for me in Chiang Rai.

Check out my full Chiang Rai post for even more ideas of what to see in Chiang Rai and where to eat! 

Wat Rong Khun - White Temple

This unique all-white temple is privately owned by local Chiang Rai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Since the original temple had fallen into disrepair, Kositpipat designed and rebuilt it using his own funds as an offering to the Buddha. 

Although open to visitors, work continues on the temple to this day.

white temple with blue sky and reflection in blue water

Get there early to avoid the hordes of tourists. It's about a ~30-minute drive from downtown Chiang Rai by motorbike.

Wat Rong Suea Ten - Blue Temple

Another uniquely colored temple in Chiang Rai, the Blue Temple was only finished in 2016.  However, it is already a popular attraction.

This temple is different from many Thai temples because you don't usually find much blue in these temples. And even if you do, it's certainly not this much blue! 

blue temple with gold trimming and blue dragon
Choui Fong Tea Plantation

During our day trip on the second day, one of the highlights for me was the Choui Fong Tea Plantation, about an hour north of Chiang Rai.

Since we visited in dry season, the scenery was a bit dusty and brown. But once we reached the tea fields - everything was green! 

Becky in green tea plantation fields with pond in background

At the Choui Fong tea house, you can taste 3 varieties of tea that they produce on the property. Afterwards, you can purchase some to take home or sit at the cafe admiring the view and sipping a refreshing tea drink.

Mae Fah Luang Garden on Doi Tung

My favorite spot on our day trip tour though was the Mae Fah Luang Garden on Doi Tung. This garden was built on land that used to be on the opium trade route but was converted by the queen mother into a garden. 

manicured gardens with red, yellow, pink flowers with mountains in background

The garden contains a variety of temperate and tropical plants and was absolutely stunning in December when we visited. On a clear day, you can also see many of the surrounding mountains from the top of the garden.

Chiang Rai Food Highlight

While you're visiting Chiang Rai, I recommend ordering khao soi at least once... per day! This delicious, spicy, coconut curry noodle soup is a a northern Thai specialty. Once you taste it, you'll understand why I ordered it every day!  

red khao soi soup with red chopsticks on top with papaya salad

Check out my post 'How to Spend 2 Days in Chiang Rai' for all the details!

Accommodations in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai has a wide variety of accommodation options from budget hostels to luxury hotels scattered around town. Use the map below to start your search for the perfect place to stay!

This map shows both hotels and VRBO (vacation rental by owner) accommodations. Click on a property in which you're interested to go to either Booking.com or VRBO to read reviews and to book your stay.

Laluna Hotel & Resort

During our visit to Chiang Rai, we stayed at the Laluna Hotel & Resort on the southern end of town. Its bungalow guest rooms are laid out in a shady jungle garden. The interior of the rooms is spacious, though a little dark as a result of the shade from the trees. 

laluna hotel room with king bed with white sheets and red and green pillows plus chair

The Laluna Hotel & Resort also has a nice pool towards the back of the property. Though I didn't have a chance to use it, this may be a nice feature for families with children.

pool surrounded by palm trees at laluna hotel chiang rai

Day 3: TRAVEL DAY -> Chiang Rai to Houayxay

After spending a couple days in northern Thailand, exploring the area surrounding Chiang Rai, it's time to head to Laos!

The next stop on this adventure itinerary is Houayxay (also spelled Huay Xai) which is roughly 110 km (68 mi) from Chiang Rai.

How Long Does the Trip Take?

Although the two cities are relatively close, the trip may take longer than you expect. Since you have to cross an international border, you must pass through immigration on both sides of the border.

Pro Tips for Lao Immigration

Be sure to read the Lao visa requirements so that you have the appropriate documents with you. U.S. citizens must provide a passport-sized photo, the visa on arrival application, and pay a fee of 35 USD (info as of Dec 2019).

If you plan to pay the visa fee in US dollars, be sure they are NEW, CRISP BILLS! Ours were old, so Lao immigration would not accept them. We ended up combining three different currencies - Lao kip, Thai baht, US dollars - to pay our immigration fee. They don't give good exchange rates so paying in all USD is cheaper.

For us, this adventurous trip took roughly ~4 hours.  We had a leisurely morning in Chiang Rai before we departed. But we made it to Houayxay in plenty of time to watch the sunset over the Mekong River.

How Much Does the Trip Cost?

Though there are a couple ways you could go, the cheapest is by local transportation. And despite involving a combination of tuk tuks and buses, it's fairly easy to figure out.

Red bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong

In the chart below, you'll find a quick breakdown of the stages and costs of the trip. 

Overview of Stages

1) Tuk Tuk from hotel in Chiang Rai to Bus Terminal 1

2) Local Bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong / Friendship Bridge

3) Thai Immigration & Bus across Friendship Bridge 

4) Lao Visa on Arrival & Immigration 

5) Songthaew from border to Houayxay 

Costs Per Person

~30 baht

65 baht +
50 baht to Bridge

25 baht

N/A

~40,000 kip (or less)

Overview of Stages +
Costs Per Person

1) Tuk Tuk from hotel in Chiang Rai to Bus Terminal 1  
~30 baht

2) Local Bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong / Friendship Bridge
65 baht + 50 baht to bridge

3) Thai Immigration & Bus across Friendship Bridge
25 baht

4) Lao Visa on Arrival & Immigration
N/A

5) Songthaew from border to Houayxay
~40,000 kip (or less)

Depending on exchange rates and how you negotiate the tuk tuks and songthaew, the total trip from Chiang Rai to Houayxay should cost roughly ~US $10*. 

However, for a couple of these stages, you could choose a more luxurious form of transportation and pay more.

*This cost estimate does not include the Lao visa fees, which you would have to pay regardless of how you arrive in Laos.

Click here to read a full overview of the trip from Chiang Rai to Houayxay, Laos. It will guide you through all the modes of transportation and show you what to expect!

Accommodations in Houayxay

Despite Houayxay being the capital of Bokeo province, it's still a relatively sleepy Lao town.

Most of the accommodations are guest houses and lack certain amenities that some travelers, including myself, might desire. (What I wouldn't give for a hair dryer at times!) But as long as you adjust your expectations, you'll be perfectly comfortable here for a night.

*Note: Many hotels in smaller villages are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 so you may not be able to see many results at this time. 

Sabaydee Guesthouse

During our visit, we stayed in the Sabaydee Guesthouse in the center of Houayxay. It certainly wasn't luxurious, but overall it was fine.

guest room with pink sheets, green walls and trees outside window in Laos
blue bathroom with toilet and shower water heater and faucet

Plus, from our third floor room (no elevator), we had a great view of Chiang Khong across the Mekong River. 

Tip:  If stairs are a problem for you, or you have heavy bags that you cannot manage on your own, you may want to request a ground floor room.

sunrise over the mekong river in Laos with green palm trees in foreground

Days 4-6: GIBBON EXPERIENCE

After a night in Houayxay, you'll start the next morning bright and early with the Gibbon Experience. This adventure will take you away from towns and into the jungle! 

This 2-3 day excursion combines zip-lining, jungle-trekking, and potentially seeing wild gibbons. At night, you'll sleep in a jungle treehouse - either private or shared with a group.*

Although Jeremy and I were not able to fit the Gibbon Experience into our schedule, we met a family on our Mekong River Cruise that did it right before the cruise. They highly recommended the experience - especially their 9-year old son who was brimming with excitement to tell us all about it!

Gibbon Experience Options

The company offers 2D/1N and 3D/2N experiences so you can choose the option that matches your comfort level and fits your schedule.

On their website, they recommend the Classic Tour for the best chance of seeing gibbons during the experience. If you'd rather only spend one night in the jungle, then the Express Tour may be the right choice for you.

*Because we didn't go on this adventure ourselves, I encourage you to check out this blog post for an overview + photos of the Gibbon Experience Express Tour.

Another Night in Houayxay

Since the Gibbon Experience ends in Houayxay, Laos, you'll spend one more night in this town. Then the next morning, you'll catch the 2-day slow boat Mekong River Cruise to Luang Prabang. 

Days 7-8: MEKONG RIVER CRUISE

Since the Mekong River is the lifeblood of the region, you'll see boats motoring up and down it frequently as you travel around. In fact, many locals use boats to travel between villages on the river instead of buses or cars. So a trip on the river is an experience you don't want to miss while visiting Laos!

longboat on mekong river and mountains

Tip:  Highly recommend taking this trip sooner rather than later! Plans to build a new dam on the Mekong River near Luang Prabang in the coming years may disrupt this river cruise route in the future.

About the Mekong River Cruise

This cruise will take you from Houayxay to Luang Prabang - a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its temples and French colonial-style architecture. 

The cruise lasts for 2-days, 1-night but stops in Pakbeng, Laos for the night where passengers stay in a hotel or guesthouse. You can choose to go on either the public slow boat or a private cruise.

Although the private cruise is more expensive, I recommend this option if you have room in your budget. It's a more comfortable ride, includes lunches, plus stops at a few sights along the way.

Shompoo Mekong River Cruise boat

We chose to cruise from Houayxay to Luang Prabang with a company called Shompoo Cruise. It is a mid-range private cruise option and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in this cruise.

What to Expect on the Boat

The boat is a large longboat which has various seating options for both large and small groups throughout the boat. Ours was clean and nicely decorated and the staff warmly welcomed us aboard. The boat also has two western-style washrooms complete with running water and soap!

Mekong river cruise longboat with pink cushions

Throughout the day, coffee and tea are provided complimentary. But you can also purchase alcoholic drinks and snacks at the bar.

Shompoo Cruise provides a plentiful lunch buffet around noon each day. The dishes are mostly Lao and Thai specialties minus the chilies normally present. 

mekong river cruise lunch on day 1

Mekong River Cruise - Day 1 Overview

Since you're staying in Houayxay, you'll be picked up at your guest house around 9:00 am to board the boat.

On the first day, you'll receive a trip overview then spend most of the day on the boat. We chatted with some of the other passengers, but our cruise was empty enough that we also had plenty of space to stretch out.

Becky on Mekong River Cruise

In the afternoon, we stopped at a local village for ~1 hour, then got back on the boat until around ~5:00 pm. We arrived in our overnight stop - Pakbeng - just in time for sunset.

Stop #1 - Khmu Village

Although the village changes each year*, on our cruise, we made a short stop at a local Khmu Village. Here, our guide explained a bit about Khmu culture and customs and we toured the village.  

village house overlooking brown river and mountains in haze

*A portion of Shompoo Cruise's proceeds go towards supporting that village and each year they choose a different one.

Overnight in Pakbeng

Since the longboats do not have guest rooms, all passengers must disembark at Pakbeng. You'll spend the night in a guesthouse or hotel in this small Lao town.

small town of Pakbeng with red sign and flags over entrance

Booking through Shompoo Cruise, we also booked our Pakbeng accommodations at one of the partner hotels. But if these options do not appeal to you, or you're taking the public boat, you can book your own accommodations.

*Note: Many hotels in smaller villages are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 so you may not be able to see many results at this time. 

Mekong Riverside Lodge

These cute thatched bungalows overlooking the Mekong River are a lovely spot to spend the evening and watch the sunset from the balcony.   

balcony at Mekong Riverside Lodge

Despite enjoying my stay here, I have to wonder if I would have felt the same in the wet or hot seasons. The bungalows do not have air-conditioning or screens, so the heat and mosquitoes could be problematic in certain seasons.

Mekong Riverside Lodge room in thatched bungalow

Mekong River Cruise - Day 2 Overview

The second day of the Mekong River Cruise begins even earlier than the first day. Since you'll spend the majority of the day on the boat, be sure to bring a good book or some games to play with your companions!

Both stops for the day are in the afternoon since they are close to the final destination - Luang Prabang. You'll arrive in Luang Prabang around 4:00 pm - plenty of time to catch the sunset!

Stop #2 - Pak Ou Cave

Shortly after lunch on the second day of the Mekong River Cruise, you'll stop at Pak Ou Cave to explore for ~45 minutes. There are two caves at Pak Ou - a lower and upper cave.

The lower cave is full of roughly 4,500 Buddha statues which dominate the cave. From the entrance, you'll also have impressive views of the mountains and river behind you. 

Buddhas at the mouth of Pak Ou Cave

To get to the upper cave, climb up ~220 steps into the forest. This exercise felt great to me after a couple days sitting on the boat all day! The upper cave is larger and deeper with fewer Buddhas than the lower cave. 

Stop # 3 - Whisky Village

The last stop on the Mekong River Cruise is at the Whisky Village - which received this nickname due to its production of laolao - a Lao rice whisky. Here you'll be able to taste several kinds of laolao, learn about its production, and purchase some bottles.

Stand with different kinds of laolao whisky

You can also wander through the village and shop for handicrafts as it's a big weaving village as well. 

Overnight in Luang Prabang

The Mekong River Cruise ends in Luang Prabang around 4:00 pm. If you're on the Shompoo Cruise, transportation to your accommodations in Luang Prabang is included so you won't have to worry about that detail.

Tip:  Be sure you confirm your hotel's name with the driver to avoid any confusion with your drop-off location. 

At this point in the itinerary, you could stop and finish up in Luang Prabang. Use the map in the Luang Prabang section of the itinerary to start your search for the perfect place to stay!

If you have time in your itinerary, I recommend continuing on to explore another gorgeous town in northern Laos - Nong Khiaw. Then, you'll return to Luang Prabang after visiting Nong Khiaw to finish up this itinerary.

Day 9: TRAVEL DAY -> Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw

In this adventure itinerary, the next destination is Nong Khiaw - a small town nestled in the mountains along the Nam Ou River. Although you used to be able to reach Nong Khiaw from Luang Prabang by boat, a new dam now prevents this.

dam on Nam Ou River in Laos

So the best way to reach Nong Khiaw is by a shared van. I recommend asking your hotel concierge or one of the tour agencies in town to help you book your ticket. You can do this once you arrive in Luang Prabang after the Mekong River Cruise. 

gray van from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw with mountains in background

How Long Does the Trip Take?

We left Luang Prabang on a morning bus and arrived in Nong Khiaw in early afternoon. The entire trip from hotel door-to-hotel door took ~5 hours, but we had some delays. Generally, I'd say the trip takes between 4-5 hours.

The actual time in the van was only about 3.5 hours of the total trip time. The additional time includes pick-up and drop-off at the hotels, a restroom stop, and other waiting time.

Because we arrived in early afternoon, we had plenty of time to start exploring Nong Khiaw. We could even have fit in an afternoon hike had it been a nice day!

How Much Does the Trip Cost?

The ticket from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw cost 70,000 kip (~US $8) per person. This included our pick-up in Luang Prabang. 

Once in Nong Khiaw, we paid an additional 5,000 kip (US $0.50) per person for a shared songthaew to our hotel. 

Days 10-11: NONG KHIAW

Although a relatively short drive from the highly popular Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw is still a bit off-the-beaten tourist path in Laos. As a result, the town still has a charming, relaxed vibe to it.

Adventurous Activities in Nong Khiaw

Surrounded by mountains, nestled along the banks of the Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw has plenty of opportunities for adventure! Trekking, kayaking, boat trips, exploring caves - these activities will surely keep you busy and out in nature! 

Depending on what you like to do, you can mix and match any of the activities below to fill your two days in Nong Khiaw. And once you arrive, you may find other adventures await you that aren't on this list!

Hiking Adventures

If you enjoy a hike with a view, you'll love Nong Khiaw! Its viewpoint hikes provide incredibly lovely views of the town below with the river snaking through it. And gorgeous green mountains stretch out as far as the eye can see.

These hikes are steep climbs on muddy trails, so you'll need to bring sneakers or hiking shoes. Be prepared for them to get dirty!

Nong Khiaw dirt trail with rocks and wooden stairs that have been washed away

Trekking Experiences

For longer trekking experiences, you may wish to hire a guide. Several tour companies in town offer 2-days, 1-night trekking experiences. This includes a homestay overnight in a local Lao village. Usually it's easy to arrange these once you're in Nong Khiaw.

Boat Trip to Villages on the Nam Ou 

If you're interested in checking out other villages nearby, you may want to consider a day trip on the Nam Ou River. Boats frequently run up and down the river, transporting locals and tourists between villages.

A popular destination is Muang Ngoi Neua - another small Lao town further east on the Nam Ou. The boat ride to this town provides beautiful scenery and you can stop at some of the handicraft villages along the way.

Cave Explorations

Laos is home to many caves and Nong Khiaw is no exception. During the 1960s, people in Nong Khiaw used these caves to escape the bombings, sometimes even living inside! Today, you can go explore several of these caves on your own.

silhouette of Becky in Pha Kuang Cave entrance in Nong Khiaw

We visited the Pha Kuang Cave, roughly 2 km outside of Nong Khiaw. It starts out wide and open, but gradually narrows until you're crawling through it. The headlamp, which you'll get when you pay the entrance fee, is an essential item!

Jeremy looking into the Pha Kuang cave

Check out the full post - '2 Relaxing Days in Nong Khiaw, Laos'!

Accommodations in Nong Khiaw

Most of the accommodations are small guest houses. You won't (as of December 2019) find large luxury hotels in Nong Khiaw. However, the scenery that they offer makes them feel pretty spectacular!

Viewpoint Resort

During our visit, we stayed in the Viewpoint Resort which arguably has the best views in town. Admittedly this resort is quite a climb up the hill. But it's a comfortable 3-star hotel which overlooks the town and has amazing sunset views.

Viewpoint Resort view of Nong Khiaw, mountains, Nam Ou river with tree in foreground

The rooms are spacious and all have their own balcony with mountain views.

Viewpoint Resort room in Nong Khiaw with 1 king bed and 1 twin bed and balcony

The property also sunning beds, a pΓ©tanque court, and a restaurant. So if you're feeling lazy after a day of hiking, you can just hang out up there for the evening!

Becky throwing petanque ball with sunset behind

Day 12: TRAVEL DAY -> Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang

Since the trip from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang only takes ~4-5 hours, you can decide whether you'd rather have more time in Nong Khiaw or in Luang Prabang on this day.

At the time we visited, there was an early morning bus and an afternoon bus leaving for Luang Prabang.

Regardless of which one you choose, I recommend reserving your spot with a tour company on the main street the night before you leave. They arrange for you to be picked up at your guesthouse and taken to the bus station.

Tip:  Luang Prabang has two bus stations - north and south - so you may arrive back at a different bus station than the one from which you left. 

How Much Does the Trip Cost?

The ticket from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang cost 65,000 kip  (~US $7) per person. This included our pick-up in Nong Khiaw. 

We arrived at the north bus station in Luang Prabang which is further from the old town. So, we paid 20,000 kip (US $2.25) per person for a shared songthaew to our hotel. 

Days 13-14: LUANG PRABANG

The former royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995. The streets in the old town are lined with historic temples and French colonial-style architecture that give it a quaint and comfortable feeling.

How charming are the houses in Luang Prabang?

Although you could spend longer, two days will give you the opportunity to discover some of the beauty Luang Prabang has to offer. 

Itinerary Overview in Luang Prabang

If you only have 2 days in Luang Prabang, I'd recommend spending one day wandering the town, exploring temples and visiting the Royal Palace. Watch the sunset atop Mount Phousi then wander the large night market by the palace in the evening.

On your second day, hire a van or rent a motorbike and drive out to Kuang Si Waterfall. Depending how long you spend there, you might still have time for more temple hopping once you get back. Grab a BeerLao and watch the sunset at a restaurant overlooking the Mekong River.

sunset over river with boat and mountains

Luang Prabang Highlights

Wat Haw Pha Bang and the Royal Palace

Although a fairly new temple, Wat Haw Pha Bang is an impressive sight! You cannot go inside, but can walk up the stairs to peer in. 

Built in the early 1900s for the Lao monarch during the French colonial era, the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang was home to Laos' royalty before the fall of the monarchy in 1975.

Now it's a National Museum which contains an interesting collection of historical pieces and furnishings.

temple with blue skies and palm trees
Wat Xiengthong

One of the oldest temples in Laos, Wat Xiengthong is one you should be sure to see on your temple-hopping tour of Luang Prabang. Built in the 1500s, it was used for the coronations of Lao kings and other festivals.

Becky at a temple with gold designs and peaked roof in Laos
Mount Phousi

The tallest hill in the town of Luang Prabang, this hill offers beautiful views of the town, the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and the surrounding mountains.

I've heard it's also a beautiful spot to watch the sunset, but you should arrive early to claim your spot!

View from Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang Laos

View of Nam Kham from Mount Phousi

Kuang Si Waterfall

Several tiers of beautiful turquoise pools and mesmerizing cascades lead up to an impressive waterfall. As you hike up to the main falls, you'll pass several pools that are ideal for swimming on a hot day! 

Only a ~45-minute drive outside of Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Waterfall is incredibly popular. So it's best to get there early if you want to beat the crowds. 

Upper Kuang Si Waterfall

Where to Eat in Luang Prabang

I've eaten at a variety of good restaurants in Luang Prabang, but I'll mention a couple that I've been to several times and have enjoyed.

Luang Prabang Restaurant Highlights

Tamarind Restaurant & Cooking School

Tamarind serves a variety of delicious Lao dishes at their (very) popular restaurant along the Nam Khan River. I recommend trying one of the set menus, or at least a taster plate, so that you can try a variety of unique dishes.  

tasting plates of Lao food dishes at Tamarind Luang Prabang

Tamarind also offers cooking classes and local market tours which would be a fun way to learn more about Lao cuisine. 

Pro Tips:  If you'd like to visit Tamarind for dinner, be sure to make a reservation! They fill up quickly and are often fully booked at night. If you forget to make a reservation - try visiting at lunchtime when it's less crowded. 

Bamboo Tree Restaurant

Located right next to Tamarind, Bamboo Tree Restaurant has a similar feel and concept as Tamarind. Bamboo Tree serves a nice variety of tasty Lao & fusion dishes. They also offer "Lao discovering sets" (set menus) which give you the chance to try several different dishes for your meal. 

Bamboo Tree dishes with bamboo leaf dish and minced meat dish
sausage platter with sticky rice basket and dipping sauces

Bamboo Tree also offers half-day Lao cooking classes on certain mornings which you must book at least 24 hours in advance.

Coffee Shop Highlights

Saffron Coffee

Partnering with local Lao villages to grow coffee as an alternative cash crop since 2006, Saffron Coffee not only serves delicious coffee but supports local Lao farmers. 

iced coffee with town background

Check out How to Have a Relaxing Holiday in Luang Prabang for more trip ideas!

Accommodations in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang has a wide variety of hostels, guest houses, mid-range hotels, and luxury hotels so you'll be sure to find something in your budget no matter what. Use the map below to start your search! Filter by your individual preferences and input your travel dates to see what places are available and what their nightly rates are. 

This map shows both hotels and VRBO (vacation rental by owner) accommodations. Click on a property in which you're interested to go to either Booking.com or VRBO to read reviews and to book your stay.

We've stayed in a couple hotels for our trips to Luang Prabang that I'd recommend.

Mekong Riverview Hotel

Since we enjoy a view when we travel, the Mekong Riverview Hotel was perfect for us, albeit a bit expensive.

Located just across the road from the Mekong River, their rooms have generous balconies overlooking the river where you can relax and have a beer in the evening.

balcony with two chairs and ceiling fan with doors with wooden shutters behind them
large room with king size bed with white sheets and colorful pillows, chair, lamps, sofa, desk and two windows

Although it does not have certain amenities, like a pool, the Mekong Riverview felt very luxurious and the staff is wonderful. One of the highlights for me was the delicious breakfast at the hotel's restaurant overlooking the Nam Khan River. 

Another nice perk is on certain weekdays, they have a free wine happy hour where you can meet and mingle with other guests, plus meet the hotel's owner.

Hotel Villa Deux Rivieres

Nestled back at the end of the old town peninsula, Hotel Villa Deux Rivieres is a charming mid-range hotel with spacious rooms. Although it is on the Nam Khan river, most of the rooms do not have river views. 

room with king bed with white sheets, green wall with decorative artwork and ceiling fan
bathroom with shower and sink with mirror

We only stayed for one night in between our river cruise and leaving for Nong Khiaw. The hotel staff was great and helped us to arrange our bus and pick-up to go to Nong Khiaw.

Departing Luang Prabang

Now you've reached the end of this adventure itinerary in northern Thailand and Laos!

If you're going home, you'll probably fly out of Luang Prabang International Airport. It's a short ~15-minute drive to the airport from old town Luang Prabang. 

If you're continuing your Laos adventure, you may take a bus or shared van to your next destination. As with going to Nong Khiaw, it's easy to arrange your bus tickets through a tour company in downtown Luang Prabang. 

Final Thoughts

As you plan your trip to northern Thailand and Laos, I hope this 2-week adventure itinerary gave you some ideas! There's plenty of wiggle room in the itinerary so that you could spend shorter/longer in some locations depending on your travel preferences. 

If you follow this itinerary, I'd love to hear how you liked it in the comments below! Or, if you've already been to northern Thailand/Laos already, do you have any suggestions for places you think would be a good addition to the itinerary? Tell me in the comments!

Happy travels!


Like this article? Pin it!

pinterest image for beckyexploring.com Northern Thailand & Laos 2-Week Adventure Itinerary with one photo of girl in cave and one photo of green tea fields
pinterest image for beckyexploring.com 2-Week Adventure Itinerary Northern Thailand & Laos with horizontal photo of rocky peaks at top and photo of yellow rice fields and karst at bottom
pinterest image for beckyexploring.com 2-Week Adventure Itinerary in Northern Thailand & Laos with 2 vertical photos at top one with girl in cave and one of view of town on river and bottom horizontal photo with boat on river with mountains
  • If we were able to travel, I’d be booking flights to Thailand now! Instead, I will make to with saving your pin and using your guide for future travel. Wat Rong Khun has been on my wish list for ages as has the Mekong River. Thank you for sharing this detailed article.

  • Wow…this is a very comprehensive itinerary…would love to do all of it! I do hope to get to Thailand one day. Two of my sisters-in-law are originally from there and love the food and the culture.

    • Thanks so much! I highly recommend the trip and Thailand in general! I’m sure your sisters-in-law could show you an amazing time and/or would have excellent recommendations. There’s so much to do, see, and eat in Thailand that it’s always hard to decide what to put on the itinerary!

  • This is definitely adventurous! I’ve never been to Asia so the photos of the temples and the food are so interesting. Looks like you guys had an awesome time and this is a great guide with lots of useful tips!

    • Thanks for reading, Anna! Glad you enjoyed the photos! It was a great trip and I’m even more thankful for it now that everything is shut down for the foreseeable future. Hopefully you’ll be able to make a trip over to Asia once things get back to normal.

  • Wow that is a serious guide. Great work gone into this one Becky, well done. All the travel options would really help an idiot like me who gets freaked usually when he has to catch a bus. Still haven’t made it to Asia and now unfortunately a trip seems even further away. Someday…

    • Thanks so much, John! It’s true the transportation options can be overwhelming. Though luckily, transportation is fairly cheap in Thailand/Laos, so even if you miss the bus, you don’t have to worry about losing a lot of money! πŸ˜‰

      I know what you mean about postponing trips. I was hoping for a Europe trip this year, but that doesn’t seem like it will happen either.

  • We travelled around Northern Thailand and Laos last year, and it is funny how we almost didn’t do the same things as you guys, except for Luang Prabang, which we fell in love with as well!
    There is so much to see and do there, which makes it difficult to choose!

    • That’s so funny! Which places did you and Nick visit in addition to Luang Prabang?

      It’s certainly difficult to fit everything into the itinerary. I had a lot of trouble deciding where we should go on this trip. It’s one reason that I keep going back to Thailand and Laos over and over again!

  • Wow! Your hiking pictures and the waterfall are stunning! Looks like it was an amazing trip off the beaten path. And thank you for the addition of transportation and costs. I’d like to do some of the activities close to Luang Prabang. I hadn’t heard of it before I read your post!

    • Thanks, Tiffany! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and want to visit Luang Prabang. It’s a great city to start with in Laos since it’s one of the most-visited tourist spots. It’s easy to arrange and organize trips to the surrounding areas.

  • What an excellent and comprehensive adventure itinerary! I’ve never been to northern Thailand just the islands but would love to go back and to Laos. I want to do and see everything here especially visiting temples, hiking, river cruise and of course the food!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN...

    A Fun-Filled 3-Day Itinerary in Sai Kung, Hong Kong
    Exploring the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery and Sha Tin
    28 Memorable Activities in Asia for Your Bucket List
    3 Days Exploring George Town, Penang – A Complete Itinerary

    LOOKING FOR MORE INSPIRATION?

    >