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Northern Thailand and Laos Adventure - 15 days/14 nights

Chiang Mai - Chiang Dao - Chiang Khong - Huay Xai - Muang La - Nong Khiaw - Luang Prabang

Enjoy this ultimate outdoor adventure in Northern Thailand and Northern Laos with a range of activities that will give you a deep understanding of various hill tribes and meaningful cultural experiences. Trek for 3 days in Chiang Dao and spend the night at rustic home stays as you interact with friendly villagers. Explore the famous Golden Triangle to learn about its role with the drug trade that flourished in this region years back. 

Crossing the border over to Northern Laos, venture deeper into remote valleys that see even lesser visitors as you explore exotic and colorful hill tribes. Embark on some interesting day treks and beautiful boat rides along the Mekong before finishing in the old royal capital of Luang Prabang.

Privately-Guided! Whether you are a single person, a couple, or a group, you'll have your own guide and driver for all airport transfers and daily excursions.  

Choose Your Own Dates! This is not a fixed-departure-date tour. Just let us know the dates that work best for you.
 
Customizable! Need more time? Less time? Want to see or do something that isn't included? Just let us know, and we will arrange it for you.
 
Click here to read what our clients have told us after they return.

Trip Highlights

  • 3-day Trekking trip in Northern Thailand
  • Golden Triangle and the famous Opium Museum
  • Boat Cruise on the Mekong
  • Day hikes to remote hill tribe villages in Northern Laos
  • UNESCO World Heritage City, Luang Prabang

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Chiang Mai
Upon arrival you will be welcomed and transferred to your hotel. If time permits, you will visit some iconic temples around the city. At night, you can explore the night market on your own.
Overnight in Chiang Mai.

Day 2: Begin your 3-day hike

Leave your luggage at the hotel and take along change of clothes for 3 days. Meet your trekking guide in the morning and head first to Mae Ma Lai market to buy food for the coming days.
 
Your journey in the mountains will begin at a riverside camp on the Tang River where you will make an experience a short white water raft trip through gentle rapids. You will switch over to a traditional bamboo raft for another short ride before continuing by car to Chiang Dao where you will start trekking from an Akha village Ban Huay Hok.
 
The first hour of your hike through the jungles will bring you to the Palong village of Pang Deng Nai. You will learn here about the agricultural project supported by the Royal Family. After lunch, you will start trekking to Pang How, another Palong village where you will stay overnight in a very simple village house with mattresses on the floor. There are only a handful of Palong villages in Northern Thailand, the women wear a distinctive costume mostly in red, with rattan hoops and a silver belt worn around the waist.
 
This evening, you will assist your guide with dinner preparation and learn about some traditional cooking techniques. After dinner, visit one of the local houses to hear about the daily life of the Palong people and about the history of their village.
Overnight at a homestay at Baan Mae Chon Village. (All Meals)

Day 3: Hiking Trip
After breakfast, explore around the local village and more about the village shrine, the ‘huja rawl’ and the ‘village heart’. Then gather up your belongings and start trekking for about two hours to a waterfall where you will have time for a refreshing dip. Enjoy a delicious picnic lunch at the waterfall.

After lunch, continue your trek through the forest for about 3-4 hours to another village. Along the trek, learn to identify various flora like wild ginger, rattan, pitcher plant and bamboo. Walking out of the forest, you’ll arrive at rice fields at Huay Bong, another Palong village where you will spend the night at a local village house, also sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Your guide will prepare your evening meal and you assist him if you like. At the campfire after dinner, it’s time to share some more stories with your guide about the hill tribe culture of Thailand.
Overnight will be a homestay at Baan Huay Bong Village. (All Meals)

Day 4: Back to Chiang Mai
After breakfast, visit a neighboring Lahu village, just 10min walk away, here you will visit an interesting spirit temple and a black smith. Then continue trekking about 1.5 hours to a Karen village at Thakilek. You’ll meet up with your driver from here and drive to the foot of Doi Chiang Dao, the 3rd highest mountain in Thailand.  Here you will have lunch at a local restaurant before exploring the caves of Chiang Dao. After, transfer to your hotel in Chiang Mai for a well-deserved hot shower.
Overnight in Chiang Mai. (Breakfast, Lunch)

Day 5: Golden Triangle and Chiang Khong
This morning, drive about 3 hours to the Golden Triangle where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet. Visit the ancient ruins of Chiang Saen, an early Lanna kingdom city, to visit the Wat Chedi Luang and Chom Kitti temples. Tour the Opium Museum to know a little more about the opium trade which once made the Golden Triangle infamous.

Afternoon, continue driving about an hour to the quaint border town of Chiang Khong, your final stop in Thailand before heading to Laos.
Overnight in Chiang Khong. (Breakfast)

Day 6: Huay Xay to Pakbeng by day cruise
This morning, your guide will assist you to proceed to Chiang Khong immigration checkpoint. Following Thai immigration procedures, you will go across the Mekong River to Huay Xay in Laos where you will first complete Lao immigration procedures. Then meet your guide from Shompoo Cruise from 8:30am in front of the Lao immigration office, transfer to Huay Xay boat pier by tuk tuk. Embark then on board the Shompoo Boat for the Mekong downstream day cruise. On the way, visit a hill tribe village along the Mekong River. Lunch will be served on board as you enjoy the relaxing and scenic cruise down the Mekong. Arrive in Pakbeng before sunset and you will check-in at your lodge for the night.
Overnight at Pakbeng Lodge. (Lunch)

Day 7: Drive from Pakbeng to Muang La
After breakfast, meet your driver and start your adventure to the heart of Northern Laos. Driving time is about 4hrs (including comfort breaks) to Muang La along scenic roads. Arriving at the province of Oudom Xai (Muang Xai on some maps), this region is rich in mountain scenery and many ethnic minorities live here. Upon arrival at Muang La Resort, you will check in and have lunch.

In the afternoon meet your local guide and discover the rural life of the village of Pak La which sits around the Resort, strolling through the area and admiring the panoramic views over the Nam Pak River, beautiful rice terraces and the salt mines. You find out how the Khmu people live in harmony with their environment. In total a 2-3 hours walk depending on the pace you choose. The site at Muang La is dominated by the temple of Pha Chiao Sing Kham which houses a sacred Buddha. According to those responsible for its “protection”, the statue simply “appeared” hundreds of years ago and so the temple is now a sacred place of pilgrimage.
Overnight at Muang La Resort. (All Meals)

Day 8: Muang La
This morning, depart by 4WD for Pak Khai. This pleasant 15 min drive takes you through some magnificent views over the Nam Pak River, terraced rice fields and many small villages. On your arrival, you trek starts on small winding tracks which snake their way through the forest. You have the opportunity to meet the local farmers working in the rice fields and learn how they cultivate their land, fish and hunt for small game. You continue into the forest and after 1½ hours, you reach the village of Ban Phavie, a beautiful Khmu village sitting on top of a hill. Your trek continues after lunch to cooling waterfalls where you can relax in the clear water cascade, lulled by the gentle breeze (weather permitting). Overnight at Muang La Resort. (All Meals)

Day 9: Muang La
You set off after breakfast, around 8:30am. A 4WD takes you along a beautiful road besides the Nam Pak River to visit two villages of the Ikhos people. The Ikhos are one of the most reclusive communities in Laos originating from Yunnan Province in China and also from Tibet. In their mountain villages, you will see their houses made of wood and bamboo, you will learn about their way of life and their belief in the spirit world, which impacts their everyday life. Also, you will discover the fascinating way that they dye their clothes using dyes made from the plants of the jungle. A half-day tour that transports you back in time – without doubt, an unforgettable experience. Lunch and free afternoon at the Resort.
Overnight at Muang La Resort. (All Meals)

Day 10: Drive and Cruise to Nong Khiaw
Today you will travel to the charming riverside town of Nong Khiaw by an overland drive and a scenic cruise on the river. Departing from Muang La, first follow the main road towards Phongsaly crossing rolling hills, the road leads eventually to Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. You will follow the Nam Pak River, where some of the local people ‘pan for gold”. Nowadays, it is mostly women who ‘pan’ and their colorful fabrics light up the riverbanks.

About 1 ½ hours later, arrive at Muang Khua for the start of your spectacular river cruise. The river journey from Muang Khua to Nong Khiaw is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the region! After cruising for about 2 ½ hours, disembark and board a minivan for a short 15min ride to pass the newly constructed Nam Ou Dam. Then board another boat for the downstream cruise to Nong Khiaw for about 2 hours. This particular stretch offers stunning scenery with limestone formations rising majestically from the water, and remote villages, including Ban Sob Jaem a Khmu and Hmong village that can only be accessed by boat. 

Arrive Nong Khiaw late afternoon, check-in at your riverside lodge and rest of the day is free at leisure. You can hire bicycles from your hotel to explore picturesque local limestone caves nearby (your guide will be happy to assist). Overnight in Nong Khiaw. (Breakfast, Lunch)

Day 11: Nong Khiaw
Start this day of adventure with a peaceful boat ride on the Nam Ou River where you will be able to explore a small Lao village along the riverside. Learn about the villagers and their way of life along this northern Lao river before beginning the '100 Waterfalls Adventure Trail'! Walking through small streams and rice paddies, you will arrive at the bottom of the 100 Waterfalls in North Laos, which were only recently discovered! For the next few hours you will see only water and jungle and hear the constant sound of clear waterfall cascades. The pools around you are very inviting for a refreshing splash. Your guide will lead you through the cascades and prepare a local style lunch that you can enjoy on the falls surrounded by amazingly green nature.
 
A small village trail on the top of the 100 Waterfalls will lead us on our hike back down into the valley, offering wide views over the expansive Nam Ou valley. Once back in the village we will have some more time to experience the daily life of the Nam Ou riverside village before heading back to Nong Khiaw by boat. Overnight in Nong Khiaw. (Breakfast, Lunch)

Day 12: Drive and Cruise to Luang Prabang
This morning you will drive about 3 hours to Luang Prabang. On the way, stop to visit the mysterious caves of Pak Ou, two caves set in a limestone cliff facing the Mekong River crammed with thousands Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes. Continue on to Luang Prabang by boat and check in at your hotel. Rest of the afternoon is free to explore on your own, you hotel will be located in the Old Town where you can easily stroll to night markets, local restaurants and shops. Overnight in Luang Prabang. (Breakfast)

Day 13: Luang Prabang
You can discuss with your guide an optional early morning start (5.30am) to witness and partake in the daily morning ritual of ‘Tak Bat’ or giving alms to the monks.

After breakfast, you will cycle to Ban Hat Hien, a traditional black smith village and Ban Don Kao, a Lao Loum village. The dirt road follows the Mekong River before reaching Ban Xangkhong, a weaving village. Later, visit Wat Xienglek, an old stupa, and cross the bridge over the Nam Khan River.  Climb up to Wat Phonphao, atop a hill offering beautiful views over Luang Prabang and the surrounding countryside. Then cycle back to town for lunch.

Afternoon, visit the magnificent Wat Xiengthong, whose dramatic sweeping roofs represent the classical Luang Prabang style. Stop by the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Center to learn more about the different ethnic minorities in Laos. End the day with a climb up the magical Mount Phousi, with its spectacular panoramic view of Luang Prabang and the mighty Mekong River. In the evening, you will partake in a special “Baci Ceremony”. This is a special ceremony in Laos which has been practiced for hundreds of years. The term commonly used is “sou khuan” which means “spirit enhancing or spirit calling”. The ceremony involves the tying of white cotton strings around person’s wrists and the prayer saying or well-wishing for the person that the ceremony is intended for. Overnight in Luang Prabang. (Breakfast)

Day 14: Free day
Enjoy a free day to explore the charming old town by yourself either on foot or by bicycles. 
Overnight in Luang Prabang. (Breakfast)

Day 15: Depart Luang Prabang
Transfer to airport for your departing flight. (Breakfast)
 

Inclusions and Exclusions

Our Package Rates Include

  • Private airport transfers
  • Daily accommodation with breakfast
  • Private vehicle transportation for all excursions per itinerary
  • Meals as listed in above itinerary
  • Services of a local, English-speaking guide for all visits and excursions
  • All tours and activities mentioned in the itinerary, including entrance fees

Rates Do Not Include

  • International airfare
  • Laos visa fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Tips for drivers and guides
  • Expenses of a personal nature
     

To Book This Tour

Please call us toll free at 1-877-362-2793 and let us know that you are interested in this tour. To prepare a proposal, we'll ask questions about how many people are traveling, your preferred travel dates, standard and types of accommodation, and any special interests that we may be able to accommodate.

Once we have finalized a customized price quote for you, your agent will inform you a per-person non-refundable deposit to initiate reservations (typically 20% of tour cost). Final payment is due 75 days prior to departure.

If your reservation is made less than 75 days prior to departure, the non-refundable deposit will allow us to initiate reservations. Full payment will be due immediately upon confirmation of all hotels and transportation services. If the services quoted cannot be confirmed, alternate accommodation or transportation will be arranged and the price will be adjusted accordingly.

Payments can be made by personal check, bank wire transfer, or credit card. Upon receipt of your deposit, we will initiate your reservations and send you a statement showing your payment. Approximately 2 weeks prior to your departure, we will send you a final confirmation containing your itinerary and detailed information on the logistics of your trip.
 
Please review our complete terms and conditions:
Booking Terms and Conditions

Cancellation/Refund Policies

- Cancel more than 60 days prior to departure - forfeit your deposit.
- Cancel between 30 and 60 days prior to departure - forfeit 50% of the tour cost.
- Cancel less than 30 days prior to departure - NO REFUND of tour cost.
- Cancellations must be made in writing and sent via mail, fax, or email to Red Lantern Journeys.
- Refunds will be processed within 30 days of receipt of your written request.
- No refunds are available for unused services or tours during your trip.
 


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