From its endless rolling rice fields to the jagged mountains and the winding Mekong River that snakes its way through the countryside, Northern Laos is truly stunning. This Northern Laos itinerary is designed to reveal some of the lesser-known gems and to help you plan your trip to the most beautiful region in all of Southeast Asia.
The majority of this itinerary will focus on the hubs of Northern Laos; the cities of Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. These two cities are where you can find accommodation and amenities while exploring the breathtaking scenery. As photographers, this country has truly earned a special place in our hearts. Take as many days, or even weeks, for your Laos holiday as your schedule will allow if you truly want to experience everything it has to offer.
This northern Laos itinerary is designed to take one week. However, if you have time, it’s also worth extending your Laos trip to continue south. You’ll find of plenty of things to do in Vientiane, the Laos capital, as well as even further south to Pakse and Don Det (1000 Islands). Before we jump into the itinerary, we’ve put together a few quick and need-to-know tips to read before your arrival. Laos is a very safe country to travel to overall, with crime rates lower than most Western cities. Petty theft is a lot less common than in other Southeast Asian countries as well, but is still a possibility.
The destinations covered in this itinerary are all well-travelled and safe by most standards. However, as in every country, bad things can happen and it is always important to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings while travelling. Road travel is also considered safe, with well-maintained roads and minimal traffic. It is worth noting, though, that an increase in tourists renting motorcycles has created a correlated increase in traffic accidents.
While the vast majority of Laos is very safe, there are a couple of places that require caution. None of those mentioned below are included in this itinerary, but I wanted to include them for those of you who may be looking to hit the open road.
After decades of civil unrest and political insurgences, Routes 7 and 13 are finally regarded as safe. Still, it is worth checking travel advisories or asking around in Luang Prabang or Vientiane for the current situation to ensure it’s still safe prior to travelling these routes. You likely will not travel in the Xaisomboun Province unless you make the active choice to do so. If you do, be aware that it is advised against visiting this region due to civil unrest. Some areas of this region also require a permit to travel to.
Additionally, crime rates are a lot higher in the remote areas along the border with Myanmar, so take extra care if you decide to travel here. On the topic of safety, it is worth discussing the Nam Song river in Vang Vieng and its deadly past. Many tourists have been killed participating in tubing and other water activities. Many of these deaths were either directly or indirectly related to drugs and alcohol. Nowadays, the focus in Vang Vieng has shifted to its intoxicating beauty and it is a lot calmer than it used to be. Most of the rope swings and ziplines that once lined the river banks have now been removed and tubing is a much more relaxing experience. While there are still some bars along the river, just remember that water activities and alcohol are never really a good idea.