The Secret Heart of Asia

Laos  – The Secret Heart of Asia Tour – a 16 day Small Group Tour.

Political isolation has in part protected Laos from rapacious capitalism leading to an enduring authenticity lost elsewhere in southeast Asia. The UNESCO site of Luang Prabang is an example, highlighted for its well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage.

Still a bastion of Communism, since the dissolution of the USSR Laos has to some degree liberalised, though a sunny Lao disposition can’t hide an underlying freedom deficit. The country also still lives with the effects of the ‘Vietnam War’, despite efforts at clearance an estimated 80 million unexploded mines and bombs remain from the US ‘secret war’. This tour supports work to assist Lao people, often poor farmers, who bear the brunt of this legacy.

Elsewhere, visits include projects working with small scale coffee producers to maximise returns and promote sustainable techniques. There’s no mistaking that Laos is an emerging destination. Lao people are among the most welcoming and friendliest you’ll meet, characterised kindly by those in neighbouring states ‘water buffalo’.

Visit yourself and judge whether that’s a comparison…

We start this cultural odyssey in Vientiane, Laos’ delightfully friendly capital, studded with crumbling French mansions, bougainvillea-blooming streets and steaming noodle stalls. Next up is the little visited North of Laos to experience the ethnic diversity of the many hill tribes in the region of Luang Namtha and observe local customs and traditions.

A two day journey down the mighty Mekong River then awaits culminating in an arrival in Luang Prabang, which captivates even the most jaded travellers with its brew of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multi-ethnic inhabitants. Next we head south to the spectacular lush jungle of the Bolaven Plateau and immerse ourselves in authentic coffee culture and visit some of the most alluring scenery in Asia, the landscape scattered with volcanoes and sparkling waterfalls.

The conclusion of this off the beaten track adventure in Laos takes us to the enchanting 4000 islands, an area where time stands still, and revel in the joy of leisurely exploring villages by bicycle or tuk tuk and even try your hand at fishing.

Join us to experience the hidden charms of Laos.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour Pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


Arrive in Vientiane and transfer to the hotel where the rest of the day will be at leisure. Overnight Khamvongsa Hotel or similar. No meals.

After breakfast, visit some of Vientiane‘s important sights including Wat Sisaket, Wat Ho Pha Kheo,  Patouxai, the Lao Victory Monument, and Wat That Luang – the most sacred structure in all of Laos. If time allows we’ll call in at Wat Si Muang to observe local people at their devotions. Later, we visit the COPE Visitor Centre, a non-profit organisation providing prosthetic limbs and other support, for a moving insight into the Secret War which left Laos the most heavily bombed country in history. The afternoon is all about food. We stroll through the market tasting Lao coffee and other local specialities along the way and seeing how traditional Kao Piak (noodle soup) and papaya salad are made. Finally, we take a drive alongside the Mekong river and enjoy a cold Beer-Lao as the sun sets.  Overnight Khamvongsa Hotel or similar. (BL)

After a leisurely start, we head to the airport for short domestic flight to Luang Namtha, the most ethnically diverse region in Laos. On arrival, the day focuses on the region’s cultural diversity, visiting tribal villages of the Akha, Hmong, Khmu and Lanten people, observing their customs and practices. After sunset we experience the fascinating sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the night market. Overnight Boathouse Landing or similar. (B)

This morning we drive to the jungle, and a village inhabited by people of the Lanten tribe. A community guide leads the way on an easy jungle walk of around two hours, pointing out colourful forest birds and sharing his knowledge of edible plants, traditional medicines, animal tracking and other forest wisdom along the way. A Lao style picnic lunch will be served at Nam Dee Waterfall before visiting a traditional Lanten home in Nam Dee village. Overnight Boathouse Landing or similar. (BL)

This morning we visit a local village known for weaving and other handicrafts. Observe the techniques involved in this ancient Lao skill then try your own hand at it!  After lunch in town we drive to Huay Xai on the banks of the Mekong River, stopping en route in the diverse ecosystem of Nam Ha National Park. Upon arrival in Huay Xai the rest of the day free to relax.  Overnight  Phonevichit Guesthouse or similar. (BL)

After breakfast we head to the local pier and board our boat for a cruise on the Mekong river to Pakbeng. After around an hour we tie up at a riverside village and take the opportunity to observe rural riverside life.  A Lao buffet lunch is served during a leisurely afternoon cruise enjoying the magnificent scenery and nature of the Mekong. Close to sunset we disembark at a lodge near Pakbeng, later enjoying a Lao dinner on the open-air terrace overlooking the Mekong.  Overnight Luang Say Lodge or similar. (BLD)

After breakfast on the lodge terrace, enjoying the panorama of surrounding misty mountains, we again join our boat on the Mekong. Calling in at the hill tribe village of Baw, we observe the intriguing process of Lao whiskey distillation, possibly tasting a small glass. After lunch on board, the first port of call in the afternoon lies near the mouth of the Nam Ou River at Pak Ou village.  Here we visit Tam Thing cave, translated as Rock Cave, a pilgrimage site famous for over 2,500 Buddha statues. Finally, we arrive in surely one of the most atmospheric towns in all of Asia, Luang Prabang. Dinner this evening is at the renowned Mande De Laos restaurant. Overnight Maison Dalabua or similar. (BLD)

Today we travel the short distance to the impressive falls of Kuang Si. There’s time to relax around the cascades and pools and take a refreshing dip. After a picnic lunch we visit the nearby sun bear refuge to learn about the impact of poaching, and conservation efforts in support of these endangered mammals. Returning to town, we stop at the Buffalo Dairy Farm, known for its sustainable approach to farming.  Overnight Maison Dalabua or similar. (BL)

Today is an immersion in the wonderful world of Lao food. We start by visiting a local fresh food market where guides explain the produce on show. Then we again take to the water, crossing the Mekong to visit the home of our guide. After being greeted by villagers, we experience a cooking lesson in the family home. After lunch we cruise back down river to Luang Prabang. Later in the afternoon there’s an opportunity to experience a private Baci ceremony at the small village of Ban Mano. Villagers, led by their Nai Ban (chief), offer tidings of good luck and good fortune for your life and travels by gently tying cotton cords around your wrists. Afterwards we continue to a hidden temple rarely visited by foreign travellers and meet the monks who offer to teach the fundamentals of meditation. Overnight Maison Dalabua or similar. (BL)

For early risers, witness the sacred ritual of monks on their alms rounds, known locally as Sai Bath. Long lines of barefoot monks go through the streets to receive their morning rice from the local villagers. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your direct flight to Pakse. On arrival, visit travel to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wat Phou by car (approx. 1 hour drive). Continue to Champasak Town, cross the Mekong by private boat to Don Deang Island where your hotel is located and catch the sunset over the mystical mountains surrounding Wat Phou from your terrace. Overnight at La Folie Lodge, or similar (BL)

An early start today, leaving at 8:00am we drive to the Bolaven Plateau. On arrival in Paksong we have coffee at Jhai Coffee House, billed as ‘the world’s first completely philanthropic coffee roaster and café’ run by a cooperative of local village coffee farmers. We continue by jeep along the backroads of the Bolaven, marvelling at the highland’s spectacular volcanic scenery. After a short (and bumpy) ride we arrive at Mystic Mountain Coffee and meet Mr. Khamsone (just Kham is fine…). Kham has been running his coffee plantation for 17 years and leads a masterclass on Bolaven coffee. We take a tour of the plantation followed by a coffee roasting demonstration. Later we visit the secluded Tad Moun waterfall for a dip in the crystal-clear water and a Lao picnic lunch close to the falls. Overnight Falls View Resort or similar. (BL)

This morning there’s an easy trek to Dan Xinxay, one of the plateau’s many inactive volcanoes. We stop for a picnic lunch and a swim at Tad Champee waterfall, afterwards continuing to the impressive Tad Fan waterfall which plummets more than 100 metres into a jungle gorge. The last waterfall of the day is the less well-known Tad Yueng where twin cascades plunge into an inviting pool. Overnight Falls View Resort or similar. (B)

Please note: Those not wishing to join the morning trek may visit the Tad Fan and Tad Yueng falls in the afternoon

After breakfast we travel to the mystical 4,000 Islands a unique river archipelago where the Mekong river spreads out over 14km. A short boat ride through the islands gives some sense of the tranquillity that makes archipelago so special. Upon arrival at Don Khone Island the rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Overnight Senghaloune Resort or similar. (BL)

This morning there’s a choice of some gentle cycling through rice paddies and fishing villages, or an exploration of the island by tuk-tuk. In the afternoon we join local fishermen to experience the 4,000 Islands from their perspective. Boarding a fishing boat, we head out to the fishing grounds and try our hand at the skilled practice of net casting. At dusk we continue to a suitably secluded and idyllic spot to enjoy a barbecue while listening to the guide recount local myths and stories. Overnight at Senghaloune Resort or similar. (BD)

After breakfast we cruise through the 4,000 Islands to Nakasong Pier and onwards to Pakse. Near the border with Cambodia we visit Kon Phapheng Waterfall, the largest by volume in Asia, encompassing the entire flow of the Mekong in an amazing spectacle. Finally, we drive to Pakse. Overnight Residence Sisouk or similar (B)

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight (B)

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

Return flights from London to Vientiane and returning from Pakse start at £680. Contact us for a quotation

Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.

Extra night accommodation pre tour in Vientiane costs from £21 per person, per night sharing a twin/double and £45 per person in a solo occupancy room.

Please note that the prices quoted above are for the category of accommodation and hotel used for this particular tour. Depending on the hotel eventually confirmed there may be some difference in the rate advertised by the hotel, and the prices available through Undiscovered Destinations. It should be noted we will not apply a surcharge should more expensive accommodation be used. At the same time in the event that a lower rate is available for the confirmed hotel we are unable to offer a refund.

Mapped itinerary.

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Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

Laos Tour – The Secret Heart of Asia Tour Map

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • All accommodation
  • Services of English speaking guide / tour leader (please note local ‘station guides’ will be used for each location when the group size is less than 3 travellers. The same guide/tour leader will be used throughout when the group is 3 or more travellers)
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Transport, including travel by minivan, river and domestic flight
  • Internal flights
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights (except from Luang Prabang to Siem Reap)
  • Any airport taxes (included for flights within the itinerary)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas
  • Drinks
  • Items of a personal nature

We toured around Laos from Luang Prabang through the countryside including climbing waterfalls night time river safaris, local villages and jungle tours. Local markets which you just have to see to believe. You have to arrange to go and see this interesting country which is sandwiched between the two tourist giants of Thailand and Vietnam and is so very different from both of them.

Undiscovered Destinations did it again. I have no idea how they manage to understand exactly what I want from a trip and match the itinerary so well. They always seem to provide something special and all credit to them for knowing the locations so well and matching these to my requirements. Also the price is competitive and you are assured of value for the money you spend.


S. Nolan, UK