Laos Bike Tour: Adventure in the Land of Millions of Elephants (Travelogue, Route & Tips)

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Laos is a dream for cyclists! The country is great to travel by bike: There is little traffic on the roads and the people are very friendly. Especially the Karstberg panorama in the north makes every nature lover marvel but also the calf muscles are properly challenged in the mountain landscape.

You will find in this article all the information to prepare and plan your own Laos round trip. Many of the tips are also suitable for Laos backpackers, because you will learn a lot about the most interesting sights in the cities.

Laos Bike Tour Vang Vieng Bombtrack Beyond Bridge
Laos Roundtrip with Bombtrack Beyond: The Nam Ou River in the Outdoor Paradise Vang Vieng

In this article you will learn

Infos and helpful tips for a bike trip through Laos
✅ A recommended Laos round trip itinerary including a side trip to Thailand.
✅ The TOP Laos Sights in one concise blog post.
Everything about the equipment incl. Packing list e.g. which bike did I use?
✅ The travelogue from my Laos & Thailand cycling trip in December 2019.

Even more extras: More helpful travelogues & links.

Laos landscape travelogue Muang Ngoy bike trip
Most beautiful Laos landscape: Unique karst mountains in the Muang Ngoy region bike tour

Laos Travelogue – Cycling Trip YouTube Video

In December 2019, I took a four-week cycling trip through Laos and Thailand. For this I relied on my gravel bike Bombtrack Beyond 1. The bike was the ideal choice for the route – more about that in this report 🙂

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Muang Ngoy Village Laos Travelogue
Tourists are rare in the rural areas. Especially with children you are an attraction. Here in a village near Muang Ngoy…

My journey took me through culturally exciting cities like Luang Prabang, the outdoor paradise Vang Vieng and the sleepy capital Vientiane. Off the beaten track I explored many small villages and also a boat trip upstream on the mighty Mekong was part of the trip.

To get an impression of the Laos cycling trip, take a look at my video trip report on YouTube:

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General information

Little traffic makes Laos a paradise for cyclists. Outside the cities, even main roads are not very busy. In the north between the capital Vientiane and the former French colonial city of Luang Prabang, traffic is a bit heavier – due to trucks and tourist buses. There you can alternatively take side roads. Some of the mountain stages in the north are a bit steeper but doable for fit cyclists.

Laos landscape Vang Vieng karst mountains
Unique Laos landscape: Here a karst mountain landscape between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang

The further north you go, the more spectacular the scenery becomes and the less busy the roads. North of Luang Prabang there are also far fewer tourists than on the more popular route between Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

Travel route (map) and map

On the proposed route are all the highlights in northern Laos. It’s also the route from my Laos cycling trip in December 2019. You can experience the following highlights on the route:

Vientiane: the laid-back capital of Laos is the starting point of the Laos trip. There are many interesting sights and glittering temples to discover. Also, the night market is worth a visit. Other highlights are for example the COPE Visitor Centre, which deals with the consequences of the bombs dropped by the USA during the Vietnam War.

Laos Vientiane Sights Wat Si Saket Bombtrack Beyond
The Laos round trip starts. Here in front of one of the biggest Buddhist shrines, Wat Si Saket (with the Bombtrack Beyond Gravel Bike)

Vang Vieng: the small town is considered the outdoor paradise of Laos and is therefore one of the most popular destinations in the country. With your own bike or a rental bike you can easily reach the many caves, blue lagoons, dense forests and impressive Kras mountains and then explore them.

Vang Vieng Nam Ou River
The Nam Ou River in the outdoor paradise Vang Vieng

Luang Prabang: Luang Prabang is where the legacy of the French colonial period is most evident. The city is still very much characterized by the French architectural style, as well as French-inspired food. Very good for the hungry bike tourist so 😉 The city is the most popular destination in Laos. Magnificent temples and Buddhist tradition can also be admired in the UNESCO World Heritage City. Also easily accessible by bike is one of the most beautiful waterfalls: The Tat Kuang Si Waterfall. A clear travel recommendation.

Luang Prabang City Colonialism 2
Luang Prabang is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Asia and is strongly influenced by French colonialism

The villages of Nong Khiaw, Muang Ngoy and Muang Khua: Either by boat on the Nam Ou River or via a bumpy track, the small village of Muang Ngoi Neua is accessible.

Laos Bike Tour Muang Khua
Cycling through Laos: Gravel Tour off the beaten track on the road near Muang Khua

Green mountain slopes and the steep rock formations invite you to go hiking. There are very challenging hiking options here as well as easy hikes. In addition, the surrounding villages are easily accessible by bicycle via dusty tracks. There are several homestory offerings there.

Muang Ngoy Laos landscape Laos travelogue
The landscape in Laos is unique: View over the handlebars of the Bombtrack Beyond to the karst mountains in Muang Ngoy.

Mekong Cruise: A boat trip on the Mekong can be quite adventurous. The Mekong River is also known as the Mother of All Waters in Thailand and Laos, and is the eleventh longest river in the world. The proposed itinerary also includes a one-day boat trip on the Mekong River. In this case we start in Pakbeng and the trip goes all the way to the west of Laos to Huay Xai.

Laos Mekong Cruise Nam Ou River
The Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers are perfect for a cruise and boat transfer respectively

Gibbon Experience: The village of Huay Xai in the far west of Laos, you will reach by boat across the Mekong. There is the legendary Gibon Experience. For many travelers it is one of the highlights of the Laos trip: You can choose between two or three days of ziplining through the jungle and spending the night in tree houses. A nature experience of a very special kind!

Zipline Gibbon Experience Laos Experience Michael
Zipline Gibbon Experience: Ziplining through the treetops of the rainforest is a once in a lifetime experience.

Travel planning and preparation

Using a combination of guidebooks and other Laos travelogues from the internet, the route was first determined. The route leads along towns worth seeing and particularly recommended sights such as waterfalls, temples and places with spectacular hiking opportunities.

The travel guides by Stefan Lose Laos and Thailand are the best information reading. This Laos travel guide helped me a lot in creating the route. In addition, especially the cities of Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang as well as the surrounding area are very well described with the best sights. I had the Laos travel guide with me as a printed edition. For future trips, I will use the Digital Edition on my smartphone.

* Aktualisierung am 2021-09-21, Preis kann gestiegen sein, Werbung, Bild:Amazon

Online available and even free of charge are the lovingly designed Hobomaps: For the well-known tourist areas really all important information is available here. From the prices and departure times of tourist buses, to the standard prices for a massage in each city. The Hobomaps are available for Laos and also for Northern Thailand.

Navigation on site

For on-site bike navigation, I relied on a combination of the GPS bike computer Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt and my smartphone with nav app:

  • Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT*: Mainly to record the distance. Sometimes also for navigation.
  • Smartphone and Bike Navi Apps: Either MAPS.ME or komoot was used for navigation. Komoot provides a better overview of the elevation profile of a route. MAPS.ME has an extensive network of accommodation, you can enter your own POIs (Points of Interest) and you can save complete country maps offline.
  • Smartphone navigation – mobile phone holder and powerbank: Thanks to the large touchscreen, smartphone navigation is particularly convenient. With the mobile phone I could get a quick overview of surrounding cities or e.g. the altitude profile on the way. For recharging on the way I had a 20.000 MAh Powerbank also in my luggage.
Muang Ngoy Laos Nature Laos Bike Tour
For the navigation on my Laos bike trip, a combination of Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT and smartphone navigation has proven itself.

I have since replaced my bike nav with the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM*. replaced. This is the successor of the BOLT. Advantages are mainly a larger display – now also with colors. An even longer battery life and finally route recalculation. Unfortunately, scrolling the map is still not possible.

Here you can read my Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM field test (test & experiences).

Bike and equipment

Roads in Laos can be quite bumpy. You can expect some larger potholes on the tour. Therefore I recommend a gravel bike or a mountain bike for this tour. A rugged touring bike will work too.

Cycling trip Laos travelogue
Cycling through Laos: Wider tires bring comfort and safety. A gravel bike is ideal. A robust touring bike is sufficient

For a bike, I had my Bombtrack Beyond 1 with me. A gravel bike with rigid fork and 2.1 inch wide tires. The bike itself was ideal for the tour and the bike itself was also consistently puncture free. My right pedal unfortunately failed after a few days and just fell off. Since I see the error, however, the bicycle pedal which is an attachment part. I was fortunately able to buy a new bike pedal about 200 kilometers after the breakdown in Luang Prabang.

White Temple Chiang Rai Bike Trip Packing List
The Bombtrack Beyond in front of the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand

I have documented my gear on this trip in detail below. As always, the complete packing list builds on my proven bikepacking gear & packing list. This list is ideally suited for bikepacking trips up to three weeks and also served me as a basis for the Laos bike trip.

Most of the time it doesn’t really matter if you are on the road for a week or four weeks: For the most part you need the same equipment, e.g. there is hardly any difference in clothing or tools. The bike trip packing list for my Laos round trip has nevertheless a few special features:

Bombtrack Beyond Bike Trip Packing List Laos Temples
Cycling without a tent: There are enough inns and other accommodation on the route. A tent was superfluous. Here: The packed Bombtrack Beyond in front of a Buddhist temple in Laos

On the Laos and Thailand bike tour I was on the road for about 4 weeks. I also wanted a few more clothes with me for comfort reasons. Additionally I had tropical specific equipment and travel medicine with me. Most important additional equipment is the mosquito net* and a malaria stand-by medication.

Because of the sometimes poor health care in Laos, I also upgraded* my first aid kit again significantly, compared to a trip through Europe.

Laos Bike Tour Bombtrack Beyond Guesthouse
Laos round trip: A mosquito net should be in your luggage. In Laos there is partly danger of malaria

The mosquito net is rolled up for transport and is then quite large. That’s why I didn’t use a bikepacking saddlebag on the back of the bike then, as on the bikepacking gear list.

Instead, small bicycle rear panniers from Ortlieb were used: The Ortlieb Gravel Pack bicycle panniers. Also I had no camping equipment and no tent with me: Even in the remote areas the next guesthouse was never more than one or two hours away and good and cheap food can be found almost everywhere on a Laos bike trip.

With Google Maps or MAPS.ME you also have the overview in Laos, which restaurants and accommodations are on the route. I detail the most useful features of both apps for cyclists in the article the best cycling apps.

On my whole trip I never ran out of food and only once I had to drive unintentionally through the darkness for a short time.

Laos Bike Trip Packing List

In this section, I will introduce you to the cycling trip packing list for Laos in detail. Afterwards we start with the Laos travelogue 😉

Laos Bike Tour Vientiane Patuxai Bombtrack Beyond
Bike for the Laos round trip: Bombtrack Beyond. Bags: Apidura Race Series, Ortlieb Gravel Pack and Frame Pack, Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag.

Bags

Bicycle bags Ortlieb Gravel Pack*
Frame bag Ortlieb Frame-Pack 6L*
Handlebar bag Apidura Racing Handlebar Pack*
Top tube bag. Salsa EXP Series Toptube Bag (go to Salsa EXP Toptube Bag review)
Stem Bag Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag Handlebar Bag*

Clothes (On the bike)

Cycling jersey short sleeve Merino shirt Travel 500 by Forlcaz Decathlon*
Cycling jersey long sleeve Merino shirt Trek 900 long sleeve by Forclaz Decathlon*
Shorts (underwear)1 x cotton underwear*
Bike shorts 3/4 running shorts by Brooks
Arm/leg warmers Bicycle arm warmers road bike 500 by B’Twin Decathlon* and
Bicycle leg warmers road bike RR 900 by B’Twin Decathlon*
Socks2 x Mavic Ksyrium* merino wool bike socks
ShoesSaucony Guide 7 running shoes*
WindcheaterVaude Mens Windoo Jacket* bike jacket
Rain jacket Bike rain jacket road bike RR 900 Ultralight by B’Twin Decathlon*
gloves Long gloves Asics Basic* and Short Gloves Roeckl Alpha MTB Gloves*

Clothes (Off the bike)

.
Pants Trek 100 zip-off trekking pants by Forclaz Decathlon*
Shirts Merino wool T-shirt Travel 500 by Forclaz Decathlon*
Sweater Merino wool t-shirt Trek 900 long sleeve by Forclaz Decathlon*
Underwear2 x Men's boxer shorts by JACK & JONES*
Socks Hiking socks merino wool SH500 by Quechua Decathlon*
Note: I had no need for these thick socks in this warm climate
Thermo jacket Trek 500 down jacket by Forclaz Decathlon*
Other Multifunctional scarf Inov-8 Wrag*
against cold, as a respirator or for sleeping as a sleeping mask

Tools and spare parts

Repair kitREMA Tip Top bicycle repair kit*
Tyre levers from Pedros*
Air pumpKlik HV air pump by Crank Brothers*.
Multi-ToolMulti-19 Tool by Crank Brothers*
Spare parts 2x brake pads, 1x shift cable, 1x brake cable, derailleur hanger, 2x chain lock, Wolftooth Master Link Combo Pliers
Auxiliaries Cable ties and Chain oil*
CastleABUS Bordo Lite 6055/60 Mini Folding Lock*
Useful lock for bike travel. Weighs only 440 grams
Tool bag Presch tool bag empty set of 3*
For more organization in your bike bags

Electronics and other

..
Front light illuminationAura 60 USB from Sigma Sport*
Rear light illumination
Smartphone ZTE Axon 9 Pro* and HTC U Ultra* as backup
navigation Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT* – I have since replaced the BOLT with its successor, the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM*.

Both GPS bike computers I have already tested extensively:
Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM experiences
Wahoo ELEMNt BOLT experiences
video Actioncam GoPro Hero 7 Black* and 1 x Replacement battery for GoPro Hero*
Memory Sandisk Extreme 400GB microSDXC U3* for smartphone and for GoPro SanDisk Extreme 256GB microSDXC U3*
Both are class U3 cards i.e. fast enough for 4K recording
Charge Keine Produkte gefunden. and Keine Produkte gefunden. and Keine Produkte gefunden.

Wash bag and first aid

Body care Toothbrush, toothpaste & dental floss, 100ml shampoo
Hygiene Disinfectant, some toilet paper
Protection Sun protection SPF50 or SPF30
Towel Microfiber Bath Towel S by Nabaiji Decathlon*
First Aid Kit Bandages first aid kit 300 of Forclaz Decathlon*
Depending on the length of the trip rather reduced or greatly expanded

Equipment especially for Laos

Mosquito netTravel mosquito net by HAWK OUTDOORS in box shape 220 x 200 x 220*.
Medicines Malaria standby medication, Lopedium acute for acute diarrhea, acetaminophen

Camping equipment like tent and sleeping mat I did not have with me on this trip. There is plenty of accommodation on the route in different classes: Homestays, hostels, guesthouses and hotels. Also, cooking equipment such as a camp stove was unnecessary for the four weeks. There are also plenty of restaurants and street food stalls along the route.

Laos travelogue

Vientiane

The Asian adventure begins in the Laotian capital Vientiane. The city is located in the south of Laos directly on the border with Thailand. The two countries are separated here only by the mighty Mekong River and, of course, by the national border.

Arriving at the airport I immediately inspect the bicycle box: The bicycle seems to have arrived intact and I quickly assemble it in front of the airport. The drive to the pre-booked hotel is relaxed: Vientiane is a quiet capital with little traffic. The temperatures in December are pleasant and excellent for cycling.

I booked my hotel in advance. It is a modern city hotel and is located just outside the city. I am greeted by the hotel staff in a friendly manner and can also park my bike in the room – perfect!

Vientiane Sights Patuxai Arc de Triomphe
Belongs to the most famous Vientiane sights: The Arc de Triomphe aka Patuxai in the capital of Laos.

On the following city tour with the rental bike of the hotel, I first explore the Patuxai, so the Arc de Triomphe in Vientiane from below and from above. From the top you have a wonderful view over the city and the Patuxai is one of the top Vientiane sights.

Patuxai Vientiane Sightseeing View
View from the Patuxai in Vientiane
Patuxai Vientiane Sights
Patuxai in Vientiane in detail

In Viantiane, the best place to explore is the wonderfully bustling night market. The market is located directly on the banks of the Mekong. Fans of Laotian street food will get their money’s worth here.

For the city exploration in Vientiane one to two days are enough. I stay a full day in Vientiane and explore the city with a hotel rental bike.

The most famous and worthwhile sights in Vientiane are:

  • Pha That Luang
  • Patuxai
  • Wat Si Saket

Immediately I was impressed by the beauty of these Vientiane sights. If you want to visit these three sights, then one day is enough to relax.

Wat Si Saket in Vientiane: Another top sight in Vientiane, the capital of Laos

Vientiane also offers more monasteries and an interesting old town. A special atmosphere is also offered by the numerous bars and restaurants directly on the bustling Mekong embankment. Here you can relax and enjoy a sundowner cocktail. Just at sunset, half the city seems to be gathered on the banks of the Mekong: Joggers and cyclists do their laps, tourists gather and Vientiane’s nightlife awakens.

Some restaurants and bars also serve insects. Here you can enjoy fried grasshoppers, for example. A crunchy snack 😉

Laos insects eat grasshoppers Vientiane
Eating insects in Laos: fried grasshoppers are crispy 😉

Other places of interest in Vientiane include:

  • Buddha Park outside the city
  • COPE Visitor Centre
  • Sleeping Buddha Statue
Sleeping Buddha as a Vientiane sight. The statue is easily accessible from Wat Si Saket

On the following day, the Laos bike trip really started: Once again tasty country-typical breakfast, once again posed with the Bombtrack Beyond in front of the Pha That Luang to take a photo, and off went the Asia bike trip!

Vientiane Sights Wat Si Saket Bombtrack Beyond
One last look at Wat Si Saket! Then the Laos round trip with the Bombtrack Beyond starts

Way to Vang Vieng

For the stage to the outdoor paradise Vang Vieng I plan two days. Many variables are still uncertain: What is the road quality? What about shopping facilities? I roughly researched accommodations in advance. MAPS.ME shows some inns on the planned route – that should be enough.

Around 10am I saddle up and leave Vientiane in northern direction. As I said, Vang Vieng is my next big destination. Also on the trail is the Nam Gnum Reservoir.

The traffic remains quite calm and the road quality is also surprisingly good. After about 40 kilometres I change the river side with a ferry.

Laos Ship Ferry Vientiane Vang Vieng
Laos by boat and ferry. Later still a Mekong river cruise is on the agenda. Here I cross a small river with a ferry right away

On the other side of the river I am immediately thrilled: There is hardly any traffic anymore. Beside the road are rice fields and the villages appear increasingly in rural architectural style. The upgraded road is now behind me. My 2.1 inch tires are now rolling over a dusty gravel road and I’m having a blast 😉 just the right terrain for the gravel bike!

Gravel Bike Tour Laos Way Vientiane to Vang Vieng
Gravel Bike Tour in Laos: The gravel road between Vientiane and Vang Vieng

So I roll through Laotian villages past friendly greeting people. On the left and on the right of the roadway Buddhist temples and pagodas can be found again and again. Of course I don’t let myself miss a photo stop 😉

Laos bike tour Bombtrack Beyond in front of temple
Bombtrack Beyond in front of a buddhist temple – Laos bike tour

In the late afternoon I reach a small village and book myself into a simple guesthouse – for the equivalent of 9 Euros a night.

The next day, the Laos bike tour continues towards Vang Vieng. I’m back on the main drag. The next 85 kilometres to Vang Vieng are not very attractive: Heavy commercial vehicles and honking tourist buses are on the road. The roadway is dusted with construction sites.

Laos Bike Tour Vang Vieng Sunset
Sunset in Vang Vieng: Drive over the big wooden bridge

On arrival in Vang Vieng the landscape compensates for everything! The landscape becomes more mountainous: the view of the karst mountains is unique. The rainforest was partly cut down but the trees are coming back. In Vang Vieng, of course, I first cross the rickety toll bridge over the Nam Ou River. In the late afternoon, the bridge gets really busy: school kids, motorbikes and small trucks bounce over the bumpy planks – and I’m right in the middle of it with the Bombtrack Beyond Gravelbike.

Laos Bike Tour Vang Vieng Bombtrack Beyond
Laos Bike Tour in Vang Vieng with Bombtrack Beyond

Afterwards I explore the riverbank and then check into my hotel.

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is known as ourdoor paradise because of its natural cart mountains and impressive rainforest. Bikepackers and backpackers love Vang Vieng for the following sights:

  • Visit to a Blue Lagoon (Blue Lagoon)
  • Viewpoints on the karst mountains
  • river tubing
  • Ziplining
  • Cave exploration e.g. Tham Phu Kham Cave
  • 4×4 Buggy Tour
Laos Travel Tips Vang Vieng Bridge
Laos travel tips:The wooden bridge in Vang Vieng is one of the Vang Vieng attractions

Vang Vieng was known as a drug stronghold until a few years ago. Due to numerous accidents and also deaths while tubing, the government put a stop to the drug trade. Since then, drug use has been greatly curbed and even “Happy Pizza” is rarely found in restaurants – good thing!

Laos Food Lunch Fried Noodles
Laos Food: For lunch we have Fried Noodles

I’m not interested in the tubing activity. I decide to rent a mountain bike and explore the hinterland of Vang Vieng. Already in the early morning I bump through the backcountry with a very simple mountain bike. The karst mountains peel out of the mist and reveal an impressive mountain panorama. The natural route is bad, but with the mountain bike the route is fun 😉

After a few kilometres on the bumpy dirt road I reach the entrance to one of the viewpoints. Vang Vieng offers many grueling hiking opportunities up the karst mountains.

Vang Vieng Sights Viewpoint
Vang Vieng Sightseeing: Ascent to the Viewpoint

Mostly it goes over sharp stones and easy paths up to the summit. The risk of injury is there but with a little caution the hikes are quite doable. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a unique view over the natural landscape. A Vang Vieng sight that should definitely not be missed!

Vang Vieng Sights Viewpoint House
Vang Vieng Sights: At the top of the viewpoint. Outstanding overview of the landscape

Another Vang Vieng sight are the Blue Lagoons (Blue Lagoon). In total, there are Blue Lagoon 1, 2 and 3. Blue Lagoon 1 is the most famous and also the most visited.

Vang Vieng Blue Lagoon Map Map
Vang Vieng Blue Lagoon Map and Map

So, if you want to be far away from the tourist crowds, it is best to visit another Blue Lagoon than the Blue Lagon 1. I myself went after the View Point to the most distant Blue Lagon: The Blue Lagoon number 3.

Vang Vieng Blue Lagoon
Vang Vieng: The popular Blue Lagoon 1

At Blue Lagoon 1, there is also a ziplining activity and you can explore Tham Phu Kham Cave.

Vang Vieng sightseeing cave
Vang Vieng Sightseeing: Phu Kham Cave Tour

On the way to Blue Lagoon 3, you can marvel at rural Lao villages: Here, people and animals live close together and herds of cows stand snoozing. In this area you notice it again: Laos is a poor country. Nevertheless, the people almost always meet me friendly with an open-hearted “Sabai dee”.

Vang Vieng Sights Viewpoint Descent
Vang Vieng Sights: Descent from the Viewpoint

Unfortunately I don’t reach the Blue Lagon 3 on this day: A rusty nail bores into the wheel of my rented MTB and I hitchhike back to Vang Vieng. A Thai couple kindly takes me immediately back to the city. Phew, otherwise I would have had to walk back about 10 kilometers.

Laos bike trip: This huge nail drilled into the rear wheel of my rented MTB

Due to the incident I extend my stay in Vang Vieng by another day. This is actually fine with me: Vang Vieng has enchanted me and the following day I visit the famous Blue Lagoon 1 and explore the Tham Phu Kham Cave.

Way to Luang Prabang

The route from Vientiane to Luang Prabang becomes greener and more impressive kilometre by kilometre. Also the traffic is again within limits. A few intercity buses and trucks are on the road. Some of these are loaded to overflowing with people and matierl. I’m fine with riding my bike.

Laos Food Breakfast
Laos food: There is breakfast

Otherwise I meet on the distance some travel cyclists and also racing cyclists, who meet with friendly greeting.

Laos Bike Tour Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
Laos Bike Tour with Bombtrack Beyond: On the way to Luang Prabang in front of a small shop

On the way from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang is also the most mountainous stage of the whole trip. Already in advance I have a lot of respect for the altitude. In retrospect I can say: For experienced cyclists the Laotian mountains are good to climb. Even when the sun is blazing down well at midday.

Laos Bike Tour Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang Traffic
Laos Bike Tour: Between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang there is moderate traffic

Meanwhile, the Laotian trucks have greater difficulties with the slopes: Regularly one sees broken down trucks at the roadside. Either the engine has to be cooled down or one of the occupants tries to make the vehicle roadworthy again.

Laos Bicycle Trip Water Buffalo
Water buffalos and karst mountains are visible every now and then

High in the mountains I enjoy the view over the karst mountains and the dense rainforest. When I roll through one of the numerous villages, I am the attraction as a tourist: People look and greet friendly “Sabaidee”. Children run towards me or next to the bike. When I stop for a short purchase then especially children look incredulous and curious.

Laos Landscape Panorama Restaurant
Panorama restaurant on one of the highest points of the tour – Laos landscape.

On a pass I may marvel at an impressive mountain panorama. At the same time, a panoramic restaurant welcomes me up there and they serve Fried Rice, as they often do.

Shortly after sunset I reach a simple guesthouse. About an hour I cycle in the darkness. I am not at all comfortable in this area: The mountains between Vang Vieng and Laung Prabang used to be a drug reloading point and a few years ago there was also an assault on a tourist here. But I safely reach a simple guesthouse in the mountains. Dinner will be served. In the village, as always, roosters crow and pigs squeal.

Laos Bike Tour Accommodation Guesthouse
Laos Bike Tour: View in a simple accommodation. The mosquito net should be in the luggage

The next morning I have breakfast with a travel cyclist from Russia. There is once again delicious Fried Rice with pork. Just the right breakfast to start the day.

More impressions from the travel section to Luang Prabang:

Laos Bike Tour Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang Bike
Laos Bike Tour: Where it goes up, it also goes down again. Partly the descents were very steep
Bombtrack Beyond Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
Bombtrack Beyond in Laos on the way from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
Vang Vieng to Luang Praband sunset
Vang Vieng to Luang Praband: Sunset
Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang Mountain Resort
Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang: Unexpected luxury at the Mountain Resort
Surly Bicycle Laos Bike Tour Route Luang Prabang
Surly bike from an italian cyclist on the Laos bike trip

Luang Prabang

Best weather in Luang Prabang! The city offers many highlights and so I decide to stay three days in the city. A good decision!

A visit to Luang Prabang is considered the highlight of a trip to Laos:

  • The city offers unique architecture and is still strongly influenced by the French colonial era. Many call Luang Prabang the most beautiful city in Asia.
  • One of the reasons why Luang Prabag was awarded a Unesco World Heritage Site.

I take the Bombtrack Beyond into the city limits around 4pm. The sun is already slowly ringing in the golden hour. On the other side there is just after work traffic and it is quite busy on the streets of Luang Prabang.

Traffic in Luang Prabang is increasing

As already described: Shortly after Vang Vieng my right pedal fell off. I would like to replace the pedal here in Luang Prabang with a new one. On my whole Laos bike trip there are only bike shops in the capital Vientiane and here in Luang Prabang. The last possibility for a bicycle repair thus.

The bike shop “Your Bike Store” in Luang Prabang is well rated on Google and therefore I drive directly to the bike shop. He has several suitable pedals in the offer and we exchange fix the pedal.

New Pedal Vang Vieng Bombtrack Beyond
New pedal for Bombtrack Beyond in Luang Prabang. My old one fell off on the Laos bike trip

Happy and with repaired bike I meander through the traffic towards the hotel – always towards the sunset. This works quite well, because also Luang Prabang the traffic rolls pleasantly slowly and is not so densely packed as in other Asian cities.

Luang Prabang sunset bridge
Luang Prabang: Sunset on the bridge

The next day I started my Luang Prabang day trip. While there, I explored the highlights of the city. The sights in Luang Prabang are all very centrally located along the main street in the beautiful old town.

The street is called Sakkaline Roa and here you can easily find all the sights. A few parallel streets further lies the Mekong. On the shore you can, especially at sunset, wonderful stroll along. The street directly on the Mekong is called Khem Khong.

I left my bike while I was exploring the city. All Luang Prabang sights are wonderful and best reached on foot. I will now introduce you to the most exciting Luang Prabang sights:

Luang Prabang City Bridge Bombtrack Beyond
Luang Prabang City: Short photo stop with the Bombtrack Beyond

Sights in Laung Prabang

There are plenty of sights to see in Luang Prabang. First and foremost the impressive old town, which is characterized by the colonial style. Here you will find lovingly restored buildings on every corner and you won’t be able to get out of your amazement.

The following sights are the highlights in Luang Prabang and impressed me especially:

Royal Palace in Luang Prabang and Temple of the Royal Palace

  • Royal Palace in Luang Prabang and Temple of the Royal Palace: The Royal Palace is located in the center of the old town. Until 1975 the Laotian kings lived here. You can hardly miss the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Royal Palace. This Luang Prabang sight is centrally located in the old town of Laung Prabang and at the foot of Mount Phousi (more on that in a moment).
Luang Prabang Sightseeings Royal Palace
Luang Prabang Sightseeing: The Royal Palace

The actual royal palace is now a Lao national museum. In it you can learn a lot about the history of Laos. Also on display are the magnificent pieces of furniture and mostly gilded accessories of the Lao royal family.

Tip: Behind the Royal Palace you will find the Royal Garage. The magnificent and partly oversized royal vehicles are exhibited there.

An impressive temple was built on the site in 2006. You should also look at it from the outside and from the inside.

Luang Prabang sightseeing Royal Palace night
Luang Prabang Sights: The Royal Palace is also worth at night

Mount Phousi

If you have already visited the Royal Palace in Laung Prabang, then Mount Phousi is not far away. The mountain rises directly opposite.

First there are more than 300 steps uphill. To be quite precise, there are 328 and 355 steps respectively. Depending on which side you’re coming up from. Once you reach the top, you will have a spectacular view over Luang Prabang and the Mekong River.

Luang Prabang Mount Phousi Stairs
Luang Prabang: Ascent to Mount Phousi with over 300 steps

Already from a distance you can spot Wat Chom Si: The 20-meter-high golden stupa is enthroned on the summit of Mount Phousi.

Luang Prabang Sights Mount Phousi
Atop Mount Phousi sits a golden Buddhist stupa

There is also a Buddhist temple right next door.

Laos Buddha Statue Woman
There is also a Buddhist temple on the summit of Mount Phousi.

During my stay in Mekong City, it had sunny and cloudless weather and this is the best way to enjoy the view.

Next to the Mekong River bank, Mount Phousi is the best place to gaze at the sunset. Whereby it can get quite crowded on the mountain at sunset.

Wat May Souvannapoumaram

Just a few minutes’ walk from the Royal Palace is Wat May Souvannapoumaram. If you have just climbed Mount Phousi, then it is worth going down again in the direction of the Royal Palace followed by a walk in the direction of Wat May Souvannapoumaram.

The temple is considered another top Luang Prabang sight. It is the largest and at the same time one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang. The main hall of the temple is very elaborately decorated.

Laos Buddha Statue
Biggest Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang and top sight: Inside Wat May Souvannapoumaram

On the grounds of Wat May Souvannapoumaram there is another small Buddhist temple that you can visit. A short look is also worthwhile here 😉

Laos Buddhism Statue
A small side temple of Wat May Souvannapoumaram

More highlights and sights in Luang Prabang:

  • Bamboo Bridge
  • Wat Xieng Thong
  • UXO Lao Information Centre
  • Tak Bat: The Almsgiving of the Monks

Laung Prabang Waterfall – Sightseeing in the surroundings

About 30 kilometres south of Luang Prabang is the Kuang Si Waterfall. The waterfall is easily accessible and an absolute recommendation. For me, visiting was one of my biggest Laos travel tips and a top Luang Prabang sight!

Kuangs Si Waterfall

There is much to discover on the grounds of the waterfall near Luang Prabang. It’s best to plan a full day for the waterfall. Then you’ll have plenty of time for:

  • For complete waterfall and explore the entire site
  • a hike on the extensive grounds
  • take beautiful photos of the waterfall
  • Bathing in one of the waterfall pools
  • visit the bear rescue centre (Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre)

The great Kuang Si waterfall first plunges more than 30 meters into the depths. The large pool and waterfall are the main spectacular attraction. If you visit Kunag Si Waterfall, then you can hardly miss the main pool.

Luang Prabang sights waterfall Vang Vieng Kaeng Nyui good weather
Luang Prabang Waterfall: The main basin of the Kuang Si Waterfall in good weather conditions

The waterfall flows over numerous levels down into the valley. This forms numerous natural pools in which you can also swim. The water is colder than expected at first but who wouldn’t want to bathe in a waterfall?

Luang Prabang Waterfall Vang Vieng Kaeng Nyui Basin
The Kaung Si waterfall falls over several basins into the valley

After a short hike, you will reach the spectacular waterfall. A bridge is built over the main pool. On it you can take wonderful holiday photos with the waterfall. I met two friendly German tourists on the tour, with whom I explored the area around the waterfall afterwards.

Vang Vieng Kaeng Nyui Waterfall Group
Group photo with other German travellers in front of the Kuang Si waterfall

If you follow the main route, you will enter the red bridge from the left. Then leave the bridge to the right to start a hike to the waterfall’s basin of origin. The trail is not very demanding but you should allow enough time for it. We were probably on the trail for two hours.

Approach to Kuang Si Waterfall

Of course, I rode my Bombtrack Beyond to the waterfall and then hooked up my bike in front of the Kuang Si waterfall entrance. For such situations I also had a sturdy lock with me on my Laos bike trip.

If you don’t want to cycle to the waterfall at Laung Prabang (about 60 kilometres in total), there are several options:

  • Scooter: You can rent a scooter and drive yourself to the waterfall within an hour. For the distance YOU need about one hour. For Laotian conditions the road is also in good condition. However, you will have to avoid the odd pothole.
  • Tuk Tuk (about 20 000 Kip) or Minivan (30 000 to 35 000 Kip): You can have a private driver drive you to the waterfall in a very relaxed way. Big advantage: The driver is waiting for you on the spot and you have enough time at the waterfall near Luang Prabang for activities, splashing around and for taking pictures. Afterwards he also drives you back from the waterfall to Luang Prabang.
  • With a tour provider: In Luang Prabang, there are many private tour providers. Often included in the tours are numerous other activities. You can calculate with a price of about 35 000 Kip per person. The means of transportation is usually a minivan and you only have a prescribed amount of time at the waterfall or other sights.

Luang Prabang nightlife and food and restaurants

Luang Prabang also has some nightlife. Before we start into the nightlife here are my tips where you can enjoy an especially beautiful sunset:

  • Mekong shore
  • Mount Phu Si
Luang Prabang Mekong sunset
Luang Prabang sight: A relaxing sunset on the banks of the Mekong River

An evening in Luang Prabang can be spent wonderfully in the beautiful, by French influences shaped old town in numerous bars and restaurants. Here a part of the old town near the royal palace in Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang City Colonialism
In the old town of Luang Prabang the French colonial style is clearly visible. An exciting place to start your night life

If you have read this far, then you know: There are many Buddhist temples in Laung Prabang. Particularly attentive, can spy the monks praying. If you spot the monks at prayer, please be discreet and do not disturb the prayer.

Laos Buddhism
Buddhism is clearly visible in the cityscape of Luang Prabang and in Laos in general

Another highlight and an insider tip in Luang Prabang, is an authentic, Laotian theatre performance: Since the complete theatre performance is in Laotian, I could not understand anything of the plot. I still felt wonderfully entertained 🙂

You can book the theatre performance during the day on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang.

Laos Culture Luang Prabang Sights Theater
Laos and culture: A Lao theatre is a memorable experience. Recommendation 😉

A visit to Luang Prabang is a culinary highlight! Here you get really good food. The cuisine in Laos is generally very similar to that in northern Thailand. Due to the urban infrastructure you will find both chic restaurants and authentic, Laotian, street food.

Very special and as strong as nowhere else in Laos, the influence of the French cuisine from the colonial era can still be tasted here.

As a hungry cyclist, I feasted more in Luang Prabang than in any other Lao city 🙂 Here are my tips for particularly good food in Laung Prabang:

Laos Food Buffet Laung Prabang
Laos and food: At the buffet in Luang Prabang you can feast to your heart’s content
  • Luang Prabang Night Market: The Luang Prabang Night Market, should visit every Luang Prabang tourist and backpacker! Here you can get authentic Laotian food and delicious street food. For the equivalent of about 2 euros, you can feast on a delicious buffet here. A great place to meet new people and travelers too. Laap salad is also very tasty: a salad with minced pork or chicken. There is also a vegetarian version with mushrooms.
  • You can also enjoy delicious sandwiches at the night market or in the old town. Once again, the influence of French cuisine is strongly felt here. French sandwiches
  • Delicious pancakes and smoothies: As in many other Lao cities, you’ll find many stalls selling pancakes of all kinds. Plus, many booths will be making delicious smoothies right before your eyes. You can choose the fruit yourself. By default, sugar is dumped into the smoothie. If you don’t want that, just say “please without Suggar” and you can enjoy the pure fruit smoothie.
Laos Food Buffet Laung Prabang Night Market
Rich buffet at the night market in Luang Prabang

After three days, it was time to leave the pretty Mekong City on the Mekong River. So back on the Bombtrack Beyond Gravelbike, and continue the journey north.

Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoy

Directly after Luang Prabang the Laos bike tour continues to the villages of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoy! What Laos travel tips there are and what I experienced there, you’ll find out soon here on the blog 😉

Laos Bike Tour Bombtrack Beyond
Laos bike trip continues: The Bombtrack Beyond is heading north
Laos Bike Tour Nong Khiaw
Laos Bike Tour: Arrived in Nong Khiaw
Laos Bike Tour Bombtrack Beyond Tent
Camping must be 😉 Laos bike trip with Bombtrack Beyond in front of the tent
Laos landscape Nong Khiaw
Laos landscape: Nong Khiaw in the morning mist

Muang Khua

Laos boat trip Nam Ou Muang Khua
Laos boat trip on the Nam Ou towards Muang Khua
Laos Bike Tour Bombtrack Beyond Muang Khua
Laos bike tour with Bombtrack Beyond: Arrived in the north in Muang Khua

Other destinations and places on the Laos bike tour:

  • Muang Ngoi Neua
  • Mekong Cruise
  • Gibbon Experience in Huay Xai
  • North Thailand: Chiang Rai, Chaing Mai, Doi Inthanon

More tips

Best time to travel

Our winter time are the best months for a Laos cycling tour. Temperatures range from November to February at around 27 to 30 degrees during the day. In the mountains it can even get quite cold in the morning and evening. So on my cycling trip through Laos, my thin down jacket was one of my favourite pieces of equipment 🙂

High season in Laos is in December and January. Fortunately, the crowds of tourists were still limited during my visit in December.

Arrival

Laos has several airports, which can be approached internationally. I used a connection from Frankfurt via Doha to Vientiane via Bangkok.

I flew back from Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Accommodation

Online booking portals like Booking.com make it easy to book accommodation in Laos. In Asia, Agoda.com is also very popular and Hostelworld was always recommended to me by backpackers.

I myself was able to find accommodations quite excellently with Booking.com. In most cases, I’ve had people show me the room in advance on site without booking in advance. This way I could check the cleanliness and then I usually booked on the spot in the respective accommodation. In many places, the really cheap and still very good accommodations are not even represented on Booking.com and other platforms.

Accommodation tip: The MAPS.ME app has a very extensive network of accommodation. This allows you to find accommodation along the entire route suggested in this Laos travelogue – even outside the cities.

I did not have a tent with me on the Laos bike trip. I also only recommend a tent on a long term trip. But of course everyone can decide that for themselves. As mentioned before, there are really plenty of accommodations all along the route for a very reasonable price.

Accommodation Tip for the first night in Vientiane: At the starting point of the trip, in Vientiane, I spent a total of two nights. There I booked the very excellent Mini S Hotel and I can highly recommend it. The accommodation is very modern and clean – and you can take your bike with you to the room 😉 So you can be sure that your beloved bike is safe. The hotel is very reasonably priced and is located just outside the city centre. Luckily, you can rent rental bikes very cheaply. Vientiane is best explored by bike anyway and within about 5 minutes you are already in the city.

Taking a bike on the plane – tips:

On intercontinental flights, some airlines charge up to USD 250 for taking bicycles on board – one way, of course. There and back 500 USD are due in this case. Pretty pricey! With some good airlines you can check in your bike as luggage at no extra charge. With my favourite airline Qatar Airways, for example, this is possible. You can easily check the bike in as checked baggage. Please be sure to check the Qatar Airways baggage policy.

For flight rechecks, I prefer to use Momondo.

More travelogues

You want more information about an individual bike tour through Asia? These bike travelers have also been to Laos. Among all Laos travelogues, this one inspired me the most:

Laos: Land of the cyclists by mybike-magazin.de

MYBIKE Laos Cycling Tour Land of the Cyclists
MYBIKE Laos Cycling Tour Land of the Cyclists, Copyright: MYBIKE Editorial Team

The chief editor of MyBike, Tom Bierl, was also on the same route on December 2013 and has published a very informative trip report. He praises Laos as a cyclist’s El Dorado in the highest tones. His suggested route and the information in his trip report really helped me plan my Laos cycling trip.

In addition to the online travel report, there is also a download section on the right side of the page. There you can download the Laos travel report from the MyBike magazine as a PDF for free. In addition, Tom Bierl makes his complete 92-page travel diary available for download. His travel diary is interesting to read throughout, has some interesting facts again at the very end and served to set the mood for the trip for me. A great recommendation.

Laos: Land of the cyclists

Route – North Laos and Thailand: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Nong Khiauw, Muang Khwa, Oudumxay, Pakbeng, Mekong Cruise, Huay Xay, Golden Triangle, Mae Salong, Chiang Dhao, Chiang Mai

Laos – Travelogue by Fahrrad-Abenteuer-Reisen

Bicycle Adventure Travel Laos Bike Trip Travel Report
Bicycle Adventure Travel Laos Bicycle Trip Travel Report, Copyright: Raimund Berens

Annett and Raimund were on a cycling trip in Laos in 2017. They describe Laos as a strenuous and dreamlike country at the same time. Your travelogue is written in diary style. Detailed and with many useful details about the Laos bike trip of the two. The two were on the road in the south of Laos.Thus this travelogue offers the perfect complement to the above linked travelogue of my-bike.de and to my own Laos travelogue (We were on the road in the north). Annett and Raimund travel with bicycle and tent. They also describe in detail their experiences camping in Laos.

The travelogue of the two is particularly recommendable, if you are on your Asia bicycle trip also with the tent on the way. You will also learn a lot about the south of Laos.

Laos 2017 – Travelogue

Stretch – South Laos: Vientiane, Pakxan, Thakhek, Pakse, Khong Island

You are planning your individual Asia bike trip and have questions about the planning or the tour presented here? Write me a comment – I like to answer 😉

Want to read more trip reports and discover great bikepacking routes? Then take a look here.

Geschrieben von Michael Luplow
Hallo, ich bin Michael, Bikepacker, Abenteuerfan und der Mensch hinter Bikepacking-Adventures. Die Idee für bikepacking-adventures.com entstand direkt hinter dem Fahrrad-Lenker! Nämlich als ich auf einer Fahrrad Tour von Deutschland nach Istanbul war. Hier geht es um Abenteuerreisen mit dem Fahrrad und um Bikepacking auf allen Kontinenten dieser Erde! Du möchtest mehr wissen oder hast Tipps? Schreib mir einfach!

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