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Laos: Northern Loop Cycling Holiday

Rural Lao

Day 1: Luang Prabang

redsokes Laos Northern Loop cycling tour begins in Luang Prabang. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. UNESCO world hertiage town Luang Prabang is encircled by mountains and situated on the banks of the Mekong at its confluence with the Nam Khan river. You are free today to explore this delightful city on foot or by tuk tuk. There are no less than 32 historic temples, ancient monasteries, the magnificent Royal Palace Museum and elegant French Colonial architecture to take in. This is a place to relax and enjoy the food, the peaceful surroundings and the people before our challenging cycling adventure begins. There will be a group meeting late afternoon/early evening for introductions and a tour briefing.

Accommodation: Hotel (D)

Day 2: Luang Prabang to Kiu Kachan

Throwing you in at the deep end, our Laos Northern Loop cycling tour begins with a tough day in the saddle! After a pleasant start with a fairly easy 12 miles (20 km) of cycling we begin the first of two long ascents (support vehicle on hand) riding a 10-mile (16km) climb passing through a spectacular scenery of limestone peaks, some of which are the highest in South East Asia. We than have a cycling descent of 9 miles (15 km) before we begin riding the second monster climb of 14 miles (24 km) to reach Kiu Kachan.

Cycling Distance: 78 km  (48 miles)
Total Climb: 2,290m (7,513ft)
Total Descent: 1,210m (3,969ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 3:  Kiu Kachan to  Phou Khoun 

Another tough cycling day as we climb and climb with a few downhill sections in between. As we cycle on through Laos we will enjoy beautiful scenic views across the cloud covered mountains and valleys before we reach Phou Khoun, our stop for the night. Phou Khoun is a small town at the junction where travellers turn off to Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars. 

Cycling Distance: 51km (32 miles)
Total Climb: 1,380m (4,527ft)
Total Descent: 1,420m (4,658ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 4:  Phou Khoun -Muang Souy

We continue today riding on a challenging, undulating route tackling a few steep stretches as we cycle toward the legendary Plain of Jars enjoying beautiful surroundings.  

Cycling Distance: 88km (55 miles)
Total Climb: 1,730m (5,675ft)
Total Descent: 1,960m (6,430ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 5:  Muong Souy -Phonsavan

Today's ride begins with an undulating 20km ride through dramatic scenes of craggy limestone peaks. We then descend over 1500m before another climb. The ride continues on beautiful quiet undulating road with some unrelenting stretches and a final climb. The area was heavily bombed during the Indochina war; evidence of this is all around us as we pass remains of bomb craters in the hillsides. We end our challenging day in Phonsavan the provincial capital located in the centre of the Plain of Jars.

Cycling Distance: 48km (29 miles)
Total Climb: 410m (1,345ft)
Total Descent: 420m (1,377ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B)

Day 6: Rest Day

We have time to day to explore the Plain of Jars. The area is a huge archaeological complex. The megalithic stone jars are over 2,000 years old. Believed to be Iron Age burial urns, their true origin remains a mystery and legend has it that they could have been created to brew potent rice wine to celebrate the victory of a band of mythical giants over their enemies. Others say the jars held whisky for a thirsty giant who lived in the mountains above Phonsavan.  There are three sites to explore and some local villages as well as Ban Xiengdi, where there is a small monastery with Buddha images. You could also visit the MAG Centre. MAG is a humanitarian organisation clearing UXOs (unexploded ordnances. Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed nation in the world (per capita).

Attention: The Plain of Jars was heavily bombed during the war, it is important to respect all the signs and stay along the defined trails due to bombs, UXO, and landmines.

Cycling Distance: 26km (16 miles)
Total Climb: 198m (652ft)
Total Descent: 198m (652ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B)

Day 7: Phonsavan to Muang Kham

Today we ride along the Xiengkhuang Plateau where you will witness further traces of the remaining impact of the war.  Again, we will see many bomb craters in hillsides easily visible from our bikes. From Phonsavan we cycle on relatively flat terrain through rice paddies before beginning a downhill ride on surfaced road through rolling verdant scenery.  In the Muang Kham area there are hot springs and Ban Nam Hom Jar Site.

3 km east of Muang Kham is Xang village where Tai Dam women sell traditional woven textiles; you can cross the river on a small bamboo bridge to visit the Phuan village and observe the women at work crafting their wares. 

Cycling Distance: 52km (32 miles)
Total Climb: 360m (1,181ft)
Total Descent: 890m (2,919ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 8: Muang Kham to Nam Neun 

Another long and challenging day of cycling. We begin with a 18km (890m) uphill transfer before we start the ride, cycling through more rugged, remote, spectacular scenery. Shortly after leaving Muang Kham we'll have a stop at the  pass Tham Piu Cave, where a single rocket from an aircraft during the secret war killed 374 people sheltering inside.

The route continues with short undulations along the edge of Phou Bia mountain which is known as the highest mountain range in Laos, we will be riding along winding road through shady forested areas, passing through Hmong and Tai Dam minority villages. We finish our day after a 15km downhill cycle to NamNeun, a small town where we will stay over night. 

Cycling Distance: 64km (40 miles)
Total Climb: 1,370m (4,494 ft)
Total Descent: 2,170 m (7,119 ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 9: Nam Neun to Muang Hiam (Muang Viengthong) 

Today our Laos Northern Loop tour continues as we begin another day of tough cycling with a 5km climb before we join road 1C for a short but steep downhill ride. From here the riding becomes challenging again. We will spend most of the day with unrelenting uphill biking over 35 km. Our exertions are rewarded with a very pleasant 15 km downhill cycle to Muang Hiam. 

Cycling Distance: 66km (41 miles)
Total Climb: m 1,839m (6,033 ft)
Total Descent: 1,668m (5,472ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 10: Muang Hiam to Vieng Kham

After a short 26km (1,000m) transfer our cycling tour continues through rural Lao landscapes. Our cycling begins with a pleasant 25km descent as we ride through a densely forested part of the National Bio-diversity Conservation Area. We will pass through small villages rarely visited by tourists. This afternoon we enjoy a downhill ride to our rural stop at Viengkham guest house just beyond Pak Xeng.

Cycling Distance: 91km (56 miles)
Total Climb: 1,610m (5,282ft)
Total Descent: 2,470m (8,103ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 11:  Vieng Kham to  Nong Khiaw

Today our Northern Loop tour continues with more hilly riding as we enjoy cycling on towards Nong Khiaw and end our day with a nice downhill.  Once we’ve checked into our riverside hotel we can walk up to a magnificent viewpoint to take in the full beauty of our surroundings. Back at the hotel this evening we can relax in our scenic surroundings  with coconut pancakes and lao lao cocktails. Unfortunately, an ongoing programme of dam building is likely to change these beautiful landscapes as yet barely intruded upon by mankind. 

Cycling Distance: 47km (29 miles)
Total Climb: 1,100m (3,608ft)
Total Descent: 1,170m (3,838ft)
Accommodation: Guest House (B)

Day 12: Nong Khiaw  to Luang Prabang

Back on the bikes this morning for our last day of cycling we cycle 30km through a dramatic Karst landscape from Nong Khiaw to Pakmong. From here we will transfer by vehicle into Luang Prabang. You have plenty of time this afternoon to enjoy this unique UNESCO World Heritage Town. There are over 32 temples within easy walking distance and  many fine restaurants. With stunning views, great markets and shops, relaxed Luang Prabang is definitely Lao's hidden treasure.

Cycling Distance: 30km (18 miles) 
Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)

Day 13: Luang Prabang - home

The Laos Northern Loop cycling tour ends this morning. You will be transferred to Luang Prabang airport for your return flight home.


If you need assistance or wish to discuss the tour, please feel free to call us on +44 (0) 1463 417707.

Alternatively, you can email us on office@redspokes.co.uk for more information on this adventure holiday.