Bicycle Adventures logo

Cycling in north Laos

Cycling in north Laos is more challenging then in south Laos. However, it's not difficult, let alone impossible. However cycling in north Laos demands a bit more then in the south. Apart of the ongoing roads, smaller roads are usually in lousy condition and it's unknown when or even if they will be upgraded.

You will enter the Lao mountains and while you not reach some of the highest peaks you will still cross the 1500 meter altitude on the way to Luang Prabang.

That Luang, Vientiane Laos

Landmark in Vientiane: That Luang

This page gives some info about Vientiane and Luang Prabang and it will direct you to a few other pages I wrote about the roads you take.

Victory Monument in Vientiane
Victory Monument or Patuxai (Anousavary)


The first time I arrived in Vientiane I asked the bus driver, I wasn't cycling then, to drop me in the middle of the town. He did so but I thought I was still in the suburbs. Vientiane is for the Lao people a big city but compared to big Thai or Chinese cities it's still relative small.

The city is a bit more expensive then the rest of the country but it's still cheap enough. There's a few things to be visited

That Luang is probably Vientiane's most well-known landmark. It's a stupa which is covered with gold paint. Together with the Victory Monument or Patuxai (Anousavary) it's one of the must seen things in Vientiane. The Victory Monument is situated at the north end of Lane Xang Avenue. It looks very similar to Paris' Arc de Triomphe. You can climb the monument and have a good view over the city.

Vientiane, as I said, is a small city. However, for most of the Lao people it's a big and busy place where it's dangerous on the streets. To the Lao people from outside Vientiane, there's too many cars and pollution but there's few buildings with more then a few storeys. Compared with some Thai cities it's still a reasonable relaxed place at the banks of the Mekong river.

Along the riverside you will find small restaurants serving typical Lao food. If you can't live without western food, the boulevard has numerous other types of restaurants including a Texan steakhouse, north Indian food and even a Malaysian restaurant!

Accommodation in Vientiane

There is a good range of hotels in Vientiane. From cheap to up market, you find your hotel.

Vientiane: That Luang

Luang Prabang

The former royal city of Luang Prabang is open to tourism for many years. Therefore during your journey in north Laos you may find it a touristy but it's still a nice place to relax and find your breath back after the hardship in the mountains behind you.

So, what does Luang Prabang offers besides an abundance of accommodation? The town is UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 (and Laos is very proud of that!).

Wat Xiengthong in Luang Prabang Wedding in Pak Meng
Left: Wat Xiengthong in Luang Prabang
Right: wedding in Pak Meng

It's actually a small town surrounded along the Mekong river. The town has a lazy feeling where some say: time stands still. Walking through the kampongs and the town centre does give this feeling despite the large amount of guesthouses and tourists hanging out.

In the evening the main street in the centre of town changes into a tourist market. Here you can buy crafts, clothes and paintings. At the beginning of the market on the crossroads you can enjoy a cheap meal the way locals eat. The usual banana pancakes, fresh soy milk and barbeque chicken and fish are also available.

Luang Prabang
Wat Xieng Thong Temple Luang Prabang

In the heart of the town there's some wats (temples) which show some of the grandeur of the days when local kings were in charge. Vat Xiengthong is probably Luang Prabang most beautiful and well-known temple. It was build in the 16th century by king Say Setthathirath.

The museum is worth a visit. Once it was a palace for King Sisavangvong. Nowadays it still houses the Royal throne of Lan Xang kingdom in its original splendor, and many other religious treasures.

Accommodation in Luang Prabang

As a heritage city you would expect a range of hotels in Luang Prabang. And you are right. Dozens and dozens of cheap and not so cheap guesthouses and hotels. Some are good, some are so so. There's little need to book in advance as the amount of guesthouses is staggering.

Village life on the road to Oudomxai
Village life on the road to Oudomxai

Around Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang was in the past easier to reach by boat then by road. Just north of the town there are the Pak Ou caves, a collection of Buddha statues in the caves on the opposite site of the river. You can't cycle there but you can hire a boat on the riverside in Luang prabang.

There's a few waterfalls around the town though honestly I wasn't too impressed with them. Much nicer are Kuang Si Waterfalls. They are on the way south, about 30 km from Luang Prabang. You should be able to find a place to stay here.

Pak Ou caves, near Luang Prabang
Pak Ou caves, near Lung Prabang

And Luang Prabang is best to explore by ..... bicycle. Are you lucky you have your own with you!

A great way of exploring the surrounding of Luang Prabang is by boat. Many travelers take the slow boat to Luang Prabang which includes a night in Pak Beng and a visit to the Pak Ou caves.

North of Luang Prabang you will find other villages, here's what I saw on my bicycle rides to Pak Mong, the first stop on your way further north to Oudomxai, Luang Namtha and Muang Sing.

Phonsavan and accommodation in Phonsavan

Phonsavan is much missed town in North Laos. It's worth the effort to visit this little town with beautiful hills that houses 3 main sites filled with stone jars. It is this Plain of Jars you want to see. Here's more about Phonsavan..

Other pages about Laos:

North Laos Central Laos South Laos

me at the Plain of Jars
Yours truly at the Plain of Jars

Back to the top

Back to cycling in Laos

Return to homepage

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Author Peter van der Lans | Privacy policy | Disclaimer | Sitemap

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

footer for bicycle adventures page

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is as a city nowadays part of World Heritage, and not for nothing. The town, although touristy, is still a tranquil hang out with plenty to visit.

Luang Prabang to Phoukoun


Your Adventures in Laos

What is your single most travel story in Laos? Have you cycled in a very remote area? Invited at a local wedding? Or did you do a boat trip? Traveled on the back of a truck in north Laos? Tell us!

Your Laos stories


Map of Laos

Our Laos map, click here to enlarge