From the Golden Temples to the Tibetan Highlands

Luang Prabang – Nong Khiaw – Muang Khoua – Muang La – Muangla – Boten/Mohan (Border)-Menglian – Jinghong – Dali – Shaxi – Lijiang – Zhongdian – Kunming



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Name From the Golden Temples to the Tibetan Highlands
Duration 13 Days/ 12 Nights
Tour Type Private round trip
Tour Start Daily
Destinations Luang Prabang – Nong Khiaw – Muang Khoua – Muang La – Muangla – Boten/Mohan (Border)-Menglian – Jinghong – Dali – Shaxi – Lijiang – Zhongdian – Kunming


  1. Discover laidback Luang Prabang a UNESCO heritage site
  2. Cruise the Nam Ou River through some of northern Laos’ most impressive natural landscapes
  3. Explore local culture and traditions amongst the hill tribes

Day 1: Luang Prabang (-)

Arrive in charming Luang Prabang, located in north central Laos at the confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan River, and transfer to your hotel. In the centre of the city is Mount Phousi with stunning views of the surrounding temples and hills.

In 1995 Luang Prabang was listed by the UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site. This ancient royal capital offers a charming amalgamation of crumbling French architecture, glistening temples, natural beauty and laid back life style of the local population. Luang Prabang is also an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

Day 2: Luang Prabang (B)

In the morning we will explore the streets around Luang Prabang by traditional “Tuk Tuk” and discover some of Luang Prabang’s hidden treasures and highlights. We start with a visit to the Monastery Wat Visun, first built in 1512 during the reign of King Visun. The original structure burned down in 1867 and was rebuilt 30 years later in 1898 on the same location. Continue to the nearby Wat Aham Monastery, which literally translated means “The Monastery of the blossoming heart.” The monastery formerly served as a residence of the Sangkharat. We then drive to Luang Prabang’s biggest and arguably most beautiful temple – the Wat Mai.

Wat Mai was built by King Anourout towards the end of the 18th century and served as a temple for the royal family and long has been the residence of the Pra Sangkharat, the highest Laotian Buddhist dignitary. After a visit to the National Museum we will climb Phou Si hill to enjoy the view overlooking the city and watch the amazing sunset. From here we can see the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan Rivers before moving on to explore the street night bazaar, where you can find the lovely collection and handmade textile by local and hill tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

Day 3: Luang Prabang – Nong Khiaw  (B/L) (160km/ca 3.5hrs)

After breakfast we will drive through a magnificent landscape towards Nong Khiaw, a rustic little town nestled amongst fantastic lime stone mountains. Along the way we visit the village Ban Na Nyang, which is famous for their traditional cotton weaving. Almost every household possesses a weaving loom underneath their houses where scarves, tablecloths or beautiful wall hangings are produced. The art of cotton weaving in Ban Na Nyang has been passed from generation to generation for almost 300 years.

The local populations from Ban Na Nyang belong to the Tai Lue (Lü) Ethnic Group and migrated in this area from the Yunnan Province during the 18th century. After arriving at Nong Khiaw you will check in at your hotel, which is located right on the shores of the Nam Ou River. You have the free to stroll around the village or relax at the hotel.

Overnight in Nong Khiaw.

Day 4: Nong Khiaw – Muang Khoua – Muang La (B/L)  (boat: 5 hrs/car 2hrs)

Today one of the many highlights of this tour awaits you. The Nam Ou River is one of the most important rivers in Laos, and with some of the most stunning scenery Laos has to offer. On board a Long Tail Boat we journey slowly upstream while taking in the spectacular scenery along the way. Along the way we will pass remote villages, rugged mountain terrain, impressive karst cliffs and we can observe the traditional daily village live along the river. We will stop at one of the many villages, most of which are only accessible by boat. The Nam Ou River runs 448 km from Phongsaly in Northern Laos to Vientiane where it merges with the Mekong River.

We will disembark at Muang Khoua, a remote mountain village perched on the side of a mountain. From here we continue by road down to Muang La where we arrive in the late afternoon. The mountains surrounding Muang La are home to various ethnic groups like the Akkha (Eko) Hmong, Yao or the Khamu where, despite modernisation, many of these hill tribe people still live their traditional live styles.

Overnight accommodation at the idyllic Muang La Resort.

Day 5: Muang La (B)

Full day at leisure. You can enjoy a massage at the hotel, explore the surroundings on your own by bicycle or go together with your guide on a 3-hour trek in the surrounding mountains to visit a hill tribe village where you can learn much more about the traditional life style of the local population.

Overnight at the Muang La Resort.

Day 6: Muang La – Boten/Mohan (border) – Menglun (B,L,D) (200km / 6.5 hrs)

Today we will drive through the ever changing, dramatic landscape of northern Laos toward the Chinese border.

After the border formalities you say goodbye to Laos. You walk across the border into China where your Chinese guide awaits you.

Drive via Mengla to the town of Menglun. Menglun is located about 75km southeast of Jinghong on the banks of the Luosuo River, a tributary of the Lancang Jiang (Mekong River). The main attraction of Menglun is the beautiful Menglun tropical garden that is situated across the Luosuo River and spread over 900 hectares. The park was founded in 1959 and today more than 8,000 species of plants can be found there. A small ethno-botany museum displays a model tropical forest. We stay overnight at the beautiful Anantara Resort, located right on the shores of Luosuo River.

Overnight in Menglun.

Day 7: Menglun – Jinghong – Dali (B,L) (car 1hr/flight 1hr)

Early this morning we will drive to Jinghong Airport. Around 11am we board the plane for Xiaguan. Pick up at the airport and drive to Dali. Dali is situated on the eastern shores of the stunning Erhai Lake on the foot of the 4,000m high Cang Shan mountain range.

During the 9th century Dali served as capital of the once powerful Nanzhao and later the Dali Kingdoms, before the historical town was overrun by the Mongols about 400 years later. We visit the recently renovated 3 Pagodas of the San Ta Si Monastery from the 9th century. The 3 towers of the “San Ta Si” (3 Pagoda Temple) were constructed in the 9th century and are an excellent example of the ancient Bai craftsmanship. They are the only buildings that remain from the once powerful Nanzhao Kingdom. Later in the afternoon we take a stroll through the old town of Dali. In the evening time at leisure.

Overnight in Dali.

Day 8: Dali – Shaxi (B,L) (140km/4hrs)

After breakfast we will drive through beautiful landscapes on our way to Shaxi. This traditional Bai village is located about 120km northwest of Dali in the stunning surroundings of the Shaxi Valley. Shaxi was formerly an important pivotal stop on the Tea and Horse trail from Yunnan to Tibet. The village has been renovated and is preserved under an award-winning project by the Technical School Zürich.

We will take you to nearby Shibao Mountain where you can view the impressive rock carvings of Shibaoshan, which are over 1300 years old and are testimony of the spread of Mahayana Buddhism from Tibet in the region. You can either take an easy walk back to Shaxi (1.5 hrs) or take the car back to the hotel.

Overnight accommodation is at a traditional wooden Bai House with a 150 year old history!

Day 9: Shaxi – Lijiang (B,L) (110km / ca 3 hours)

After breakfast we will drive to Lijiang. Check in at hotel and eat lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon you stroll through the apparently countless and, on first sight, confusing narrow lanes and canals crisscrossing the old town. We also learn more about the secrets of the mystic Naxi-Dongba culture. An earthquake destroyed most of the city in 1996, and after its reconstruction, UNESCO listed Lijiang as a World Heritage site. We will climb ‘Lion Hill’ and enjoy a panoramic look over the rooftops of the old town of Lijiang.

The rest of the afternoon is at your own disposal. After dinner there is an optional (own expense) visit to a traditional Naxi Dongba Music concert. Naxi Dongba Music is a sort of very old and unique Daoist Temple music. Its history can be traced back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 B.C). It is believed that the famous General Chukoliang brought the music to Lijiang during the Period of the 3 Kingdoms (221- 65 B.C.)

Overnight in Lijiang.

Day 10: LIJIANG (B)

Full day at leisure in Lijiang. You can relax at one of the many teahouses and coffee shops, explore the old town of Lijiang on your own or you can rent a bicycle and ride to traditional village of “Baisha”, the former capital of the Naxi kingdom.

Visit the Liu Li Temple with its beautiful, well preserved wall paintings from the Ming Dynasty that miraculously survived the Cultural Revolution. Or on a beautiful day you can visit the Black Dragon Pool Park from where one has breath-taking views of the Jade Dragon Mountain.

Overnight in Lijiang.

Day 11: Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge – Zhongdian (B,L) (175km/5hrs)

Today’s drive offers spectacular views over the Yangtze valley. We first visit Shigu village, to see the famous “First Bend”, where the Yangtze River is making an abrupt 180 degree turn and flows for several Kilometres, parallel to itself towards the north again. We will also visit the impressive “Tiger Leaping Gorge” (Hu Tiao Xia), where the Yangtze waters are squeezed through a narrow – only 15m wide in some places – gorge.

We walk down into the gorge to enjoy this fascinating scenery.  Later on we will continue to Zhongdian that recently changed its name and is now called “Shangri-La”. Zhongdian is situated amongst a stunning landscape on the eastern Tibetan plateau at about 3200 meters above sea level.

Overnight in Zongdian.

Day 12: Zhongdian (B,D)

In the morning we will drive to the small and hidden “Dabao” Monastery, located about 12km outside of Zhongdian. Dabao Si is the oldest remaining Gelugpa (‘Yellow Hat’) monastery in the area. In the afternoon we visit Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a 300-year-old and highly impressive Tibetan Monastery. From a historical point of view the Ganden Sumtseling Gompa is very significant to the region because the 5th Dalai Lama inaugurated it personally in the 17th century. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Ganden Sumtseling Gompa is now again one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in the area.

We will visit a Tibetan Family and will get a glimpse of their daily life style. After that, we will drive to the picturesque old town of Zhongdian and climb Turtle Hill to spin the giant prayer wheel three times for a good karma. Time at leisure to explore the ancient town of Zhongdian on your own. Tonight’s dinner takes place in a traditional, 200 year old Tibetan house in the centre of the old town.

Overnight accommodation in Zhongdian.

Day 13: Zhongdian – Kunming (B)

Early morning transfer to the airport and flight to Kunming.

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