Journey from Mystical Laos to Hidden Yunnan in China
Overland Journey from Laos to ChinaMap
Travel through authentic Laos
From the ancient royal city of Luang Prabang you drive through the remote and mountainous landscapes of northern Laos and southern Yunnan - an area rarely visited by Western tourists.
Laos is a comparatively undiscovered country, which has so far been largely spared from the industrial development unlike its neighbouring countries. This is why many visitors experience Laos as idyllic and consider it an insider tip in Southeast Asia.
From the fertile plains of the lowlands to the rugged peaks of the Annamite Highlands, Laos has one of the most spectacular landscapes in Southeast Asia.
The overnight accommodations in Luang Prabang are at tastefully furnished local Guesthouses or small hotels.
The ancient Royal City of Luang Prabang
Your overland journey to Yunnan starts in Luang Prabang in the northern half of Laos. Luang Prabang is best reached by plane from Bangkok. There are also direct flights to Luang Prabang from Kunming, Shenzhen, Hanoi and Chiang Mai.
The sleepy provincial town of Luang Prabang is one of the region's culturally outstanding tourist destinations. The magnificent temples, the numerous, time-honored colonial buildings as well as the serenity of the locals are capable of inspiring even the passionate traveler.
Swiss nationals do not need a visa to enter Laos as long as their stay does not exceed 15 days. For a stay in Laos for longer than 15 days Swiss citizens also require a tourist visa. The tourist visa for Laos is valid for 30 days and - as things stand - can also be applied for directly at the official border crossings for a fee of 40 USD.
Leisurely river cruise on the Nam Ou River
The Nam Ou River is one of the most important rivers in Laos and is one of the most scenic areas that Laos has to offer.
A longtail boat will take you up the river, while you let the spectacular landscape pass by and watch the hustle and bustle on the river.
The boat trip leads through rugged mountain landscapes, along impressive karst formations and past numerous villages, most of which can only be reached by water.
Unfortunately, some dams are currently being built along the Nam Ou River. As a result, the river will no longer be navigable for the longtail boats from 2018 and you will have to change boats along the way. Despite the dams, the trip on the Nam Ou River is still worthwhile and is still an unforgettable nature experience during your trip from Laos to Yunnan.
Journey from Laos to China through the "back door"
From Oudomxay in the north of Laos your journey continues northwards to the Chinese border. Here it is time to say goodbye to your Lao tour guide.
After you have passed the Lao passport control in Boten, you walk about 300 meters to the Chinese border post. If you prefer not to walk, you can also use one of the electric taxis, which commute back and forth between the two border posts, for little money. Via the sleepy border town of Mohan you enter China literally "through the back door". To enter China you need a valid visa, which must be obtained in advance from a Chinese Embassy or Consulate abroad. When applying for a China visa, please make sure that your passport is still valid for at least 6 months after the expiry date of the visa.
After passport control on the Chinese side, your Chinese tour guide will wait for you at the exit from the customs building.
You are now in Xishuangbanna, the southernmost municipality of Yunnan Province in southwest China. The name Xishuangbanna (Xi Shuang Banna) is originally a Chinese derivation of the Dai words Sip Song Ban Na, which translates as "12 rice growing districts". From Mohan it takes only 1.5 hours to Menglun, your next destination. There is also one public bus from Mohan to Jinghong in the morning and in the afternoon. The bus station of Mohan is about 400m from the customs building on the right side of the road.
The Pu'er Tea of Yiwu, the village at the beginning of the Tea and Horse Road
On your journey from Menglun to the rice terraces of Yuanyang you will travel through one of the most important tea growing areas of China. Especially the area around Yiwu is known for high quality green tea - the so-called Pu'er tea. Pu'er tea has always been said to have a health-promoting effect, which is why tea from this region has gained popularity far beyond the provincial borders.
Until the 1950s, Pu'er tea was transported from Yiwu via the so-called Tea and Horse Road to the rest of China and as far as Tibet.
The Tea and Horse Road was a branched network of paths that connected the important tea growing areas in Yunnan and Sichuan with the Tibetan highlands. Once, tea, salt and sugar were transported to Tibet on this important trade route and in return Tibetan horses were brought to China. The robust Tibetan horses were a coveted commodity, especially during the Song Dynasty. Today, the village of Yiwu is often referred to as the "beginning of the Tea and Horse Road". In one of the oldest trading houses of Yiwu you can taste a cup of Pu'er tea.
From the rice terraces of Yuanyang to Kunming, the "City of eternal Spring of China".
Your journey from Laos to Yunnan continues towards the rice terraces of Yuanyang. From the subtropical climate of Xishuangbana you drive through one of China's most important tea growing areas to the rice terraces of Yuanyang, another highlight of this journey. In June 2013, the rice terraces of Yuanyang were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. A sunrise over the rice terraces of Yuanyang is a unique experience.
You end your trip in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in southwest China. Kunming enjoys a pleasant spring-like climate almost all year round, which has earned the city the name "Spring City of China".
Colorful mountain peoples, different ethnic groups, wild landscapes, unique rice terraces and the romantic boat trip on the Nam Ou River are just some of the many highlights of this trip. You will experience 2 contrasting countries with many interesting encounters with the local population!
"...Ban Na Luang Village was simply magic..."
Carla from Italy
"...a fantastic journey. I think we got a good& impression about the rural life in northern Laos..."
Marc from Switzerland
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN LUANG PRABANG
Arrival in Luang Prabang. Pick up at the airport and transfer to your hotel.
Luang Prabang is located in north central Laos at the confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan River.
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 blend 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.
If time permits you make a walking tour around Luang Prabang.
Day 2: LUANG PRABANG
You explore the streets around Luang Prabang by traditional “Tuk Tuk” and discover some of Luang Prabang hidden treasures and highlights.
Visit to the Monastery Wat Visun which was first built in 1512 during the reign of King Visun. Continue to the nearby Wat Aham Monastery, which literally translated means “The Monastery of the blossoming heart”.
You then drive to Luang Prabang’s biggest and arguably the 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.
You climb Phusi hill to enjoy the view overlooking the city and watch the amazing sunset. From here we can see the magic Mekong and the small Nam Khan river.
Day 3: LUANG PRABANG - NONG KHIAW - HIKING TO BAN NA LUANG VILLAGE
Drive to Nong Khiaw, a rustic little town nestled amongst fantastic lime stone mountains.
From Nong Khaw you will trek about 2-3 hrs through rice paddy fields and pristine forest to Ban Na Luang Village. In cooperation with the Lao government and the village chief/villagers we have created a two-day activity visit for our guests to experience the life and the rich culture of the locals.
Earnings from this visit are invested in the Village Fund to improve health care, education and local infrastructure of Ban Na Luang. Currently the lack of a school and water system undermine this village's future. So with your visit you can make a difference.
The inhabitants of Ban Na Luang Village belong mainly to the Khamu and the Hmong ethnic groups.
Overnight accommodation in a very simple, local style Guesthouse.
Day 4: BAN NA LUANG VILLAGE - NONG KHIAW
After a local style breakfast you have time to stroll around the village.
You can also take part in our guided activities like Cotton processing, natural dyes, basket making, animal tending, gardening, planting, Lao village style cooking, school visits carpentry or you can assist a local farmer harvesting. Of course these activities always depend on the season and on what is happening in the village on that day.
If you want you can take a swim in the nearby river together with the locals!
After lunch you say good-bye to the villagers and head back to Nong Khiaw where we arrive late afternoon.
Overnight accommodation is at the Nong Khiaw Riverside Loge.
Day 5: NONG KHIAW - TRAVEL BY BOAT ON THE NAM OU RIVER TO MUANG KHOUA - OUDOMXAY
The Nam Ou River is one of the most important rivers of Laos with some of the most stunning scenery Laos has to offer.
On board a Long Tail Boat you journey slowly upstream while taking in the spectacular scenery. Along the way we pass remote villages, rugged mountain terrain, impressive Karst Cliffs and we can observe the traditional daily village live along the river.
You 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 Luang Prabang where it merges with the Mekong River.
You disembark at Muang Khoua, a remote mountain village perched on the side of a mountain. From here we continue by road down to Oudomxai where you arrive in the early evening.
Day 6: TRAVEL FORM LAOS TO CHINA: OUDOMXAI - BOTEN/MOHAN - MENGLUN
Drive through the ever changing landscape of northern Laos via Oudomxay toward the Border of China. After the border formalities you say goodbye to Laos. You walk accross the border into China where you are already expected by your Chinese Guide.
Drive via Mengla to the town of Menglun.
The town of 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 which situated across the Luosuo River and spreading over 900 hectares. The park has been founded in 1959 and today more than 8000 species of plants can be found there. A small ethno botany museum displays a model tropical forest.
Overnight accommodation takes place at a 3 Star Hotel or at the beautiful Anantara Resort overlooking the Luosuo River.
Day 7: MENGLUN - JIANGCHENG, YUNNAN PROVINCE
From Menglun you continue your journey in north-eastern direction along the Lao-border which is only a stone’s throw away.
En route you make a detour to the village of Yiwu. The village of Yiwu is known for the outstanding quality of its puer tea. Yiwu is also regarded as the starting point of the Tea and Horse Road. The Tea and Horse Road was an extensive network of trading routes linking the south of Yunnan province with the Tibetan Highlands.
From Yiwu tea was transported to Tibet and in the opposite direction salt and Tibetan horses were brought to Yunnan.
In one of the oldest trading firms in Yiwu you have the chance to try out the once so precious puer tea.
Afterwards you travel further to Jiangcheng. This area is one of the most important tea cultivation districts in all of China.
Overnight accommodation is at Jiangcheng.
Day 8: TRAVEL FROM JIANGCHENG TO LUCHUN AND THE YUANYANG RICE TERRACES
During today's drive to Yuanyang you will experience some of the most spectacular rice terraces of the region. There are countless photo opportunities along the way.
This area is home to the Yi and Hani ethnic minorities. The Yuanyang rice terraces have been carved out of the Ailao Mountains over hundreds of years by Hani farmers living in the area.
In 2013 the Yuanyang rice terraces have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
You drive to some of the viewpoints from where you enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the rice terraces. Continue to Duoyishu for overnight accommodation.
You stay overnight in a rustic guesthouse in the middle of the rice terraces of Yuanyang.
Day 9: YUANYANG RICE TERRACES - JIANSHUI
Before sunrise you travel to the Duoyishu viewpoint, from where you experience a wonderful sunrise over the Yuanyang rice terraces.
If possible visit the colorful market in the surrounds of Yuanyang, where you can observe the ethnic groups that are indigenous here, the Yi, Lisu, and Hani in their traditional costumes while shopping.
This is followed by a beautiful 2-3 hours hike through the breathtaking rice terraces of Yuanyang.
After that your journey continues to Jianshui. Jianshui (Lin An) is located 190 km south of Kunming. Its history dates back to the Jin Dynasty (256-420) and it later became a part of the Ningzhou and Nanzhao Kingdoms. During the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) Jianshui (Lin An) became an important military outpost which resulted in the development of the contemporary town.
Check-in at your hotel. Overnight accommodation at Jianshui.
Day 10: JIANSHUI - TUANSHAN – KUNMING
Your day starts with a walking tour around Jianshui.
You visit the “Zhu Family Garden”, the magnificent former residence of the once wealthy and influential Family Zhu.
Visit the recently renovated Confucius Temple „Wen Miao“. The "Wen Miao" of Jianshui is the third largest Confucius Temple in China and construction started around 1285. There is a small lake (“the sea of knowledge”) within the compound which, during the early summer months, is full of beautiful, blooming Lotus flowers.
Continue to the traditional Zhuang-Village of Tuanshan with its unique and well-preserved architecture. On the way you also visit the "Twin Dragon Bridge", an ancient stone bridge from the Qing Dynasty.
In the afternoon drive to Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan Province. The 7 Million city of Kunming is located at 1900 meters above sea level in the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau. Because of the all year round pleasant, spring like climate Kunming was nicknamed “The Spring City of China.”
Check-in at your hotel.
Day 11: KUNMING DEPARTURE
Transfer to the airport or train station for connecting program