9-Day Hidden Tribes of Northern Laos

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Tour type

Tour Level: High level

Tour Comfort: Luxury

Tour Period: 9 Days

tour highlights

  • Explore the Nam Ou River by boat and take in the stunning views
  • Observe the unique architecture, culture, language and traditions of minority communities
  • Soft trek to the hill tribe villages around Muang Sing
  • Enjoy the natural bio-diversity of the Nam Ha Protected Area
  • Marvel at the 35m reclining Buddha at Muang La

tour details

Hidden Tribes of Northern Laos provides the opportunity to become truly immersed in the variety of hill tribes that populate northern Laos. Before absorbing yourself in the unique architecture, culture, language and traditions of the people of this region, travel by boat down the serenely beautiful Nam Ou River.

Why choose this tour?

A unique way to become immersed in, and discover more about, the Ikhor, Yao or Mien, Lanten hilltribes of northern Laos.

Pick up at Luang Prabang hotel and depart for the journey north. On the way, visit the silk-weaving village of Ban Nayang, populated by Tai Lu who originally came from Sisongbanna in Southern China. Ban Nayang consists of more than 200 households. Lunch is at a local restaurant en route.

Arrive in the small town of Nong Khiaw. The drive takes you through stunning landscapes of green hills and cliffs as well as through villages where you will get a glimpse of rural life. Nong Khiaw is situated on the Nam Ou River and surrounded by mountain views. Drive to visit the famous wartime limestone cave of Tham Pha Thok.

Dinner at a local restaurant. Accommodation at Nong Kiau River Side
Breakfast is taken at the hotel. Today, take a local boat upstream via the Nam Ou River to Muang Khua, which is a small district of Phonsaly province. The journey takes about 5- to -6-hours. During your boat trip, you will be able to relax and admire the wonderful mountains and natural green landscapes. You will also have a chance to see the daily life of the people who live along the riverbank.

Along the way you visit Ban Sopchem village, a weaving village where you can look around the village and see and learn more about this traditional handicraft and the textiles that are produced. Many pieces are for sale if you see anything you like. After visiting the weaving village we return to the boat and stop at Ban Done Lome. From here, we take a local tuk tuk (Song Theo) and drive about 10-15 minutes along the Nam Ou Dam to continue to another boat, which will be the start of your journey to Muang Khua

Arrive in Muang Khua and transfer to check in at the hotel.

Dinner at a local restaurant. Accommodation at the hotel.
Breakfast is taken at the hotel.

After breakfast, we drive towards the Chinese border and en route visit a village where local people breed bees and distil rice wine. You will have a chance to learn more about these practices. We then soft trek to the Ikhor village of Houei Yo. The Ikhor belong to the ethnic Khor group once originally called “Akho or Akha” meaning “older brother” in Lao. They emigrated from South China about 500 years ago due to war and entered the Lanexang kingdom of Laos through the Southwest. Upon entering Laos, the Khor group divided into sub-tribes: Khor Pho Xang, Debla, Loma, Eupa, Mu Kuew etc. The women of Khor tribes are skilled in weaving, knitting and ornamental sewing, while the men are excellent woodcrafters. The men are often dressed in baggy pants, dark brown long sleeved shirt, with silver ornaments. Lunch is taken at a local restaurant.

Arrive in Phongsaly province and transfer to check in at the hotel

Dinner at a local restaurant. Accommodation at Phoufa Hotel.
Breakfast is at the hotel, after which we climb 413 steps to the top of Phou Fa Mountain to enjoy a breathtaking view over the dense forests that cover the range and are home to abundant wildlife such as fowls, sambar deer, barking deer, Java tigers, bears, and a rare species of white reindeer.

After descending the mountain we arrive into Muang La in Oudomxay province.

On arrival in Muang La check in to the hotel.

Dinner and accommodation at Muang La Resort.
Breakfast is at the resort. After breakfast, we travel to visit the reclining Buddha. After leaving the lodge a 30-minute drive follows the course of the River Nam Pak and then a hillside road along a hidden valley. You arrive in the Lao Loum village – Phonsavang and continue on for a further 60 minutes, which brings you to the monastery - Wat Hoytinphabath, which really is “in the middle of nowhere”. The monastery houses a 35 metre long reclining Buddha. Numerous effigies and symbols glorifying Buddha can be found in the central temple which also contains footprints of Buddha embedded in stone. The temple is completely in harmony with its surroundings and exudes an inspiring serenity. After our visit to the temple we return to Muang La Resort with the rest of the day at leisure.

Dinner and accommodation at Muang La resort.
After breakfast at the Resort, we visit bustling Oudomxay morning market and then drive to Luang Namtha. On the way, visit Hmong and Lanten villages at Ban Namdeng and Ban Lakkhammai. The Lanten are sometimes called "Lao Houay"(stream Lao) because they choose to live near permanent streams. The dark indigo clothing worn by both men and women is immediately recognisable. The women pluck or shave their eyebrows upon reaching puberty and wear their hair in a traditional style, swept up and held in place with beautiful silver jewellery. Luang Namtha is home to the largest concentration of Lanten villages in Laos and counts about 4,000 Lanten in its population. Like the closely related Mien, the Lanten emigrated from China in search of stability and new mountain rice fields. Legend holds that the Lanten were separated from their older brothers, the Mien, during the flight and made their way alone from China's Hainan Island through Northern Vietnam, settling here in the 19th century. Lunch today is at a local restaurant en route.

After lunch, continue to Muang Sing and on arrival check in at the hotel. Since the late 16th century, the small town of Muang Sing has been a traditional Thai cultural nexus as well as a trade centre attracting a large variety of hilltribes.

Dinner and accommodation at the guesthouse.
Breakfast this morning at the guesthouse, after which we visit the vibrant local market where the various minority tribes come early in the morning to sell their products. Full-day excursion and soft trek to the surrounding hilltribe villages: Ikhor, Yao or Mien, and Lanten with Phou Iu. The trek will take you through Nam Ha National Protected Area where you will see hidden waterfalls, primary bamboo and wild banana forest. There are also birds to spot in this rich, bio-diverse environment. The Yao originally came from Yunnan Province in Southern China. In their villages, the Yao maintain a large extended family in the same household. Yao women, who wear high turbans and long indigo gowns bordered with bright pink wool boa collars, are easily recognised. This is an opportunity to observe and understand more about the daily life and traditions of these fascinating people. Lunch will be at a local restaurant.

Dinner and accommodation at the guesthouse.
Breakfast at the guesthouse, there is an early morning departure towards Luang Namtha. On the way, visit an Ikhor village and enjoy lunch en route. Continue to Houai Xai, visiting a limestone cave at Muang Nale before a late arrival at Houai Xai, located along the Mekong River.

Dinner and accommodation at the hotel (Riverside Houai Xai)
Following breakfast at the hotel, you will transfer to the immigration checkpoint and cross the Friendship Bridge to Chiang Khong (Thailand).


  • Accommodation in shared double/twin room with air conditioning (AC) and private bathroom
  • Meals as stated in the programme B= Breakfast, L= Lunch & D= Dinner
  • Transfers and tours with English-speaking guides in private air conditioned vehicles
  • All entrance fees as mentioned in the programme
  • Mineral water available in the vehicles


  • Domestic airfare (quoted separately, if requested)
  • International airfare to / from Laos (quoted separately, if requested)
  • Border tax Houay Xai – Chiang Khong (Thailand)
  • Optional tours
  • Surcharges for other language guides
  • Surcharges for Lao Pimai (New Year)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Personal expenditures, such as drinks, souvenirs, laundry, camera fees, communications, postage, gratuities, etc.
  • Meals and services other than mentioned in the programme
  • Drinks with meals
  • Compulsory gala dinners during festive seasons and peak season surcharges which will be advised at the time of booking or when available
  • Early check-in and late check-out at hotels, if not mentioned in the programme


Upon request, a licensed French, German, Spanish or other language-speaking guide can accompany participants for the whole duration of the trip at an additional cost.

Tour code: HTN9

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