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The 10 Best Ecotourism Experiences in Luang Prabang, Laos

This post was originally published on The Culture Trip. To read the original, click here

Luang Prabang is the most popular tourist destination in Laos for a good reason. The UNESCO World Heritage town is charming and the province has well-developed tourism infrastructure for trekking, biking, boating and ethically seeing wildlife with sustainability in mind. Read on for 10 unforgettable ecotourism experiences in Luang Prabang.

 Kuang Si Falls

Kuang Si Falls

TIGER TRAIL HILL TRIBE CULTURE EXPLORER

Nong Khiaw is easily accessible in three hours from Luang Prabang, but retains its remote charm with fewer tourists, great attractions and stunning misty mountain views. Tiger Trail’s six-day mountain adventure takes visitors up and down the Nam Ou to homestays with Hmong and Khmu hill tribes, jungle trekking and waterfalls. Visit caves, experience local cuisine and take in the stunning vistas of northern Laos. This tour includes a stop at the popular “Whiskey Village” and Pak Ou caves on the way back into Luang Prabang

MANDALAO ELEPHANT CONSERVATION

MandaLao Elephant Conservation offers intimate educational experiences and getting up close and personal with the animals without riding. Focused on conservation and the ethical treatment of elephants, visitors have five options of half-day or full-day tours. Choose a morning walk through the forest as the mahouts teach you about how elephants and humans communicate. The full day tour includes lunch, a jungle trek to a waterfall and feeding the elephants. Help train a baby elephant using positive reinforcement, bathe the elephants in the river, and help make treats while learning about elephant nutrition and diet.

WHITE ELEPHANT ADVENTURES TOUR

White Elephant Adventures was one of the first adventure tourism companies in Luang Prabang specializing in mountain trekking, kayaking, and biking. With a team of Western and Lao guides, guests can have a one- or multi-day experience, including homestays with Hmong, Khmu or Lao Loum hill-tribes. Tours range from one to three days with trekking, waterfall hikes, visits to hill tribe villages and more. The 2 Day Trekking and Whitewater Kayaking Homestay with local Hmong and Khmu ethnic groups package introduces visitors to several different cultures. The Nam Ou River, which is the Mekong’s largest tributary, has rapids year-round, making it ideal for kayaking. Guests will be trekking and taking tours of local villages in addition to kayaking. White Elephant happily accommodates vegetarians and will store luggage during tours.

LAO DISCOVERY TOURS

Lao Discovery Tours is a locally-owned company and started in 2006 that is part of the Luang Prabang Tourism Group, which is supported by the Provincial Tourism Department. Specializing in day tours and overnight trekking, the offerings will appeal to those seeking cultural immersion and adventure. The Biking & Zip Lining Adventure tour starts in Luang Prabang, where guests cycle to Ban Phanom to watch the women weaving and to see the silk-making process from silkworm to final product. Cycle to Ban Ean and cross the river by boat over to Tad Sae waterfall. Enjoy a Lao lunch then glide through the jungle canopy by zip line.

LAOS TRAVEL

Laos Travel will plan custom tours for guests but they also have plenty of pre-planned itineraries that are sure to thrill. The four-day Wonder of Luang Prabang package takes the hassle out of organizing transportation and accommodations, allowing visitors to enjoy the most famous sites and stunning natural beauty. Visit the night market for culinary delights and shopping, see Kuang Si falls and the Free the Bears Rescue Center. Visit some of Luang Prabang’s most famous temples and take a boat ride to Pak Ou Caves and learn about the process of making Lao whiskey and rice wine.

GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS TOUR

Green Discover Laos focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility and visitor safety to bring travelers to rural and protected ares with the least possible environmental impact. They offers private and group eco excursions and tours throughout Laos. Green Discovery Laos offers 25 unique tours in Luang Prabang province ensuring a little something for everyone. Kuang Si Waterfall is one of the most spectacular and famous waterfalls in the world. Book a one or two-day tour to trek through rice paddies, pineapple plantations and dense jungles that surround the falls. Stay in a Hmong and Khmu village then explore a cave that was used as a hideout during the Lao Civil War, before trekking to to the aquamarine pools of Tad Kuang Si. Swim in the pools and visit the bear rescue before riding through the twisting mountain roads back to town.

BUFFALO TOURS

Buffalo Tours has offices all over Asia and the Lao itineraries are set up for guests to interact with locals for cultural exchange. The six-day Luang Prabang Cuisine and Culture tour introduces guests to Lao food through a cooking class with a local chef – complete with a market visit to buy ingredients. A silk dying class at Ock Pop Tok highlights the importance of textiles to Lao culture, and a Baci ceremony brings animist traditions to life. The final day of the tour includes a three-hour trek that brings visitors to Kuang Si falls to enjoy the splendid nature of Luang Prabang Province.

ASIA REVEAL TOUR

Asia Reveal Tour is a Lao-owned tourism company with offices in Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Pakse. They are committed to sustainable travel and supporting local people. Tour options include temple tours, volunteer programs with local schools and river cruises. A partnership with Green Organic Farm allows guests to learn about traditional growing techniques and how to start an organic garden. A Lao cooking school at the farm teaches guests how to prepare vegetarian Lao food using produce grown on-site. Proceeds from the tour benefit education programs for disadvantaged Lao youth.

OFF ROADS LAOS ADVENTURE

For the adventurous, Off Road Laos offers motorbike tours for intermediate riders who want to get off the beaten path and see Laos like a local. Their five-day journey into the Hmong tour covers 930 km through Luang Prabang Province. Sixty percent of the driving is off-road through dirt trails, across rivers and up mountains. Riders stay in hill tribe homestays and guest houses in Hmong Villages. At 1500m, the Nongkiaw Mountains and Nam Ou River valley make riders feel like they’ve been transported back in time to meet local tribes and see untouched landscapes.

LAOS OUTDOOR TRAVEL - GREAT OUTDOOR ADVENTURE

There are plenty of slow-boat tour options for those who want a calm river experience. For those looking for a bit more action, check out Laos Outdoor’s two-day Kayaking and Rafting trip. Go cliff jumping into the river, sleep in a local village and enjoy magical scenery along the Nam Xuang river. Learn the basics of kayaking and try your hand at class one through three rapids, while encountering locals fishing and farming along the river. The next day, paddle past limestone cliffs on the more difficult class two through four rapids (now that you’re a pro) before returning to Luang Prabang.

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