Northern Thailand & Laos: Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang Bike Tour
This trip takes us through the deep interior side of Northern Thailand and Laos, home to mountains covered with lush tropical forests. We ride through the verdant topography of Thailand and Laos, the exquisite Buddhist wats, the nose-dripping spicy food to die for, and lush paddy gently swaying in the breeze as we pedal along to the next destination across mountains, through deep valleys and riversides, full of local surprises. The terrain largely remains undulating, skirting along the beautiful rivers viz. Kok, Mekong, Nam Ou, and Nam Pak.
Chiang Mai | 13:00hrs
50km or 30mi
spellbinding riversThe Rivers that we touch along this ride are special in their own way. Entire communities depend on them for a living. These arterial streams are a great way to know the destination better; whether you ride along them, or in tail boat in its waters.
|DAY 1||Chiang Mai||Aksara Heritage||D|
|DAY 2||Wat Ban Den||Le Cocotier||B,L,D||65km / 40mi||cycling|
|DAY 3||Chiang Dao||Chiang Kham Luang||B,L,D||60km / 36mi||cycling|
|DAY 4||Tha Ton||Maekok Village Resort||B,L,D||60km / 42mi*||cycling|
|DAY 5||Mae Salong||Wang Put Tan||B,L,D||45km / 27mi||cycling|
|DAY 6||Chiang Saen||Siam Triangle Hotel||B,L,D||60km / 36mi||cycling|
|DAY 7||Chiang Khong||Chiang Khong Riverfront||B,L,D||65km / 39mi||cycling|
|DAY 8||Boat to Pakbeng||Mekong Riverside Lodge||B,L,D|
|DAY 9||Oudomxay||Nam Kat Yorla||B,L,D||70km / 42mi*||cycling|
|DAY 10||Muang Khua||New Chaleunsouk||B,L,D||70km / 42mi*||cycling|
|DAY 11||Boat to Nong Khiaw||Mandala Ou||B,L,D|
|DAY 12||Luang Prabang||Sala Prabang||B,L||60km / 37mi*||cycling|
|DAY 13||Luang Prabang||Sala Prabang||B,L,D||30km / 18mi||cycling|
|DAY 14||Luang Prabang||B|
Accommodation - Casual Inns
Small luxury and boutique hotels that are true to their heritage and character and reflect local ethos are listed here as Casual Inns. They hold within them an unassuming charm and regional character that is an extension of the destination itself. Most of them fall under the 3-star or 4-star category with a possible mix of homestays.
We have chosen them carefully so that you are well-rested; get a drift of the local character or an enthralling view from your verandah. The above brief itinerary gives you a clickable list of hotels for your perusal.
Day 1: Chiang Mai
Arrive in Chiang Mai and settle into your hotel. Our guide meets at your hotel, post-lunch at 13:00hrs for a bike fit followed by a walking tour of Chiang Mai. Today we visit some of the classic highlights of Chiang Mai.
We convene tonight to celebrate the start of our awesome journey on a bike.
Day 2: Wat Ban Den
Our guide meets you at your hotel around 07:30 am. After breakfast, we will shuttle a short way out of town to avoid the morning rush hour, then hop on the bikes for a spin along the banks of the Ping River. One of Thailand's four main rivers, its water flows all the way to Bangkok. Along the way pass by flower farms growing chrysanthemums for use as Buddhist offerings. After lunch, we pick up a tiny rural road through the lush Mae Rim Valley with its quiet villages and old wooden temples. Visit the fresh market in Mae Malai before reaching our hotel overlooking vast rice fields with a backdrop of forested mountains.
Day 3: Chiang Dao
Today's ride starts with cycling through a couple of small villages with old traditional wooden houses before you reach the expansive Wat Ban Den (temple). Each of its viharn (temple buildings) has been built in a different style. Riding north from here, you will roll through the Mae Ping gorge with its unique "air conditioning", air flowing off the mountains along creeks blows cool across the road like an air conditioner. The last stop before reaching the hotel will be a visit to Wat Tham Chiang Dao, a temple complex built into limestone caves in Doi Chiang Dao (Thailand's 3rd tallest peak).
Day 4: Tha Ton
This morning we will shuttle up over the Chiang Dao mountains on our way to Chaiprakan. We will break up the drive with a visit to the Royal Project Shop and a hill tribe vegetable and fruit market a legacy of HM Rama 9 The Great. Remounting the bikes at Wat Tham Tab Tao, you will ride along quiet farm roads with a backdrop of karst cliffs. Our entire route today goes through small villages and farms today, growing everything from rice to vegetables to fruit. Check out a Burmese-style temple whose Buddha figurine is made of woven wicker.
We pace out our journey to Thaton and arrive at this beautiful town at the edge of a River. Thaton is one of the last towns bordering Myanmar in this area. The great part of this is that one gets to see the blend of Burmese, Thai and Chinese influences in language and culture. Your hotel tonight overlooks the Mae Kok river.
Day 5: Mae Salong
Ride along the river and make way to Mae Salong. The river meanders through a rich green valley, unfolding one dramatic scenery after another. Hilltop farming to tea plantations, bamboo huts by the river, and elephants lazily relaxing in the river- this is Thailand at its most authentic best! After being submerged in nature, we attempt the gradual climb through the forest in the last leg and arrive at Mae Salong.
Day 6: Chiang Saen
We’re back in the countryside this morning, with paddy fields for company. The ride is extremely refreshing as the crisp morning air and clear skies welcome you on the road. We reach Chiang Saen by afternoon and settle into the hotel. Relax for some time before setting out to see the confluence of Thailand, Thailand, and Myanmar, and the site for the infamous Golden Triangle. A great way to see this is from Wat Phrathat Phu Kao Hill. Chiang Saen is one of the most historic cities. What makes it more intriguing is the access from here to Thailand and Burma.
If time permits, we head out after lunch and see the spectacular Wats and visit the Hall of Opium. The Royal Project and Doi Tung Development Project have spent years battling the trade of opium and its social repercussions. The Hall of Opium was built to educate people about the dangers of drug abuse and also traces its history from its first use 5,000 years ago.
Day 7: Chiang Khong
This is the last day for soaking in Thailand’s local life. We start early to utilize the full day. With the rich silted land by the Mekong River, a bike ride means that you tend to be surrounded by shades of green. There is agricultural land as far as your eyes can see. Ride past fruit orchards, paddy fields, and banana plantations and arrive at Chiang Khong.
Day 8: Boat to Pakbeng
We cross the border and arrive at the Laos side. We transfer to the pier and board a huge traditional Mekong riverboat for the downstream cruise to Pak Beng, Laos. This portion of the Mekong is very remote, which sometimes allows glimpses of wildlife in the extensive forests. There are occasional stops at local hill tribe villages to meet people and observe life on the riverside.
Enjoy the lovely scenery along both sides of the Mekong cruising to today’s destination.
Day 9: Oudomxay
Today it’s a long full day cycling to Oudomxay. This is one of the most spectacular stretches of long mountain road. The road is dotted with small villages and provides a great way to get acquainted with local rural life. The dramatic limestone and green rolling hills formations make for great photographic opportunities. There will be plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the wonderful scenery. The journey passes through beautiful mountain ranges and H’mong hill tribe villages.
Day 10: Muang Khua
Another long and undulating ride today to Muang Khua. This is one of the most unvisited parts of Laos and the experience is truly unique. To get to the Muang Khua, we ride along the Nam Pak River. Along the way, you will notice how the homes are made of wood and bamboo. We spend some time here talking to the locals, just walking around, or just sitting at the edge of the river.
Day 11: Boat to Nong Khiaw
We ditch the cycles for an amazing boat ride in the Nam Pak River to Nong Khiaw. This is one of the most stunning journeys by the river in this region. The edge of the river is dotted with small villages and this is a great way of getting acquainted with local life. There are also limestone formations that make for great photographic experiences. The jaw-dropping landscape keeps you hooked to this for a long.
Day 12: Luang Prabang
Hop on a bike and ride the last leg of the tour along the undulating countryside skirting the Nam Pak River to Luang Prabang.
Today’s dinner is on your own. We suggest eating dinner at a street stall so you can dig into the local delicacies. street stall so you can dig into the local delicacies. Lao food can be very meat-oriented. Chopped meat, chicken, or duck are common, but there are plenty of options for vegetarians as well. Our personal recommendation is the light and tasty Tam Mak houng or papaya salad, which is made from sliced raw papaya, garlic, chilly, peanuts, sugar, fermented fish sauce, and lime juice.
Day 13: Luang Prabang
Our main destination for the day is the hidden waterfall, Kung Si. Tucked away between thick foliage, the famous waterfall feels like a secret. The aquamarine waters are tempting, so do carry your swimwear along.
On our way to the waterfalls, we make a stop at the Great Project (called the Laos Buffalo Dairy), a project designed to educate the Rural communities in Animal Husbandry and basic animal health care. They rent the Cattle from the villagers to enable a secure income for the community and use the milk to create Cheese and Spectacular Ice Cream. Lunch is served Picnic style here and there is also an opportunity to get an unforgettable ‘Buffalo Selfie’.
We also hike to the top of the falls. We spend until afternoon here and return to the town by a long-tail boat skirting the spectacular Mekong river. In the evening, we recommend visiting the famous night handicraft market. Shopping for local delights can be great fun, so enjoy your shopping time for the day.
Dinner is at a Local NGO who train marginalized youth for careers in the Hospitality industry. It is also one of the most exciting menus in town, a great balance between traditional and modern flavors.
Day 14: Luang Prabang
Get up before sunrise today, and walk up to Mount Phousi for a beautiful tinge of orange in the sky and seeing the city bathe in the warm glow of the rising sun.
Please make arrangements as per your onward journey.
Dates and Prices
Our base pricing is in USD. However, we can also quote in AUD, GBP, CAD, and EUR, and you can pay in the same. Please write us.
Couldn't find a trip with convenient dates?
Open your date as a join-in tour or customize further as private one.
We offer private departures on almost all our itineraries, and for groups of four or more, they cost the same as our standard trips!
All hotels as mentioned in the tour details or similar (subject to availability).
Expert Trip Leader(s) who look after your every need and add meaning to your vacation.
Immaculately maintained bike with helmet, suited to a terrain.
A Van support that follows the group of riders and carries all belongings.
Meals as per itinerary. Guests are given the opportunity to dine on their own so that they discover a location independently.
Refreshments and mineral water while cycling.
Entrance fees to most of the monuments and temples.
When you have a road and the thrill of a journey ahead of you, it’s imperative to have a good bike to enjoy it. Our fleet majorly consist of the below bikes as a part of this tour. However, sometimes due to height or availability constraints, we may provide a different but similar quality bike.
Merida Speeder T3 (Thailand)
Bianchi Kuma 26.3 (Thailand)
Trek FX Hybrids (Laos)
Included in your trip price
Trek Marlin 6 (Laos)
Included in your trip price
Merida Big 9MTBs (Laos)
Included in your trip price
The northern highlands in which Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai are located have a cooler climate than the rest of Thailand. The cycle tour season here consequently runs from October to March. During the months of December and January, night-time temperatures may dip below the freezing point in some parts.
- The best time of year is winter (November through February). It is the dry season and temperatures are cooler. The north normally has no rain. Temperatures in the north are in the mid to upper 20s.
- March through May is quite hot in the north (the upper 30s and low 40s) and probably a good time to avoid trips north of Bangkok.
- June through October is the rainy season (or green season as the hotels like to call it). In the north, rains peak in August and are winding down in early October. Rain tends to be short but heavy tropical downpours, then clearing out, usually happening in the afternoon or evening, so cycling tours are still possible.
In a nutshell, winter is great (Nov - Feb), summer (Apr-May) avoid going in the north, and the rest of the year is ok.
The dry season runs from late October until May; June to October is characterized by heavy rainfall. The southwest monsoon generally arrives around May/July. Until July, rain comes mostly in the form of short downpours for an hour or so, clearing the way for clear skies. After July, rain reaches peak levels in August and September.
Though the weather can be sometimes quite unpleasant from June to September, there are benefits to this season. Nature comes to life, dry brown grasslands and forests become lush and green, the farmers welcome the season with full productivity, and lakes and rivers as well as waterfalls fill up and become stronger than ever.
Our cycling tours in Northern Laos majorly run from September to mid-April with Oct to Feb being the best months having low humidity and plenty of sunshine. Mar to May is characterized by high humidity and some smokey skies due to slash-and-burn agriculture.
As a tourist-friendly country, Thailand has a visa exemption rule under which tourists from over 64 listed countries are allowed to enter Thailand without a visa, provided they fulfill the following conditions:
- They must enter Thailand through an international airport.
- They must have arrived in Thailand strictly for the purposes of tourism.
- They must possess, at the time of arrival, a return ticket for no later than 30 days from the date of entry.
- They must have funds equal to a minimum of 10,000 THB per person at the time of entry.
Tourist visas may be valid for 15 to 30 days and need to be renewed if you wish to extend your stay. Longer visas of up to 90 days are issued to foreigners who wish to enter Thailand for business, study, or other special purposes.
Here is an excellent resource on Thailand visas that may be worthy to look at.
Airport pickup and drop
We recommend to book direclty from airport or hotel.
Some meals may not be included. Please check your itinerary.
Beverages such as alcohol, tea, coffee, juice at a hotel or restaurant.
Reviews from our friends
Martha Binks from US5.0
We have done two trips with Art of Bicycle. Bangkok to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang. Amazing experiences. Our guides, Noom and Sunni on the first, Noom and Fem, and Bon Chan on the second were exceptional – knowledgeable attentive and charming. Will be booking more tours soon.
End of reviews