Trekking in Bolikhamxay

March off on one of many treks in Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area (PKK), less than 2 hours from Vientiane Capital.

Trekking in Bolikhamxay


Take trails through wild orchids to waterfalls, sleep in the Elephant Observation Tower, and follow rivers on an overnight camping trek. 

PKK Classic

Enjoy a pleasant day or two in PKK with up to 7 hours of easy trekking to waterfalls and an optional overnight homestay. Start the locally guided journey at Ban Hatkhai and a boat ride up the Nam Mang River and Houay Xay Stream. Then it’s time for a 2-hour trek on an upward slope through evergreens. After a picnic lunch, continue for about an hour to Tad Xay Waterfall and its natural swimming pool. An 800-metre walk ends at the Pha Xay Waterfall. A pickup returns you to Ban Hatkhai for a homestay or sawng taew (covered pickup truck with benches) ride to Vientiane or Pakxan.

Day 2 kicks off with a transfer to Tad Leuk Waterfall and Visitor Centre, before hitting the trail with signs pointing out botanical highlights. After lunch at Tad Leuk, follow a path upstream along the Nam Leuk River and through orchid fields to Tad Xang (Elephant) Waterfall and its natural pool. A short trek returns to Tad Leuk and a sawng taew ride to Vientiane or Pakxan.

Ban Na & the Elephant Tower Trek

Since it opened in 2005, Ban Na Village’s Elephant Observation Tower and overnight in PKK continue to pull in Vientiane residents and foreign travellers alike. Even The Discovery Channel filmed an “Animal Planet” show at the 11-metre-high structure. 

Follow a forest path to the tower, which overlooks a saltlick and stream that attract wild elephants in the evening hours. Though there is no guarantee you’ll see one, visitors have spotted herds of up to 40 pachyderms including an old tusker. Groups of five to 15 are more common. After an early dinner, you’ll wait for the elephants while listening to the sounds of the forest. Spend the night in the tower.

After an early breakfast, watch for more elephants. You may hear them cracking through the bamboo. Then, it’s time to trek back to Ban Na, for a lunch prepared by the guide’s family. After eating, learn how to weave bamboo baskets. Before returning to Vientiane, visit nearby Vat Phabath, and its 2-metre-long sacred Buddha footprint.

PKK Waterfall Trek

Get ready for 7 hours on a rugged 14-km trail through dense brush and high-canopy forests, before a steep climb to plateaux and mountaintop ridges. The guided trek starts in Ban Na and stops at less-visited Tad Lung and Tad Fa Waterfalls. Once you reach Tad Hi Kheng Khani (Waterfall of the Gibbon) on the Nam Hi River, set up camp for the night. In the morning, follow an elephant trail downhill, and listen for them rustling in the bamboo. After lunch at the Elephant Observation Tower, trek back to Ban Na and a sawng taew ride to Vientiane or Pakxan.

The Nam Leuk Adventure Trail

Campout in the forest for 2 nights, and immerse yourself in PKK’s nature while following a trail along the winding Nam Leuk River. Begin at the Tad Leuk Waterfall and a look at the exhibit inside the Visitor Centre. After lunch, head out with a local guide on an easy 4-hour trek, and try to spot birds and monkeys, until reaching the first campsite on a sandy riverbank.

Eat a hearty breakfast, as 6 hours of trekking await. A short but steep section leads to a waterfall and unrivalled view of the forest canopy below. Take a look at the massive landmark Burmese Mahogany tree at the falls. Continue along the river, pausing for a picnic lunch along the way. Stop in the early afternoon and make camp in a forest with 40-metre-tall evergreens, and listen for birds, monkeys, and squirrels. The final day wanders through old forest, with traces of elephants, to Ang Nam Leuk Reservoir, known for its Siamese Crocodiles. From here, catch a ride to Ban Houay Leuk for lunch at the guide’s house.  

The Orchid Trek

Take a 1-day trek to see and learn about rare orchids in PKK. Start at Ban Hatkhai, where an orchid expert and two local guides drive you through rice fields to Xay Waterfall Pha. The trek begins by viewing orchids around the fall’s park, and then following a path through a thick jungle with 40-metre-high trees. The trail gets narrow and lined with loads of orchids in several spots, with many patches covering rocks. The expert explains these plants and environment, which includes medicinal and edible plants such as ginger and sugar cane. The trail ends at Tad Xay Waterfall and a ride to Ban Hatkhai.

Houay Xay River Camping

Try a night of camping along this 2-day trek launched from Pha Xay Waterfall in the heart of the PKK. The trail meanders along the Houay Xay River under a canopy of dense and humid old forest with orchids and medicinal plants. The orchid expert explains the plants’ uses and customs that surround them. Continue up to the rocky Khouan Dan Plateau and the “Paradise of Orchids”. Dive deeper into the ancient forest with its fruit trees, rattan, and rocks covered in mosses and ferns.

You’ll set up a camp of tents, hammocks, and a fire on the banks of the Houay Xay, where you can bathe in the river. Then, cook a jungle dinner, and have a conversation with the guides and expert, before turning in. The next day’s trek climbs to rocky plateaux and crosses streams to the 7-tiered Tad Xay Waterfall and a swim in the pool below.