The Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop: the ultimate guide

The ultimate guide to driving the Bolaven Plateau by motorbike: a perfect 4 day itinerary
Tad Fane Watrfall, deep into Laos' Bolaven Plateau

Last updated: 4th of September 2023

In the heart of Southeast Asia, amidst the often-trodden paths of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, lies a hidden sanctuary, where adventure and enchantment await the intrepid traveler. Welcome to the mystical realm of the Bolaven Plateau, a captivating land tucked away within the borders of Laos, waiting to be explored on the thrilling Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop.

As the engine roars to life in the provincial town of Pakse, we embark on a journey that transcends mere sightseeing. This is a voyage through rugged landscapes, emerald coffee plantations, and pristine waterfalls, where each twist of the road whispers secrets of an ancient volcanic past.

Join us as we unveil the Bolaven Plateau, weaving through its captivating scenery and discovering the soul of southern Laos, all from the saddle of a trusty motorbike. The Tad Fane waterfall's curtain of cascading water sets the stage, and the Bolaven Plateau by motorbike becomes our grand adventure, a symphony of sights and experiences that promises to leave an indelible mark on the soul of every traveler.

So, gear up and ride with us on this unforgettable journey through the Bolaven Plateau, where every twist of the road reveals a new chapter in the story of your motorbike odyssey.


Unearthing the Bolaven Plateau

The Bolaven Plateau, cloaked in volcanic history, promises adventure to those willing to explore its secrets. A landscape embellished with emerald coffee plantations, ethereal waterfalls, and serene villages, it beckons the curious traveler with promises of extraordinary outdoor escapades.

Miles of sinuous roads weave through the plateau, yearning to be unveiled by the rumble of motorbike engines. And in Pakse, a provincial town in southern Laos, adventure seekers find their haven, their gateway to the Bolaven Plateau.

Bolaven Plateau loop
southern Laos by motorbike

Exploring the Bolaven Plateau from Pakse

Pakse, once a thriving city along the Mekong, now echoes with faded glory. Stately colonial villas stand as remnants of a bygone era, reminiscing about the days when bustling docks greeted ships and traders. In Pakse, where the bustling streets hum with activity, we faced the crucial decision of selecting the perfect companion for our Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop. It's here, on the main street of Pakse, that serendipity introduced us to Miss Noy, a renowned motorbike rental establishment with a reputation that resonated far and wide.

Where to rent your motorbike in Pakse

Miss Noy wasn't just a rental shop; it was a haven for motorbike enthusiasts and adventure-seekers. With services offered in English, French, and even Chinese, they catered to a diverse clientele, providing not only reliable two-wheelers but also invaluable knowledge about exploring the Bolaven Plateau by motorbike.

The owners, well-versed in the art of motorbike exploration, handed us a detailed map of the region, adorned with intricate routes and highlighted Bolaven Plateau highlights. Their insights proved invaluable, unraveling the mysteries of this captivating land and steering us towards its hidden gems.

Should any doubts linger or last-minute guidance be needed, Miss Noy was the haven we returned to. Whether you contemplated the Bolaven Plateau short loop or the big loop, they were the compass guiding you through these magnificent terrains. In fact, the only circumstance that would deter one from renting a motorbike at Miss Noy was an unexpected shortage of available bikes.

Motorbike essentials for your Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop

With our trusty steeds secured, the next step was to ensure we were fully equipped for the adventure ahead. Here are some essentials you'll want to have on hand for your Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop:

  1. Individual Motorbikes: Traveling in pairs or groups? Opt for individual motorbikes rather than doubling up. While sharing a bike might seem like a budget-friendly choice, it can be uncomfortable for the pillion rider during long journeys.
  2. Luggage Arrangements: Leave your bulky luggage at your accommodation. Pack essential items in a daypack, ensuring you're free to move comfortably on your motorbike.
  3. Weather-Appropriate Clothing: The Bolaven Plateau's climate can be unpredictable. Pack at least one sweater and a raincoat to prepare for temperature drops and unexpected showers.
  4. Sunscreen: Protect your skin from the sun's harsh rays, especially during long rides.
  5. Security Measures: Never leave your motorbike unattended. When visiting waterfalls or attractions, be sure to pay for parking, typically a nominal fee. This simple precaution safeguards your motorbike from vanishing unexpectedly.
  6. Shoe Selection: Opt for comfortable and sturdy shoes suitable for hiking if you plan to explore waterfalls and trekking paths. Flip-flops may not be adequate for these adventures.

Now, with our motorbikes ready and our essentials packed, we were poised for the Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop, ready to embrace the enchanting landscapes and captivating experiences that lay ahead.

Where to stay in Pakse

Going for a refreshing swim in Paksé before starting our explorations of the Bolaven Plateau  by motorbike
Cooling down in the pool of the Athena Hotel

Though not the most exciting city of Laos, it is the perfect staging point for trips to the Bolaven Plateau. After we disembarked from our flight from Vientiane to Pakse, we checked in at Hotel Athena. Hotel Athena is the perfect place to start and end your tour of the Bolaven Plateau by motorbike. The hotel has a beautiful swimming pool perfectly suited to cool off after spending time in the sultring heat of Pakse.

Click here to view additional hotels in Pakse and browse prices

Choosing Your Bolaven Plateau Adventure: Short Loop vs. Big Loop

With our motorbikes gassed up and our spirits high, the time had come to make a pivotal decision: should we embark on the Bolaven Plateau short loop or dive into the grandeur of the big loop? As we weighed our options, the Bolaven Plateau unfurled its mysteries, each route revealing a unique tapestry of wonders.

The Bolaven Plateau Short Loop

The vast majority of travelers who venture to the Bolaven Plateau opt for the short loop, and for good reason. A minimum of two days is usually enough to cover its highlights, although many are lured into extending their stay, intoxicated by the pastoral beauty and the aromatic allure of coffee in Tat Lo. Renowned as a piece of backpacker's paradise, Tat Lo has the reputation of tacking on extra days to your originally planned Bolaven Plateau itinerary.

The short loop winds its way through the southern part of the plateau, where an abundance of natural and cultural treasures awaits. One glance at the detailed map of Bolaven Plateau attractions reveals a tantalizing array of experiences: gushing waterfalls, fragrant coffee plantations, and encounters with local villages.

For those with a limited schedule or seeking a taste of the Bolaven Plateau's essence, the short loop is an ideal choice. You'll witness breathtaking landscapes and vibrant cultures without the commitment of an extended journey.

Detailed map of the best things to see on Bolaven Plateau by motorbike

The Bolaven Plateau Big Loop

Yet, as adventurers at heart, we yearned for something more, something off the beaten path. We chose to forge our own trail, a path that led us to the boldest of the Bolaven Plateau experiences—the big loop. The big loop encompasses a broader sweep of the plateau, offering a deeper immersion into its secrets. While the short loop can be accomplished in a couple of days, the big loop warrants a more leisurely pace. A journey of at least four days allows you to embrace the plateau's grandeur fully.

Blending the Best of Both Worlds

In the end, we forged a path that blended the finest elements of both loops. Our decision to stay for two nights at the same accommodation became our compass for this hybrid journey. By fusing the short loop's efficiency with the big loop's depth, we crafted an itinerary that allowed us to explore a diverse range of attractions while ensuring we had ample time to savor each experience. This unique approach allowed us to embrace the Bolaven Plateau in a way that felt both comprehensive and balanced.

As our motorbikes roared to life and we set forth on this hybrid expedition, we carried with us the promise of adventure and the anticipation of uncovering the plateau's many facets. Our Bolaven Plateau odyssey had begun, and we were determined to make the most of every moment, whether on the short loop, the big loop, or the exciting fusion of the two.You can find our exact travel route in the map below.

Our Bolaven Plateau by motorbike itinerary

Driving the Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop
Driving past a village and iron forgers on the Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop

Day 1: The lost temple of Wat Phu

Before embarking on the famed Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop, we chose to pay homage to Wat Phu, an ancient Khmer temple complex. Our motorbikes carried us through roads adorned with sweeping vistas, the perfect initiation to our southern Laos sojourn. Wat Phu, a testament to Khmer history, nestled on a hillside surrounded by rice terraces and serene lakes. The temple's solitude allowed us to explore its mystique with unhurried reverence, savoring every moment of tranquility.

Lost temple of Wat Phu in Bolaven Plateau
Lost temple of Wat Phu in Bolaven Plateau Laos

The ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex had ties with the larger and more famous Ankor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. Perched on the side of a hill, Wat Phu is situated in a totally different natural setting. Surrounded by rice terraces and beautiful landscaped lakes, you can see for miles from the top temple of Wat Phu. Wat Phu can be explored in absolute tranquility, as a real touristic invasion hasn't occured yet. Hardly any other people were present while we were roaming the complex: indulge yourself wandering around this mystique beauty while enjoying the peace and quietness around you.

We headed back to Hotel Athena in Pakse for the night. Washing the caked dust off was a heavenly relief and a first introduction to what awaits us the following days. The whole day took us 3hours (about 120km) to get there and back.

Where to spend the night: Hotel Athena

Ancient Khmer ruis at What Phu temple complex near Pakse in Laos, the Bolaven Plateau
Wat Phu temple complex on the Bolaven Plateau Motorbike loop

Day 2: Waterfall Wonders - Tad Fane Waterfall and the Enchanting Tad Yuang Waterfall

With our course charted and our hearts brimming with anticipation, we set forth on the Bolaven Plateau, a land where time seemed to stand still, and nature's splendor awaited at every turn. Our first destination was the renowned Tad Fane waterfall, a jewel in the plateau's crown.

Tad Fane Waterfall: Nature's Majestic Symphony

The double streams of Tad Fane Waterfall, the highest waterfalls of Laos on this Bolaven Plateau itinerary
The double streams of Tad Fane falls

As we approached Tad Fane, the resonating sound of crashing water reached our ears, like a prelude to an awe-inspiring symphony of nature. This was a waterfall unlike any other we had encountered before, as two mighty streams of water plunged gracefully into the verdant jungle-covered basin below. We parked our motorbikes and made our way to the viewpoints near the Tad Fane Resort Here, we stood in silent reverence, gazing at the spectacle before us. The sheer power and beauty of nature enveloped us as we marveled at this mesmerizing display.

Some adventurous souls among us opted to hire a guide and trek through the lush jungle to reach the zenith of the falls. Others took a thrilling zipline adventure across the gorge, their laughter mingling with the thundering waters.

Tad Yuang Waterfall: An Oasis of Green Serenity

Tad Yuang Waterfall Bolaven Plateau
Viewpoint at the Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop: Tad Yuang Waterfall

Leaving Tad Fane behind, we embarked on the short journey to Tad Yuang, which promised a different kind of waterfall experience. This enchanting cascade might not have the dramatic drop into a colossal canyon like Tad Fane, but it possessed its own unique charm.

Tad Yuang welcomed us with a serene ambiance and lush green surroundings. At the base and summit of the waterfall, we found picturesque viewpoints that allowed us to appreciate its subtle grandeur. The tranquility of the place was soothing to our souls, and we relished the moments of solitude amidst this natural oasis.

As we explored Tad Yuang, we couldn't resist taking a refreshing dip in its inviting waters, an experience that left us invigorated and connected to the plateau's pristine beauty. After our enchanting encounter with Tad Yuang, we realized that the Bolaven Plateau held more treasures than we could have ever imagined. Our journey had only just begun, and we were eager to uncover more of its hidden gems.

Where to spend the night: Sabaidee Valley

Day 3: Navigating the Bolaven Plateau to Tad Tayicseua

A little further into the plateau, approximately 60 kilometers from the previous day's discoveries at Tad Fane, we encountered Tad Tayicseua, a hidden gem that gleamed with its own unique charm. To reach this secluded paradise, we navigated approximately 8 kilometers on a dirt road, a path that proved to be relatively accessible in dry weather and a bit more challenging during rain showers. However, the allure of this natural wonder was more than enough to entice us, and we braved the occasional obstacles along the way.

Tad Tayicseua welcomed us with open arms, its pristine beauty revealing itself as we ventured deeper into this oasis. Surrounded by lush greenery and untouched landscapes, we found ourselves in a world where the only sounds were those of nature, where time seemed to stand still.

Bolaven Plateau Laos: Tad Tayicseua waterfall
Bolaven Plateau Laos: Tad Tayicseua waterfall

This enchanting location boasts not one but seven different waterfalls, each possessing its own unique character. The journey to explore them took us on foot, along paths that sometimes became muddy and slippery, particularly near the base of the falls. We soon learned that appropriate footwear for hiking, something more substantial than flip-flops, was a wise choice.

As we wandered through this paradise, the sheer grandeur of Tad Tayicseua and its neighboring waterfalls left us in awe. We couldn't help but marvel at the unspoiled beauty that surrounded us, a testament to nature's creativity and power. The waterfalls invited us to swim in their crystal-clear pools, providing the perfect refreshment amidst the lush wilderness.

Where to spend the night: Sabaidee Valley

Day 4: The Coffee Chronicles

Our fourth and final day on the Bolaven Plateau was destined to be an exploration of flavors and an immersion into one of Laos' most renowned treasures: its coffee. With the tantalizing scent of fresh brews in the air, we set off to Paksong with a single goal in mind: to visit Jhai Coffee Shop.

A Journey into Coffee's Heartland

As we left our accommodations, the anticipation of tasting the famed Bolaven Plateau coffee filled the air. We were about to embark on a unique adventure that would not only tantalize our taste buds but also warm our hearts.

Jhai Coffee Shop, nestled amidst the verdant coffee plantations, welcomed us with open arms. However, it wasn't just the aroma of freshly roasted beans that drew us in; it was the heartwarming story behind this establishment. At Jhai Coffee Shop, every cup of coffee enjoyed contributes to local initiatives aimed at providing communities with clean drinking water. So, not only were we about to savor some of the finest coffee in Laos, but we were also contributing to a noble cause.

Bolaven Plateau coffee
bolaven plateau by motorbike

A Cup of History and Coffee

We began our journey into the world of Bolaven Plateau coffee with a steaming cup of Arabica coffee, grown right here on these fertile lands. As we took that first sip, we were transported into the depths of history, understanding the significance of coffee in Laos and the intricate process from bean to cup.

Jhai Coffee Shop offers a local tour of their coffee plantation, a 30-minute expedition that delves into the rich history of coffee in Laos. From the moment a coffee bean is plucked from the tree to the moment it fills your cup, every step of the journey was revealed. The tour painted a vivid picture of the dedication and craftsmanship behind each cup of Bolaven Plateau coffee.

Where to spend the night: Hotel Athena

A Heartwarming Farewell to the Bolaven Plateau

With our hearts warmed by the knowledge that our coffee experience was not just delicious but also contributed to a noble cause, we savored a final cup of Joe at Jhai Coffee Shop. The exquisite taste of Bolaven Plateau coffee lingered on our palates, a reminder of the unique flavors and experiences this plateau had shared with us.

As we reluctantly departed from Paksong and the Bolaven Plateau, we couldn't help but reflect on the incredible journey we had undertaken. From cascading waterfalls to sprawling coffee plantations, this adventure had exposed us to the diverse and enchanting facets of Southern Laos.

Our return to Pakse was marked by a sense of fulfillment and contentment, knowing that our exploration had not only allowed us to connect with nature but also with the heartwarming stories of the people who call this land home. As the sun set on our Bolaven Plateau adventure, we carried with us the memories of its natural wonders, its hidden gems, and the rich aroma of its liquid gold: Bolaven Plateau coffee.

Ready to discover hidden Laos? The south of Laos hold gorgeous waterfalls, tropical rainforests, UNESCO heritage temples and coffee fields. All this can be found on the Bolaven Plateau. Discover our 4 days Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop itinerary with the best stops en route!

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