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: 5th of March 2024

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. 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.

Starting our journey in the provincial town of Pakse, the engines of our motorbikes roar to life as we embark on an adventure beyond the city limits into the surrounding jungle. This is a trip through rugged landscapes, emerald coffee plantations, and pristine waterfalls, each road twist whispering secrets of an ancient volcanic past.

Read on if you're thinking of exploring of the Bolaven Plateau. If weaving through captivating scenery and discovering the soul of southern Laos from the saddle of a trusty motorbike seems like a dream come true, then you should definitely plan a trip to Southern Laos and drive the Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop. The curtain of cascading water at Tad Fane waterfall sets the stage, making the Bolaven Plateau by motorbike a grand adventure for every traveler seeking to explore lesser traveled parts of this world.

So, gear up and ride on this unforgettable journey through the Bolaven Plateau, where each road twist reveals a new chapter in the story of your Bolaven Plateau by motorbike adventure.


Unearthing the Bolaven Plateau

The Bolaven Plateau, shrouded in volcanic history, promises adventure for those ready to explore its secrets. It's volcanic past being the reason for the existing of its emerald coffee plantations and ethereal waterfalls. Dotted with small serene villages, the Bolaven Plateau invites the curious traveler to an extraordinary outdoor escapade filled with natural and cultural interests.

Miles of gravel roads weave through the plateau, yearning to be explored by the rumble of motorbike engines. And in Pakse, a provincial town in southern Laos, adventure seekers find their gateway to the Bolaven Plateau as well as a base to relax, cool down and wash off the dirt after you returned from your 4-day Bolaven Plateau itinerary.

Short on time?


Bolaven Plateau loop
southern Laos by motorbike

Exploring the Bolaven Plateau from Pakse

Pakse, once a bustling city along the mighty Mekong River, echoes with faded glory. Its colonial villas standing as remnants of bygone days. Amidst the bustling streets, our journey began with a crucial decision: selecting the perfect rumbling companion for our Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop. Serendipity led us to Miss Noy, a renowned motorbike rental establishment on the main street of Pakse, offering services in English, French, and Chinese.

Where to rent your motorbike in Pakse

Miss Noy, more than a rental shop, is an information center for motorbike enthusiasts, providing not only reliable two-wheelers but also invaluable knowledge about exploring the Bolaven Plateau by motorbike. With a detailed map in hand, courtesy of the knowledgeable owners, we made our way through the pothole-strewn gravel roads of the Laotian jungle.

The map proposes different routes and Bolaven Plateau highlights. Should any doubts linger or last-minute guidance be needed, Miss Noy was the place we returned to. Whether you contemplated the Bolaven Plateau short loop or the big loop, they were the compass guiding us through these magnificent terrains. In fact, the only circumstance that would deter us 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 (especially if everyone has a day pack on their back).
  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. We either opted for shoes with ankle support or trousers because the motorbikes can become quite hot and painful if you happen to touch it with the lower part of your leg.

Now, with our motorbikes ready and our essentials packed, we were poised for driving 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

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. It's also located conveniently close to Miss Noy's motorbike shop, the old town centre to admire the grandeur of times gone by and places to eat.


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

With our motorbikes fueled and spirits high, we faced a pivotal decision: the Bolaven Plateau short loop or the grandeur of the big loop? The short loop, the most popular among travelers, offers the major highlights in two days, while the big loop provides a deeper immersion in a leisurely four-day journey. We chose a unique approach, blending the best elements of both loops for a comprehensive and balanced exploration of the Bolaven Plateau.

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 beauty of surrounding landscape 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 highlights reveals an 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. While the short loop can be accomplished in a couple of days, the big loop warrants a more leisurely pace. An itinerary of at least four days allows you to embrace the plateau's grandeur fully.

Blending the Best of Both Worlds

In the end, we chose an itinerary that blended the finest elements of both loops. Our decision to stay for two nights at the same accommodation became our compass for this trip. 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. 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 views of the countryside, the perfect initiation to the southern Laos part of our 2 week Laos itinerary. Wat Phu, a testament to the ancient Khmer history, is nestled on a hillside surrounded by rice terraces and serene lakes. The temple's solitude allowed us to explore its mystique in all tranquility, savoring every moment without being rushed or hindered by large crowds. Besides us, only 3 other people were visiting the site.

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 Angkor 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.

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 about 6hours, 3 hours to drive the 120km out and back and around 3hours to explore the site and have lunch.


We spend the night at Athena Hotel in Pakse, located conveniently close to Miss Noy's motorbike rental, restaurants and the historic town center. We loved the rooms and the pool to cool off after a hotel day exploring and riding motorbikes.

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 route decided and our spirits high, we set forth on our Bolaven Plateau itinerary. A route 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 was noticeable quite some time before reaching our destination, like a prelude to an awe-inspiring symphony of nature. This is a waterfall unlike any other we had encountered before. Two mighty streams of water plunge 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 silence, gazing at the spectacle before us. The sheer power and beauty of nature enveloped us as we marveled at this mesmerizing display.

We were entirely content sipping on a tropical juice and admiring the view from the gorgeous viewing deck but more adventurous souls might opt to hire a local guide and trek through the lush jungle to reach the zenith of the falls. As far as we know, there wasn't a signed hiking trail and you could only reach the base of the falls in a safe through the help of a local guide. You can make the arrangement on the spot or through the Tad Fane Resort. Others might also be tempted to join a thrilling zipline adventure across the gorge. The zipline is located on the Tad Fane Resort property and arrangement can be made through the hotel or on the spot. Oh, you can also zipline from a hammock, how great is that?!


Tad Yuang (Nguang 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.


Tad Champee Waterfall: a refreshing dip in the jungle

After we explored Tad Yuang, we couldn't resist looking for a waterfall to take taking a refreshing dip in its inviting waters. We returned towards the Tad Fane Resort and found a hidden road with only a small sign on the right hand side of the main road, leading us to Tad Champee. Drive carefully or you'll definitely miss the sign!

The road leading towards the waterfall can be quite gnarly. When dry, cover your nose because the dust is going everywhere, when wet, the dirt road can become quite challenging as the mud can become very thick and more difficult to navigate. It's about 2km of dirt road from the main road to where you can park your motorbike and take the stairs down todays the waterfall.

But don't led the more adventurous road leading to the falls deter your effort. Visiting Tad Champee was an experience that left us invigorated and connected to the plateau's pristine beauty. Foresee 1 hour if you like to swim and dry up in the sun. Note that you need to go down from the plateau via stairs towards the water en base of the waterfall, and back up again afterwards but it's nothing too strenuous. Nota the the bridge that was once in place to get to the other side of the waterfall is broken, but you can easily cross it on foot (water is quite deep though) and take a swim.



We spend the night at the Tad Fane Resort, located conveniently close to the beautiful Tad Fane Falls, Tad Yeung Falls and Tad Champee Falls. There is a restaurant/snackbar on site and you can join hiking tours or a zipline adventure. The accommodation is basic but clean.

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 Resort, 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. Be mindful of potholes though!

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. You won't be able to do all 7 waterfalls in one day unfortunately. If you're keep on seeing all 7 then we would recommend a stay at the TayicSeua Guesthouse. It's also a restaurant so you can conveniently fuel up after your day of explorations. The food was basic but very good and portions were large.

The journey to explore the falls 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. Since venomous snakes roam around the bushes, especially during rainy season we would not recommend to do the hike with open shoes. First of all, it can be exceptionally slippery, so sturdy shoes with ankle support will prevent ankle injuries as well as protect you from any critters roaming around. Stay in the path and do not venture our into the lush greenery.

Do not let its secludedness deter you from a visit. Next to Tad Fane, Tad Tayicseua was among the most beautiful waterfalls we've ever explored. Tad Fane can hardly be called a crowded tourist spot but Tad Tayicseua is really for those that prefer an off the beaten path experience. When we were there we were the only ones on site except the family running the guesthouse. We returned to the Tad Fane Resort after our day at Tad Tayicseua but you also opt for a stay at more luxurious Sabaidee Valley.



We spend a second night at the Tad Fane Resort on this trip but if you're looking for a bit more luxury, a stay at Sabaidee Valley Resort might be for you. A beautiful pool on sight if perpeft to cool down and refresh yourself after a day of exploring... and enjoy to views!

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 and 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 tour 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. A great way to spend our final day in the Bolaven Plateau.



We spend the night at Athena Hotel in Pakse, located conveniently close to Miss Noy's motorbike rental, restaurants and the historic town center. We loved the rooms and the pool to cool off after a hotel day exploring and riding motorbikes.

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. 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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