Photo: Hit the road.

Motorbiking the Bolaven Plateau

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An expanse of highland formed from an ancient volcano, the Bolaven Plateau is one of southern Laos’ most attractive destinations. Rich with waterfalls, lush jungles, farmland, ethnic diversity and miles of excellent roads, one of the best ways to cover it all is by two-wheels.

Map of the Bolaven Loop





It’s increasingly popular to rent a motorbike in Pakse and embark on either the “short loop” or “long loop” through the plateau, which lies east of the city. The cool air on the skin, the thunderous sound of the water tumbling over a cliff, the visual feast of verdant hills, the sickly sweet smell of ripe coffee cherries and the bitter taste of Robusta—on your journey all senses will experience how the plateau’s topography yields several unique features.

A map will come in handy. Photo taken in or around Motorbiking the Bolaven Plateau, Pakse, Laos by Cindy Fan.

A map will come in handy. Photo: Cindy Fan

While the rest of Laos can feel like an inferno between March and June, the plateau’s altitude of 1000 to 1350 metres creates a microclimate, with most months of the year enjoying daytime temperatures in the mid-20s. This, along with the rich volcanic soil, make it ideal for growing coffee. Lao coffee beans are sensational and whether a casual drinker or an aficionado, by the end you’ll appreciate just how good it is.

It’s not all coffee. Other crops benefit from the fertile land and cassava, tea, rattan, cardamom and various fruit are grown. Rivers, spectacular waterfalls and ethnic villages round out the experience. Here’s how to tackle the Bolaven Plateau, with a section at the end on sorting out a motorbike and important tips for the road.

Coffee coffee coffee! Photo taken in or around Motorbiking the Bolaven Plateau, Pakse, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Coffee coffee coffee! Photo: Cindy Fan

Short loop (minimum two days)

The vast majority do the loop clockwise. This is recommended if doing the short loop in the absolute minimum of two days—this way, on the first day you’ll arrive at Tad Lo around midday leaving you the afternoon to see the waterfalls. On the second day, the way is packed with possible stops and so you are better able to manage the time as you try to return to Pakse before ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Pakse.
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