Day 1 - Luang Prabang - Arrival
Arrive in Luang Prabang. Your guide and private car will meet you and transfer you to your hotel for check-in. Welcome to the spiritual capital of Laos!
Enjoy free time at leisure or may like to take a walk around the town.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 2 - Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Caves (B,L)
After breakfast, transfer to the most photographed temple in Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong. Located at the end of the peninsula, close to the Mekong, this temple was built in 1560 by King Setthathirat, the library was added in 1828.
You will then board your private longtail boat to cruise up the Mekong River to the famous Pak Ou Caves. Locally called Tam Ting, the caves are filled with thousands of gold-lacquered Buddha statues. The statues range in size from a few centimeters tall to the height of a human and are crammed into the cave which is nestled in a limestone cliff. The caves are also a destination for local pilgrimages.
On the boat journey admire the several waterways that have traditionally been used as the local form of transportation. These waterways continue to be used in that manner today in many parts of the country and a local boat is probably one of the most rewarding ways to discover life along the rivers. As you cruise along, observe the daily activities of fishermen, how they throw their nets in with elegant arm gestures and rely on the water for their livelihood. For the villages settled along the Mekong, the river plays an important role in their daily life and usually represents the only means of transportation and commerce.
After visiting the caves cruise back to Luang Prabang. If time permits, stop on the way back at Ban Xang Hay, a village that specializes in making rice wine. Once back in Luang Prabang you will enjoy a selection of local favourites at one of the best Lao restaurants in town, Tamarind (Note: closed on Sundays).
The city tour begins in the afternoon with your guide who will teach you more about the enchanting World Heritage Town of Luang Prabang. The tour starts at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum. Continue to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief. During Pimai, the Lao New Year, the Prabang normally housed in the Royal Palace Museum is put on public display in this temple. Next is Wat Sensoukarahm, built in 1718 with a dazzling golden façade.
Continue to the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre, a museum dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos’ ethnic minorities. Traditional costumes, tools, and artifacts are on display alongside in-depth descriptions and written histories. It is a great opportunity to gain insight in to the Lao people (note: closed on Monday).
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 3 - Luang Prabang - Alms Giving & Kuang Si Waterfalls (B,L)
For early risers, there is a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting the alms. As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents. It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people. Return to the hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast visit Wat Visoun, the holiest temple of the city, entirely rebuilt after being destroyed in 1887 by the invading Black Flags from Southern China. In the courtyard of Wat Visoun stands the Watermelon Stupa shaped like the fruit it takes its name from. You will continue by Wat Aham and then Wat That where the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are interred inside the large central stupa.
You will then be driven through the Luang Prabang countryside to Kuang Si Waterfalls (32km southwest of the city). Along the way you will drive through beautiful landscapes of rice fields, hills, and small villages. There are also viewpoints overlooking the Mekong River.
Upon reaching Kuang Si Waterfall, relax and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls is perfect for exploring on foot. For the adventurous, it is possible to walk to the top of the falls via a steep track where stunning views await you at the top.
Enjoy a delicious picnic lunch next to the falls.
These waterfalls cascade down a multilevel limestone formation creating a series of turquoise blue pools perfect for swimming in on a hot day (Note: when bathing please be respectful, wear a sarong and be careful not to show too much skin).
Before you leave you might like to visit the bear sanctuary which is next to the falls, run by Free The Bears Fund Inc. There are currently 23 Asiatic Black Bears living in the sanctuary, which has saved them from poaching. The main threat to these bears is poaching due to the use of their bile in Chinese medicine. You can read about their habits and observe their playful nature, whilst learning about the difficulties they are facing.
Stop on the way back to Luang Prabang to visit a small village which is home to one of the area’s many ethnic minorities. You will have an opportunity to learn about their traditions and culture, much of which has remained unchanged for centuries.
On your return to Luang Prabang you can climb the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi. Enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside as the sun sets. You may also like to explore the nearby evening hilltribe market, where you may find plenty of local souvenirs to buy such as handicrafts and textiles, before returning to your hotel.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 4 - Luang Prabang - Vientiane - Buddha Park (B)
You will be transferred to the airport in time for your flight to the capital.
Depart Luang Prabang at 0720 on QV112 (Lao Airlines), landing in Vientiane at 0810.
Your guide and private car will meet you at the airport and transfer you out of town for your morning tour, starting at Buddha Park. The drive takes around 45 minutes, along a road which serves as an important link between the Lao capital and Thailand. On the way, stop and take photos of the Friendship Bridge which was built by the Australian government in 1994 and links Laos and Thailand.
Arrive at Buddha Park and enjoy a stroll around the park. Also known as Xieng Khuan, this unusual park is filled with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. The quiet and tranquil setting along the Mekong River is a contrast to the slightly eccentric sculptures which were built in 1958 by a Laos shaman. The concrete sculptures are bizarre but intriguing, sitting majestically in the peaceful park.
After visiting Buddha Park, start the drive back to Vientiane. En route, stop at Mai Savanh to explore the traditional textiles of the Lao people. This shop specializes in high quality silk products and involves several families in their process, from the northern province of Luang Nam Tha Province and the southern provinces of Attapeu and Sekong. (Note: Mai Savanh is closed on Saturday & Sunday).
Another stop will be made at the Lao Disabled Women Development Center. This center aims to bring knowledge and skills to disabled women so that they can become self-sufficient, productive members of the community. The center focuses its efforts on helping people with disabilities gain independence and self-confidence. A visit to the center provides you with the opportunity to talk to these women and to observe their skill at creating handicrafts such as handmade paper. (Note: Subject to change without prior notice from the suppliers).
You will return to the city around lunch time and check in to your hotel (the room may not be ready until 1400).
The rest of the day is at your leisure to explore Vientiane, whose name means ‘the city of sandal wood’. You might choose to end your day along the banks of the Mekong River. Stroll along the river, stop to enjoy a cold drink, or sample a snack from one of the many local food stalls. This area is very popular with locals who go to exercise in the park in the evenings and you can also browse the evening market for souvenirs.
Overnight in Vientiane
Day 5 - Vientiane - Full Day City Tour (B,L)
Today enjoy a guided tour to discover the hidden charms of Vientiane, which is one of the quietest capital cities in the world and far away from the hustle and bustle of other Asian capitals.
Your guide will pick you up at 0900 this morning. Your tour begins at the serene Wat Sisaket, the only temple left intact after the Siamese (Thai) invasion in 1828. It is one of the most beautiful temples in the capital, and its breezy teak covered hallways are filled with thousands of miniature Buddha statues.
Continue on to the nearby Wat Phra Keo. Used as a religious museum, Wat Phra Keo displays a collection of both Lao and Khmer works of art. Also nearby, is the Presidential Palace. Although you are not allowed to visit inside, it is a good glimpse in to the town’s colonial past as this building formerly served as the French governor’s palace.
Stop at Wat Simuang, the most popular and venerated temple in Vientiane, as it is considered the guardian of the spirit of the city. Upon its grounds, you will find an Angkorian-era pillar and it is a popular belief that if you circle it three times and make a wish, then that wish will come true.
Nestled near the original morning market is That Dam. Also called the ‘Black Stupa’, the structure was once covered with a layer of gold which was stolen by the Thais during their invasion in 1828. From here, travel on to nearby Pangkham Street, with its plethora of tailor shops, and Nam Phou Fountain. Here you can see how traditional areas of the city are embracing modernity.
Enjoy a delicious Lao-style lunch at Makphet Restaurant. Established by Friends International (www.friends-international.org), Makphet is a charity-run restaurant aiming to train the area’s street children in the hospitality industry. Professional chefs from around the world have volunteered their time in developing the menus and training the staff. The food is excellent, and the staffs excel in bringing true Lao-hospitality in to their service.
Visit COPE, an association working to help landmine victims. A visit to the center provides in-depth information about the history of the American/Vietnam war and the lasting impact of unexploded ordinances (UXO) in the area and the efforts underway to clear them.
Next, your tour takes you to That Luang, the holiest site in Laos. Constructed by King Setthethirat in the 16th century, the temple is resplendent as the sun shines upon its towering golden spire.
Continue to the Patuxay monument, Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can climb the stairs to the roof and finish your day with sweeping panoramic views of the city.
Overnight in Vientiane
Day 6 - Vientiane - Pakse - Wat Phou - Champasak (B,L)
You will be transferred to the airport in time for your flight to Pakse.
Depart Luang Prabang at 1120 on QV303 (Lao Airlines), landing in Vientiane at 1210.
Your guide and driver will meet you and transfer you in to Pakse for lunch in a local restaurant.
On the confluence of the Mekong and Sedone rivers, Pakse is the most important town in southern Laos. Pakse is home to a large Vietnamese community and if you visit this town during the Têt or Vietnamese New Year, do not be surprised if many shops are closed in honor of the celebration.
After lunch you will be driven 1 hour to Wat Phou. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos. The temple was constructed in three levels: the bottom level is focused on the baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features quadrangular pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary itself. The temple was built by the rulers of the Khmer empire before the construction of Angkor Wat. The temple served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and still is one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.
Transfer to your nearby hotel in Champasak and check in before enjoying a beautiful sunset on the Mekong River.
Overnight in Champasak
Day 7 - Champasak - 4000 Islands (B,L)
Depart at 08:00 for a full day exploring the area known locally as Sipandon (‘4000 Islands’). In this beautiful area the Mekong River reaches 14 kilometers wide and thousands of small islands dot the waterway.
Travel first by car for around 2 hours to the village of Ban Nakasan. From here you will take a local boat to the peaceful island of Done Khone, where plantations and simple villages are almost all you will find. We recommend bicycles as the best way to explore, or a tuk-tuk if you prefer.
Start with a short boat trip will give you the chance to spot the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin. Please note that sightings are never guaranteed.
Visit the impressive Lippi falls, which are on the west of Don Khone, very close to the Cambodian border. Their original name, Tad Somphamit, means “trap spirit” and the locals revere these falls as they believe they act as a trap for bad spirits.
The islands played an important role during the French Colonial rule as they linked Laos to Cambodia and Southern Vietnam. To overpass the waterfalls, a railway and bridge were built, the perfect place to take your time and soak in the view.
Continue your exploration and ease in to the slow pace of life, observing locals and taking your time. Lunch will be included at a local restaurant.
Return to the mainland by boat and then return to your hotel by car, arriving back at your hotel in time for sunset.
Overnight in Champasak
Day 8 - Champasak - Pakse Departure (B)
After breakfast, transfer back to Pakse for your onward travel arrangements.