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Your Discovery of Laos takes you from Luang Prabang north towards the border with China and then south to Pakse. Begin your journey in the enchanting town of Luang Prabang with its stunning colonial architecture, ornate monasteries and colourful markets. Journey north, discovering the hundreds of Buddha sculptures in Pak Ou Caves and then experience the remote hill tribe villages and stunning landscape of untouched northern Laos. Returning to Luang Prabang, rising early to witness the ancient dawn ritual of saffron robed monks collecting alms. See the spectacular Kuang Si Waterfall and watch the sun sink over the mighty Mekong.
Unveil the secrets of Laotian cuisine or take to the jungle on the back of an elephant. Travel to the sleepy riverside capital of Vientiane with its alluring monuments and leafy boulevards, and discover the ancient atmospheric temples, the golden spires of Pha That Luang, the bizarre sculptures in Buddha Park and the beautiful textiles of the region. Then on to Pakse, to explore the beautiful region of Si Phan Don (four thousand islands) and the Bolaven Plateau, with its coffee plantations, minority tribal villages and some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Laos.
Our Discovery itineraries explore a destination in depth, with carefully selected experiences, and ample free time for relaxation. Like all GetAboutAsia trips, Discovery itineraries can be customised to create your perfect holiday. Discuss itinerary options and extensions with our Asia Travel Experts.
Meet your guide on arrival, transfer and check-in to your hotel. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Luang Prabang, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Nestled in a mountain valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers is the enchanting World Heritage town and former royal capital of Luang Prabang. It's a magical and captivating place with stunning colonial architecture, ornate monasteries and colourful markets. Rise early to witness the ancient dawn ritual of saffron robed monks collecting alms, discover the hundreds of Buddha sculptures in Pak Ou Caves, see the spectacular Kuang Si Waterfall and climb Phou Si hill to watch the sun sink slowly behind the Mekong River.
Luang Prabang has many great cafes and restaurants and also night food stalls which emerge at dusk. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Itinerary Option: If you’re arriving to Luang Prabang in the morning, discuss additional day 1 activities with our staff.
Accompanied by your guide, start the day with a visit to the Royal Palace, now the National Museum. The former Royal Palace was built in 1904 and framed by an avenue of Palmyra palms, blending traditional Lao with French styles. The museum houses precious exhibits that used to be possessions of the Laos royal family. The royal family’s former residential quarters have been preserved as they were when the king departed in 1975. The royal palace car collection is displayed in a separate outbuilding.
Then explore the main Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang including Wat Visoun, the most historically important temple, built in the 16th century and serving as a small museum for religious artefacts. Visit Wat That Luang, traditionally the cremation site for Lao royalty and housing the ashes of King Sisavang Vong and his brother, interred inside the large stupa erected in 1910. Wat Xieng Thong is a 16th century temple that epitomises the elegance and grace of Luang Prabang architecture and showcases classic Lao style roofs. This temple was one of only two temples that were spared by the Black Flag army in 1887, and it was then used as the leader’s headquarters during the invasion. Wat Mai, beside the Royal Palace, is Luang Prabang’s oldest Pagoda, and one of the city’s most sumptuous monasteries.
Wander around the fascinating Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and learn more about the people of Laos. On display you will find valuable artefacts, traditional clothing and implements from each of the twenty ethnic minority groups that inhabit the Luang Prabang area.
The day ends with a climb to the top of Mount Phousi. The 100 metre (328 feet) hill is crowned by a gilded stupa, That Chomsi, which dominates the old city centre. Enjoy the wonderful views of the town, across the Mekong and Khan rivers, as well as the surrounding mountains. Watch the sun sink slowly behind the Mekong River before strolling back to your hotel.
Travel with your guide from Luang Prabang into northern Laos to the village of Nong Khiaw, where limestone peaks and towering cliffs rise dramatically from the Nam Ou riverbed. Close to Nong Khiaw is Tham Pha Thok, a series of caves in the limestone cliff where villagers and provincial government officials lived during the Second Indochina War to avoid bombings. Northern Laos is a mountainous tapestry of rivers, forests and traditional villages, home to many different ethnic minorities including Tai Lue, Khmu, Lao and Hmong.
Set off from Luang Prabang and visit the mysterious and sacred Pak Ou Caves en route. The Pak Ou Caves are dramatically located in a limestone rock formation opposite the mouth of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers. The sanctuaries of Pak Ou consist of two large caves cut into the limestone cliff to reveal hundreds of Buddha effigies of various styles and sizes, from the tiny to the colossal and spanning many centuries.
The road takes you through farmland and stunning mountainous scenery with the road following the Mekong and then the Pak Ou rivers. Stop in Ban Nambak to explore the local market before continuing to Nong Khiaw, set on the banks of the Nam Ou River.
Enjoy free time on arrival for remainder of the day. There are several restaurants in Nong Khiaw. Your guide will provide recommendations.
Itinerary Option: For additional adventure, upgrade to travelling by river rather than by road.
Hit the dirt tracks and river, and see the untouched Laos. This full day bike trip explores the remote villages and stunning landscapes in the mountains and along the Nam Ou River. Cycle on paved roads and across dirt tracks where the adventure really begins. The trip offers panoramic views of the mountains, narrow valleys and thick forest. We pass the villages of Tai Lue, Khamu, Lao and Hmong ethnic people and stop to visit the villagers and get an impression of their traditional way of living.
In Ban Phayong Village, we stop at the side of a small stream for a picnic lunch using banana leaves as plates. After a rest we get back on the bikes and continue to Ban Sob Khan, a lovely ethnic Lao village on the bank of the Nam Ou River. You have a chance to swim and relax before ending the day by boarding a boat and for a late afternoon cruise down the Ou River among some of the steepest and most beautiful limestone mountains in Northern Laos. Watch the sunset with a well deserved beer at the beach below Nong Khiaw Riverside.
Travel with your guide from Nong Khiaw via Oudomxay to Muang La. Oudomxay is a Laos-China trade centre and home to a reasonably high proportion of Chinese. Muang La is a rural Thai Lu village sitting at the confluence of the Nam La and Nam Phak rivers, approximately one hour drive from Oudomxay along the Nam Phak river. Muang La features many palm trees and has a temple housing the Pra Singkham Buddha, one of northern Laos’s most revered Buddha statues.
On arrival in Muang La, enjoy free time to relax or explore for remainder of the day.
Accompanied by your guide, travel by 4x4 vehicle to meet the Ikhos and Hmong ethnic communities typical of Laos. The track climbs up to 1,000 metres (3,285 feet) and provides an incredible view. First you visit a beautiful isolated Ikho village. The people originated from Yunnan and Tibet and have remained traditional.
Enjoy lunch with spectacular views before a 45 minute trek brings you to the Hmong village of Ban Tauser. The path leading to the village is remote and affords impressive viewpoints. This ethnic group originated from the high plateaus of Tibet. Learn about their daily lives and the importance of their pigs and buffalo livestock. As you leave the village on foot, there is a viewpoint with a complete panoramic view of the surrounding region.
This morning transfer from Muang La to Luang Prabang in private transport. On arrival in Luang Prabang enjoy free time to relax or discuss options to add an additional activity with our staff.
Wake before dawn to witness the offering of alms to the hundreds of saffron robed monks who walk barefoot through the streets of Luang Prabang carrying their begging bowls. This early morning ritual of monks leaving their monasteries to accept alms from the Buddhist devotees dates back generations. The ceremony enables the monks to demonstrate their vows of poverty and humility, and for the Lao people to gain spiritual merit by their charity. It is an inspiring sight that you are unlikely to forget. Watch the town as it comes to life before returning to your hotel for breakfast.
You have the opportunity to participate by offering sticky rice balls to the monks. Please let your guide know so that they can organise the offering the day before.
After breakfast participate in a shared group Laos cuisine cooking class. The day begins with a visit to Phosy market where a local culinary expert will talk to you about typical Laotian produce. Phosy market is the largest market in Luang Prabang and offers a huge range of fresh produce, fish, meat and herbs.
Then transfer to a picturesque lakeside pavilion where you will learn about the spirit of Lao food and some of the Lao customs for preparing food. Discover which fresh ingredients are used in various dishes and become acquainted with some intriguing and unfamiliar flavours. Create your own varieties of Jeow, the fundamental Lao spicy dipping sauce, Mok Pa, a popular dish of fish steamed with herbs in banana leaves, lemongrass stuffed with chicken and herbs, Orlarm, Luang Prabang’s eggplant based speciality, as well as a traditional dessert. Taste the fruits of your labour as part of your lunch.
Itinerary Option: Some customers prefer to visit a farm and learn about traditional agriculture, go on an elephant ride and luxury bamboo raft trip, or visit an elephant training camp with hiking and swimming opportunities.
Spend a relaxed morning of free time.
This afternoon sees you setting off with your guide to see Luang Prabang’s most impressive and picturesque waterfall, Tat Kuang Si. On the way stop off at Phosy market where you can observe the locals trading in fresh produce. Across the street is Ock Pop Tock weaving centre which produces its own naturally dyed Lao silk and cotton textiles.
Kuang Si is a multi-tiered waterfall, the falls beginning in shallow pools on top of a steep hillside, with the various cascades falling into clear turquoise pools. Walk through the National Park to the waterfalls and if you're feeling energetic, climb to their source and go for a swim. Later transfer to Ban Muang Khai where you board a local river boat for a sunset cruise on the Mekong.
Today you take a flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and meet
your guide on arrival, transfer and check-in to your hotel. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Vientiane, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Set on a sweeping bend of the Mekong River, Vientiane is the tranquil and timeless capital of Laos with a kaleidoscope of architectural styles and influences ranging from traditional Lao to Thai, Chinese, French, Soviet and American. Discover crumbling French mansions, the golden spires of Pha That Luang, ancient atmospheric temples, bizarre sculptures and the Patuxai Monument, the Arc de Triomphe of Laos. From steaming noodle bars to riverside cafes, Vientiane will surprise and delight you with its quaint placid charm.
Vientiane has many great restaurants with Lao, Thai, French, Italian, Mexican and Chinese cuisines available. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Accompanied by your guide, drive southeast of the city to the Buddha Park, built in 1958 by Luang Pu, a yogi-priest shaman. The park is a fanciful garden full of Buddhist and Hindu religious sculptures which appear to be centuries old. They include statues of Shiva, Krishna, Buddha and many other deities. Of particular interest is a giant pumpkin shaped concrete monument, with three levels joined by interior stairways. The three levels are said to represent hell, earth and heaven. The cement statues are ornate and many are bizarre in design.
In the afternoon visit the weaving home-studio of Mrs Carol Cassidy, an American textiles expert who arrived in Vientiane in 1989 as part of a United Nations project to promote traditional weaving. Carol was so impressed by the quality and diversity of weaving throughout Laos that she set up the Lao Textiles Studio in Vientiane. Today the studio employs over forty local weavers who create naturally dyed and woven silk pieces reflecting traditional Lao designs. Learn about the weaving techniques or make a purchase at the gift shop to help support the cause.
With your guide, discover the essential landmarks and iconic sights that the small and charismatic city of Vientiane has to offer. Vientiane remains a tranquil laid-back town, a world away from the frantic capitals in Asia, and most attractions can be reached on foot. Start at Wat Sisaket, believed to be Vientiane’s oldest surviving temple, left intact after the Siamese invasion of 1828. The interior walls of the cloister are covered in niches containing over 2000 silver and ceramic Buddha images. Next is a visit to Wat Phra Keo, built originally to house the famed Emerald Buddha and now a religious museum that displays a collection of art representing Lao and Khmer artefacts. Continue with a visit to the most popular Wat in town, Wat Si Muang before visiting Patouxay monument, Laos' version of the Arc de Triomphe and its most prominent monument. End your tour at the golden spired Pha That Luang, constructed in the 16th century and regarded as the holiest site in Laos.
Enjoy free time for the remainder of the day.
Today you fly from Vientiane to Pakse and meet your guide on arrival, transfer and check-in to your hotel. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Pakse, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Founded by the French in 1905, Pakse sits at the confluence of the Mekong River and Se Don (Don River) and is the riverside capital of Champasak Province, featuring Franco-Chinese architecture. It is the gateway to the south and to the four thousand islands of Si Phan Don, an archipelago of islands set amongst a beautiful maze of waterways and home to the elusive Irrawaddy dolphin. Nearby the Bolaven Plateau, formed by an ancient volcano, offers cooler climes and the chance to discover tea and coffee plantations, minority tribal villages and some of the most beautiful waterfalls of Laos. Fresh produce grown here is sold in the colourful market in Pakse. The Khmer-Hindu archaeological ruins of Wat Phu although on a much smaller scale, are said to rival those of the ancient temples of Angkor.
Pakse has a good choice of restaurants with Lao, Thai, Vietnamese and western cuisines available. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Accompanied by your guide, head south towards the Cambodian border to visit the Khone Phapheng waterfall. The falls are the main reason why the Mekong River is not navigable up to China. The falls cover an impressive 10 kilometre (6 mile) stretch of the Mekong River creating a majestic sight that is a highlight of southern Laos. Continue to the pier at Ban Nakasang and board a local boat for a visit to Si Phan Don. This section of the Mekong River fills out during the wet season, becoming the widest reach along its extensive 4,350 kilometre (2,720 mile) journey from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea. During the dry season the river recedes and leaves behind thousands of islands and islets, some mere sand bars, hence the name Si Phan Don, meaning four thousand islands. Several of the permanent islands are inhabited with the village communities growing rice, sugar cane, coconut palms and vegetables.
Make a stop at the island of Don Khon, which features the remnants of the French colonial area including an old pier, a railway station, a former French hospital building and the maritime office. Enjoy lunch before continuing your exploration of the island. In the afternoon visit the Liphi waterfalls, nicknamed the Corridor of the Devil. Locals put fish traps at the bottom of the falls to catch fresh fish each day. The area is also home to the rare and endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin. These dolphins are dark blue grey in colour with bulging foreheads and small dorsal fins. Return to the mainland and transfer back to your hotel at the end of the day.
With your guide, explore the Bolaven Plateau, a fertile highland area formed by an ancient volcano and famous for its high grade coffee and tea plantations. It is home to a number of ethnic minority groups and tribal villages, some of them still practicing Stone Age culture by using primitive agricultural tools and conducting spiritual ceremonies. The largest ethnic group found on the plateau is the Laven, and other groups include the Alak, Katu, Ta-oy and Suay.
Visit Tad Lo, located on the northern edge of the Bolaven Plateau. This waterfall is in fact a series of three falls, namely Tad Suong, Tad Lo and Tad Hang. Continue to the Katu village of Ban Houeihoun. This minority tribe is very primitive and earns its livelihood from forest products and traditional weaving. Katu villages have their palm and thatch houses arranged in a circle, and the women are known for their face tattoos. The Katu people have the unique custom of carving wooden caskets for each family member during their lifetime and storing these under the houses or rice sheds.
In the afternoon, visit Paksong and the nearby Tad Fane waterfalls where lunch is served. Beyond the waterfall stretches the extensive jungle of Dong Hua Sao from where the perfectly synchronized twin falls originate and plunge 200 metres (656 feet) down a deep gorge. Continue to Tad Yeung waterfall, which drops an impressive 42 metres (138 feet) and is surrounded by lush vegetation. End the day with a visit to a tea and coffee plantation and learn why the Bolaven Plateau an ideal area is for these plantations.
Itinerary Option: Some customers may prefer to visit Champasak and the UNESCO World Heritage pre-Angkor, Wat Phu temple.
On your last day enjoy free time until your departure transfer.
Phone now to discuss options to personalise your itinerary.
Ideas to upgrade or extend your itinerary:
All Get About Asia trips have been designed to make sure you have an unforgettable travel experience. We have developed several trip styles to cater for our diverse range of travellers. Read what your ideal Get About Asia experience might look like here.
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All GetAboutAsia prices are based on twin share and depend on availability and season. All our itineraries can be customised including international flights and extra nights. For questions or further information, Enquire Now!
Hotels each night of the itinerary (excluding your departure day). All GetAboutAsia accommodation is handpicked by us. Upgrades are available for this itinerary.
Availability of accommodation and season.