Day 1: Arrive at Luang Prabang, Laos. Our services begin here. You are greeted at the airport by your guide and ushered to a chauffeur driven vehicle. You are then driven to your hotel where you are assisted with your check in. The next few days’ plans are briefly reviewed and you are presented with your welcome package. Among other things, this package includes travel documents such as your air tickets and hotel vouchers, as well as copies of documents (such as our General Travel Guide) that were sent to you earlier.
Luang Prabang offers visitors a perfect micro chasm of the landscapes and culture of Southeast Asia. It’s incredible utopian setting provides venues for a large and diverse array of activities, including Mekong River explorations, waterfalls, elephant treks, and much more.
Having earned UNESCO World Heritage status, UNESCO describes Luang Prabang as, “an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.”
You are at leisure for the remainder of the day.
Evening: Most of our hotels are located within easy walking distance of the night market that appears each night in the old town. There are also many restaurants located in the old town if you wish to eat dinner outside of the hotel. If you are staying in one of our hotels that is not within walking distance, transport by tuk-tuk is easily arranges through the hotel, and there will be plenty of tuk-tuks available to bring you back at your leisure.
Day 2: Luang Prabang. An optional pre-sunrise start today gives you the opportunity to participate in one of Luang Prabang’s most iconic traditions: donating food to the local monks. (Tak Bat) Your guide will assist you in procuring the groceries and instruct you on the process as the monks walk by silently and open their baskets for you to place your contribution in them. The monks have been collecting their day’s meals in this manner for centuries. Afterward enjoy a walk through the nearby fresh food market. The busy market is a hive of activity as locals purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish caught from the Mekong River.
Return to the hotel for breakfast and a bit of leisure time to freshen up.
Late Morning: Join your guide for a walking tour of the charming old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will visit Wat That Luang, where you have the option to communicate with a senior monk. You will then stop at Wat Visoun, which, because of its design, is known as The Watermelon Stupa. Next you will visit the magnificent Wat Xiengthong. This monument is a photographer’s delight because of its classical Luang Prabang architecture, with the roof sweeping close to the ground. You will also visit the impressive Arts and Ethnology Center which provides great insights into the ethnic mix and culture of Laos. The last stop of this excursion is the quaint Royal Palace Museum, which offers a good overview of the local history. Walk or take your private vehicle back to your hotel after the tour.
Early Evening: You have the option of a guided excursion to Phousi Mountain. This is a hill in the center of the old town that provides a breathtaking view of the town and the Mekong River at sunset. This excursion involves a fairly rigorous climb up 350 paved steps, but the view from the top is an amazing photography opportunity, as it showcases the remarkable beauty of Luang Prabang.
Day 3: Luang Prabang. After breakfast, you are picked up from the hotel and driven to the outskirts of Luang Prabang to an idyllic piece of real estate which serves as a rice farm. You are not just here to take pictures though, but to participate in every stage of rice cultivation in only half a day. Learn to plant, grow, harvest, and shuck rice using traditional “stone axe” design tools, and you can even try your hand at guiding the ox as he pulls the hand plow. The tour ends with a tasting of the traditional foods made from rice. You will have a new appreciation for rice and admiration for the people of Lao who to this day continue to harvest rice without modern machinery.
Next, proceed further into the gorgeous Lao countryside. Although the destination is the Kwang Si waterfalls, around 30 minutes away, the real treat is the peaceful, unspoiled, and absolutely beautiful scenery along the way. As always, your guide and driver are happy to stop for as many photos as you want to take. Once you have arrived at the park, there will be a break for lunch at one of the quaint outdoor restaurants near the entrance. (Or you can choose to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the falls.)
Next pay a quick visit to the small bear rescue center at the entrance to the falls if you like. Proceed onward, deeper and deeper into the jungle on well-maintained walkways, until you arrive at the first small set of falls. The base of these falls has a beautiful natural blue swimming hole the size of a large public pool. Continue on your leisurely walk through the primordial jungle, making your way from waterfall to waterfall, to one idyllic swimming hole after another. The finale is a 200 ft. cascade that is the most impressive of the collection of waterfalls. Return to the entrance on a different path through the jungle and your driver will be waiting for you and your guide.
This afternoon, on the way back to town, you will stop and visit the villages of two of the ethnic tribes of the region, the Hmong and the Kamou. Enjoy a walk through their villages, taking in the simple lifestyle that these people have practiced for many centuries. There are great photo opportunities, including friendly, smiling faces. The tribal children are just as interested in you, as you are in them and your guide can facilitate communication.
You are driven back to your hotel in Luang Prabang.
Day 4: Luang Prabang. Today, you will enjoy an excursion to the Lao countryside for an experience with SE Asia’s favorite animal : the elephant ! After an early breakfast, you are picked up by the camp’s staff and driven several miles outside the town to the beautiful setting of the elephant camp. On arrival, you will get an introductory tour of the camp where your guide will teach you about elephants. You can talk with the veterinarian in the hospital, feed the elephants and relax by the riverside.
Your expedition begins with an elephant ride through diverse landscapes. You will be amazed at how safely and securely the gentle giants make their way along the smallest jungle paths. After crossing the river, the trail takes you through teak forest and jungle over the hills to reach the beautiful Tad Sae Waterfall. Along the way you can stop to see the amazing scenery of the Nam Khan River Valley. Rest at the Tad Sae Waterfall and enjoy this beautiful place with its fantastic limestone formations and turquoise blue pools in the forest. Coming from the mountains, the Huay Sae stream ends here falling over several cascades into the Nam Khan River. Refresh and swim in the natural pools if you wish. Down at the Nam Khan River, a luxury bamboo raft is waiting to take you back.
Enjoy the taste of typical Lao food for lunch on board, relax and watch the traditional village life of farmers and fishermen along the river. Slowly floating down the river, the relaxing 1 hour journey will bring you back to the camp. You are driven back to your hotel by the camp staff.
The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure.
Day 5: Luang Prabang. This morning you will depart Luang Prabang for the village of Ban Don Ngurn, located 1 ½ hours north of town. Here you will board a private boat for a cruise down the beautiful Nam Ou River. The cruise takes you by stunning limestone karst scenery, offering many photo opportunities. Stop for a delicious picnic (wine included), organized by one of Luang Prabangs best restaurants, with a view, perched on the banks of the Nam Ou.
After lunch, continue the cruise stopping at Ban Vanglae, a Lu tribe village where traditional weaving and dyeing is available to see. Continue along the Nam Ou until it merges with the mighty Mekong River. Pay a visit to the mysterious Pak Ou caves. Although the caves are not impressive in size, they are interesting because Buddhists have been venturing here for centuries to place Buddha statues in them. The lower cave contains the largest part of the collection, and hence a fairly arduous climb up some steep stairs to the upper cave is purely optional. After your visit to the caves, sit back and enjoy the cruise back down river to Luang Prabang, stopping if you wish at Ban Nongxai, an artisan’s village. The scenery along this part of the river is captivating as you cruise by picturesque landscapes and the occasional tribal hamlet. You are met at the pier and driven back to your hotel.
Day 6: Luang Prabang - Plain of Jars. You are assisted with check-out in the late morning and driven to the airport to board the early afternoon flight to Vientiane. After a 1hr20min layover, connect with the flight to Phonsavan. Upon arrival, you are driven to your hotel and assisted with check-in. Please note that the best hotels in Phonsavan are still quite basic. The rest of the afternoon and evening are at your leisure.
Phonsavan is the largest town in the province of Xieng Khouang; a province that holds the title of “most bombed province in the world”. During the so called Secret War of 1969, the U.S. dropped an unprecedented amount of ordinance on the province, although the region now has an aura of solitude and mystery. The mystery is thanks to the existence of the Plain of Jars, one of the most enigmatic and prolific archaeological sites on the planet. The landscape itself is a bit strange for Laos, as it is marked by rolling hills and small hillocks rising above mostly flat, but scenic terrain. Scattered about this plain are clusters of giant stone jars which have been dated to the Iron Age. (500 B.C. - 500 A.D.) The origin of these remains a mystery for the most part, as the source material does not seem to be native to the area. The large urns are found in clusters numbering from just a few, to over 250. Only one thing is for sure about this odd giant’s goblet graveyard: it is sure to fire your imagination.
Day 7: Plain of Jars - Vientiane. After breakfast and assisted check-out, pay a visit to the Mines Action Group (or MAG) office to learn about the important work they do in clearing land mines and unexploded ordnance in the area. The rest of the morning and early afternoon are spent with your guide, visiting as many of the jar sites as you like. You are driven to the airport in the mid-afternoon to board the 4:20pm flight to Vientiane. Upon arrival, you are greeted by our staff and driven to your hotel for assisted check-in. The charming capital city, located on the banks of the Mekong, boasts some of Laos’ most important monuments. The city also has an amazing array of quality restaurants, with a diverse range of cuisines. Further afield, within a day trip of Vientiane, lie the picturesque Nam Ngum Lake, and Vang Vieng, a center for adventure activities and stunning limestone karst scenery.
Day 8: Vientiane. An optional early start enables you to visit the fascinating local market of Thongkhankham which is where the locals shop and a wide variety of strange and wonderful foods are on offer. Continue to explore Vientiane by visiting the major sights of the capital; including the oldest Wat Sisaket with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. Enroute to Lao’s national precious heritage, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. The final visit of the day will be the excellent COPE exhibition centre, highlighting a much overlooked aspect of Laos and a major problem many of the local people face on a day to day basis in the form of unexploded ordnance as a result of heavy bombing campaigns during the Vietnam War era. An optional lunch can be taken at the excellent Mak Phet Resataurant, which helps to train disadvantaged youth for a career in the hospitality industry. This afternoon, visit the quirky yet impressive Buddha Park, an enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures on the Mekong Riverside meadow. They were created by a mysterious monk spreading his philosophy on life and revealing his ideas about the universe. A spectacular view of the Mekong River at sunset is a perfect way to finish the day.
Day 9: Departure from Vientiane. You are picked up from your hotel at the appropriate time, to proceed to the airport to board your flight to your next destination. Flights to Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore and Hanoi are available out of Vientiane. Services for this day can be tailored to fit with your international flight departure.