Day 1: arrive Luang Prabang
Discover the beauty of this UNESCO Heritage Listed town with its temples and golden spires dotting the landscape is the spiritual capital of Laos. Enjoy a tour around the quaint township starting at Wat Xieng Thong, the finest example of Luang Prabang architecture, as well as the gilded carved façade of Wat Mai. Visit the National Museum, formerly the Royal Palace where relics from Laos’ royalist past remain. Then walk up the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi, for panoramic views of the city.
Day 2: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou
Hop aboard your boat and cruise the orange coloured waters of the Mekong River. The Pak Ou Caves or known locally as Tham Thin, sit at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. As you pass along the river you will see daily life. Then make a short stop to a local village to see weaving on ancient wooden looms.
The Pak Ou Caves consist of two limestone caves that have become shrines to devotees of Buddhism. For hundreds of years, followers have come to the caves to pray and make merit, by leaving behind a statue of Buddha. Nowadays, the caves are jammed packed with statues big and small with more being added each year. Take a short walk from the caves to a nearby village where you will have lunch, before cruising downstream back to Luang Prabang early afternoon.
Day 3: Luang Prabang – Kuang Si & Sun Bear tour
Grab your swim suit and travel a short distance from Luang Prabang to the Kuang Si Waterfall. The turquoise colour of the water with a backdrop of white limestone cliffs gives the waterfall a magical appearance. Depending on the season the water level varies and swimming may not always be possible. Next to the falls is the Sun Bear Reserve, a conservation centre that rescues animals from the wildlife trade. Meet the cute furry residents and learn about the efforts to protect Sun Bears in the wild.
Day 4: Luang Prabang – Phonsavan
An eight-hour drive to the mountainous plateau of Xieng Khouang is a great way to see more of rural Laos. There are plenty of stops along the way to stretch your legs and photograph the spectacular views.
Day 5: Phonsavan – Plain of Jars
Visit the mysterious Plain of Jars from sunrise until lunch. Little is known about these giant urns, as archaeologists have only recently been able to start their investigations. In the 1930‘s a French conservationist did some preliminary work which revealed that the jars were more than likely used for funeral purposes. Then head to Muang Khoun a former royal kingdom renowned for the beauty of its many temples and stupas. Very little of the kingdom remains, due to pillaging and the intense bombing by B52 bombers during the Vietnam War years, however, traces of its colonial grandeur are still visible.
Day 6: Phonsavan – Vang Vieng
Take a six-hour drive along picturesque winding roads to Vang Vieng. There are stunning vistas of towering limestone karst hills around every turn and great photo opportunities of Hmong tribal villages along the way. Arrive into Vang Vieng later in the afternoon in time for sunset views over the river and spectacular mountain scenery.
Day 7: Vang Vieng – free day
Enjoy the scenic wonders of Vang Vieng at your leisure. You can go inner-tubing in the cool, lazy river, try your hand at kayaking or caving, or just relax and enjoy the amazing views from your balcony.
Day 8: Vang Vieng – Vientiane
After breakfast, driving to Vientiane for 3 h. Arrival at lunch time. After lunch, visit Wat Sisaket Vientiane’s oldest-surviving monastery and its thousands of Buddha statues. Then hear the history behind by Hor Pha Keo and how is was razed to the ground not once but twice by an invading ancient Thai army. You’ll see Pha That Luang a national symbol of Laos that is represented on the national seal and currency. Admire the large stupa covered in tons of gold leaf and surrounded by 30 smaller stupas, and make sure you see the impressive hand painted frescos that adorn the internal walls. Climb to the viewing platform of Patouxai, Vientiane’s arc de triomphe, and a window into its French-colonial history. The monument also has the nickname of the ‘vertical runway’ due to the Laos government using cement that was intended to build a new airport!
Day 9: fly to Pakse
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight. Arrive Pakse the sleepy provincial capital of Champasak a former French town, where traces of colonial architecture can still be found. Begin with an easy trek through coffee plantations, villages and forest to reach the plains of the Bolaven Plateau. The plateau is located in an ancient volcano which erupted millennia ago and is full of lush vegetation, rich soil and a year-round temperate climate that is the perfect environment for growing Arabica and Robusta coffee. See waterfalls and ancient Khmer inspired temples ruins, and enjoy the refreshingly cool climate – a rarity in Southeast Asia!
Day 10: Pakse – 4000 island
Travel to the ancient ruins of Wat Phou temple complex that pre-dates Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat by a couple of hundred years. Take an elephant trek to the archaeological site of Phou Asa to peek at more ancient ruins and go by ferry to Khong Island, a riverine archipelago in the Mekong River and the gateway to the 4000 Islands.
Day 11: 4000 island – full day tour
Cruise past the tiny islands dotted throughout this tropical paradise to Khone Phapeng and Li Phi Falls, the largest waterfalls in Asia, situated on the very southern tip of Laos where a swirling torrent of water pumps thousands of litres of water into Cambodia every second. If you’re lucky, you might see some of the rare and elusive pink Irrawaddy dolphins. Surprisingly, the dolphins are thought to be related to the killer whale with their large rounded heads and short snouts!
Day 12: 4000 island – Pakse – depart
Drive north to Pakse and your onward flight.
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