Laos from North to South

12 Days / 11 Nights

  Luang Prabang - Phonsavan - Vang Vieng - Vientiane - Pakse - Don Khong

12 Days / 11 Nights

Laos from North to South

  Luang Prabang - Phonsavan - Vang Vieng - Vientiane - Pakse - Don Khong

Unearth iconic sights and hidden gems on the ultimate of Laos’ tours. Discover the spectacular natural wonders, rich history and fascinating minority cultures of this beautiful and tranquil country on a unique 12 day odyssey. Leave no stone unturned as you adventure from riverside Luang Prabang to the mysterious Plain of Jars, rural Vang Vieng and sleepy Vientiane to Pakse, the gateway of the south!

JOURNEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Marvelling at the array of glittering temples and charming pace of Luang Prabang, cruising along the Mekong River to Pak Ok Caves and swimming at Kuang Si Waterfall just outside of town
  • Unearthing the mysterious Plain of Jars and ancient stupas in Xieng Khuoang province as you learn more about Laos’ history
  • Exploring the tranquil and verdant countryside town of Vang Vieng, drifting past mountains along a gentle river
  • Visiting the sights of Vientiane, the sleepiest Asian capital on a guided wander through its sights
  • Trekking in the cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau, surrounded by lush rainforest and visiting Wat Phu, a ruin that pre-dates Angkor Wat
  • Discover the beauty of the 4,000 Islands, staying at Don Khong, the largest island in this river archipelago; relaxing and seeing spectacular waterfalls, including the largest in Southeast Asia

TOUR INCLUSIONS

  • Tours as mentioned and air-conditioned transfers
  • Sightseeing and permit fees during guided times
  • Meals listed in the itinerary
  • Expert English-speaking local guide
  • Service charges and government VAT tax

ITINERARY

DAY 1

Luang Prabang

DAY 1 - Luang Prabang

Welcome to the charming and serene UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang! Upon arrival your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. Get ready to begin your exploration on the ultimate of Laos’ tours. First, visit the spectacular Wat Xieng Thong, one of the largest and most ornate temples in town. Stroll past the golden facades and glittering mosaics, marvelling at their detailed beauty.

Continue onwards to the former Royal Palace, a commanding structure in the heart of town that was once the centre of the Lang Xang Kingdom. Now visit the National Museum, wander its halls to find rare religious and cultural artefacts. Finish off the day with a climb up 328 steps to the top of Mt. Phousi, for panoramic views of Luang Prabang below.

DAY 2

DAY 2 - Luang Prabang

Today, head just out of town to the Pak Ou Caves, known locally as Tham Thin, which sit at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. Hop aboard your boat and cruise along the calm waters of the Mekong River, setting off through the verdant countryside towards these spectacular caves. After taking in the tranquility of the river, stop at a local village, where locals make a living weaving on ancient wooden looms. Observe this artisanal practice firsthand, before hoping back on the boat towards the caves.

Consisting 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. Marvel at their sheer number and variety before a short walk to a nearby village for a scrumptious local lunch. Cruise downstream back to Luang Prabang in the early afternoon for the rest of the day at your leisure.

DAY 3

DAY 3 - Luang Prabang

Bring your swim suit today as you head off, travelling a short distance from Luang Prabang to the Kuang Si Waterfall. Arrive at this jaw-dropping waterfall, where crystal clear water cascades down into tiered turquoise pools along its base. Take in the magnificence of limestone cliffs enveloped in jungle, and keep in mind that depending on the seasons the water levels vary greatly. On the way out, you’ll get to drop by the Sun Bear Reserve, a conservation centre that rescues animals from the wildlife trade, particularly the charming sun or moon black bears. Learn about their protection, before returning to town for the rest of the day as you please.

DAY 4

DAY 4 - Luang Prabang – Phonsovan

Rise early to the sound of the temple gong and witness Luang Prabang’s mystical daily ritual. In the cool of the early morning, a procession of about three hundred young monks walk silently by, collecting sticky rice and other foods in their bronze bowls. The ritual is linked to a Buddhist tradition in which monks beg for their daily food as a way to demonstrate humility. Giving alms an important religious act in Buddhism and it must be carried out respectfully by locals and tourists alike, so be respectful as you observe this daily rite.

After breakfast in Luang Prabang, head off on your road trip to Xieng Khuoang province. The eight-hour ride includes stops in remote villages to stretch your legs and get a glimpse of daily life in rural Laos. Chat with villagers and tuck into a local lunch, and upon entering Xieng Khouang, take in the views of verdant mountainous plateau. By early evening you’ll arrive in your hotel in Phonsavan, the province capital and gateway to the Plain of Jars. Rest up the rest of the evening, getting ready for an archaeological adventure in the morning.

DAY 5

DAY 5 - Phonsovan

Unearth the unknown today, on a visit to the famous archaeological site, the Plain of Jars. Scattered across a vast landscape of rice fields and forests, these giant vessels, some as big as 3 metres tall and 1 metre wide, are believed to be most likely stone urns that date back to the Iron Age. These mesmerizing megaliths are quite mysterious, with various archaeological theories as to their purpose and placement, but none certain. Local lore also provides captivating explanations; one for example is that the jars held whiskey for the thirsty giants that lived in the mountains over Phonsavan.

After breakfast, go on a guided wander through one of the plains from sunrise till lunch. Stick to the clearly marked pathway, as going off it may be dangerous. As this area was the most heavily bombed during the Secret War, many unexploded bombs still hidden in the foliage, so best to stay with your guide.

Head to Muang Khoun next, the once royal seat of the small kingdom of Xieng Khouang. Five hundred years ago, it was known for its opulent stupas, but over time it has faced invasions from east and west, pillaging by bandits from the north and seemingly endless bombing campaigns. Now, it is a ghost of its former glory, making it a mesmerising place to explore.

DAY 6

DAY 6 - Phonsavan – Vang Vieng

Depart this mysterious and historically rich area on 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 villages along the way. Marvel at the humble majesty of the countryside, before arriving in Vang Vieng later that afternoon. You’ll be just in time for sunset, so check in and relax at the views of the sky darkening over the river, surrounded by mountains.

DAY 7

DAY 7 - Vang Vieng

Enjoy the scenic wonders of Vang Vieng at your leisure, with a day free to do what you wish. After breakfast, consider putting on your swimsuit and hoping in an inner-tube for a drift along the lazy river, taking in the spectacular landscape at a relaxed pace. You can also try your hand at kayaking or caving, or just relax and enjoy the amazing views from your balcony. However you choose to spend the day in this riverside town is up to you.

DAY 8

DAY 8 - Vang Vieng – Vientiane

Spend three hours this morning journeying to Vientiane, and arrive for a city tour of the quietest Asian capital. Visit Wat Sisaket, which houses over 6,000 small seated Buddha images, dating from as early as the 16th century. Stop at Hor Pha Keo next, a former temple that was built originally centuries ago to house the Emerald Buddha. Now a museum, Hor Pha Keo has one of the best exhibitions of fine religious art in Laos.

Continue on to Patuxai next, or the Victory Monument, built to commemorate the independence of Laos from French colonial rule. Gaze upon its ornate details that may resemble the Arc De Triomphe, but actually have lots of Laos’ religious symbols, before heading to its top for panoramic views of town. Finish up the day at That Luang, the holiest site in Laos and its national symbol, before returning to your hotel.

DAY 9

DAY 9 - Vientiane – Pakse

Depart sleepy Vientiane by meeting your guide at the hotel for a transfer to the airport. Fly to Pakse the provincial capital of Champasak, a perfect central hub to explore the sights of southern Laos. A former French town, traces of colonial architecture can still be found here, yet the town itself is the perfect base for relaxing along the Sedone and Mekong Rivers. After checking into your accommodation and freshening up, head out to the Bolaven Plateau for an adventure in the highlands.

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 spectacular waterfalls and ancient Khmer inspired temples ruins, and enjoy the refreshingly cool climate - a rarity in Southeast Asia!

DAY 10

DAY 10 - Pakese – Don Khong

This morning, travel to the ancient ruins of Wat Phu, a temple complex that pre-dates Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat by a couple of hundred years. One of Laos’ oldest archeological sites, it was built in the 5th century and name means mountain temple. Take in this wild ruined complex, which despite the years shows impressive workmanship as a complex of temples, terraces, courtyards, libraries and palaces. Marvel at its grandeur and the surrounding views over the valley and the Mekong.

After lunch at a local restaurant, travel to Don Khong Island next, on a 3 hour drive into Si Phan Doan, or 4,000 Islands. An archipelago on the Mekong River, this area is sleepy, scenic and stunning. Don Khong is the largest island of Si Phan Doan, yet has a quaint atmosphere. Arrive in this picturesque area and check into your accommodation, spending the rest of the evening relaxing by the riverside.

DAY 11

DAY 11 - Don Khong

Cruise down past the inlets en route to Khone Phapheng, the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia. Situated on the most southern tip of Laos take in the thunderous roar of thousands of litres of water swirling into Cambodia. There is no waterfall more aggressive and powerful in the region, so take in its might from a safe viewpoint.

Next, continue on your cruise to visit the neighbouring Li Phi Waterfalls, which may be smaller but no less impressive. Li Phi loosely translates to, a ‘spirit trap’ and with a glance at the massive boulders and rapids and it’s not hard to imagine why. Gaze upon this natural wonder and be sure to keep your eyes peeled, if you’re lucky to may spot the rare and elusive Irrawaddy dolphin! These creatures are very important both to the ecological balance of the Mekong, but also to Lao people, regarded as a sacred animal.

Return to your hotel afterwards and after lunch at a local restaurant, spend your last night in rural Laos doing whatever you please. Watch the sunset from a hammock over the river, walk along the sleepy town and pick up some last minute souvenirs. Absorb the peaceful atmosphere and make the most of your last night in this beautiful and tranquil place.

DAY 12

DAY 12 - Don Khong – Pakse for Departure

Leave the Mekong behind as you transfer back to Pakse after breakfast this morning. Take the two hour drive to reflect on the highlights of your adventure in all corners of this fascinating country, after experiencing one of the most in depth tours in Laos. Arrive at the airport in Pakse, check in and board your flight onwards to your next destination.

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