The stunning country of Laos is fast becoming a favourite for travellers to Asia. The country famous for the Mekong River is also renowned for its mountainous terrain, beautiful Buddhist monasteries and temples, colonial architecture, rice fields and hill tribes.
You’ll visit Luang Prabang, undoubtedly the drawcard attraction in Laos. The city itself is UNESCO World Heritage-listed. On this trip, you’ll explore temples, rivers and the impressive Lippi falls. This itinerary is a true mixture of everything that is great about Laos.
Day 1 and 2: Luang Prabang
Welcome to the spiritual capital of Laos. Your guide and private car will meet you and take you to your hotel.
The following day, visit 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.
You will then board your private longtail boat to cruise up the Mekong River visiting the famous Pak Ou Caves. The caves are filled with thousands of gold-lacquered Buddha statues. The statues range in size from a few centimetres 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 admires 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.
Day 3: Luang Prabang
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.
Drive through the Luang Prabang countryside to Kuang Si Waterfalls. Along the way, you will see 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.
These waterfalls cascade down a multilevel limestone formation creating a series of turquoise blue pools perfect for swimming in on a hot day.
Day 4: Luang Prabang to Vientiane
Fly to Vientiane.
You’ll be met at the airport for a tour which starts at Buddha Park. On the way, stop and take photos of the Friendship Bridge which was built by the Australian government in 1994 to link Laos and Thailand.
This unusual park is filled with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. It’s quiet and tranquil set on the banks of the Mekong River.
On your way back to Vientiane, stop at Mai Savanh to explore the traditional textiles of the Lao people before visiting the Lao Disabled Women Development Center that aims to bring knowledge and skills to disabled women so that they can become self-sufficient, productive members of the community. The centre focuses its efforts on helping people with disabilities gain independence and self-confidence. A visit to the centre provides you with the opportunity to talk to these women and to observe their skill at creating handicrafts such as handmade paper.
The rest of the day is at your leisure to explore Vientiane, whose name means ‘the city of sandalwood’.
Day 5: Vientiane
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 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 into the town’s colonial past as this building formerly served as the French governor’s palace.
Visit COPE, an association working to help landmine victims. A visit to the centre provides in-depth information about the history of the American and Vietnam war and the lasting impact of unexploded ordinances 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 Setthathirat 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.
Day 6: Vientaine to Champasak
Fly to Pakse. On the confluence of the Mekong and Sedone rivers, Pakse is the most important town in southern Laos.
Recognised 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 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.
Day 7: Champasak
Today you’ll explore the area known locally as 4000 Islands. In this beautiful area, the Mekong River reaches 14 kilometres wide and thousands of small islands dot the waterway.
Travel first by car 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 that will give you the chance to spot the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin. 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.