Travelers to Laos, a place once known as the Land of a Million Elephants, are able to experience the many cultures and laid back hospitality of a relatively sparse population, whether in the cities or rural villages. Laos has also become a destination for those seeking outdoor fun, as the topography is covered with rivers, mountains, caves, and limestone formations. If you seek adventure, insight into a mystical place, or simply an enjoyable holiday, make Laos your destination.
Start city: Vientiane
End city: Pakse
Duration: 15 days 14 nights
Departure: Daily, upon your request.
Destination: Vientiane – Phou Khao Khouay – Luang Nam Tha – Muang Khua – Nong Khiaw – Luang Prabang – Boloven Plateau – Done Daeng – Khone Island – Ban Khiet Ngong – Pakse.
Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Time permits, your half day city tour begins with a visit to Wat Sisaket, the oldest temple 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 icon, the precious and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. We then head to COPE (http://www.copelaos.org/), where you will learn about the UXO problem in Lao PDR and the work undertaken by COPE and the PMRC to provide disability services for people affected by UXOs. As part of the exhibition you can watch a number of excellent documentary films about UXOs and COPE. The Mekong river side is the perfect place to end the day and admire the sunset. Overnight in Vientiane
ABF, we will be transferred from Vientiane to Ban Hatkhai in Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area, where we start cycling to Tad Xay Waterfall. The ride offers some great views over Nam Mang and Mekong Rivers.
After a picnic lunch at Tad Xai, we have time for swimming. We then trek under an evergreen canopy. The trek continues until we meet Nam Mang River more upstream. We then start kayaking to Ban Hatkhai. After a soft rest, you will be transferred back to the city center of Vientiane. The rest of the day is at your own leisure. Overnight in Vientiane.
The journey northwards begins as we board our flight to Luang Namtha, a province sharing its border with China and Myanmar. Luang Namtha is located on the banks of the Namtha River is a land of rugged mountains and beautiful tropical forests. Today Luang Namtha is populated with over twenty ethnic groups, making this region one of the most ethnically diverse provinces in Laos. On arrival, we travel by road to Moung Sing, stopping along the way at the Akha hill tribe village. This ethnic group originally lived in China but immigrated into Laos over a century ago. They are very poor, but have a vibrant culture and an interesting history. Overnight in Muang Sing (B)
The remote and extremely beautiful mountainious region of Muong Sing is ideal for an adventurous trekking expedition. After breakfast we stroll round this small town observing the daily activities of the ethnic minorities in the village and see the small vendors sell local textiles and handicrafts on the streets. We leave the village and take a short drive north before we setting off on a half-day trek, using the local tracks. We pass through some breathtaking mountain landscape to the Yao, Akha and Lanten hill tribe villages, where we are sure to attract attention from many ethnic minorities, as visitors do not frequently encounter this remote part of the country. Overnight at Moung Sing
We depart early this morning for our journey to Oudomxay. These back roads are a perfect way to venture off the beaten track and explore the real Laos. We see very few other travelers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. The drive can be challenging on some parts of our journey due to poor road conditions; however the verdant and rugged mountain scenery combined with the colorful local population makes for a memorable experience. On arrival we check in at a very simple hotel and take a walk to explore this picturesque hill town. Overnight at Oudomxay
The local market also attracts numerous ethnic minorities who converge from the surrounding mountainsides or valley to barter and trade their goods. We visit this congregation before setting off on our journey along the Nambak River to Muong La. Here we have the chance to visit the intriguing Pra Xack Kham Temple with its sacred Buddha image. The 400 years old legendary statue is said to have many supernatural powers, and is widely worshipped among the faithful local Buddhists. As we continue from Muong La towards Muong Khoua, the roads begin to deteriorate but the drive is very interesting as we pass through some stunning landscape. From Muang Khua, we will board a long tail boat to Muang Ngoi, where we will have the unforgettable visit to some hill tribe villages and homestay with the local people the day after. Overnight in Muang Ngoi
In the morning, begin to trek uphill, which is about 1200 m above the sea level, to Ban Kioukhan (about 4-5 hours), a Village of Khmu ethnic group. On the way, stop to visit Tham Kaang, the former sheltering cave for local villagers during the last Indochina War (1960 – 1972) which has never damaged with beautiful surroundings. A long the way, it is particularly picturesque of mountain views. Picnic lunch. Arrival Kioukhan in the afternoon. Explore local people’s working and living conditions. Dinner and overnight at the villager’s homes.
Breakfast at villagers’ homes, continue to trek downhill through beautiful natural surroundings to visit Ban Hadsapheai (about 4-5 hours), a small village of Khmu ethnic group which is on the bank of Nam Ou river. Continue to take a boat ride downstream to Muang Ngoi. Between Ban Hatsaphuai and Muang Ngoi, it is thought to be one of the most beautiful views on the Nam Ou River with rock cliffs and rock formation rising dramatically above rain forest. Lunch at the local restaurant in Muang Ngoi.
Today, embark a long tail traditional boat for a leisurely trip downstream on the Nam Ou River, enjoying the lush green forests and landscape. Along the way we stop to visit the mysterious caves of Pak Ou, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by devoted pilgrims. We continue our trip down the river to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Luang Prabang. This former royal capital with its gleaming temple roofs, fading colonial architecture and stunning mountain backdrop retains a unique charm rarely found in all Asia. There is little traffic on the roads and you will see monks dressed in orange robes scurry in all directions carrying umbrellas shading themselves from the sun. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
First we visit the morning Phousi Market, where you will see such diverse offerings as dried buffalo skin, local tea and saltpeter among the chickens, vegetables and hill-tribe weavings. Laos is also known for its traditional crafts, and today you will visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay, a Hmong village, Ban Ou a Laoloum village and Ban Thapene, a Khmu village. This then takes us to the beautiful Khouang Si Waterfalls where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the pools or walk along the forest trails. We then return to Luang Prabang. Your half day city tour this afternoon begins with a visit to the Royal Palace Museum, which hosts a range of interesting artifacts. We then head to the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. We also have time to visit the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrines of Wat Aham and Wat Mai. Overnight in Luang Prabang (B).
This morning, you will have free time before taking the flight to Pakse, the city in the South of Laos. On arrival, the guide will transfer you to Boloven Plateau. The Bolevean Plateau is well-known for its cooler temperature being located high above the Mekong Valley. The area is famous for its many waterfalls, and the most beautiful of these falls, Tad Fan, which is spectacular with twin waterfalls plummeting into a deep gorge surrounded by flourishing vegetation. A trip to the plateau provides a refreshing break from the heat and allows you to observe the cultivation of rich coffee, tea, cardamom, bananas, and other crops that can be seen en route. In the mid-afternoon we arrive at Tad Lo, home to another scenic waterfall and numerous ethnic minority groups. We visit the villages of Alak, Nge, and Katu before checking in the hotel. Overnight in Boloven Plateau.
After an early breakfast, we head out towards Khong Island. On the way we make a short detour to visit Pha Suam waterfall and to explore the ethnic minority villages of Lao Teung. We continue to travel by road via Pakse town crossing the Mekong by ferry to visit the fascinating pre-angkorian ruins of Wat Phu, one of Southeast Asia’s most dramatically situated temples. Wat Phou is one of the Lao World Heritage sites recognized by UNESCO in 2001, this wonderful archeological site of Khmer civilization dates back to the 5th century, predating the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We continue our journey by boat to Done Khong, the largest island in the South Mekong river region known as the 4000 islands, one of the most scenic areas in Laos. Overnight in Don Khong.
Following breakfast, we enjoy a visit to the surrounding countryside, and embark on a long tail boat tour of the Don Khone area, which takes you to visit the remains of the French period and Liphi Waterfall or “the Corridor of the Devil”. We return to the mainland at the fishing village of Ban Nakasang and drive further south to visit Khone Phapheng. Khone Phapheng is considered the largest waterfall by volume in South East Asia; this is a really impressive near the Lao-Cambodian border, set within an area which is teeming with wildlife, making this area one of the most breathtaking destinations in Laos. We then head south to Xi Pian National Protected Area and the Kingfisher Ecolodge for the evening. Overnight at Kingfisher.
Breakfast at the lodge, we will have chance to experience elephant riding for 2hrs through forest paths. The rest of the day is free at your own leisure. Overnight in King Fisher Ecolodge.
Today, we will transfer back to the city of Pakse to take the departure flight for the next destination.