This extensive 17 – night Laos itinerary not only includes well known Luang Prabang but also lesser known destinations. You will be immersed into the culture, meet local people and enjoy the natural beauty of these destinations that many travelers do not often see.
Arrive Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This beautiful city was the royal capital and seat of the government for the Kingdom of Laos until the revolution of 1975. The main part of the city consists of four main roads crisscrossing a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers.
This evening, you will be invited to take part in one of the most important ceremonies for Laotian people: the Baci ceremony. It has been practiced for hundreds of years. The term commonly used is “sou khuan” which means “spirit enhancing or spirit calling”. The ceremony involves the tying of white cotton strings around a person’s wrists and the prayer saying or well wishing for the person that the ceremony is intended for. The Baci ceremony is held on many different occasions or events throughout the year. It can be held any day of the week though it has to be on a good day in the lunar calendar. These good days are known to elders, senior monks or ex-monks. The ceremony can be held for both sad and happy times.
Rise early to observe the solemn morning ritual of the monks walking through the streets to collect alms. Tak Bat, or alms giving, is a must – see experience for travelers to Luang Prabang.
After pickup from your hotel, transfer to a street where a single file line of silent, saffron clad Buddhist monks walk with their alms bowls each morning. Luang Prabang’s many monastic communities are sustained by local Buddhists who place sticky rice in the monks’ bowls during the daily ritual. Take the opportunity to make a rice offering with the help of your guide, or simply watch in awe as dozens of monks emerge to stroll past lay people offering flowers and incense in reverence for this sacred observance.
After the monks pass through, visit a market that pops up each morning near Luang Prabang’s main thoroughfare. Brush elbows with the locals buying fruits, vegetables, meat and spices from vendors who display an enticing array of products. If you want, try regional snacks like dried buffalo skin and rice-flour chips. Return to your hotel after an interesting and cultural early morning in Luang Prabang.
After breakfast at the hotel, visit the Royal Palace Museum housing the most important treasures of Laos. Built in 1904, this palace museum offers a glimpse into the world of Laotian kings and their families. Continue on foot to Wat Mai with its interior and exterior that are extensively adorned with black and red lacquer decorations and gold leaf. The temple, also known as Wat Mai, meaning “new temple” was founded around 1780 by King Anurat of the Luang Prabang Kingdom. Afterwards, proceed to Wat Xieng Thong known as the Golden City Temple. This 16th century complex was built near the meeting of Luang Prabang’s two rivers at the end of the peninsula. Adorned in ornate colored glass, this temple is considered to be the most beautiful temple in Luang Prabang and is important as a religious and national symbol. It was here that Laotian kings were crowned. Leave town and drive about 45 minutes to the spectacular Kuang Si Waterfall.
Lunch is at Carpe Diem restaurant.
After your lunch, take a short walk through the forest and pass by the bear sanctuary that focuses on the Sun bears and the Asiatic Black bears of South-East Asia and the Sloth bears of India. Continue to the waterfall that is the biggest waterfall in the Luang Prabang area with three tiers leading to a 50 – meter drop into spectacular azure pools before flowing downstream. The pools also make great natural swimming pools and are very popular for both tourists and locals.
After enjoying your time at the waterfall on the return to Luang Prabang, stop at the buffalo dairy farm, a social enterprise supporting the local community by renting buffalo and providing additional income to Lao farmers. The Lao buffalo dairy farm also improves the health and well-being of buffalos through better feed, vaccinations and overall care. There, you will have the opportunity to approach adult buffalos and feed the babies. At the end of the visit, do not miss the chance to taste homemade ice cream from buffalo milk.
Breakfast is at the hotel.
Your guide will pick you up at the hotel. Drive to Kamu Lodge pier in Luang Prabang. Embark on a 4 – hour boat ride on the Mekong River from Luang Prabang to the Kamu Lodge, a jungle camp set with 20 safari style tents on the banks of the Mekong in a remote valley of rice fields. On the way, you will stop at Pak Ou Caves, a shrine to the river spirit and Lord Buddha. The caves are spilt into Tham Ting and Tham Theung, both of which are filled with thousands of Buddha images and statues which have been deposited over the centuries by pilgrims.
Arrive at Kamu lodge at noon and check into your tent.
Kamu Lodge offers a retreat from the comforts of modern life, leaving behind Wi-Fi, satellite television or even an unlimited flow of electricity. Kamu Lodge is a private eco – lodge seeking a balance between tourism and conservation of local culture and ethnic heritage. It is a good example of integration within local life and the natural environment in the heart of the Lao jungle.
Lunch will be served in a sala in the middle of the rice fields.
In the afternoon, you may choose to participate in a variety of different activities available from 3pm to 5pm: visit to the local Kamu village, learn rice planting and cultivation, learn traditional fishing techniques, gold panning and cross bow shooting.
Dinner at the Sala restaurant at Kamu Lodge.
Breakfast is at Kamu Lodge.
Morning is at leisure at the lodge.
Lunch at the Kamu Lodge restaurant
After lunch, return to Luang Prabang by boat about 2.5 hours. Upon arriving in Luang Prabang, you will be transferred to your hotel. The rest of the time will be left free for your own leisure.
Breakfast is at your hotel
Today you will check out from your hotel and drive 3 hours from Luang Prabang to Na Bak with a visit at Ban Lue Handicraft.
Lunch will be en route.
Upon arrival, enjoy a half day workshop on handmade cotton. The staff will demonstrate how cotton weaving is done starting with cotton fibers and ending with a finished product. You will learn hand spinning and weaving with a local master weaver using indigenous tools and you will make your own scarf by yourself using the techniques.
Rest of the day is at leisure.
Dinner is at Ban Lue Handicrafts.
Breakfast is at Ban Lue Handicrafts.
This morning drive 1 hour to Nong Khiaw. Upon arrival, start the day with a boat ride on the Nam Ou to a small village where you can learn about the way of life along this river.
You will trek through small streams and rice paddies to reach the base of the 100 waterfalls. The next few hours, you will see only water and jungle and hear the sound of clear waterfall cascades. The pools around you are very inviting for a refreshing splash. Your guide will lead you through the cascades and prepare a local style lunch at the falls. Afterwards, take a small village trail from the top of the falls back down into the valley along the way. You will take in views of the landscapes of the Nam Ou Valley. Hiking back to the village, you will have more time to observe daily life before heading back by a small boat to Nong Khiaw.
Breakfast is at the hotel.
You will be picked up at your hotel at 8.30 am and transfer (3.5 hours) to Nam Kat Yorla. Your journey to this destination briefly stops at some local villages along the way with stunning landscapes and mountain views.
Lunch is en route at a local restaurant on your account.
After lunch, continue to drive to reach Nam Kat Yorla Pa, a resort featuring a protected forested area along the Nam Kat River in a stunningly beautiful part of Northern Laos. Nam Kat Yorla Pa is a dream destination for those seeking the great outdoors. The area is a haven for both the adventurous and nature lovers with an array of exciting activities to offer such as day and overnight treks to waterfalls and cycling tours through the surrounding national park. At the entrance of the park, you’ll find a small waterpark ideal for families and children to enjoy. This is the perfect place to get back to nature and escape mass tourism.
Upon arrival, you will check into your resort and the time left will be free on your own to relax and to enjoy the peaceful place.
Dinner is at your resort.
Breakfast is at your resort.
Depart by bike from the resort and cycle 5 km before reaching the entrance of the forest. From there, you will park your bike and continue by foot to the jungle passing the giant trees on the way to reach Nam Kat Waterfall.
Lunch will be a traditional picnic.
After lunch, go back down by several flying bridges to reach the main entrance of the forest and cycle back to the resort.
While in this idyllic destination, the leisure options are immense. Swimming and massages are available. Or if you prefer solitude, take a walk alongside the picturesque Nam Kat River. You will have the opportunity to dress up in traditional Lao clothing and visit a picturesque Khmu village which is a great way to interact with these indigenous people.
Dinner is at the resort.
Breakfast is at the resort.
In the morning, you will have time to relax until time to transfer to the airport for your flight to Vientiane.
Arrive at Wattay domestic airport in Vientiane, meet your local guide at the exit after luggage collection and continue for a sightseeing tour with a visit to That Luang, a golden stupa with the shape of a banana flower. It is the most revered shrine in Laos. Stop at Patuxay, a massive concrete monument in Laos with a wide avenue leading to it similar in style to the Arc de Triumphed in Paris, France. Continue to Wat Sisaket, the oldest monastery in Vientiane that was built in 1818 and cross the road to nearby Ho Phrakeo, the former Royal temple which is now turned into a museum of Buddhist arts and sculptures.
Check into your hotel.
Breakfast is at your hotel.
You will be picked up at your hotel’s lobby by your guide and visit COPE Visitor Center that educates people about the devastating consequences of war. The country’s unfathomable UXO problem, the impact and struggle survivors face and the work that COPE does to give them hope. Continue to Wat Simuang, the site of the Lak Muang (City Pillar), which is considered the home of the guardian spirit of Vientiane. The large sim was constructed around Lak Muang and consists of two halls. Locals believe it has the power to grant wishes or answer troubling questions and the practice is to lift it off the pillow three times while mentally phrasing a question or request. If your request is granted, you are supposed to return later with an offering of bananas, green coconuts, flowers, incense and candles.
Lunch is at Kung’s Café, a cheerful outdoor eatery shrouded by a jungle of vines. This is a calm oasis tucked into the busy Vientiane streets which is run by a lovely family.
After lunch drive outside of the city to the famous Buddha Park (45 minutes), constructed by a monk in the 1950’s. This mysterious place in the outskirts of Vientiane has been designated as one of the main religious sites in the country, yet has turned into a park where many locals come to relax during weekends and public holidays. The park is filled with Buddhist and mythological animal statues that relate to Buddhism. There will be plenty of photo moments awaiting you.
End your day with a stroll on the bank of the Mekong River and observe the local people’s daily routine.
Breakfast is at your hotel.
This morning, your guide will be picked you from your hotel and drive out of Vientiane. Away from city life in the Laotian capital, nature still rules with a green fist. Protected by locals who have called this part of the world their home for generations, the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area is a rustic region filled with nature and eco-friendly initiatives to keep it that way. Officially labelled as a biodiversity conservation area by the Laotian government, the unique flora and fauna of Phou Khao Khouay is that juxtaposition compared to the Vientiane way of living that drives visitors out of the city and into the untouched wild life side of Laos. Phou Khao Khouay is known for having close to 50% of all the wild orchids in Laos.
The 1 hour and 30 minute journey from your Vientiane hotel to the main entrance of Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area commences when your guide and driver accompany you in a north-eastern direction out of the city. As part of an eco-tourism initiative, local hiking experts of the region will take over the guiding once you reach Ban Hatkhay. The full day eco-trek is an initiative set up by the villagers of this settlement to educate, protect and create awareness of the fragile state of the orchid species and to show the orchids to the world.
The hike starts along well-chosen paths through the jungle to the Pha Say Waterfall. Carefully following in the footsteps of your native guide, the landscape changes with almost every corner you take. Pointing out the orchids, from species that feel right at home on rocks to floral examples clinging to tree trunks, the overflow of information assures that the morning passes by before one knows it. This biodiversity conservation area is also home to some medicinal plants which will, too, be pointed out by your guide. Depending on the season, various species of orchids may not be in bloom but still the hike will be memorable until the very end.
The morning ends with a simple picnic lunch along the banks of a local stream before continuing the journey towards another waterfall, Tad Say, of impressive proportions. Its location and more gentle flow of water from its source to the pool makes it an ideal place to swim and cool down after hiking. Your journey ends with a final hike back to Ban Hatkhay where you will stay overnight
Dinner is at the homestay.
After breakfast, depart the village by vehicle around 9:00am to visit the Tad Leuk Waterfall. This is a 30 minute drive. You will be accompanied by 2 local guides and an expert in orchids.
Walk in a dense and humid forest skirting the river at times. It is a preserved site and very little frequented. Trek for 2 hours to reach Tad Saang, a waterfall over 50 meters wide and 5 meters high. It’s a beautiful place with a large pool, ideal for swimming.
Lunch is served picnic style on top of the waterfall.
After lunch, leave this place to the other side of Nam Leuk to join the starting point for the second part of the trek. It is rich in landscape. The forest is very varied: dense, semi-deciduous, bamboos and you will encounter some different orchids in this place. Return to the starting point (2 hours) and then back to the village for refreshment. Continue onto Vientiane and arrive around 5pm.
Breakfast is to go in a box.
You will be picked up at your hotel’s lobby and transferred to Wattay airport for your flight to Pakse. Upon arrival, meet a local guide at the airport exit and you’ll be transferred to Wat Phou Champasak Temple (48km/4hour drive).
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou Temple is a spectacular pre-Angkorian Temple that is in the midst of paddy fields and canals in southern Laos. The temple was built on three levels: the lower level focuses on the Baray (water tank) and the promenade, the second level has pavilions runs and sculpture galleries and the upper level is the sanctuary itself. The temple was built by leaders of the Khmer empire before the construction of Angkor Wat and served as the economic and political center of the region. It remains one of the most revered temples by the people of Laos. After the visit of the temple and the museum, drive back to Champasak through streets lined with French colonial buildings.
Lunch is en route at a local restaurant.
After lunch, cross the Mekong River by small boat (20 min) to reach Don Daeng Island, where you will spend the night.
After breakfast at the lodge, depart for a full day exploring the area known locally as Sipandon which translates to “Four Thousand Islands”. In this beautiful area, the Mekong River reaches 14 kilometers wide and thousands of small islands dot the waterway.
Drive first to the mighty Khone Phapeng Waterfalls, known as the “Niagara of Asia” (181km/2hrs).
Continue to the village of Ban Nakasang from where you will take a small boat to the peaceful islands of Don Khon and Don Det (30 minutes), connected with a bridge built by the French during the colonial era.
Cross the French railway bridge linking the two islands before having lunch at a local restaurant.
After lunch, follow the path of the ancient railway to reach an old locomotive left behind by the French colonial authorities. Then, take a local tuk – tuk to the beautiful Liphi Waterfalls. 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. The name Li Phi was given to the area because it acts like a giant fish trap (Li) and will kill any of those who dare to navigate it (Phi means ghost or dead person).
Return to Nakasang pier and then continue by road (30km/40mn) to Don Khong.
Breakfast is at your hotel.
After breakfast, board a traditional boat to enjoy 4000 islands hopping excursion in the Southern part of Don Khong. You will cruise from island to island to meet the villagers and discover their way of life.
Your first stop is at Don Loppadi (Loppadi Island – 40 min cruise), known for its traditional way of weaving bamboo into colorful rice baskets.
Then, head to Don Som (40 min by boat), where you will learn how to use palm leaves to make your own “Laotian hat”. This hat is the essential accessory for farmers working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun.
Afterwards, enjoy a home-cooked family lunch with the islanders.
Take a boat trip back to Don Khong, and stop at Ban Houay Khong, where the villagers proud themselves in making rice paper and rice noodles by hand. These are sold on the Pakse market.
Afterwards you may have a chance to visit the Don Khong History Museum set inside a charming two-story French colonial style building. The museum features a collection of instruments, animal traps, photos of the island’s past, as well as some explanation about the history of the Lao governor who lived there. Upstairs, you can even find the original pieces of furniture that show how the house was when it was still resided by the Lao governor’s family.
Transfer to your hotel in Pakse.
After breakfast, transfer to Bolaven Plateau (49km/1 hour drive). “Home of the Lavens hilltribe”, this unique elevated region in Laos is also home of the towering waterfalls and coffee and tea plantations.
Once you arrive in the Paksong area on the Bolaven Plateau, your “vehicle” and driver of the day will welcome you. Please note that your jeep is one of the few surviving jeeps left behind after the war, which have been later acquired by the locals. Jeeps are from the USA, Russia and China and date back to 1945.
Hop in the jeep and leave the main road for a more rustic trail to start your discovery of the region’s most preserved rural vistas. You will pass through local farmland on the way to Tad Moun Waterfalls. Once you arrive at the waterfall. you are free to relax and enjoy the place which sits at the foothills of the extinct volcano of Phou Sanat. Afterwards, you will trek to the Mystic Mountain coffee plantations.
Lunch is at Mystic Mountain Coffee and enjoy a local specialty dish.
After lunch, settle yourself at a homestay and continue to visit the Mystic Mountain Coffee Plantation and learn more about the production process. Proceed to a refugee cave used by the villagers as a shelter during the French Indochina war. Late afternoon, you will get back to your homestay and the rest of the time will be for leisure.
Dinner is at Mystic Mountain Coffee.
Breakfast is at Mystic Mountain Coffee.
Start your day at 9am with a drive to Laven Village with over 500 families living there during the French Indochina war. There, you will learn more about the way of life of the historical area dominant ethnic people. You will continue to Tad Maihear Waterfalls to enjoy and relax. You will also have the opportunity to swim at the waterfalls.
Enjoy a picnic lunch at the waterfalls.
After enjoying your time, proceed to Souay Village and visit the traditional bamboo houses and learn more on the history of the village. Proceed to Lao Ngam market, change your vehicle and you will be transferred to your hotel in Pakse.
Breakfast is at your hotel.
You will be picked by your local guide at the hotel’s lobby and transfer to the airport for your flight to your next destination.