Be mesmerized by the wonders of Laos with an overland journey from north to south. Absorb the tranquil rhythm of life on the Mekong River and explore the natural beauty of the Bolaven Plateau. Embrace the rich culture and heritage of Luang Prabang and visit iconic temples in Vientiane.
Journey down the Mekong from the Thai border, cross through central Lao and conclude in the far South’s 4000 Island region.
Explore lesser known sites of Laos including the Kong Lor cave, the charming town of Savannakhet, the highlands of the Bolaven Plateau and the Mekong’s 4000 Islands.
Gain a better understanding of Laos through culturally-focused activities and in-depth tours of ancient pagodas and colonial-era sites.
Laos In Depth - 13 Days / 12 Nights
This in-depth Laos tour begins on the Thai side of the border in the town of Chiang Khong. Please arrive to the border point no later than 08:00 (arriving early in the morning or the day before.) After clearing Thai customs and upon reaching the Lao border of Houay Xay, our representative will be waiting to provide transport to the Luang Say cruise vessel. The cruise to Luang Prabang will take two days, with an overnight stop in Pakbeng.
During the first day, a stop will be made to visit an authentic, local hill tribe settlement. After the visit, enjoy a delicious buffet lunch on board as the boat cruises along the scenic Mekong River.
Arrive in the town of Pakbeng in the late afternoon. Located halfway between Houay Xay and Luang Prabang, this small, dynamic town lined with wooden houses along a steep street on the hillside is the perfect stopover point. Depending on the river’s current, the boat may reach town just in time to catch a sunset over the river.
Overnight in Luang Say Lodge, Pakbeng
Early risers may be interested in paying a visit to the nearby morning market, where residents of the nearby villages and hill tribes gather to buy and exchange goods.
After breakfast on board, depart around 08:30 for the second part of the journey. While cruising along the Mekong, make a stop at Ban Baw village to observe the processing traditional rice alcohol, called laolao. Reboard the boat to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch.
En route to Luang Prabang, make a stop to visit the Pak Ou Caves, which contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. In addition to the impressive range in sizes of the statues, the view from the mouth of the cave is extraordinary, providing sweeping views of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers.
Luang Prabang is a further 2 hours downstream from Pak Ou. Arrive in Luang Prabang early evening, before sunset.
Upon arrival, our guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport to the hotel for check in.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Begin the day with a half-day guided tour of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Town. After breakfast at the hotel, the guide will provide pickup and transportation to the starting point of the day.
Start the city tour at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, to explore the history of Laos. Continue on foot to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade. Finish the tour at Wat Xieng Thong, the most revered temple in Luang Prabang. Located at the end of the peninsula, close to the Mekong, this temple was built in 1560 by King Setthathirat and is decorated with ornate carvings and mosaics.
The rest of the day is free at leisure.
Overnight in 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.
Depart with the guide after breakfast for the transfer to the Kuang Si Waterfalls.
Upon reaching the Kuang Si Waterfall, relax and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls are perfect for exploring on foot. For the adventurous type, it is possible to walk to the top of the falls via a steep track where stunning views await. Additionally, the waterfalls cascade down into turquoise pools, which are perfect for swimming (please dress modestly.)
On the journey back, there is an optional visit to the Free the Bears Sanctuary, home to 23 Asiatic Bears rescued from poachers. There is an additional visit to the nearby Kuang Si Butterfly Park, housing hundreds of the country’s most beautiful butterflies. (Note: closed on Tuesday)
The rest of the day is free at leisure in Luang Prabang.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
After breakfast, begin the journey south towards Vang Vieng, which will take roughly five hours. A stop will be made in Kasi, a fruit growing area, and there will be additional stops available to take photos of the breathtaking scenery.
Arrive in Vang Vieng, a small town on the banks of the Nam Song River surrounded by spectacular limestone karst scenery.
The rest of the afternoon is free at leisure with the driver and guide available. Basic options range from exploring the nearby caves and villages to visiting an organic farm specialising in the production of Mulberry tea. For those feeling a bit more adventurous, there are options for cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, trekking and tubing. (Please note, these activities will be at an additional cost.)
For those who prefer something a bit more relaxing, simply soak in the views and enjoy a sunset along the Nam Song River.
Overnight in Vang Vieng
Enjoy a leisurely morning before starting the drive south to Vientiane. After driving for roughly 1.5 hours, reach Nam Ngum, the largest lake in Laos. An artificial body of water, this lake was built to feed the country’s first hydroelectric dam.
For those interested in exploring the area, there can be a stop made for lunch here or it is possible to hire a boat for a short tour of the lake (both at an additional cost.)
From here, the drive to Vientiane is around 2.5 hours and the rest of the day is free at leisure. Upon arrival to Vientiane, enjoy a stroll along the Mekong or take a wander in the city’s evening market.
Overnight in Vientiane
This morning, enjoy a guided tour to discover the hidden charms of Vientiane. The experience begins at the serene Wat Sisaket, one of the most beautiful temples in the capital. Continue on to the nearby Wat Phra Keo, which today acts as a religious museum displaying a collection of both Lao and Khmer works of art. Also nearby is the Presidential Palace. Though it cannot be visited inside, the outside of the building provides a glimpse into the colonial history of the capital.
Afterwards, pay a visit to COPE, an association working to help landmine victims. A visit to the center provides in-depth information about the history of the American/Vietnam war and the lasting impact of unexploded ordinances (UXO) in the area and the efforts underway to clear them.
This afternoon, continue to the Patuxay monument, Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe. Climb to the top of the monument for some breathtaking, sweeping panoramic views of the city. Continue on to the 16th century That Luang, the holiest site in Laos, followed by Wat Simuang, the most popular and venerated temple in Vientiane.
As the day comes to a close, take a stroll along the banks of the Mekong River for sunset. This is a great chance to see local life and to find a unique place to eat dinner.
Overnight in Vientiane
After breakfast, meet with the guide (08:00) for the drive outside of Vientiane. The first leg of the journey takes around 3 hours and makes a quick stop at Wat Prabath Phonsane (‘Temple of the footprint of Buddha’).
After visiting the temple, leave the main road and enter the Phou Hin Poun NPA (National Protected Area). The scenery quickly becomes much more spectacular, featuring limestone karsts, forests and rice paddies. From leaving the main road to reaching the destination will take approximately 2 hours.
Enjoy a picnic lunch brought by the guide from Vientiane. After lunch, and on arrival to the small town of Ban Kong Lor, check in to the hotel, freshen up and depart for the famous Kong Lor Caves.
Donning life jackets and headlamps, begin towards the entrance of the cave. Upon entering the cave, board a longtail boat, which will provide transport through the length of this spectacular cavern along an underground section of the Hin Boun River - a length of 7.5km without daylight!
The river flows all year and reveals vast formations of stalactites and stalagmites, some of which may be seen from the boat, others which can be explored on foot (with the help of the guide.)
Upon reaching the other side of the cave, stop for refreshments and walk to local villages, enjoying the scenery and observing a more simple way of life (distance of the walk is up to personal preference.)
Return by boat, travelling ‘downstream’ through the cave, to Ban Kong Lor.
Overnight in Ban Kong Lor
This morning, accompanied by the guide, take a walk to explore the surrounding villages. We recommend taking the walk before breakfast, as the early mornings can be the most interesting and the most photogenic.
Continue with a drive to Thakhek, which will take approximately 4 hours, and arrive just in time for lunch at Inthira Thakhek (not included in cost). Thakhek is a sleepy, local town with some attractive colonial buildings.
The drive to Savannakhet takes approximately 1.5 hours. Before entering Savannakhet, stop at the beautiful 16th Century temple of That Ing Hang. An impressive central stupa dominates a courtyard which is flanked by statues of Lord Buddha, in a style similar to Wat Sisaket in Vientiane. That Ing Hang is among the most revered temples in Laos and many Buddhists will travel here during December for the annual ‘Boun Phathat’ ceremony.
Continue on to Savannakhet. The city is most famous as the birthplace of the father of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Kaysone Phomvihane, who was born here in 1920. Take a short tour of the architectural highlights, which include various French villas and the striking St. Teresa Catholic Church.
Visit the small but very interesting Dinosaur Museum. Dinosaur remains are still being discovered nearby, some of which are between 150,000,000 – 250,000,000 years old. Speak to the resident paleontologists about their work; proceeds from the visit help to keep this project going.
The remainder of the day is free at leisure to enjoy a swim and take a stroll along the Mekong.
Overnight in Savannakhet
After breakfast, set off early this morning for the drive to Salavan Province and the Bolaven Plateau, an area of highlands sitting just east of Pakse. Most of this region sits between 1,000-1,300 meters high and features dozens of coffee and tea plantations as well as hill tribe communities.
After lunch at a local restaurant, head to the Tad Fane Waterfalls, located 38km from Pakse. These impressive twin waterfalls stand 120m high and are fed by the Champy and Pak Koot Rivers. (Note: Depending on the recent rains, the water level may vary greatly).
En route, stop to visit a coffee and/or tea plantation. The beans grown in this region produce some of the most famous coffees in the world, which is sometimes called the “Champagne of coffee”. Lao coffee is cultivated almost exclusively in the cool fresh air of the Bolaven Plateau by the families who live in its 250 villages.
Overnight in Tad Etu
After breakfast, transfer by road to Wat Phou.
Recognized 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 baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary. The temple served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and is still one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.
Pass through the small town of Champasak, where French colonial buildings offer a great contrast to Wat Phou, and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.
Continue south to the 4,000 Islands Region. Locally known as “Siphandon”, this area is where the Mekong stretches to over 14km wide. The river flows between a large number of islands, creating waterfalls and rapids. Cross the water with a short boat trip, arriving to the accommodation in the late afternoon.
Overnight on Khong Island
After breakfast, depart this morning to explore the peaceful islands of Don Det and Don Khone. The islands are home to plantations and simple villages; the best way to explore the area is either via bicycle or hired tuk tuk.
Begin the visit at the impressive Lippi falls, which are on the west of Don Khone. Very close to the Cambodian border, the locals revere these falls as they believe they act as a trap for bad spirits.
One of the best viewpoints between the islands has a history reaching back to the colonial times. As the islands linked Laos to Cambodia and Southern Vietnam, railway and bridge were built to overpass the waterfalls. Today, this overpass is one of the best viewpoints.
Afterwards, take a short boat trip with the chance of spotting the elusive Irrawaddy Dolphin.
Lunch today will be served in a local restaurant.
The final highlight of this area are the imposing Khone Phapheng waterfalls. During the visit, discover why this section is the only part of the Mekong that cannot be accessed by boat!
Late this afternoon, return to Pakse by land.
Overnight in Pakse
After breakfast, transfer either to the Thai border or to the airport for the onward flight.
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