Discover Laos in on an eight day tour of all the highlights, that strikes an ideal balance of cultural landmarks and natural wonders. From Luang Prabang with its golden temples and saffron robed monks, head south to the sleepy capital of Vientiane. Trek the coffee plantations of the Bolaven Plateau and go by elephant to see ancient ruins. And end your journey looking for pink dolphins in the little-visited 4000 Islands.
Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Pakse – 4000 islands
Day 1: Luang Prabang
Arrive in Luang Prabang, a sacred place of golden temples and saffron robed monks. Situated amid mountains beside the Mekong River, its temples and monuments offer plenty of sightseeing opportunities. Spend the afternoon exploring on your own at the relaxed pace of a laid-back Laotian.
In the late afternoon take a one-hour guided walking tour of Luang Prabang’s bustling night market, which is open daily from dusk until about 10pm. Browse for food, handicrafts and those famous Beer Lao T-shirts
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 the orange coloured waters of the Mekong River to explore them. Make a short stop along the way to visit a local village where they make a living from weaving on ancient wooden looms.
The Pak Ou Caves consist 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. Take a short walk from the caves to a nearby village for lunch, before cruising downstream back to Luang Prabang in the early afternoon.
Day 3: Luang Prabang
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. Giving alms is an important religious act in Buddhism and it must be carried out respectfully by locals and tourists alike.
If you would like to be involved in the offering of food, your guide will be more than happy to show you the best way to interact with monks. Watch as the monks disappear down the road in a long, saffron-coloured ribbon. Feel free to take photos, however please use discretion and refrain from using your flash.
Later, grab your swimsuit and take a short drive to the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall. The falls cascade over many calcified tiers and down several hundred feet into a series of cool, turquoise pools, perfect for swimming
Day 4: Luang Prabang – Fly to Vientiane
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Vientiane. After checking into your hotel, begin a whirlwind tour starting at Wat Sisaket which is Vientiane's oldest-surviving monastery. Hear the tumultuous history behind Hor Pha Keo, a former temple turned museum and admire Pha That Luang, a national symbol of Laos that is represented on the national seal and currency. End the day with a climb to the viewing platform of Patouxai, Vientiane’s arc de triomphe, and a window into its French-colonial history.
Day 5: Vientiane – Fly to Pakse
Today, journey on to Pakse for a few days of immersion in the natural beauty of Laos. Your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight.
Pakse is the sleepy provincial capital of Champasak, a former French town where traces of colonial architecture can still be found. 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 waterfalls and ancient Khmer inspired temple ruins, and enjoy the refreshingly cool climate - a rarity in Southeast Asia
Day 6: Pakse - 4000 Islands
Travel to the ancient ruins of Wat Phou temple complex that pre-dates Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat by a couple of hundred years. Take an elephant trek to the archaeological site of Phou Asa to peek at more ancient ruins and go by ferry to Khong Island, a riverine archipelago in the Mekong River and the gateway to the 4000 Islands.
Day 7: 4000 Islands
Cruise past the tiny islands dotted throughout this tropical paradise to Khone Phapeng and Li Phi Falls, the largest waterfalls in Asia, situated on the very southern tip of Laos where a swirling torrent of water pumps thousands of litres of water into Cambodia every second. If you’re lucky, you might see some of the rare and elusive pink Irrawaddy dolphins. Surprisingly, the dolphins are thought to be related to the killer whale with their large rounded heads and short snouts!