This 8 day itinerary takes in all the best that Laos has to offer. Slightly off the well-beaten tourist tracks, this destination is richly rewarding for those who visit, with ancient temples nestled amongst pristine jungle environments. Including a short cruise along the Mekong River, this trip is perfect for those wanting a slightly different holiday story.
- Take a short boat cruise along the Mekong River to visit the incomparable Pak Ou caves.
- Discover the stunning beauty of the Kuang Si Waterfalls.
- Wonder at the origins of the enigmatic 2000 year old relics of the Plain of Jars
Day 1: Vientiane Arrival
Upon arrival in Vientiane, our local operator will transfer you to your hotel by private car. Later that night, savour a welcome dinner.
Overnight in Vientiane
Day 2: Vientiane City Tour (B L)
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 guide will pick you up at 09:00 this morning. 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 in to the town’s colonial past as this building formerly served as the French governor’s palace.
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.
Overnight in Vientiane
Day 3: Vientiane – Buddha Park – Xieng Khouang (B)
This morning you will be driven out to Buddha Park. The drive takes around 45 minutes, along a road which serves as an important link between the Lao capital and Thailand. On the way, stop and take photos of the Friendship Bridge which was built by the Australian government in 1994 and links Laos and Thailand.
Arrive at Buddha Park and enjoy a stroll around the park. Also known as Xieng Khuan, this unusual park is filled with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. The quiet and tranquil setting along the Mekong River is a contrast to the slightly eccentric sculptures which were built in 1958 by a Lao shaman. The concrete sculptures are bizarre but intriguing, sitting majestically in the peaceful park.
After visiting Buddha Park, start the drive back to Vientiane. En route, stop at the Lao Disabled Women Development Centre. This centre aims to bring knowledge and skills to disabled women so that they can become self-sufficient and productive members of the community. 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. (Note: Subject to change without prior notice from the suppliers).
You will return to the city around lunch time and can be dropped off at the airport to catch a flight to Xieng Khuang.
Suggested flight: Lao Airlines QV401, departure from Vientiane at 1510, arrive in Xieng Khuang at 1540.
Upon arrival in Xieng Khuang, guests will be met by a guide and private car and transferred to the hotel for check-in.
Xieng Khuang is a town that has been totally rebuilt after it was destroyed during the secret war in Laos. The town is now located 30km away from where it was originally. Today, Xieng Khuang, locally called “Phonsavan”, is the gateway to the Plain of Jars.
After checking into the hotel, guests can enjoy a city tour and visit the MAG Centre in the town. MAG is a humanitarian organization dedicated to clearing the remnants of conflict for the benefit of local communities worldwide. Laos is the most heavily bombed nation in the world (per capita). Free entry, open every day from 08:00–20:00.
Overnight in Xieng Khuang
Day 4: Xieng Khuang (B L)
In the morning guests will journey through Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars.
The Plain of Jars is a huge archaeological complex littered with mysterious 2000-year-old stone jars sized from 70cm up to four meters. Their true origin remains a mystery, but it seems that they were carved into boulders. Several research missions led by the French archaeologist Madeleine Colani in the 1930s suggested that they could be old graves, but to this day they remain an enigma.
The trip will enable guests to visit the three sites and also discover some local villages where they can observe local village life. Site 1, close to the town, is at Thong Hai Hin and is the biggest site. Site 2 is at Hai Hin on Phou Salator. “Phou” in Lao means “mountain”. The tour ends at Site 3 in Hai Hin Lat Khai, which is the most impressive with over 150 jars. Close to this site, guests will visit Ban Xiengdi where there is a small monastery with Buddha images. The journey back passes areas that were important battlefields during the American secret war. Guests can still see bomb craters from that time today.
Attention: The Plain of Jars was heavily bombed during the war and all visitors must respect all the signs and stay along the defined trails due to bombs, UXO and landmines.
Have lunch at a local restaurant in Phonsavan.
In the afternoon, enjoy a half-day trip to Muang Khoun. Muang Khoun is one area in the old provincial capital that was destroyed during the secret war. It is home to a unique sitting giant Buddha as well of some old pagodas that remain in ruins. The foundation and columns of Wat Pia Wat are still standing close to this site, and there is also an old 30-meter stupa constructed in the Lan Xang/Lanna period.
Later, return to Xieng Khuang.
Overnight in Xieng Khouang
Day 5: Xieng Khuang – Luang Prabang (B L)
After breakfast, you will leave for Luang Prabang, taking approximately 6-7 hours.
Stop en route to have lunch in a local restaurant.
Welcome to Luang Prabang, the spiritual capital of Laos! Check-in the hotel.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 6: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Caves – Luang Prabang (B)
Your guide will pick you up at your hotel in Luang Prabang at 08:30.
Explore Luang Prabang with a knowledgeable local guide. Visit the highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage site and also learn about Laos’ rich, colourful culture.
Kick off the Luang Prabang half day tour at the former Royal Palace, a centrally-located building that now serves as the National Museum. Venture through the corridors and see intriguing displays of historical relics and informative exhibits.
Continue through the streets of downtown Luang Prabang to Wat Sensoukarahm, a temple noted for its dazzling gold façade. The final visit is Wat Xieng Thong, one of the oldest and most revered temples in the country. The temple is situated on the tip of the city’s peninsula and is filled with ornate carvings and mosaics that have withstood the test of time.
In the afternoon start with a private cruise outside Luang Prabang along the Mekong River. The Mekong is the lifeblood of Laos and it is easy to see why: The waterway is filled with fishermen and boats transporting goods, and small villages dotting the shoreline. The passing scenes are fascinating to watch as the boat makes its way to the Pak Ou caves. Go ashore and take a short walk to see the cavernous limestone structure which is filled to the brim with Buddha images of all ages. It is no surprise this cave is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Laos.
After visiting the caves return to Luang Prabang by boat
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 7: Kuang Si Waterfalls (B)
You will be collected from your hotel at around 08:00 this morning head into the countryside for a visit to the Kuang Si Waterfalls Upon reaching 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, follow the steep track to the top of the falls for some amazing views. Alternatively, there are tranquil, turquoises pools that collect at the base of the falls, which are perfect for swimming (please dress modestly).
On the route back to Luang Prabang, there is an optional visit to the Free the Bears sanctuary, housing 23 Asiatic Bears that were rescued from poachers. Additionally, a stop can be made at the Kuang Si Butterfly Park, where hundreds of Laos’ indigenous butterflies can be found.
(Note: closed on Tuesday).
Transfer back to your hotel. Afternoon free at leisure
Day 8: Luang Prabang - Departure (B)
After breakfast, enjoy some free time at leisure until transport (provided by guide and driver) to the airport for your onward flight.
- Hotel accommodation in shared twin/double room with daily breakfast.
- Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner).
- Domestic flight Vientiane x Xieng Khuang
- Tours and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicles.
- English speaking local guide (for other languages supplements apply)
- All entrance fees as indicated in itinerary.
- Meals other than mentioned above.
- Camera/video entrance fees.
- International and domestic flights (quoted separately).
- Personal expenses
- Travel insurance, tips, visa
- Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above
Trip prices and dates are correct at the time of the website going live, however all offers are subject to reconfirmation at the time of booking. Note prices usually display available discounted rates if any, (eg. Early Bird Deals if applicable). All featured tour itineraries and offers maybe subject to change due to seasonal variations without notice, or due to local conditions or other conditions. Please confirm all details at time of booking. Travel insurance is mandatory for all Innovative Travel bookings. All passports must be valid for 6 months prior to your return to your home country. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller. Special VIP meet and assist offers are valid for New Zealand passport holders, for other nationalities please check at the time of booking. For full terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Conditions page.