As one of the least visited countries in South Asia, Laoscaptivates travelers with serene landscapes, a rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality. Start in Luang Prabang, a charming UNESCO World Heritage site nestled on the Mekong River. Make rice wine with a Kamu family in Vang Viengand explore the traditional and contemporary attractions in the capital city of Vientiane.
Arrival - Luang Prabang
Welcome to Laos!
Upon your arrival in Luang Prabang, meet our guide and transfer to the hotel.
Laos is a destination untouched by mass tourism. The landlocked nation features misty mountains, beautiful French colonial towns, and Buddhist stupas. With an estimated population of nearly seven million, Laos is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Asia. Natural landmarks include the Annamite Mountains close to the border with Vietnam, as well as the Mekong River, which flows from China and along the border with Thailand. Saffron-robed monks, emerald covered hills, and an abundance of wildlife await.
Luang Prabang sits at the sacred confluence of the Nam Khan River and Rekong River. From hiking and river cruises to some of the best chefs in the region, the city features diverse experiences for savvy travelers.
Optional: At 5:30am, the bells of the monasteries toll when golden lines of monks emerge to receive their morning rice from the locals. Wake up early and have some cookies and rice. After this, you will have the opportunity to respectfully witness the scared ritual typical of old Lao - long lines of barefoot monks weaving through the streets on their alms rounds. This will be in a village out of town where rarely any tourists are seen. You will be supplied with alms you can traditionally give to the monks. We also encourage that if you must take photographs that it does not interfere with this highly revered ritual. Return to your hotel for breakfast.
It's time to explore the city! Begin your journey at the most popular of temples - Wat Xieng Thong. The 500-year old temple is exquisite and the best example of the classic Luang Prabang style. You will also visit nearby Wat Mai and Wat Sene.
From here, explore some local and interesting small side streets, along back alleys and through temples - a city that could have been designed with slow travel in mind, a morning walking tour allows you to soak up the ambiance and appreciate the hidden charms of Luang Prabang.
Through your guide, feel free to ask the locals questions as they go about their daily lives. you can also climb the 328 steps for remarkable views of the area.
In the afternoon, travel south of town to the Kuang Si Waterfall. Stop along the way to visit the Living Crafts Center and meet the wavers who help to keep this traditions alive.
At the falls, crystal waters cascade into idyllic turquoise pools. Bring a bathing suit if you would like to swim! If interested, visit the nearby Sun-bear refuge to learn more about the poaching and rehabilitation of these endangered creatures.
Return to Luang Prabang and overnight. Meals: B/L
A full day of exploring Lao food firsthand - from market to home cooking, snack making and whiskey tasting. Today you will be picked up by your guide and continue by car to a local fresh market, where you will meet your chef and teacher for today, Mrs. Noy. After learning about local produce, you will soon be boarding a boat to cross the Mekong River where you will be greeted by friendly villagers and the family of Noy. Don't expect a star-awarded kitchen but a simple, private cooking lesson in the family's home with local specialties.
In the afternoon, transfer to Lao's scenic countryside and the Pak Ou Caves, a mystical pilgrimage site perched high above the Mekong River.
Peering into dark corners, your eyes will gradually adjust to reveal the serene faces and figures of more than 3,000 Buddha images, some inlaid with semiprecious stones. That these images remain undisturbed in this remote site is a testament to the devotion of the people.
Return by boat to Luang Prabang at sunset. Cruise along the Mekong and enjoy the lush river life with beverages and traditional snacks.
Overnight. Meals: B/L
After breakfast, learn more about Lao traditions with a wonderful cooking class held by one of the best chefs in Luang Prabang.
Transfer from your hotel to the restaurant by tuk tuk, meet the chef, and then proceed to a local market. Your instructor will show you how to select the food and ingredients before returning to the restaurant to prepare lunch. Enjoy this time with a renowned culinary specialist.
Return to your hotel by tuk tuk.
In the late afternoon, your guide will pick you up at the hotel and drive to one of the temples for a private Baci Ceremony, which can be held for several different occasions. After this, continue to a hidden temple that is rarely visited by foreign travelers. Here it is time for a special encounter with the monks who will teach you the fundamentals of meditation. After gaining insight, you will have the opportunity to join monks in their daily chanting. Your guide will translate any questions you have for the monks, an exciting and educational experience.
Return to your hotel and overnight. Meals: B
Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng
This morning you will be picked up for your private transfer to Vang Vieng (5 hours). The beautiful drive introduces you to the country's landscapes, far away from the crowds. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Remaining day at leisure.
Today you will be introduced to Vang Vieng and its different facets. Start by heading to the north for a leisurely kayaking trip on the Nam Song River, which flows along with stunning cast stone formations. After about two hours, you will reach a local Kamu village. From here you will continue to one of the Khmu families where you will be welcomed by a typical Kamu lunch in the family's garden. (If the weather is not good, lunch will be served in the house). You will also learn the traditions and culture of animism that is practiced by many ethnic minorities in Laos.
After spending time chatting with the family, you can learn how the local rice wine "Lao Hai" is produced. Later in the afternoon, your guide will lead you through rice paddies to a cave on the other side of the river, passing by farmers working on the fields. On the way back to the village, you can take rest in one of the local rice huts while you sip on wine and learn about the importance of agriculture in Laos.
Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure. Meals: B/L
Vang Vieng - Vientiane
In the morning, drive to Vientiane. Vientiane is the capital of Laos, a fusion of French-colonial architecture with Buddhist temples. The golden, 16th-century Pha That Luang is a national symbol. Along broad boulevards and tree-lined streets are many notable shrines including Wat Si Saket, which features thousands of Buddha images, and Wat Si Muang, built atop a Hindu shrine.
In the afternoon, travel out of town to Xieng Khouan Buddha Park. Here a renegade monk formed his own sect and began to mold magnificent, eerie statues out of concrete, based on Hindu, Buddhist and Brahman iconography.
Evening at leisure and overnight. Meals: B
After breakfast, visit Wat Sisaket, the only structure to survive the Siamese invasion of 1828. Across the street sits Wat Ho Pha Kheo, reconstructed in the 1930s on the site of the original building. It housed the Emerald Buddha, which now lives in Bangkok and is now the home to a line of collection of Lao artistry. A short jouney up Lane Xang Street offers a glimpse into the changing face of the city.
Amongst the more modern structures is Patouxia, the Lao Victory Monument. Also visit Wat That Luang with its central lotus-bud spire and 30 surrounding stupas - the most sacred structure in all of Laos. Wat Si Muang is a much more vibrant example of living Buddhism. This sacred temple is used by the Lao people for everything, from women trying to become pregnant, to new car owners having monks bless their new purchases. Also pay a visit to the COPE Visitor Centre for a moving insight into the Secret War which left Laos as the most heavily bombed country in history.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Hanoi.
Today, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
8 nights of Hotel Accommodations
Meals as stated in the itinerary: B/L/D
Private, air-conditioned vehicle with driver as per the itinerary
Comprehensive touring as listed in the itinerary, including a private English speaking guide
Kayaking the Nam Song River
Private Baci Ceremony / Luang Prabang
Road/interstate taxes, fuel surcharges, and parking fees