Introducing Laos

6 days / 5 nights

We begin our two-centre journey into Laos in its sleepy capital city of Vientiane, located on the banks of the Mekong River. Historic temples and a thriving café culture await, with a visit to the bizarre Xieng Khuan, better known as Buddha Park, also on the agenda. The living, breathing museum that is the World Heritage city of Luang Prabang welcomes us into the Asia of old, where we admire the curves of Wat Xieng Thong amongst its many pagodas, travel upriver to discover the Buddhas of the Pak Ou Caves and swim in the turquoise waters of the Kuang Si Falls.

In brief

  1. Day 1: Arrive Vientiane and Afternoon Sightseeing.
  2. Day 2: Buddha Park and Free Time.
  3. Day 3: Fly to Luang Prabang. Afternoon sights, including museum and temples.
  4. Day 4: Wat Xieng Thong and Pak Ou Caves.
  5. Day 5: Kuang Si Falls
  6. Day 6: Free time until departure.

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Vientiane and Afternoon Sightseeing.

We arrive in Vientiane and check into our hotel for the night. After lunch, we visit the historic temple of Wat Si Saket, the oldest surviving temple in Vientiane. Then its time to visit the striking golden stupa of Pha That Luang, the most sacred monument in the city. We continue to the 'Arc de Triomphe' of Vientiane, or Patuxai as it is known locally. Built in the 1960s, the US-supplied cement was originally earmarked for a runway extension at the airport, but the Laotians found a much more creative use for it. We ascend the monument for some refreshing breezes and great views over this low-rise garden city. We finish with a stroll along the Mekong riverfront. 

Day 2: Buddha Park and Free Time.

Today we step outside the city boundaries and visit the incredible Buddha Park, a kitsch riverside garden brimming with garish religious statues. We see a famous reclining Buddha and can clamber inside some of the bigger sculptures to discover strange scenes from heaven and hell. There is a local café here where we can enjoy a local lunch with views over the Mekong. In the afternoon, we return to Vientiane and can enjoy some free time or take an optional visit to a well-known Textile Gallery, enjoy a Traditional Herbal Sauna or visit the COPE Centre to learn about the scourge of UXO in Laos.

Day 3: Fly to Luang Prabang. Afternoon sights, including museum and temples.

We flight to Luang Prabang and transfer to our accommodation. In the afternoon, we begin to explore the historic town of Luang Prabang. We walk along Sisavangvong St, the heart of the old quarter and explore the National Museum, set in the former Royal Palace. Built in 1904, the palace is a blend of Laotian and French influences and houses many royal treasures. The most important item is the solid gold Pha Bang Buddha, a gift from the Khmer King to his son-in-law, Fa Ngum, founder of the Lao Kingdom. We then continue into the centre of Luang Prabang, exploring the narrow alleys that criss-cross the town, stopping to enjoy some views over the mighty Mekong River. We wind up at the beautiful temple of Wat Saen, originally built in 1718 and under the guidance of Ajahn Khamjan, one of the most revered abbots in Laos. There is the option of climbing Mt Phousi to explore the small temple here and enjoy sunset over this charming town.

Day 4: Wat Xieng Thong and Pak Ou Caves.

This morning, we travel to Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most celebrated temples in Laos. We then take a boat up the Mekong River, passing abandoned riverside temples and isolated villages. Our destination is the Pak Ou Caves, a sacred spot where thousands upon thousands of Buddhas were hidden for safekeeping during earlier invasions. Pilgrims have since added their own offerings and the caves are literally overflowing with Buddhas. After exploring the caves, we cross the river and have a local lunch on the banks of the Nam Ou River. We dine in traditional thatch bungalows overlooking a dramatic cliff face. We then return by boat to Luang Prabang and leave the rest of the afternoon free to enjoy the town.

Day 5: Kuang Si Falls

After breakfast, the destination is Ban Long Lao, a small Hmong village. From here you will walk through open farmland and forest trails to the Kuang Si Waterfall, which, while not very high, is striking in its lush jungle setting. Upon arrival there are plenty of opportunities to swim in the refreshing pools and enjoy a boxed picnic lunch. There is also a Bear Rescue Centre where captured bears have been taken from poachers and rehabilitated and cared for. We’ll take some more time for relaxation and swimming before heading back to Luang Prabang by late afternoon. There is also the option to visit Ban Phonesay, a village well known for its silk weavings once been published on the New York Time Magazine. Back to your hotel for a free & easy evening.

Day 6: Free time until departure.

After breakfast, free at leisure for shopping or packing. Transfer to the airport to catch the departure flight.