Laos Discovery

8 days / 7 nights

The sleepy capital of Vientiane and its alluring riverside setting with historic temples and the eccentric Buddha Park begin our journey in languid and lovely Laos. We then head to the Plain of Jars, a mysterious mountainside dotted with ancient burial jars from a forgotten civilisation for a brief adventure before we arrive at the highlight of our tour, the World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. Home to 32 stupa-studded wats, it remains one of the most atmospheric destinations in all Asia. We take in the Royal Palace Museum, classic Wat Xieng Thong, enjoy a boat upstream to the Buddahs of the Pak Ou Caves and a day of relaxation in the turquoise waters of the multi-tiered 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 Phonsavan. Visit Plain of Jars.
  4. Day 4: Further Visits to Sites around Plain of Jars.
  5. Day 5: Dive to Luang Prabang.
  6. Day 6: Pak Ou Caves. City tour, including Museum and Temples.
  7. Day 7: Kuang Si Falls.
  8. Day 8: 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. Inside are 6840 Buddhas, surely a record for a Lao temple. We cross the road and enter Haw Pha Kaew, more a museum than temple today, there is some impressive Buddhist sculpture here. Then its time for us to view the striking golden stupa of Pha That Luang, the most sacred temple in the city. We continue to the 'Arc de Triomphe' of Vientiane, or Patuxai as it is known locally. We finish with a stroll along the Mekong riverfront and take in the sunset over the Mother of all Rivers.

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 Phonsavan. Visit Plain of Jars.

We leave the Lao capital of Vientiane and flight to Phonsavan. Then we begin exploring the mysterious Plain of Jars, an ancient site that is shrouded in myths. Scattered throughout the area are hundreds of large stone jars that may have been here for more than 2000 years. There are several sites and we will visit the most important ones where we can see huge jars weighing as much as one tonne. We also visit the former provincial capital of Xieng Khuang, now know as Muang Khoun. Devastated by war, the town was virtually abandoned, but has risen from the ashes once more. It may be possible to see some war debris such as bomb and shell casings used as supports or fences for houses here.

Day 4: Further Visits to Sites around Plain of Jars.

After breakfast, we drive to site 1 of Plain of Jars for a visit which date back at least 2000 years. It is such a mystery, the Plain of Jars, a plateau 50km wide scattered with over 300 stone jars. The 2,000 year-old jars range in size from 1 to 2.5 meters height, and are thought to have been used as funeral urns. We continue by car to Site 2 and hike to Site 3. After exploring 3 sites with interesting story about the Indochina War, we drive to Muong Khoun for lunch. Muong Khoun was once the capital of Xieng Khoang Province. There is time to visit temples such as Wat Chom Phet and Wat That Phoun which were built the same time as That Luang in Vientiane. We can also visit some colonial building and old Lao Military Base that was seriously damaged by American bombs. On the way back to Phonsavan, we can stop by village where local people collect scrap metals which are partly from UXO and bomb shell.

Day 5: Dive to Luang Prabang.

After breakfast we undertake the day-long drive to Luang Prabang

Day 6: Pak Ou Caves. City tour, including Museum and Temples.

This morning we 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 an early 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.

In the afternoon, we explore the historic town. 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 7: 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 8: Free time Until Departure.

As this World Heritage site is one of the most charming places in Asia, we leave today free to enjoy the best of Luang Prabang at our own pace. We recommend a visit to Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most celebrated temples in Laos. Browse the shops, frequent the cafes, visit the temples or simply rest and relax, this is Luang Prabang at its best. Then transfer to airport to catch the departure flight.