Cambodia and Laos are filled with wonder which captivates both children and adults. History and culture come alive at Angkor Wat and the verdant landscape is filled with mountain trails and cascading waterfalls. The winding Mekong River is lush along its riverbanks and its villages are as welcoming as they are diverse. From ancient history to French Colonialism, gilded temples to humble monks, caves to palaces, and from riverboats to lively markets, your family will be brought closer together...
Phnom Penh – The Boulevards of Phnom Penh
Welcome to Phnom Penh, the eclectic capital of Cambodia. The city continues to hold remnants of its French Colonial past. Wide boulevards run alongside the Mekong River. The scent of fresh pressed coffee mixes with the luscious fragrance of ripe bananas. Palm trees tower over the riverbanks. Shops line the streets and have open displays that allow you to see into the store. The local market is colorful, filled with vibrant textiles and fresh produce, from spiky jackfruit to succulent mangos.
The city is filled with allure for both you and your children, from rich history to tasty cuisine. Your private transfer meets you at the airport and escorts you to your hotel. The city is a mixture of ancient and contemporary history and which includes a bit of everything, from the elegant to the tragic. Your private tour of the city will take you to Tuol Sleng Prison Museum where you will learn about the short but vicious rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The museum is also known as S-21 and was once a school. As a prison it held up to 20,000 people.
The complex has four main buildings. Building B is home to the photo galleries that document the prisoners and history of the prison. The checkered-tile floor shifts between deep yellow and faded white. The photographs show people that were once held within the prison walls. The history of S-21 brings to light the unparalleled spirit of Cambodians. That unbreakable energy is apparent in their smiles and the boundless bustle of Phnom Penh’s streets. After lunch you will watch a local dance class where children have the opportunity to learn about their culture through the grace and persistence of traditional movement.
Phnom Penh – Fit for the Family
The morning is filled with a combination of sweet aromas, from fresh lychees to coconut milk. After breakfast your guide meets you at your hotel and is ready to escort you to the Royal Palace. The city’s eclectic architecture is opulent and historic. You immediately notice the sweeping sloped roofs and delicate spires quintessential to Khmer architecture; the central spire is over 180 feet tall and is topped with a four-faced head of Brahma. Religion and royalty historically went hand in hand. The images are stunning and inspiring. The gilded roofs sparkle in the bright blue sky. In the Silver Pagoda the entire family can gaze upon the incredible Emerald Buddha of Cambodia. The nearly life-sized statue is encrusted with almost 9,600 diamonds. It catches and reflects light in every direction. The exquisite décor of the Buddha, along with the elegant palace complex, offers a delightful and familial look into Cambodian history.
Siem Reap – A Journey for Adventurers on the Mekong River
The Mekong River bustles with life in the early morning light. The sun sparkles over the wide stretch of water and fishermen are already casting their nets to bring back their daily catch. Climb aboard your ferry to Siem Reap and find yourself cruising on one of the most famous waterways in South East Asia. The river begins at the Tibetan Plateau and runs to the South China Sea, stretching over 2,700 miles. You can step out onto the platform and feel the cool breeze blow through your hair. The riverbanks are lush and fertile. Now and again fishing villages sprout up.
The wooden homes rise above the water on stilts which help the structures avoid the rushing and rising water in the rainy season. Arrive in Siem Reap and be taken to your spacious and luxurious accommodation. Vibrant trees surround the large pool. The water is cool and inviting. The Kids’ Club offers a supervised space for children to play and take part in arts and crafts. The French Colonial architecture gives an elegant ambiance to the façade and the gardens add an alluring perfume to the air.
Siem Reap – A Family History
Your guide meets you at your hotel and takes you to the famous Angkor Wat complex. The morning sunlight has barely risen over the temple. You come to the wide and sturdy stone bridge that stands at the temple entrance. Two lions border the bridge and guard the complex. Their mouths are open in eternal snarls to keep away spirits and opposing armies. It feels like you have stepped into a movie and you are the archeologists ready to discover a new artifact in a lost city. Walk through the entrance gate and find the exceptional temple façade at the far end of the plaza.
The temple was constructed in the 12th century and was dedicated to a Hindu deity. The structure stands on a terrace and the central tower stands over 200 feet above the ground. Monks in orange and white robes stroll around the plaza. The closer you come to the temple, the stronger the scent of incense. The sandstone glints in the rising sun. You can see the ancient reliefs decorating the inner walls of the outer gallery. They depict stories from the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, telling the tales of heroes through art like ancient graphic novels. You come to realize how magnificent and gigantic the temple complex is. The entire family is spellbound.
Siem Reap – The Elder Past
The temples around Siem Reap have a deep and rich history, from the Angkor complex to the intricately carved temples at Banteay Srei. Your guide will escort you to the exceptional 10th century sanctuary complex. When history is this palpable and mesmerizing everyone wants to continue their exploration. The sandstone structures are deep red and the carvings on the temple are so detailed and delicate that complex was given the name “Citadel of Women,” due to this exceptional artistry. Strong rectangular pillars are adorned with geometric design and regal deities. Pediments support gable-shaped roofs. The towers resemble terraced beehives. Each temple faces the east. The libraries are inlaid with laterite and sandstone. You can see Shiva on the summit of Mount Kailash carved into the east pediment. The morning cool turns to late morning heat. The encompassing greenery is calm in the still air. Monkey statues sit in various poses and guard the various entrances as a garuda watches from the temple gate.
Pakse – The Landscape of Laos
Today you will fly from Siem Reap to Pakse, the gateway to southern Laos. You find the city at the confluence of the Mekong and Don Rivers. Cafes line the riverfront. People sip on sweetened ice coffee and watch the fishing boats float by. You continue onward to Bolaven Plateau and can almost hear the Tad Fane Waterfall from every direction. The water drops over 360 feet into the pool below. The mountains are fertile and rocky. The plateau reaches a height of 4,430 feet above sea level. The local coffee plantations are stunning.
The large and strong leaves create a soothing canopy. Women pick beans and place them in buckets that they have tied around their waist. The scent is earthy and rich. In the afternoon you will settle into the largest islet of the 4,000 islands, Khong Island. The water runs alongside the mainland and wraps around the various islands. Houses stand on stilts and look out over the river. Longtail boats drift down the water and ferry people to and from the shore.
Vientiane – The Waterfalls of Laos
Near the drifting fishing boats and away from the city streets you will find the famous waterfalls of Laos. Whether in the mountains or along the floodplains, the water seems to rush around and over the rocks in impressive displays of nature. After breakfast you will have a guided tour of Ban Khone, a traditional fishing village, and eventually will find yourself at Khone Phapheng Falls. The water rushes along a six-mile succession of rapids and tumbles almost 70 feet into the river below, making them the largest falls in Southeast Asia. The water thunders. The emerald coloration mixes with whitewater. The rocks are strong and peek through the endless force of the river. Mist rises from the falls. A collection of smaller waterfalls cascade around rocks found farther up river. Locals cross over narrow passageways using rope bridges and you know that the family feels the awe of nature’s raw power.
Vientiane – The Capital Quiet
Vientiane is a charming city lined with wide boulevards. The scent of fresh, sweet pastries and pressed coffee drifts through the streets, reminders of the French occupation and continued influence of Laos. Fly from Pakse to Vientiane and enjoy a guided tour of the city. Wat Ho Phra Keo is one of the capital’s many beautiful temples and was constructed in the 16th century. A dragon stretches the length of the stone balustrade and guards the sacred building. The garden looks like an oasis with the temple centered like a crown jewel. Bronze Buddha images line the walkway, each image striking the pose of serenity. You can see the golden tower of Pha That Luang, a 16th century temple that stands 147 feet tall. The stupa glints in the sunlight, imitating a light that guides people to the symbol of Laos.
Luang Prabang – A Capital Touch
The morning in Vientiane has a sweet aroma. The scent of French pastries, from buttery croissants to brioche stuffed with jam, fill the air. Cafes open their doors and set out tables along the sidewalk. The family can indulge in an easy and delicious breakfast accompanied by fresh orange juice before you visit the Kaysone Phomvihane Memorial Museum. The museum opened in 1995 and pays homage to the revolutionary leader and the country’s historic architectural style. A statue commemorates members of various ethnic groups standing in front of a Laotian flag. The bright white façade sits beneath a red roof with thin, circular pillars.
In the mid afternoon you will fly to Luang Prabang, a city considered to be the best-preserved example of Laotian ancient architecture. Temples are hidden down narrow alleyways. Their spires peak over buildings in the forefront. The streets are quiet and graceful as mountains surround the city. A private transfer will take you to Le Calao Inn, a charming boutique hotel that overlooks the Mekong River and offers spacious and comfortable rooms for everyone in your family to enjoy.
Luang Prabang – The Intrigue of Monks
Morning is an ethereal time in Luang Prabang. You wake up early and step out onto the streets. The mist is light and cool. The mountains begin to shift from dark silhouettes to Technicolor green. A soft gong accompanies a rhythmic hum. People stand alongside the street and watch the procession of auburn robed monks walk down the road. You and your family watch them silently, mesmerized by the daily ritual. People offer the monks money, rice, cookies, and various other types of food. The mist lifts. The sun shines. The gentle hum of the morning disappears with the monks.
Phousi Mountain stands at the center of the city over 328 feet high. At the summit you find the gilded stupa of Wat Chom Si. The sun hits the golden façade and reflects off of the tower. The verdant mountain is filled Buddhist shrines and from the summit you can look out over the city all the way to the water. The city is welcoming and charming, filled with grace and history. There is nothing better than a panorama you can share with the family, when everyone looks out over the expanse and feels a collective awe.
Luang Prabang – Touching Caves
You can hear the monks hum in the early morning. The gong fades and the sunshine rises. After breakfast your private tour takes you along the Mekong to visit the culture and lifestyle along the riverbanks. The Pak Ou caves are famous for the vast collection of miniature Buddha relics that span history. The cave mouth rises over 50 feet above the river. A staircase winds up the cliff and leads into the mouth. The limestone mountainside dangles down like dripping water that was caught in mid-air.
Enter the cave and find hundreds of years of history displayed in over 4,000 Buddha icons. The scent of incense is strong and comforting. The sounds of the river are absent from the cave. The kids want to follow the path to see how deep the cave runs. You follow the walkway and find the cave wall nearby. The lights showcase the stalactites dangling from the ceiling. A cool breeze blows against the riverbanks and you soon make your way back to Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang – It Takes a Village
The hill tribes around Luang Prabang continue to practice their cultural traditions in the mountains and alongside the meandering waters, as they have for centuries. After breakfast you will make your way into the mountains on a guided trek of the countryside. The Khmu people make up one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Laos. They share stories around the fire and pass their history down orally. Their homes are long and face east to west and they leave the eastern doors open to bring in the sunshine. The women dress in black blouses and cover their heads with elaborate headscarves or beadwork. The villagers are friendly and welcoming. The jungle looks all-encompassing. Some women perform on their flutes and offer the sweet whistle of their delicate bamboo instrument. You step deeper into the culture that is beautifully different from the one you all know.
Luang Prabang – Family Journey Home
You wake up to the children eager to once again witness the daily procession of alms giving. You’re excited by their enthusiasm. Boys and men parade down the street, each one barefoot and wrapped in orange robes. Afterwards, you enjoy the sweet flavors of breakfast and the indulgent aroma of fresh pressed coffee. Soon your private transfer will escort you to the airport. Your time in Laos has taken you from the cityscape to the countryside and shown your family the charm and magnificent wonders of Cambodia and Laos.
- Discover the magnitude and wonder of the Angkor Temple complex, including the famous Angkor Wat
- Learn about the diverse history of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, from a regal and opulent empire to the tumultuous contemporary government of the Khmer Rouge
- Witness the exceptional artistry of the Banteay Srei temple complex
- Enjoy the soothing calm around the beautiful 4,000 islands in southern Laos
- Explore the charm of the best-preserved ancient city in Southeast Asia at Luang Prabang
- Experience the tremendous shrines hidden inside Pak Ou Caves on the banks of the Mekong River
- Indulge in a cultural experience that the entire family will relish
Let your family be swept up in the history and culture of Cambodia and Laos on this custom tailored tour that will show you magnificent ruins and exceptional waterfalls, gorgeous mountain landscapes and innumerable islands. The images carved into the walls of Angkor Wat tell divine legends and the Pak Ou Caves are filled with Buddha statues housed deep in the cliff side. Watch the power of the river as it thunders over Kone Phapheng Falls and listen to monks chant in an early morning mist. Discover Southeast Asia’s beauty and distinctiveness on a treasured family getaway.
Your exceptional family discovery begins with your arrival in Phnom Penh. After you check in to your hotel you will visit the S-21 Museum that contains the troubled contemporary history of the Pol Pot Regime. In the evening you will venture deeper into the culture of Cambodia by indulging in a local traditional dance class. The following morning you will see the city on a tour that will have you visiting the Royal Palace and the National Museum, both offering insight into the wealth of history and culture around the nation’s capital.
Cruise up stream and arrive in Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor. The following day you will explore the majestic temple before making your way to the city complex at Angkor Thom. Banteay Srei is an elegant display of devotion set in the reliefs and carvings of each temple. Later in the day you will visit the tremendous temple of Ta Prohm. Fly to Pakse to begin your Laos tour. You will visit the Boloven Plateau and spend the evening on Khong Island. In the morning you will visit a local fishing village before exploring the landscape in search of exceptional waterfalls, such as Khone Phapheng.
Your flight to Vientiane is followed by a guided tour of the city’s quiet and graceful magnetism. The next day you will venture to Luang Prabang. Tour the city to visit the exquisite temples and sensational National Museum. Spend a day traversing the Mekong River where you will head to the interesting Pak Ou Caves. Your final day has you trekking through the mountainside to visit the ethnic hill tribes and Kuang Si Waterfalls. In the morning you will have a private transfer to the airport. Your family trip will end but the memories of this stellar getaway will never be far away.
$2,335 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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