Cultural and Culinary Journey to Laos Itinerary

A 10 day trip to Laos 
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Indulge in the gourmet lifestyle during your customizable Laos itinerary tailored to discover the enriching cultural flavors of Laos, shaped by its landscapes and history. Coffee plantations flourish in the highlands, with cherries bursting with a delightful sweetness. Markets brim with the aromas of noodle soup and radiant crimson colors of chilies. French cafes line the cobbled lanes of Vientiane, and gilded shrines create an opulent skyline over the trees in Luang Prabang. Sample the lifestyle of river islands, traverse the stairways of ancient temple complexes, and witness the thrill of a happy elephant wandering the jungle on your unforgettable experience in Laos. 

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Champasak, Don Daeng, Wat Phou, Mekong River, Bolaven Plateau

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Luang Prabang – Simple and Delicious

Luang Prabang nourishes the spirit with an abundance of culture and comfort. The scent of tamarind blends with the aroma of blossoming frangipanis across the cobbled lanes of the old imperial city. The gilded spires of 33 wats, Buddhist monasteries or temples, glint in the passing sunlight. Monks draped in saffron-colored robes stroll beneath the shading trees. Exquisite French colonial villas shimmer with grace amongst the verdant exotic trees and blooming flowers. Your flight lands at Luang Prabang International Airport.

Your private transfer greets you upon your arrival and escorts you to a luxurious hotel located inside a renovated colonial-era villa, combining the elegance of French aristocracy, natural beauty of the countryside, and modern amenities.

After settling into the comforts of your hotel, your guide meets you in the lobby and leads you to the base of Mount Phousi, which towers over the center of the city at nearly 330 feet above the surrounding streets. The bordering trees shade the steep ascent, leading to the summit crowned by a golden stupa standing more than 75 feet tall. You have a spectacular panorama of Luang Prabang below, providing a perfect introduction to Laos.

What’s Included: airport transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 2: Luang Prabang – Endlessly Bright

In the morning, the aroma of fresh coffee overtakes the sweet scent of frangipani. You wake up before sunrise to view the unique procession of monks. The saffron robes glow in the dim light returning to the streets. Devout locals kneel by the roadside and offer bags of rice or cookies to the passing monks. Bells ring as the monks make their way through the city before returning to their monasteries. A café in the heart of Luang Prabang cultivates its own beans in the highlands outside of the city, offering a greater return on crops to the ethnic villagers harvesting the hillsides. The rich, bold aroma of roasted coffee beans drifts through the streets.

Your guide greets you at the hotel after breakfast and leads you through the morning market, glowing with crimson chili peppers, bushels of bananas, and magnificent jackfruit. Your guide buys ingredients from the vendors, commenting on the freshness of the cilantro and roaring spice of the peppers. You make your way to a private, open-air kitchen on the shores of the lake to learn about the traditional flavors of Laotian cuisine. You first learn to make the spicy Laotian dipping sauce known as Jeow, roasting tomatoes, chilies, and garlic over an open flame. Puree the produce with fresh cilantro and a dash of fish sauce, finding layers of bright, zesty flavors in an accompanying sauce.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 3: Luang Prabang – A Day with Elephants

The aroma of chocolate croissants emanates from the French Bakery. Locals and travelers both enjoy baguettes with homemade star fruit jam accompanying a fresh coffee topped with fluffy crema, a type of flavored foam. After breakfast, you head into the countryside with your guide, stopping at the Elephant Village. The grounds opened in 2001 specifically to protect and rehabilitate Laotian elephants by providing a peaceful, safe, and sustainable haven. Your guide offers a history of elephants in Laos, speaking to their religious significance and relationship to power.

Standing in view of the magnificent, regal elephant takes your breath away, finding spirit and grandeur in its nearly nine-foot tall stature. The staff at the village helps you up onto the elephant. You no longer have to sit inside the howda, the traditional seat, and instead ride directly on the elephant. Their skin is dry. You run your fingers over the bristly hairs and wrinkles. The elephant wanders through the jungle terrain leading to the riverbanks. The water rushes beneath the trees. The elephant takes to the water, lumbering left and right before splashing into the river for a bath. The elephant happily sucks water into its truck and sprays over its body, bathing itself, and you, in the process. After dismounting the elephant, you take a boat trip on a Lao longboat to view Tad Sea Waterfall.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 4: Vientiane – A Capital View

The waters of the Mekong River rush alongside the open windows of a local café. The scent of fresh water fades beneath the enticing aroma of coffee sweetened with condensed milk. Your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to the airport for your brief flight to Vientiane. The temple stupas disappear behind the rolling mountains as you arrive in the capital city. The sleeping streets and tranquil ambiance of Vientiane contrast your normal interaction with a capital. French colonial architecture decorates Old Town, and verdant trees maintain a serene image around the historical monuments.

Your private transfer meets you at Wattay International Airport and escorts you to the luxury of your hotel located in a renovated French villa offering a touch of the countryside near the city streets. Make your way into the city to view the marvelous Patuxai Monument. The structure resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris with traditional Laotian elements. It was erected in the 1960s with seven stories. Four ponds stand in front of the four gateways, representing sections of a lotus flower. In the evening, you make your way to the riverfront to enjoy the night market, which fills with the aroma of banana pancakes and chocolate.   

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 5: Vientiane – The Soul of Laos

In the morning, the French influence on the city is featured in the aroma of the pain au chocolat and freshly baked baguettes emanating from a popular café. Chairs and tables are set along the cobblestone walkways of Old Town, offering a Parisian-style café experience in the heart of the Laotian capital. Your guide leads you on an early, encompassing tour of the city beginning at Wat Si Saket. The temple was erected in the 19th century and remains the oldest surviving wat of the old city after the Siamese-Lao war.

The main hall contains an intricate statue of Buddha seated upon a coiled snake. The statue was crafted in the 13th century. Jataka murals that tell stories of the Buddha’s previous lives wrap around the interior walls of the ordination hall. You meet your cooking instructor at a local café before transferring to the shores of the Mekong River. The waters brush against the long grass adding a gentle soundtrack to your time in the kitchen. Your instructor encourages you to use traditional Laotian utensils to create customary Laotian dishes customized to your preferred tastes. You begin by learning the secrets to sticky rice, learning to use the bamboo steamer and banana leaves.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 6: Champasak – On the Bolaven Plateau

Before sunrise, the gas lamps of Old Town provide an ethereal glow to the cobbled lanes. The aroma of buttery croissants blends with the honeyed juice of miracle berries, named for their ability to turn a sour taste sweet. After breakfast, you have a short flight from Wattay International Airport to Pakse Airport in the south. Your private transfer meets you at baggage claim and escorts you into the highlands of the Bolaven Plateau. Coffee and tea plantations thrive in the soil of the ancient volcano.

Ethnic villages continue to practice traditions established thousands of years ago, utilizing stone tools and spiritual ceremonies. The plateau rests at more than 4,260 feet above sea level with a cool climate and a large amount of rainfall. The verdant jungle and rushing waters give way to the pristine mountains. Your guide leads you along the plantation to view the coffee cherries. The bright red color is not the dried, rich brown with which you are familiar. You pop a coffee cherry into your mouth.

The skin is taut and snaps beneath the pressure of your teeth, giving way to a sweet, sticky pulp similar to watermelon. The cherries have an aroma of hibiscus and rosewater. After helping with the harvest by filling some of the baskets, you continue to the estate to learn how the cherries are pulped and washed before the beans are set in the sun to dry. You look at a set of beans that have taken 25 days to dry. The aroma of roasted coffee fills the air, leading to a rich fragrance and familiar coloration.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 7: Champasak – Ancient Temples and Rare Dolphins

The morning market of Champasak fills with vendors displaying their colorful produce for passersby. Villagers from the mountains bring woven silk and handmade jewelry. Farmers offer fresh limes, miracle berries, and radiant chili peppers. Vendors also offer fresh-made noodle soup and Laotian coffee. Your guide leads you from town to the 10th-century Khmer temple complex of Wat Phou. The name means “Mountain Temple,” which perfectly embodies the stunning architecture erected over six terraces. Lily pads float atop the decorative pond with lotus flowers blossoming on the stoic water.

A buffalo grazes on the grass bordering the pond. Sandstone pavilions encompass the central level erected between the 10th and 11th centuries. Look inside the lintels to find the original Hindu sculptures of Vishnu and Shiva adorning the complex, before the Buddhist transformation of the site. An ancient royal road once connected Angkor Wat in Cambodia more than 120 miles to reach the Nandi Hall of the Wat Phou complex. A sentinel protects the steep stairway leading up the mountain. The aroma of frangipani and lotus blossoms fills the air, fading beneath the sandstone aroma of the upper sanctuary. After visiting the temple grounds, you make your way to the Mekong River for a cruise in search of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins whose pods linger around the 4,000 Islands of the region.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 8: Don Daeng – In the Image of the Waterfall

The town of Champasak fills with the aroma of tamarind in the morning. The waters of the Mekong River flow gently near the edges of Champasak. The morning market fills with farmers and fishermen showcasing their daily wares for passersby. Monks draped in saffron robes stand out from the meandering crowds along the riverfront. Your guide meets you after breakfast and escorts you to impressive Khone Phapheng Falls. The series of cascades reaches a height of nearly 70 feet at its tallest point, with rapids stretching six miles in length.

Catfish thrive in the tumult of the turquoise water turning to whitewater along the rocks. The mist splashes into the air, carried to the banks by the gentle breeze. Fishermen utilize a network of bamboo scaffolds near the rocks to stand on, in an attempt to raise the numbers of their daily catch. You continue to the riverbanks close to the island of Don Daeng for an unforgettable experience on the landmass at the center of the Mekong River, edged with rice fields, and decorated with a series of villages.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 9: Don Daeng – River-Island Leisure

In the morning, local villagers make their way to the banks of the river to bathe. The homes stand on stilts, allowing the deceptive current to rush past the posts without friction. The aroma of frangipanis emanates from the center of the island near the historic Wat Phu Champasak temple. The sandstone bricks date back to the 11th century atop six terraces. The delicate purple and white flowers blossom along the three terraces, bordering the stairway. After breakfast, the day is yours to relax and enjoy the tranquil ambiance of the 4,000 islands.

Visit the ruins of Phu Champasak or return to the town of Champasak for a day indulging in a luxurious spa. For a unique view of Southern Laos, you make your way to the 19th-century village of Ban Nong Bueng. Locals are renowned for their woodcarving skills, shaping unimaginable reliefs, lampposts, and even cultural motifs. The woodcarvers happily welcome you into their studios, guiding you through their works in progress, which highlight the daily life of Laotians. Closer to the road leading to Don Daeng stands Wat Um Tomo, a place of worship originally erected between the 7th and 9th centuries.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 10: Don Daeng – Fresh and Ready

The morning light spreads across the waters of the Mekong and shimmers along the surface. At breakfast, you can enjoy the stunning view at the edge of the island’s riverbanks, accentuated by the scent of papaya and fresh coffee. The island has an even more relaxed ambiance than the rest of Laos, allowing you to wake up rested and eager to relish the enchanting ambiance. After the meal, you board a long boat and cross the Mekong. Your private transfer meets you at the dock ready to escort you to Pakse International Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: breakfast, airport transfer