Fabled Icons of Laos: An Immersive Journey to the Undiscovered

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Total Trip:

14 Days
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Countries Visited:

Laos
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Places Visited:

Luang Prabang, Phonsavan, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Hin Bun, Thakhek, Champasak
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Laos is a country of hidden treasures offering unparalleled rewards during your custom tailored Laos tour revealing the beauty of the landscape and cultural history. Temple spires soar above the rainforest canopy in a charming former imperial city. Secret caves conceal subterranean emerald lakes. Buddha statues glint with bronze in the passing sunlight and Irrawaddy dolphins puff mist into the air while gliding down the Mekong River. From dramatic waterfalls to intricate Hindu reliefs, ancient

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Day 1

Luang Prabang – An Imperial View of Laos

Luang Prabang combines comfort and mindfulness, cultural diversity and imperial history. The waters of the Mekong and Khan Rivers converge on the outskirts of the cobbled lanes, beneath the glistening towers of the various temples. Monks wrapped in saffron robes stroll beneath the vibrant forest canopy. Renovated French villas complement the streets with images of French colonialism amidst the quiet, serene setting ornamenting the city with a village-like atmosphere. Your flight lands at Luang Prabang International Airport, where your private transfer greets you upon your arrival. Mount Phousi towers above the heart of the city at nearly 330 feet over the surrounding meandering lanes.

The gilded stupa adorning the summit glints in the passing daylight. Rolling mountains draped in green encircle the imperial city. Check into your hotel, which effortlessly blends the charm and culture of Luang Prabang with the elegance of a French colonial villa. Your room looks out into the garden, where hydrangeas and hibiscuses blossom. Rosewood frames the windows, and the scent of jasmine fills the air. Water trickles into the lily pool, offering a soundtrack to the peaceful setting. The remainder of the day is yours to embrace the luxury of your hotel and the welcoming ambiance of a new city, reflected in the uninterrupted mountain views and the shimmering spires of the local temples.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

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Day 2

Luang Prabang – At the Spiritual Center

A gentle mist spreads through the city before dawn, dissipating in the returning sunlight. The mountain air leaves a layer of dew in the ferns and palm fronds around the city. Locals take to the streets before breakfast, setting out blankets or kneeling pads on the cobblestones, waiting for the daily procession of monks to pass. You wake before sunrise and take to the streets to watch the unique tradition. The sound of bells provides an ethereal soundtrack to the otherwise silent morning. The mountain mist has dissipated, replaced by the blue sky contrasting the verdant forest canopy of Mount Phousi.

The devout locals keep from making eye contact with the monks. The monks wear saffron-colored robes that stand out from the bright pastels and white walls of the buildings. The locals offer bags of rice or cookies to the passing monks, which account for their daily meal. The scent of incense sweeps through the streets. The monks place the offerings in a small basket dangling on straps hung from their shoulder. Return to the hotel in the morning for breakfast, finding a revitalizing aroma of coffee. For your first full day in Laos, you choose to try the celebrated drink the way locals of Luang Prabang prefer it, mixing in sweetened condensed milk to cut through the bitterness of the extra-strong brew.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Phonsavan – Timeless Laos

In the morning, you can hear the slow ring of the bell during the procession of the monks. The sunlight returns to the city washing over the red-tiled rooftops and gilded façade of Wat Mai, an 18th-century temple located on Sisavangvong Road. The aroma of coffee emanates from a local coffee shop, which blends the relaxed pace of the city with a welcoming atmosphere and French colonial décor. Your private transfer greets you at the hotel after breakfast, eager to escort you along the scenic drive to Phonsavan, located southeast of Luang Prabang.

The temples of the city fade behind forest canopies. The mountains continue to roll across the sky, forming a natural vista of rugged limestone and tree-clad summits. The drive takes you along switchback roads, with hairpin turns offering a unique view of the road you have traveled. The aroma of the herbaceous grass fills the air, mixing with sporadic bursts of hyacinth. Stop at a Mulberry farm before reaching Phonsavan to learn more about the silk production in Laos. The farm has been certified by Fair Trade to grow chemical-free mulberry trees along the rolling hills of the eastern landscape.

The white mulberry can grow to nearly 80 feet tall with bushels forming in pyramidal shapes. The rich soil fortifies the flavor of the leaves and the fruit. The red fruits shimmer against the verdant foliage. Follow your guide through the trees to view how the silk worms feed on the foliage before being collected. The farmers raise the worms for four months before reeling in the silk. Spend time watching the smooth strides of the weavers as they craft elegant cloth out of the strands. The weavers then use indigenous fruits to the area, such as jackfruit and tamarind to help produce sensuous, deep colors for a timeless garment, continuing in tradition.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

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Accommodation

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Breakfast

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Day 4

Phonsavan – Searching for Ancient Life

The aroma of the sweet fruit of the mulberry tree lingers in the morning around Phonsavan before the scent of cinnamon emanates from a popular local café in the morning. The deep fragrance of fresh coffee has a revitalizing effect before you meet your guide and set out to the Plain of Jars. The open flat land stretches to the surrounding hills and forest, spotted with large stone vessels believed to be ancient funerary urns. Bordering pine trees fill the air with a hint of spice. The verdant grass and sparseness of the trees contrast the jungle and high mountains you have become familiar with during your time in Laos.

The jars date back three millennia, with the largest of the scattered bunch reaching heights of nearly 10 feet tall. Continue your day with a visit to the Nathong Cultural Village to meet with the friendly, welcoming community happy to share their traditions with you before you reach the hot springs located in the Hot Springs Resort. The steam bubbles up from the water and fills the individual bathing room. The water is hot and soothes your muscles as you enter into the pool. The steam opens your pores and helps you settle into comfort after a full day of exploration.

What's Included:

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Tour

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Breakfast

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Day 5

Vang Vieng – Traditions Continued

The scent of cinnamon returns to the streets of Phonsavan with the morning light, emanating from the cafes at the heart of the town. You find hints of pine aroma from the scattered trees around the plains filtering through the air. In the market, villagers of Hmong origin offer bushels of small bananas while wearing traditional black garments adorned with elaborate, colorful embroidery. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you at the hotel, eager to guide you through the stunning landscape of Laos to the enchanting Vang Vieng. The mountains and jungle turn to marvelous cliffs and limestone karsts. Before reaching the city, you stop at an organic farm to view the farmers’ production methods of crops and animals.

Chickens peck at the ground near the house while cattle graze on the grasslands. The familiar aromas of hibiscus and mulberry emanate from the sweeping farmlands. Mulberries grow in meticulous rows bordered by the lush vegetation and staggering limestone mountaintop.  Across the farmers of the highlands, you notice rice crops. On the organic farm, you find traces of coffee thriving in the climate’s tropical mountainous climate beside cardamoms and sweet potatoes. At the end of the tour, you can enjoy lunch in the restaurant on the farm, biting into a light, citrusy papaya salad with a hint of Laotian spice.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 6

Vang Vieng – Fresh Waters and Hidden Caves

You quickly and easily find the splendor of Vang Vieng within the majestic mountains and limestone cliffs, rushing river and limestone cliffs. Rice fields stretch alongside riverbanks, and the visitors lazily drift down the water in inner tubes to bask in the beauty. In the morning, the market brims with fishermen offering their catch from the river beside vendors cooking fresh soups and omelets with bright vegetables for breakfast. The day is yours to revel in the gorgeous landscape around Vang Vieng at your leisure, whether by floating down the river for a quiet afternoon or taking to the waterfalls for an everlasting image of the Laotian countryside.

For a mix of relaxation and adventure, you follow your guide to the Water Cave. Narrow paths lead through the countryside, passing farms and traversing beneath the forest canopies before reaching the riverbank. Reach the Elephant Cave, where locals have created a shrine to Buddha. Statues of the Buddha in different poses rest inside a narrow niche lit by holes in the limestone. You slide into the water and board your inner tube. The water is cool and refreshing on your skin. A rope connected to the rocks leads through the cave tunnel more than 1,600 feet, allowing you to guide yourself beneath the unique natural formations dangling from the ceiling.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Vientiane – Sunrise over the Mountains

Your guide meets you at the hotel before sunrise. A thin layer of mist settles over the rice fields filing the visible greenery with due. The light begins to shine over the horizon as you arrive at an open field. A colorful hot air balloon begins to inflate amidst the surrounding craggy cliffs. The fire helps inflate the balloon and shines brightly in the dim, returning sunlight, accompanied by the loud gasp of the gas burning. You step into the gondola and sail away as you slowly ascend. The sunlight fully returns to the countryside, completing your view of the mountains rolling over the horizon and limestone cliffs in the foreground.

The main road of Vang Vieng disappears around a bend beside the meandering banks of the river. The sunrise shimmers with layers of orange and pink stretching into the blue overhead. The gorgeous panorama is unlike any view you have ever seen before, providing a pristine and unforgettable look of the Laotian landscape from above. The balloon lands and you return to your hotel in Vang Vieng for breakfast. The scent of fresh coffee proves stronger and tastier than ever before, accentuated by your time in the air. Your private transfer greets you after the meal and escorts you to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 8

Vientiane – Capital Sights

The capital of Laos has a welcoming and slow pace accentuated by café culture, serene spas, temple spires, and French colonial architecture. The scent of fresh-baked croissants drifts out of the bakeries in the historic quarter with subtle sweet and buttery notes against the blossoming frangipani. Tamarinds color the boulevards where monks stroll and statues of the river serpent glint in the sunlight. Follow your guide on a tour of the city after breakfast, discovering the French villas and bustling street markets, stylish restaurants and shimmering temples, beginning at That Luang.

The original temple grounds were erected in the 16th century under the reign of King Saysetthathirath after moving the capital of the kingdom from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. The central spire reaches a height of nearly 150 feet tall with grounds meant to imitate the serene shape of a lotus bud. Red lacquered doors and intricate Buddhist reliefs, including those depicting flowers and animals. Continue to the Patuxai Victory Monument to find a large concrete structure adorning the city’s modest skyline at the heart of a small park. The structure moderately mirrors the Arc de Triomphe with more traditional Laotian embellishments, including images of Hindu gods set beneath the five decorative towers.

What's Included:

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Breakfast

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Day 9

Hin Bun – Uncovering the Hidden Landscape

The cafes along the historic district of Laos fill the air with the aroma of chocolate and frothy cappuccinos. Tables and chairs offer a French-café ambiance amidst the scent of hibiscus. Your private transfer greets you after an early breakfast to take you to Hin Bun National Park. The familiar jungle terrain returns along the edges of the roadway. Cows graze on the sporadic grassland. Farmers push carts of rice on the road, making their way to the nearest town. A faint aroma of a fire filters through the air, carried by farmers burning a portion of their land after harvest to help germinate older seeds and clear away brush. Lakes reflect the traditional houses erected over the water on stilts and the tree canopy hovering over the shores.

You reach Hin Bun National Park to find more than 600 square miles of protected natural beauty. The limestone ridges tower over the jungle like nature’s skyscrapers. Langur monkeys linger in the trees picking at mosses, bamboo, and shoots. The males whoop during displays of masculinity but bark when interacting with a different group. In the jungle terrain, your guide tells you to watch for elephants that roam through the area enjoying the cover of the trees, the floodplains near the water, and the refreshing feeling of the Phu Hin Bun River.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

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Breakfast

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Day 10

Thakhek – Returning to the Caves

The calls of the Langur monkeys echo through the forest trees in the morning. Their whoops and barks remind you of the life relying on the forest. You can hear the rushing water of the river brush against the tall grass and pebbles of the banks passing near your room. After breakfast, you set out in search of the Tham Kong Lo, a limestone cave situated inside a four-mile karst. The interior reaches a height of 300 feet, hiding an emerald pool. Once inside the cave, the temperature cools dramatically.

You run your fingers against the rocks to find them smoothed by time and the elements. A small boat takes you into the chamber, beneath the soaring granite ceiling. Stalactites drip around the walls with the smooth texture of the rocks forming faces and figures. The boat drifts down the subterranean river to view the glistening, rippling waters below. Before reaching the town of Thakhek, you continue into the jungle to visit the multi-tiered double waterfall of Namsanam.

What's Included:

included

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Accommodation

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Breakfast

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Day 11

Thakhek – Around the Small Town Charm

The waters of the Mekong River separate the town of Thakhek from the northern edges of Thailand on the opposite banks. The shops near the central roundabout hide a bustling marketplace filled with fruits, garments, and fresh fish caught that morning. After breakfast, your guide leads you on another remarkable tour of the landscape around Thakhek in search of the Buddha Cave known as Tham Nong Pafa Cave. The dirt road leading to the cavern offers views of the towering limestone karsts.

The rice paddies and farmlands along the early stretches of the road have disappeared, replaced by the trees and otherworldly peaks. The aroma of the rich stone fills the air near the mouth of the cave, located nearly 50 feet above the ground of the forest floor. The natural sunlight shines over the more than 220 bronze Buddha statues filling the historic sanctuary. Some of the statues date back more than 300 years and reach a height of more than three feet tall.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 12

Champasak – On the Mekong River

In the morning, the aroma of banana pancakes emanates from the marketplace. You sip a strong cup of coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk before heading onto the road with your private transfer bound for Champasak. The town was the seat of royalty until the 1940s, now brimming with French colonial buildings contrasting the traditional Laotian homes built on stilts along the edges of the riverbank. Cows graze on the grasses around clucking chickens. Coffee plantations and fruit farms spread across the landscape. The Bolaven Plateau reaches heights of more than 4,420 feet above sea level, offering a perfect place to grow tea, trek, or search for waterfalls.

After settling into the comforts of your hotel, you can board a traditional boat to cruise down the Mekong River. The waters lead to the 4,000 Islands along the border of Cambodia. You can dip your hands into the water to feel the refreshing cold from the mountain runoff brush against your fingertips. Keep your eyes open for the Irrawaddy dolphins. The rare freshwater dolphins enjoy the rapids of the wide pools near Don Khon. They grow to seven and a half feet tall when fully matured and resemble a beluga whale in appearance.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 13

Champasak – Heart of Ancient Kingdoms

The water rushes along the stilts of the raised homes, bringing an inviting sound to the morning air. The scent of roasted coffee beans accompanies the aroma of banana pancakes drifting over the riverside terrain. Venture outside of Champasak after breakfast to reach the Wat Phu ruins. The collection of ancient temples dates back more than 1,000 years and was erected over an area of six terraces. Frangipanis wrap over the stairway, providing a familiar sweet aroma to the hidden ruins. The main shrine adorns the top of the tiers, striking a dramatic posture above the remaining temples.

The sandstone base shimmers in the morning light at the main entrance leads to the ceremonial promenade. Lotuses blossom on the water beside grazing buffalo. You reach the upper level of the complex to find captivating carvings decorating the sanctuary façade, including two celestial dancers guarding the entrance. The sanctuary contains a distinctive Buddha image on the altar. A hidden cave once provided the entrance point for the sacred spring to fill the shrine, diverted from the mountain by a series of sandstone pipes. A carved footprint of Buddha and an elephant adorn the rock wall. The view of the Mekong River, plains, and ceremonial pond offers a peaceful ambiance accentuating the prestige of the temple complex.

What's Included:

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Breakfast

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Day 14

Champasak – Laos Unveiled

Outside of Champasak, the twin waterfalls of Tad Fane thunder down into the gorge, cascading nearly 330 feet until disappearing beneath the forest canopy. Leopards hide in the trees and tigers prowl the underbrush in the early morning. Hornbills twitter in the branches as monkeys howl and hoot. The morning life in the Bolaven Plateau differs from the serene waterside culture of Champasak. The scent of banana pancakes has become familiar in the morning. You find subtle hints of papaya at breakfast, with vendors around the town offering traditional homemade noodle soup. After the meal, your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to Pakse International Airport for your flight home.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Witness the daily procession of almsgiving, with locals in Luang Prabang offering goods to the local monks for their daily meal
  • Discover the staggering stone jars scattered across the plains in the Xieng Khouang province, adding a majestic ambiance to the landscape
  • Visit an organic mulberry farm for insight into the cultivation of the berries and locally produced silk
  • Traverse the landscape of Hin Bun National Park to view Kong Lor Cave, known for its spectacular rock formations and emerald waters
  • Cruise down the Mekong River at Champasak to visit the 4,000 Islands and view the rare freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins in their natural habitat
  • Relax with a soothing visit to the natural hot springs outside of the small town of Phonsavan
  • Witness the sensational splendor of natural waterfalls cascading into turquoise and indigo waters across Laos, including the Kuang Si Waterfalls
  • Trek across farms and around limestone karsts to find the Buddha Cave outside of Thakhek, home to nearly 230 ancient bronze Buddha statues 
  • Revel in a sky-high sunrise with an unforgettable hot air balloon ride above Vang Vieng at daybreak 
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Detailed Description

Laos glistens with jade trees and silver emerald waters, golden temple stupas and silver limestone karsts, each symbolizing the hidden treasures of the country during your 14-day tour of discoveries. The journey to uncover the hidden splendors of Laos begins with your arrival in Luang Prabang, the former imperial capital. Your flight lands at Luang Prabang International Airport. Your private transfer greets you upon your arrival and escorts you to a stunning hotel offering a combination of French colonial charm, modern luxury, and views of the enchanting Laotian landscape. The remainder of the day is yours to get acquainted with the city at your leisure.

The next day, your guide leads you on a private tour of Luang Prabang’s grand temples and cultural history, beginning with the monks’ morning alms procession. After touring the city, you make your way to Kuang Si Falls to enjoy the cool waters and stunning view. Your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to the town of Phonsavan. En route, you stop at an organic mulberry farm to learn the methods of silk cultivation. Then, you visit the Plain of Jars, discovering three archaeological sites known for the magnificent stone jars scattered across the open fields. Relax your mind and body at a private hot spring in the afternoon before returning to Phonsavan.

You have a scenic drive to Van Vieng, stopping at an organic farm on the outskirts of town to learn the methods of coffee cultivation and traditional crops, enjoying a lunch utilizing the produce harvested on the estate. The following day is yours to enjoy the beauty of Vang Vieng at your leisure. Inner tube down the river at a relaxing pace while enjoying the view or relish an adventurous kayak excursion. You could also spend time on an inner tube traversing a cave network to view the unique formations carved into the walls by the water. Witness a sunrise on a hot air balloon before continuing to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. You can visit a local monastery on the edge of the town known for its herbal sauna and soothing massages before settling into the enchanting city.

Your guide leads you on a half-day private tour of the iconic monuments of Vientiane, from the Wat Si Muang Temple to That Luang, and the Victory Monument of Patuxai. You have a scenic drive to Hin Bun National Park. Stop along the way to visit small villages and farms before an afternoon trek in search of monkeys, deer, and elephant. Discover Tham Kong Lo cave and trek the trail to Namsanam Waterfall before arriving in the comforts of your hotel in Thakhek.

Next, you traverse the trails to find Buddha Cave. Ascend the cliff wall to view the upper cavern and take a boat along the river through the lower cave. You continue south to Champasak for a cruise on the Mekong River in search of Irrawaddy Dolphins. Travel outside of Champasak to wander around the ancient temple ruins of Wat Phu. On the final day, your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to the Pakse International Airport for your flight home.  

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Starting Price

$N/A per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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