Day 1: Arrival Pakse – Tadlo (D)
Upon arrival at Pakse airport (only accessible by air from BKK, Ho Chi Minh City or Vientiane), you will be met and transferred to Tadlo, passing many charming villages and rolling hills. The deep contrast between the lush, green vegetation and the red surface of the basaltic soil is an incredible thing to see as you pass along. You’ll have a stopover at the scenic Phasoume Waterfall and a nearby Katu village. You’ll then arrive at Tadlo by mid or late afternoon and spend time relaxing at the Tadlo Waterfalls or simply strolling around a nearby village before retiring for the evening.
Day 2: Tadlo – Boloven Plateau – Khong Island (B/L)
The view of bubbling water and lush vegetation around the waterfall is nothing short of spectacular. You will depart Tadlo village and travel overland across the Boloven Plateau toward Khong Island. This back road gives you a chance to discover the real essence of southern Laos as you drive past lush plantations, rolling hills, and peaceful villages. You’ll make a stop to observe the traditional making of coffee and possibly get a taste! Upon arrival at Khong Island, you will board a boat and begin venturing into the furthest reaches of the Mekong River. You will see some of the thousands of islets which jut out during the dry season, giving this area the name Si Phan Done (or “The 4,000 Islands”). The long tail boat will pass Done Ket and Done Som before it races across the water towards the peaceful island of Done Khone. You will stroll through Ban Khone village to explore different local lifestyles close up and view relics from the French colonial period. Upon leaving this area, you will cruise upstream and admire the impressive sunset over the mighty Mekong River before an overnight stay on Khong Island.
Day 3: Khong Island– Done Phapheng– Watphou – Pakse (B/L)
Upon leaving Khong Island, you will make your way south to visit Khone Phapheng Waterfall, which is one of the largest in Southeast Asia. The scenic drive delivers you to the former royal capital of Champasak, a gateway to the pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Phu. The hillside edifice was once an important sanctuary of the Khmer Empire. The temple structure was partly destroyed during the areas turbulent history; however, it is still fascinating to walk among the ruins. You will follow the walkway from the lower to the upper section, which features various iconic forms, including Vishnu, Shiva, and Kala. The temple upper ground also affords a spectacular view from the surrounding valley to the mighty Mekong River. You will visit Wat Phou Museum and Oum Moung Temple as you travel by road through the scenic countryside before retiring for the night in Pakse.
Day 4: Pakse – Vientiane (B/L)
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport on your way to Vientiane. Upon arrival in Vientiane, you will be transferred to your hotel before an afternoon tour of the city. Although Vientiane is the capital city, it has the feel of a small provincial town. The wide boulevards are almost devoid of traffic, and with so many temples, the city retains the feel of another age. Your tour will include visits to the major temples of Vat Sisaket, Vat Phrakeo and the impressive That Luang Stupa, the country’s most important monument. You will also see the Arc de Triomphe, the National Museum, and the main market. In the evening, following the welcome dinner, you can enjoy an evening stroll along the banks of the Mekong River before an overnight stay in Vientiane.
Day 5: Vientiane – Vang Vieng (B/L)
After breakfast, you will visit the Morning Market before leaving Vientiane for a 3 hour trip to Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng was once a key military airfield during the Indochina wars and its central feature is the long-abandoned runway along the eastern side of town. On the west side, a small river separates the town from the nearby caves & mountains, which can easily be visited. You will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant en route and have free time the rest of the day to explore the many bars and restaurants in town. You will have a restful overnight stay at the Riverside Boutique Resort in Vang Vieng.
Day 6: Vang Vieng (B/L)
Vang Vieng is located mid-way between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. It is both an ideal stop-over for tourists traveling between the two cities and an attractive weekend getaway for city residents. At an altitude of about 300 meters, the temperature there is a bit cooler than in Vientiane but is warm in the day to cool at night in winter (Dec-Feb). While many visitors to Laos are initially attracted by the UNESCO heritage city of Luang Prabang, many people say that Vang Vieng best captures the natural beauty of the country. With its breathtaking views of limestone mountains, caves and rock outcroppings overhanging the Nam Song River, it offers unique scenery and a range of outdoor activities. You will explore Vang Vieng and visit hill tribe villages or participate in outdoor activities. However, you have the option of doing absolutely nothing and just relaxing in the newly built resort as you recharge your battery for the road trip ahead.
Day 7: Vang Vieng –Xieng Khoang – The Plain of Jars (B/L)
You will drive from Vang Vieng to Xieng Khoang, arriving at lunchtime. After you have checked into your hotel, there will be a tour of the mysterious Plain of Jars. The Plain of Jars is an extensive area around Phonsavan, surrounded by mountains, where massive stone urns of mysterious origin are scattered in at least a dozen major groupings. Site 1, or Thoung Hai Hin (Stone Jar Plain), is 15 km southwest of Phonsavan and is the largest of the sites. It features 250 jars, mostly weighing from six hundred kg to one ton each, but the biggest of which weighs as much as six tons! You will continue to visit some nearby hill tribe villages to experience their fascinating culture and colorful history before heading back to the hotel for an overnight stay in Xieng Khoang.
Day 8: Xieng Khoang – Luang Prabang (B/L)
You will leave Xieng Khoang and drive to Luang Prabang, the old capital of the Lane Xang Kingdom, with more than 30 gilded Buddhist temples which make it a town rich in atmosphere and history.
In the afternoon, you will take a tour to discover this World Heritage site, with visits to Wat Visoun (a 16th Century temple serving as a small museum for religious artifacts), Wat Aham (an early 19th Century temple, whose two guardian figures at the foot of the steps represent two characters from the Ramayana – Hanuman, the Monkey God and the fierce Yaksa), Wat Xiengthong (a 16th Century temple which, more than any temple in city, epitomizes all the elegance and grace of Luang Prabang architecture) and Phousi Hill (the summit of which dominates the skyline of Luang Prabang). You will have an overnight stay in Luang Prabang
Day 9: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Cave (B/L)
An optional early start will give you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (often in the form of sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique to Laos, which is the only Buddhist nation still preserving the ritual.
Following breakfast, you will depart from the hotel and go to the boat landing for an excursion upstream on the Mekong to visit Pak Ou Cave. The caves are in the side of a limestone cliff, opposite the mouths of the Mekong and Ou rivers. The sanctuaries at Pak Ou consist of two large caves, both repositories for thousands of Buddha images, which range from mere centimeters to two meters in height.
En route, Lao villages are barely visible behind a screen of foliage. You will see slender canoes bobbing by the shore, bamboo poles and floats marking the location of nets and fish traps. Your first stop will be at Ban Muangkeo, a well-known village for Lao traditional rice whiskey, called Laoh-Khao. You will be welcome to taste it and also take some with you. You will have lunch at a riverside restaurant before driving back to Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. You will then continue by car to the outskirts of town to visit Ban Xangkhong, a village well-known for its wood paper making and also Lao silk weavings with natural dyes. You will stay overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 10: Luang Prabang – Kuang Si Waterfall (B/L)
After breakfast, you will drive 30 km south to visit Kuangsi Waterfall, which, though not very high, is spectacular and has truly beautiful greenery. You will visit the Talad Phosy fresh produce market and also visit Ban Na Oune, a small village of the Hmong hill tribe. Just before arriving at Kuangsi Waterfall, there is another village of the Khmu minority group, Ban Tha Pane, which you can visit. Your picnic lunch will be served at the shady park near the waterfall. There will be plenty of time for relaxing and swimming in the cool water if you like before you head back to Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. The rest of the day will be spent by visiting various craft-shops, including silversmiths and also the Hmong market in town, where you can see the embroidery-work of Hmong women. You will stay overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 11: Luang Prabang Free (B)
After breakfast, you are free time or going for an elephant ride in Luang Phrabang (additional charge). You will proceed to the elephant camp about 15 km outside of town on the banks of the Nam Khan River. After crossing the small river at the Lao Spirit Resort, you will be introduced to the protected Asian elephants and go out for a scenic ride. You will enjoy a new perspective and wonderful scenery on this 2-3 hour ride. You will be brought to/from the amazing waterfalls of Tad Sae, where you can hang out for lunch and swim in the refreshing cascading water. A short boat trip will bring you back to the elephant camp. After that, you will be transferred back to your hotel in Luang Prabang.
Day 12: Luang Prabang Departure (B)
After breakfast, you will have a free morning to shop and visit local sights on your own, before you say goodbye to Luang Prabang and are transferred to the airport for your departing flight.