This journey takes in several of the country's beautiful highlights, including Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves. Ornate temples and fascinating Buddhist alms-giving ceremonies await in the sleepy riverside town of Luang Prabang while villages surrounding idyllic Vang Vieng are home to Hmong and Yao hill tribes. Cycle and kayak amid the magnificent scenery to gain a fascinating insight into the people and traditional culture of this intriguing country. These villages are also the gateways to enigmatic attractions such as the mysterious 2,000-year-old Plain of Jars.
Day 1: London - Luang Prabang
Fly overnight from the UK to Luang Prabang.
Day 2: Luang Prabang
Upon arrival in the historic city of Luang Prabang, you'll be met by a guide and driver at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 3: Luang Prabang – Temples and Kuang Si Falls
After breakfast, explore the National Museum, which is the former residence of the now deposed royal family, and is full of fine examples of Laotian art and furniture. You will then visit Wat Mai – an exquisite temple that was spared by the Chinese Black Haws in the late 19th century because of its beauty and design. Next, you will start a half-day excursion to learn about the rice cycle on the Living Lands Community Farm, during which time you will take on the role of a rice farmer for the day and learn how to plant and plough rice paddies.
After lunch, head to the Kuang Si Falls, one of Luang Prabang's most beautiful waterfalls. While there, swim and relax amidst the verdant jungle in the turquoise pools at the base of the falls. You will also get the opportunity to meet some Asiatic Black Bears, which are cared for in a sanctuary near the falls. Many of them have been saved from the illegal wildlife trade or have been displaced due to habitat degradation.
After freshening up at your hotel, spend the evening attending a traditional Baci ceremony; Baci is a traditional dance performance during which you will be offered tidings of good luck in your travels. Afterwards, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 4: Pak Ou Caves by boat
Start the day by attending the incredible Tak Bat ceremony in Luang Prabang. Taking place every morning at dawn, the ceremony consists of hundreds of saffron-clad monks silently walking through the streets to collect alms (offerings of food). Afterwards, visit the colourful Morning Market where locals buy and sell produce.
After breakfast, travel upriver on a Mekong cruise for approximately 2-hours to the mysterious 'Cave of 1,000 Buddha images' at Pak Ou. Along the way, soak up the Mekong riverside scenery of villages and mountains covered with thick green forest and watch fishermen go about their daily labours. At the Caves, watch local people add to a repository of Buddha statues near the base of the small cave; this tradition has endured for centuries and continues today much as it always has done.
After cruising back to town, visit a social enterprise in a village on the outskirts of Luang Prabang that specialises in textiles. Ock Pop Tok, meaning 'East meets West' brings the fascinating world of traditional Lao handicrafts alive for visitors and here guests can learn about traditional Lao weaving. In the late afternoon, Lao refreshments and cocktails well be served in the garden here, on the banks of the Mekong, which is a wonderful way to relax and watch the sunset. Return to Luang Prabang and spend the evening at leisure.
Day 5: Luang Prabang - Elephant Experience or Cooking Class
Today guests can choose between two different activities. Either join a morning cookery class or a half-day elephant experience, in each instance enjoying an afternoon at leisure. Note that activities, which are included in the price, must be selected in advance, preferably at the time of booking to confirm availability and avoid disappointment. One activity is included per party, so all members of the booking party must undertake the same activity. If some members of the travelling party would like to select a different activity, then a surcharge will apply. The afternoon is at leisure to relax, shop or continue exploring this atmospheric small town.
Day 6: Luang Prabang – The Plain of Jars
This morning you will be picked up at your Luang Prabang hotel at 8am for the overland trip to Xieng Khouang Province, the site of the Plain of Jars. The journey will take seven hours and there will be plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the beautiful mountain ranges and H'mong hill tribe villages along the way before arriving in Phonsavan town.
The Plain of Jars is one of Asia's most unusual sites and the 'jars' you will see here are thought to be over 2,000 years old although their origins remain a mystery. Archaeologists speculate that the 'jars' were funerary urns. Other, recent discoveries nearby include unusual treasures such as statues and precious artefacts. In the late afternoon you will check into your hotel in time to watch the sun fade behind the surrounding hills.
Stay: Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (Standard)
Day 7: Xieng Khouang (Phonsavan)
Your exploration of the mysterious Plain of Jars starts this morning with a drive out of town to visit Jars Sites 2 and 3. It is possible to walk the six kilometres from Site 2 to Site 3 through some amazing hilltop scenery with excellent surrounding views of the countryside.
Site 3 is possibly the most beautiful and is set atop a small rise, surrounded by scenic yet bomb-scarred rice paddies. After Site 3 it is a short drive to Tad Lang Waterfall, one of the largest waterfalls in Xieng Khouang Province. Afterwards, head back to town for lunch, and pay a visit to the MAG visitors' centre, which has some excellent displays and information on the region's war-torn history. End the day with a visit to Jars Site 1, the largest and best-preserved of all three sites, before heading back to your hotel.
Stay: Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (Standard)
Day 8: Xieng Khouang – Vang Vieng
Today you will start with a drive through s...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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