Laos

13-Day Laos Special Tour Discovery

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Tour type

Tour Level:

Tour Comfort:

Tour Period: 13 Days

tour highlights

  • Visit the sacred pre-Angkorian Wat Phu Temple
  • Marvel at the picturesque and stunning waterfalls of the Bolaven Plateau
  • Delight in the Buddhist temples of Laos’ capital Vientiane
  • Visit the mysterious Plain of Jars a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Explore the culture and architectural heritage of Luang Prabang UNESCO World Heritage City
  • Enjoy the majesty and natural beauty of the Kuang Si waterfalls
  • Experience the Mekong and visit the sacred temples at Pak Ou Cave 

tour details

Laos Special Discovery is an experience full of classic and rarely seen sights. This tour for the curious brings you the best of the culture, history, traditions and natural wonders of Laos.

Why choose this tour?

This is a tour for the curious. If you want to discover the classics and the roads less travelled then this is the trip for you. Less visited gems such as Wat Phu, the Boloven Plateau and the The Plain of Jars await.

Arrival Ubon Ratchathani

Morning
You will be met upon arrival at Ubon Ratchathani Airport followed by lunch at a local restaurant.

Afternoon
After lunch, continue your transfer directly to the Thailand / Laos boarder at Chongmek. Once Thailand immigration formalities have been completed, you will be met by the guide from Diethelm Travel, who will assist with Laos’ immigration procedures. After immigration is complete transfer to the hotel in Pakse.

Dinner at the accommodation

Estimated driving time/distance:
2 – 2.5 hours/140 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at a local restaurant
Dinner at the accommodation
Morning
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the boat pier where you will embark on a longtail river boat for a cruise down the Mekong River to the former royal capital of Champasak, and then drive to visit the pre-Angkorian Wat Phu Temple. Wat Phu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, means ‘mountain temple’. The temples in this complex are dated between the 6th and 13th centuries. Wat Phu lies on a hillside and offers spectacular views on the surrounding plains and the Mekong River. Hindu Khmer probably chose the site because of the spring that flows from near the top of the hill. Historians say that Phu Pasak was in fact sacred to the pre-Angkorian Kingdom of Chenla (6th century) and may have been the site of human sacrifices.

The temple is divided in two parts. The lower part consists of two ruined palace buildings at the edge of a pond, which was used for ritual ablutions. The upper section, the temple sanctuary itself, once enclosed a large Shiva phallus (linga). It was later converted into a Buddhist temple but much of the original Hindu sculpture remains. The lintels feature various forms of Vishnu and Shiva as well as Kala, the Hindu god of time and death. The naga stairway is lined with plumeria (Dokchampa), the Lao national flower.

Following your visit lunch will be at a local restaurant.

Afternoon
After lunch we continue our drive towards Khong Island, stopping en route to visit picturesque Khone Phapheng waterfall, the largest cascade along the Mekong River. A fault line caused the cascade, which is 6km wide at this point, and the astonishing force of the water has cut dramatic gorges through the brittle bedrock.

Continue to and check-in at the hotel in Khong Island late afternoon.

Dinner at the hotel

Estimated driving time/distance:
3 hours/150 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at a local restaurant
Dinner at the hotel
Morning
Breakfast is at the hotel.

After breakfast, we take the road back towards Pakse and continue to Bolaven Plateau. This is an elevated plateau which was formed by an ancient volcano. The environment is fertile and as a result it is famous for its coffee and tea plantations. The plateau has a number of tribal villages, some of them still practising Stone Age culture. They use extremely primitive agricultural tools and conduct frequent spiritual ceremonies. There will be a short stop for coffee or tea at the village garden. Later lunch is at a local restaurant.

Afternoon
Continue to visit the impressive and iconic Tad Fane waterfall which is located near the Dong Houa Sao Protected Area. The falls drop 120 metres into a gorge and are split into two falls. If the wind creates a mist then rainbows are formed. Follow this with a visit to the picturesque Tad Yuang waterfall, another twin stream waterfall with lookouts at the top, middle and bottom of the gorge. A final stop is made at Tad Pha Suam waterfall.

Late Afternoon
Arrive in Pakse and check in at the hotel.

Dinner at the hotel

Estimated driving time/distance:
3.5 hours/200 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at a local restaurant
Dinner at the hotel
Morning
Breakfast is at the hotel. After breakfast, visit the colourful and vibrant local market, then transfer to Pakse Airport for your flight from Pakse to Vientiane. You will be met upon arrival at Vientiane Wattay Airport and will transfer and check in to your hotel.

Vientiane's major attractions are the serene Buddhist monasteries that dominate the centre of town. The city has kept its timeless charm with tree-lined avenues, brightly painted temples and quaint French architecture.

Lunch is at the hotel

Afternoon
Afternoon at leisure to relax or explore part of the city.
Dinner at the hotel

Meal included:
Lunch at the hotel
Dinner at the hotel
Morning
Take breakfast at the hotel before the full day city tour.

In the morning visit Wat Sisaket, architecturally beautiful and the oldest original temple in Vientiane. Wat Sisaket features remarkable frescoes and an amazing 6,840 Buddha images. These date back to the 16th and 19th centuries. Nearby is Ho Phra Keo, once the royal temple of Lao monarchy. Built in 1565, Ho Phra Keo has been used as a museum since 1970 and contains some of the finest Buddhist sculptures and artefacts in Laos. Special displays include antique brass drums and palm leaf manuscripts. The main structure originally housed the famous Emerald Buddha that now resides in Bangkok's Wat Phra Keo. One of the most photographed images of Vientiane is Patousay, the victory gate also known as Anousavari. Constructed in 1958, its architecture is inspired by the Arc of Triumph in Paris. Another famous Vientiane landmark is the gold covered and architecturally splendid That Luang Stupa. King Setthathirath built this great sacred stupa, considered as the national symbol, in 1566. Its central structure is 45 metres tall and echoes the curving lines of an elongated lotus. The original stupa was said to contain relics of Lord Buddha.

Lunch is at Lao Derm Restaurant.

Afternoon
In the afternoon, visit the surroundings of Vientiane, including the Buddha Park and Friendship Bridge (if time permits). The Buddha Park is a religious sculpture park located by the Mekong River, 24km south of Vientiane which contains over 200 religious statues. The Buddha Park captivates visitors with an unusual blend of Buddhist and Hindu imagery. Short stop to admire the impressive Friendship Bridge, which links Laos and Thailand. Return to the hotel.

Dinner is at Kualao Restaurant

Estimated driving time/distance:
1 hour/45 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at Lao Derm Restaurant
Dinner at Kualao Restaurant
Morning
Breakfast is at the hotel.

In the morning, drive to Vang Vieng, along Highway 13, through spectacular scenery of high mountains and plateaus. Lunch will be at a local restaurant.

Afternoon
After lunch, visit Vanxay caves and then continue to drive to Vang Vieng and visit a tea plantation on the way. After learning about why tea grows so well in this region enjoy a ride on a small two-person boat for 30 minutes on the Namsong River.

Arrive in Vang Vieng and check in at the hotel. If time permits, it is well worth walking through the village to get a sense of the lifestyle here and enjoying the sunset on the river.

Dinner at the hotel

Estimated driving time/distance:
4 – 4.5 hours/175 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at a local restaurant
Dinner at the hotel
Morning
After breakfast at the hotel, visit the lively and colourful local market where people from the surrounding areas come to Vang Vieng to buy and sell their produce. Following the market experience, we drive to visit the wonder of the natural cave of Tham Chang. The cave has stalactites and stalagmites and the history of how it was used as a refuge from invading Chinese tribes in the 19th century. Continue by car to Xieng Khouang Province. Lunch will be at a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon
On the drive in the afternoon, there will be some stops to visit some minority villages. This is an opportunity to observe and understand more about the daily life and traditions of these fascinating people.

Upon arrival in Xieng Khouang in the late afternoon, transfer to the hotel in Phonsavan. The northern province of Xieng Khouang was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War. The original capital of Xieng Khouang was almost totally destroyed, so the capital was moved to Phonsavan. Near Phonsavan is the mysterious Plain of Jars, now listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The jars weigh mostly from 600kg to one ton but the biggest one weighs as much as six tons. The jars have been fashioned from solid stone, most from a tertiary conglomerate known as molasses, akin to sandstone, and a few from granite. You will get a feel for this enigmatic attraction as we visit Site 1, which features 250 jars, today. We return to the other two sites on the Plain of Jars tomorrow.

Dinner at the hotel

Estimated driving time/distance:
7 hours/240 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at a local restaurant
Dinner at the hotel
Morning
After breakfast at the hotel, we return to visit the other two Plain of Jars sites (Site 2 and Site 3 with 90 jars). The Plain of Jars is a large area extending around Phonsavan where several hundred huge jars of unknown origin are scattered about in over a dozen groupings. Several theories have been advanced as to the functions of the jars (burial urns, wine fermenters, rice storage), but there is no evidence confirming one theory over the other. However, in the 1930s, French archaeologists found ashes, stone axes, bronze ornaments and ceramics, which may have been offerings to the dead. Further archaeological investigation may bring a clue to all the unanswered questions regarding the most enigmatic site in Laos.

On leaving the plain of jars, we continue to Muang Khoune the former capital of Xieng Khouang Province, which was destroyed by heavy bombings and visit its ancient temples. We return to Phonsavan for lunch at a local restaurant.

Afternoon
In the afternoon there is a chance to visit some ethnic minority villages (from Hmong, Phuan, Thai Neua, Tai Dam or Tai Lu) and to learn more about the architecture, culture, language and traditions of these ethnic groups.

Dinner at the hotel.

Estimated driving time/distance:
1.5 – 2 hours/65 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at a local restaurant
Dinner at the hotel
Morning
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Luang Prabang. On the way, make some stops to visit minority villages and to take photos of the beautiful and remarkable scenery. The lunch stop will be at a local restaurant.

Afternoon
Afterwards, continue the journey down to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Luang Prabang. This former royal capital, with its gleaming temple roofs, fading colonial architecture and stunning mountain backdrop, retains a unique charm rarely found in all of Asia. Upon arrival at Luang Prabang in the afternoon, transfer to the hotel and check in.

Estimated driving time/distance:
5 – 6 hours/265 kilometres

Meal included:
Lunch at a local restaurant
Dinner at the hotel
Morning
After breakfast at the hotel, begin your tour of the architectural heritage and traditions of the city.

We start with a visit to Wat Visoun, the oldest temple in Luang Prabang and the site of the impressive Singhalese style That Makmo stupa. Nearby is Wat Aham, one of the city's major tutelary shrines dedicated to revered spirits Deveta Luang and ancestors, Pu Gneu Ya Gneu. For a different perspective, we climb Wat Phousi Hill for a stunning 360-degree view over the city. After a morning of sightseeing lunch is at Le Cafe Ban Vat Sene.

Afternoon
After lunch, visit four more of the beautiful, spiritual temples: Wat Sene, Wat That Luang, Wat Mai (built in 1796 and famous for the five-tiered roof of its wooden sim built in the standard of Luang Prabang style) and Wat Phrabat Tai.

Dinner is at 3 Nagas Restaurant

Meal included:
Lunch at Le Cafe Ban Vat Sene
Dinner at 3 Nagas Restaurant
Morning
This morning visit Wat Xieng Thong, considered the most beautiful temple. The sim of the Wat represents the classic Luang Prabang temple architecture with roofs that sweep low to the ground. In the compound stand several small chapels housing bronze Buddha images, which were displayed in Paris in 1911. Near the East gate stands the Royal Funeral Chapel. Inside are an impressive 12-metre high funeral chariot and various funeral urns of the Royal Family. The gilt panel on the exterior of the chapel depicts a semi-erotic episode from Ramayana. Also look out for the “tree of life” montage on the rear temple wall.

After visiting this beautiful temple, it is a short walk to board a traditional boat for a trip upstream the Mekong River to visit the famous caves of Pak Ou, housing thousands of statues representing Lord Buddha. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Ammala Restaurant overlooking the confluence between the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers.

Afternoon
Return to Luang Prabang by boat and continue by car to visit Ban Phanom, a weaving village populated by Tai Lu, who originally came from Sipsongpanna in Southern China. The village is full of culture and history. Nearly all the families here have a loom and they weave with cotton and silk. They sell at the Night Market in Luang Prabang and also to visitors to the village

Dinner is at L’Elephant Restaurant

Meal included:
Lunch at Ammala Restaurant
Dinner at L’Elephant Restaurant
Morning
Breakfast is at the hotel followed by a departure by road to the Kuang Si. On the way to the waterfalls, visit the Khmu village of Ban Thapaene and discover more about the traditions and daily life of this tribe. The waterfalls which tumble over multi-tiered limestone formations into cool, clear pools are ideal for swimming and relaxing.

Continue with a visit to a recently opened Butterfly Park (closed on Tuesdays), where you can see a large variety of colourful butterflies and orchids. Visiting this park, ensures you have made a sustainable impact in the education of local children about biology and will help raise awareness about the vulnerability of Laos' ecosystem and how local people can preserve it. Picnic lunch at Butterfly Park.

Afternoon
After lunch return to Luang Prabang. On the way, visit Ban Xom, a lowland Lao village known for its cotton production and stop at Ban Xang Khong village to see how traditional Sa paper is made.

Estimated driving time/distance:
1.5 hours/60 kilometres

Meal included:
Picnic lunch at Butterfly Park
Dinner at Luang Prabang Kitchen
Morning
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and then there is time to visit the National Museum (former King's Palace) displaying a collection of personal artefacts of the Royal Family. Then stroll around the lively Central Market where the ethnic minorities of the surrounding areas come daily to buy and sell. Take time to visit the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Center which is a new museum about the ethnic cultures of Laos. The centre exhibits ethnic clothing, household objects, religious artefacts and handicrafts. The exhibits contain text, photographs and objects from villages throughout the north of Laos.

Lunch at Khaiphaen Restaurant, a vocational training restaurant serving traditional Laotian cuisine.

Afternoon
After lunch transfer to Luang Prabang International Airport for the departure flight to your next destination

customise the tour

  • On day 9 or 10 or 12 add an evening Baci ceremony (traditional blessing) or Go Local with an early evening game of petanque with the local people
  • On day 10 or 11 or 13 add a Go Local Alms Giving with iMekong early morning cruise to observe the monks collecting ‘Tak Bat’ in a quiet spot away from the main town

inclusive

  • Accommodation in shared double/ twin room with air-condition (AC) and private bathroom
  • Meals as stated in the programme B= breakfast, L= lunches & D = Dinner as program mention.
  • Transfers and tours with your selected local English speaking guide in private air-conditioned vehicles
  • All entrance fees and boat fees as mentioned in the programme
  • Drinking water and cold towels available on the vehicles
  • Local Government Tax
  • Traditional Slow boat

exclusive

  • Domestic airfare (quoted separately, if requested)
  • International airfare to / from Lao (quoted separately, if requested)
  • Optional tours
  • Surcharges for other language guides
  • Surcharges for Lao Pimai (New Year)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Personal expenditure, such as drinks, souvenirs, laundry, camera fees, communications, postage, gratuities etc.
  • Meals and services other than mentioned in the programme
  • Drinks with meals
  • Compulsory gala dinners during festive seasons and peak season surcharges which will be advised at the time of booking or when available
  • Early check-in and late check-out at hotels, if not mentioned in the programme
  • Immigration border tax is not inlcuded
Tour code: PKZDLSLT13

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