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This tour will allow you to visit the two main highlights in Laos, Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, the only country in Southeast Asia without direct access to the sea. With ancient roots (the city was founded in the IX century) and a laid-back atmosphere and eminently walkable, this city is perfect want to be impressed by its glittering temples, its wandering Buddhist monks and its beautiful boulevards. With a colonial past, the French colonial-style villas give the perfect combination to the city.

Luang Prabang is a small and cozy location which is the best ambassador of how Laotian essence is: spiritual, quite, mystic and charming. With more than 1500 years of history, you will feel as an explorer when you are messing around on its streets, as this city is full of ancient temples who will bring you to the past.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATIONVientiane/Luang Prabang
DEPARTURE TIMEPlease arrive by 7:15 AM for a prompt departure at 7:30 AM.
RETURN TIMEApproximately 6:30 PM.
WEARComfortable athletic clothing, hiking boots, hat, jacket and sunscreen.
INCLUDED
NOT INCLUDED
1

Day 1: Arrive Vientiane, Laos

Welcome to Laos and Vientiane. Nestled along the Mekong River, French colonial roofs and gilded temples form the skyline of this peaceful yet developing city. Monks in their classic orange robes are everywhere, along with birds, butterflies, and French cafes that serve coffee from beans grown in the Laos highlands. You are met upon arrival at the Vientiane airport, and escorted to your hotel.

In the afternoon, your sightseeing tour begins with a visit to the 19th century Wat Sisaket. This terra-cotta tile roofed temple, Vientiane’s oldest, has countless niches displaying thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Next, tour the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. Visit the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa. A national icon, this 145-foot tall structure has gone through many reconstructions. The site of a 12th century Khmer temple, King Setthathirat built the first monument in 1566, that was destroyed by the Siamese, re-bulit by the French, then in 1930 it was remodeled as it stands today. The courtyard houses a Bodhi tree, held sacred by the Lao people. The locals say to stay in Buddha’s good graces, you must walk around the stupa three times. End the afternoon with a photo stop at the Patuxay Monument, known as Vientiane’s Arc de Triumph, but uniquely decorated with Lao friezes from Buddhist mythology.

Overnight in Vientiane.

2

Day 2: Vientiane to Luang Prabang (B)

This morning you are taken to the Vientiane airport for your flight to Luang Prabang, a sleepy French town named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique blend of Laotian and European architecture. This ancient capital is nestled in the mountains at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and adorned with gilded temples on nearly every street corner. You are met upon arrival, and transferred to your hotel with time to freshen up.

This afternoon’s sightseeing tour begins with a visit to the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun. Its rounded dome is stylistically more Silankalese than Lao, and though this is a replica built in 1898, it exudes the Middle Ages atmosphere from its original construction in 1513. Next, walk to Wat Aham, which was the residence of the Sangkhalat (Supreme Patriarch of Lao Buddhism), and the Wat Mai, thetown’s most important spirit shrine. Your tour continues with a hike up the 355 steps to the top of Mount Phousi to explore Wat Chomsi, a sacred, gilded stupa. Enjoy the beautiful sunset view of the city and the Mekong River below.

This evening, visit the colorful Night Market. A red canvas canopy covers these vendors and their extensive selection of handmade textiles including silk scarves and Hmong embroidery, all made by people from the surrounding hill tribes. Watch and mingle with the locals to learn about everyday Lao traditions and culture. Overnight in Luang Prabang.

3

Day 3: Luang Prabang & Pak Ou Caves (B)


Awaken at sunrise to witness the sacred Buddhist ceremony of giving the local monks morning alms. Watching the saffron robed monks strolling peacefully through the throng of visitors is a moving experience and wonderful photo opportunity. After breakfast at the hotel, your tour begins with a visit to Wat Sene and Wat Xieng Thong, representing classic Luang Prabang temple architecture, with roofs that sweep low to the ground. The rear wall features an impressive “tree of life” mosaic set in a red background. Inside richly decorated wooden columns support a ceiling vested with Dharma–wheels. In the compound stand several small chapels housing bronze Buddha images, and an impressive 11-meter high funeral chariot and various funeral urns for each royal family member.

Next, depart Luang Prabang on a pleasant two-hour longtail boat cruise on the Mekong River. Traveling upstream, you pass through stunning landscape of limestone cliffs dotted with waterfalls and remote hill tribe villages. Stop at the village of Ban Xanghai, where Lao whiskey (rice wine) is produced. Your cruise destination is the famous caves of Pak Ou. These holy limestone caves are located on a rock cliff, rising vertically from the waters of the Mekong River. Two of the larger caves are the most famous, and are filled with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by devoted pilgrims. On the cruise back to Luang Prabang, stop for a short drive to the weaving village of Ban Phanom. This Tai Lue village is well known for its traditional hand-woven cotton and silk.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

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Day 4: Depart Luang Prabang (B)

This morning, you visit the National Museum, located in the former palace of exiled King Savang Vattana, to view the famous Pha Bang, a 45 kg solid gold Buddha. Then explore the Central Market – a great place for people watching and last minute shopping as well as lunch. You will have a free time until transferred to the Luang Prabang airport for your departing flight.

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