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Highlights of Laos

A luxury highlights tour of the very best of Laos by cruise, panoramic flight and hot air balloon.

Overview

On this luxury best of Laos tour, you will see historic temples, cruise down the scenic Mekong River, explore limestone caves, and take in the glorious scenery from both a light aircraft and a hot air balloon. Experience the warmth of the Lao people, taste the fabulous cuisine, stroll through lovely lazy Luang Prabang, visit the rural town of Vang Vieng, and the capital city of Vientiane.

Your Mekong River Cruise

Step aboard a sumptuous French-colonial-styled river cruiser for a leisurely voyage through serene nature, isolated villages and magnificent temples, discovering the most beautiful, remote, riverside areas of Laos in utmost luxury. Hang out with the elephants at an elephant preservation sanctuary. Meet the local ethnic Lao, Khmu, and Hmong residents at the tiny village of Kop Aek, and dive into centuries-old traditions and practices. Observe the local weavers honoring their timeworn traditional crafts at the village of Muang Keo, and take a short and easy trek to the famous Pak Ou Caves on the Mekong’s rocky shore.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a tiny city, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995; it is one of Laos’ best-loved destinations. Board a light sport aircraft here for a breathtaking panoramic flight over the seemingly endless mountain ranges, the Mekong, and the waterfalls and the historic old town. Enjoy a captivating evening of traditional storytelling and music in an intimate theatre. Later, stroll through the charming town on an off-the-beaten-track walking tour. In the evening, watch a visualization of the epic Ramayana saga combining dance and drama. Spend a full day in the Tai Lu ethnic hill tribe village of Ban Nayang, watch the women weaving and doing embroidery while the men grow wet rice using wooden equipment drawn by buffalo. Learn about their efforts to preserve their traditional working methods and crafts. Visit the Mandalao Reserve Elephant Sanctuary, meet and bond with the elephants and then accompany them to Tad Kuang Song Waterfall, where you can take a refreshing dip in the cool waters.

Vang Vieng

Journey through the Laotian countryside to Vang Vieng and spend a full day trekking in the Lao countryside visiting some of the many caves in the area. Enjoy a picnic lunch at a scenic spot surrounded by limestone hills and visit an organic farm where mulberry tea and fruit wines are produced. For a more untethered view of Vang Vieng’s spectacular countryside, experience a dreamy 45-minute flight in a hot air balloon over the beautiful Song River and see the dramatic karst cliffs from above in the first rays of the sun.

Vientiane

In the Laotian capital of Vientiane, relish an adventurous dinner safari by tuk-tuk, visit a bustling evening food market, select some delicious dishes and enjoy your authentic feast while watching the sights and sounds around you. Visit the famous Buddha Park, a quirky concrete sculpture garden that is home to over 200 statues depicting Buddhist and Hindu figures, as well as animals, humans, and demons. Enter through the mouth of a 10-foot-tall demon head and climb staircases from Hell to Heaven. View sculptures at each level with a panoramic viewpoint at the top level. Your highlights of Laos tour ends with a visit to a weaving home-studio where you can witness the process of producing silk. Please note this itinerary is just a sample that can be tailored in accordance with your personal wishes. All excursions and transfers are on a private basis, with the exception of the cruise portion, which is shared with other passengers.

Itinerary & Prices

All itineraries are subject to change due to seasonal weather conditions (and resultant variations in river and tributary water levels) affecting accessibility to locations. Thus navigation routes, times and excursions may need to be modified at the cruise captain’s or your guide's discretion.

14 Day - Highlights of Laos
itinerary map

Welcome to Anouvong!

Good morning! Your Laos adventure starts early with a beautiful cruise. We will pick you up from the hotel in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and give you a lift to the immigration office – an entry point to Laos and your cruise meeting point. Anouvong’s team will meet you to assist you with all immigration procedures on both the Thai and Laotian sides. After all formalities, we transfer you to the vessel, which is moored at Huay Xai pier. Settle in your room as we start the downstream journey.

The first stop today is Huay Palang village, home to the Khmu minority. The locals’ lifestyle here depends fully on the Mekong as a means of transportation and a primary food source. PM: As the sun sets over the Mekong River, we will hold a Baci Ceremony, traditionally performed by the village elders as a Laotian welcome. It’s a ceremony of spirit-calling practiced at special occasions in life.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Location
Anouvong Cruise
Day
1 / 14

Elephants and Ethnic Communities

Early birds are welcome to join the daily morning exercise on the terrace deck (Tai Chi or Yoga). As we cruise along in the morning, our local expert hosts a lecture about Asian elephants, particularly the Laotian species, their cultural importance in the past, and the current threats which have brought them to the brink of extinction.

After lunchtime, we arrive in the small town of Pakbeng. We pass by the local market scene and visit a beautiful hilltop temple with amazing views of the gently flowing Mekong below.

We then have the chance to expand on the knowledge from our morning lecture when visiting an elephant preservation sanctuary. The elephants here used to work as logging elephants and can live in peace and safety here as they cannot now survive in the wild.

Back on board, the journey continues for a few more hours – lay back and enjoy the scenic views as the Anouvong proceeds towards her next destination. At a secluded sandbank, the local ethnic Lao, Khmu, and Hmong residents welcome us to the tiny village of Kop Aek. Dive into centuries-old traditions and practices as you immerse yourself in a unique Laotian experience.

As we remain at the sandbank into early evening, kick back with an aperitif accompanied by a classical dance performance by the local people. After the show, we have another highlight in store for our guests – a barbecue dinner on the terrace deck as we take in the sights and soothing sounds of nature.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Location
Anouvong Cruise
Day
2 / 14

Pak Ou Caves and a Lao Culture Expert

After breakfast, join the lecture about the Laotian culture of the diverse tribes living along the upper Mekong. Next up – the cooking class. The rest of the morning is at your disposal as Anouvong sails through lush vegetation and gently rolling verdant hills.

In the afternoon, we arrive at another little village named Muang Keo. Here you can observe the local weavers honoring their timeworn traditional crafts.  From Muang Keo, we take a short and easy trek to the famous Pak Ou Caves on the Mekong’s rocky shore. There are two spacious grottoes with approximately 4,000 sacred Buddhist statues.

Back on board, you can the peaceful waters of this part of the Mekong. Get refreshed before the evening, where we get to meet Mr. Francis Engelmann, a writer and retired consultant to UNESCO on heritage preservation projects since 1994. He will share some insights into the country’s rich cultural heritage, the turbulent history, and the day-to-day life of the Lao people. Our culinary team is pleased to spoil you on your last evening as our chefs have prepared some delectable dishes for dinner.

Have a grand time together with your newly made friends and join our staff to celebrate this wonderful journey and dance the night away. The ship moors this evening near Pak Ou.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Location
Anouvong Cruise
Day
3 / 14

Arrival to Luang Prabang, Flight Above the valley and Traditional Lao Storytelling

Anouvong arrives in central Luang Prabang just after breakfast. Your guide will be waiting for you at the pier, and you will transfer to the resort in Luang Prabang. 

After lunch, we’ll pick you up from the airport and transfer you to the airport, where you board the Aeroprakt 22LS Light Sport aircraft. Surrounded by seemingly endless mountain ranges, Luang Prabang, the Mekong, and the waterfalls are breathtaking from above.

The laid-back jaunt soars high above the historic Luang Prabang town and moves at the perfect pace for you to take it all in. The airplane is known for its panoramic visibility to maximize the experience.

You’ll be picked up in the early evening for an evening of traditional storytelling and local dinner.

In an intimate theatre in Luang Prabang’s historic old town, listen as a Lao storyteller presents stories in English, with the live accompaniment of the khene, a Lao folk mouth instrument. After the performance, transfer to a local restaurant.

After dinner, return to your hotel by private car.

Meals: (B, D)

Location
Luang Prabang
Day
4 / 14

Stroll Through the Charming Life Town and a Theatre Performance

The morning alms round (called “Tak Bat” in Lao) is a living Buddhist tradition for the people of Luang Prabang and dates back generations. Wake up before dawn to witness and participate in offering alms to a procession of hundreds of saffron-robed monks in the early morning light, truly a spiritual occasion! If you wish to make an offering, please inform your guide a day in advance so that a gift of alms can be prepared. After the almsgiving, watch the town come to life during a visit to the bustling morning market before returning to your hotel in time for breakfast.

Enjoy a half-day tour by tuk-tuk around Luang Prabang, starting with a visit to the former Royal Palace, now a National Museum housing precious artifacts that belonged to the Royal Family. Drive or enjoy a leisurely walk to explore some of Luang Prabang’s famed temples, including Wat Visoun, Luang Prabang’s oldest temple. Notice its unusually shaped stupa designed to look like a lotus flower but referred to by locals as “the watermelon stupa”. Also see Wat That Luang, the traditional cremation site for Lao royalty; Wat Mai, with its detailed golden reliefs depicting scenes from village life; and Wat Xieng Thong, with captivating mosaics on its western wall. End the tour by climbing up to the top of Mount Phousi and admiring the impressive panoramic views across the Mekong and Khan rivers, as well as the mountain ranges looming in the distance. Then return to your hotel.

In the evening, we’re taking you to the theatre!

The Ramayana is an ancient Indian epic poem that narrates the struggle of the divine prince Rama to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. Watch a visualization of this epic saga combining dance and drama performed by the provincial government troupe of some 60 artists. The show takes place at the Luang Prabang Theatre which was re-established in 2002 after a 1975 ban on the theatre and master artists.

The Theatre is located in the garden of the National Museum, formerly the Royal Palace.

Return to your hotel for dinner.

Meals: (B)

Location
Luang Prabang
Day
5 / 14

Visit To Pak Ou Caves & Taec

Explore the Luang Prabang countryside with a full-day boat tour visiting caves, villages and a museum.

Depart from your hotel and transfer to the boat pier for a 2hr long-tail boat cruise upstream on the Mekong River. Observe the rugged limestone formations along its banks, as well as the abundance of green forest and fishing villages on the way.

Explore the Tham Ting and Tham Phoum Caves, better known as the Pak Ou Caves, home to thousands of miniature Buddha images in different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining. Continue by boat to the small fishing village Ban Pak Ou where lunch is served before returning to Luang Prabang either by boat or by private vehicle along an unpaved road.

On the way, stop at a minority village to learn about sticky rice production and other traditional customs. Back in town, pay a visit to the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the many ethnic groups existing in Laos both today and in the past. Observe valuable artefacts, traditional textiles and clothing, jewellery, handicraft tools, photography and household objects from the 20 ethnic minority groups which inhabit the Luang Prabang area.

Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Meals: (B, L)

Location
Luang Prabang
Day
6 / 14

Elephants' Jungle Walk

Today we bring you to one of the most amazing Elephant Sanctuaries in SE Asia – the Mandalao Reserve.

Start your elephant bonding adventure with a stroll through picturesque rice fields to a peaceful forest clearing where you can rest, relax, and eat lunch sitting on bamboo mats in traditional Lao fashion.

Journey on with the elephants to Tad Kuang Song Waterfall, named after a Golden Deer spirit seen standing on its crest many centuries ago. Feel free to take a refreshing dip in its cool waters or stand under the waterfall’s gentle flow; take your time to meditate and admire the stunning beauty of this rarely seen natural treasure.

While the elephants eat their lunch, visit a small village to encounter the Khmu, one of the many different ethnic groups living in Laos with their language and religious beliefs; they will offer you a warm welcome and proudly present their traditional handmade crafts.

After the elephants have had their fill (for now!), you and the mahouts will walk with them to their nighttime feeding grounds.

Enjoy a few moments to recall your day’s rewarding experiences as you look out at the vast Luang Prabang mountain range from the terrace at MandaLao. We will then drive you back to town.

Meals: (B)

Location
Luang Prabang
Day
7 / 14

Transfer to Vang Vieng by Road

After breakfast embark on a beautiful journey through the Laotian countryside, through valleys and passages along the Mekong River.

Arrive at your quaint hotel right at the riverbank, with the mountain ranges in sight. Take the remainder of the day to rest, enjoy the spa treatments, and immerse the beautiful surroundings.

Meals: (B)

Location
Vang Vieng
Day
8 / 14

Caves, Hills, and a Picnic

The stunning limestone mountains that tower over Vang Vieng are home to caves of all sizes and varieties just waiting to be explored.

Spend a full day trekking in the Lao countryside visiting caves and remote farms. Visit a few significant caves including Tham Chang, notable for sheltering villagers during the Chinese Haw invasion in the 19th century, and again during Laos’ civil war; Tham Hoi which winds its way deep into the mountain with a crystal clear spring at the end, swimmable when the cave is lit up by candles; and Tham Loup, the area’s most beautiful, known for its amazing stalagmites and stalactites.

Enjoy a picnic lunch at a scenic spot surrounded by limestone hills. In the afternoon, trek for two more hours, visiting an organic farm where mulberry tea and a variety of fruit wines are produced.

Return to Vang Vieng in the late afternoon.

Meals: (B, L)

Location
Vang Vieng
Day
9 / 14

The Blue Lagoon Visit

Start your day very early to visit Blue Lagoon. We will start after breakfast at the hotel.

The Blue Lagoon is a must-see for any travelers visiting Vang Vieng if only to escape the heat for a couple of hours. Located on a 25-minute car ride or 45-minute bicycle ride from town, it is a tourist spot for lazy days, having a laugh and a beer or two with your traveling buddies. Purchasing your ticket to the Blue Lagoon also buys you entrance to a nearby cave, which is commonly referred to as the ‘Golden Crab Cave’, or Phou Kham Cave, named because a few of the stalactites and stalagmites look like golden crabs. The entrance requires a steep climb up a trail before the cave dives into the ground, through a narrow entrance, and opens up into the first chamber, which is well-lit and contains a bronze reclining Buddha illuminated by a ray of sunlight.

Meals: (B)

Location
Vang Vieng
Day
10 / 14

Transfer to Vientiane and Evening Food Exploration

After relaxed breakfast embark on a 2 hours drive to the Laotian capital –  Vientiane. Arrive to your beautiful hotel and relax before the evening food adventure.

Let us take you out for an adventurous dinner safari by Tuk Tuk, the three-wheeled taxi of Laos. Enjoy a meal at a bustling Vientiane evening food market where hordes of hungry locals pick up their takeaway dinners! Visit the market to explore the interesting, traditional Lao food on offer. Select some delicious dishes and enjoy your authentic feast while watching the busy market around you.

After dinner we’ll take a short walk downtown, past local petanque courts, to visit the well-known intersection with dessert and drink night markets. Try hot soy milk, fresh juices, and some unusual local beverages such as rosella or longan drinks. There are also carts with delicious traditional Lao sweets, many made with coconut or sticky rice, and Lao-style roti with banana and coconut milk.

Return to your hotel in the late evening.

Meals: (B. L)

Location
Vientiane
Day
11 / 14

Fantastic Buddha Park

After a leisurely morning we’ll take you on a trip to the famous Buddha Park. Your guide will meet after lunch at the hotel lobby.

Park is located 25km (15mi) southeast of the city. Built in 1958, it is a fanciful sculpture garden containing more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues including a quirky giant concrete pumpkin with a three-level interior representing Hell, Earth, and Heaven.

Enter through the mouth of a 3m (10ft) tall demon head and climb staircases from Hell to Heaven. View sculptures at each level with a panoramic viewpoint at the top level. Stroll around the park to observe the many concrete sculptures scattered throughout including characters from Hindu mythology, as well as animals, humans, and demons. Most are larger than life and carved with intricate and often bizarre details.

Back to the hotel for dinner.

Meals: (B)

Location
Vientiane
Day
12 / 14

Landmarks to Vientiane Tour

Meet your guide in the morning after breakfast.

Spend a half day visiting some of Vientiane’s most significant landmarks. A world apart from other frantic Asian capitals, Vientiane retains a quiet and pleasant aura. Visit some of the city’s most notable temples or ‘wats’, including Wat Sisaket, the only temple left intact after the Siamese invasion of 1828 and famous for its cloister wall housing thousands of tiny Buddha images; Wat Phra Keo, now a museum adorned with carved wooden features, a magnificent 16th century lacquered door with Hindu carvings, numerous Khmer stone carvings and a variety of Buddha statues; and the popular Wat Si Muang with its carved gold pillars, brightly colored ceiling friezes and painted scenes from the life of the Buddha.

Also visit the Arc de Triomphe-like Patuxai Victory Monument, a war monument dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. Notice the typically Laotian elements including the half-woman half-bird mythological creatures which adorn the monument.

End the tour with a visit to That Luang, a large gold-covered Buddhist stupa in the center of Vientiane, generally regarded as the most important national monument in Laos. Return to your hotel.

Meals: (B)

Location
Vientiane
Day
13 / 14

Departure

Your guide will meet you at your hotel lobby to escort you to the airport. It’a a very short drive from your hotel, so if you wish and have time, feel free to stop on the way to pick up last local snacks and souvenirs.

Meals: (B)

Location
Vientiane
Day
14 / 14
1 / 14

Accommodations

Cruises & Lodges

Anouvong

The first boutique ship to cruise the Upper Mekong, blends Laotian art with French-Colonial style.
20 Guests
10 Cabins
View

Hotel Options

5 Star

La Residence Phou Vao Belmond

Luang Prabang
Colonia building in Laos
5 Star

Settha Palace

Vientiane
Colonial building in Laos
4 Star

Riverside Boutique Resort

Vang Vieng
Resort by the river
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