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Upper Mekong & Southern Laos

Cruise the lesser-traveled Upper Mekong river and discover seldom-visited Southern Laos' highlights.

Itinerary & Prices

14 Day / 13 Night - Upper Mekong & Southern Laos
itinerary map

Welcome onboard 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.

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.

After dinner, see the movie in the lounge!  “Chang” (Laotian for“elephant”), was shot not far away from our current location in 1927 and was made by the same producer as the first King Kong movie.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Location
Anouvong Cruise
Day
1 / 14

The Elephants and Ethnic Communities

AM: 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. 

PM: 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.

Location
Anouvong Cruise
Day
2 / 14

Pak Ou Caves and a Lao culture expert

AM: 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.

PM: 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 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.

Location
Anouvong Cruise
Day
3 / 14

Arrival to Luang Prabang and Traditional Lao Storytelling

AM: 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. Settle down and explore the town or just relax with a Laotian massage at the spa. Your guide will meet you in the early evening.

PM: 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.

Location
Anouvong Cruise to Luang Prabang
Day
4 / 14

Market Snacks and Architecture

AM: The charming town of Luang Prabang is awaiting you. You’ll be picked up by your guide early in the morning, to match the Lao lifestyle.

The morning market in Luang Prabang, lining a couple of quiet streets near the Royal Palace, starts early and is over by mid-morning. The butcher and other vendors sell goods like rice, fresh vegetables, tofu, steamed fish, frogs, chickens. Your guide will explain how the dishes are made and encourage you to sample some of the authentic snacks.

From here we’ll continue to marvel at Luang Prabang’s beautiful mix of architecture, drawing influences from both the East and the West. Enjoy a lively presentation on preservation projects, followed by a walking tour of some of the town’s architectural highlights. Wander through small streets and alleys to observe the lifestyle that the local people have maintained. If time permits, we can stop by a local home and meet the owners for a glimpse of daily life in this laid-back town.

Back to the hotel for late lunch and remains of the day at leisure.

Location
Luang Prabang
Day
5 / 14

Hill Tribe Village

Spend a full day in a Tai Lu village, an ethnic group who migrated from Yunan, China in the late 18th century. The Tai Lu have preserved much of their traditional way of life as it was before their expansion into Indochina.

Early morning 3hr drive to the small village of Ban Nayang, home to about 500 Tai Lu people. Notice the distinctive stilt houses, many with two or three weaving looms underneath. Stroll around the village and observe the women weaving and doing embroidery while the men grow wet rice using wooden equipment drawn by buffalo. Although shy by nature, the villagers are open to talking about their daily activities and life in the village. Learn more about their efforts to preserve their traditional working methods and crafts. Enjoy lunch cooked by the villagers and served in a local home. Spend the afternoon mingling with the locals and exploring more of the area before returning to Luang Prabang in mid-afternoon.

Location
Luang Prabang
Day
6 / 14

Alms Giving and Kuang Si Waterfall

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 experience!

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.

After breakfast embark on a trip to one of Luang Prabang’s most picturesque sights, the cascading Kuang Si Waterfall with electric turquoise waters. 1hr drive south of Luang Prabang, with stops at the vibrant Phousi Market and the nearby Ock Pop Tock Weaving Centre, a social enterprise working primarily in the field of textiles, handicrafts, and design. Continue to the waterfalls, and take a leisurely hike through the natural park past the Asian Bear Rescue Center. Enjoy your lunch before returning to the hotel.

It’s your last day in Luang Prabang, make sure to buy all the souvenirs and take all the photos!

Location
Luang Prabang
Day
7 / 14

Flight to Pakse and Transfer to the Lodge

This morning after breakfast and check out your driver will take you to the airport for your flight to Pakse. There you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to the beautiful secluded lodge in Champassak. Enjoy the free time and the wonderful nature around!

Location
Luang Prabang to Champassak
Day
8 / 14

Bolaven Plateau

Formed by an ancient volcano and famous for its coffee and tea plantations, the Bolaven Plateau is home to many tribal villages, some of them still practicing Stone Age culture including the use of extremely primitive agricultural tools and animal sacrifices in an animist belief system.

Depart on a short drive to the Bolaven Plateau and enjoy a full-day tour of the area starting with the Tad Lo Waterfall, a series of three falls named Tad Suong, Tad Lo, and Tad Hang.

Continue to the Tad Fane Waterfalls where lunch is served in this scenic location. Beyond the waterfall stretches the extensive jungle of Dong Hua Sao from where the perfectly synchronized twin falls originates and drop down a 200m (656ft) gorge. Walk to the impressive 42m (138ft) Tad Yeung waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation. Visit a tea and coffee plantation.

End a day at the lodge, watching a stunning sunset over the river or taking a traditional Lao massage at the spa.

Location
Champassak
Day
9 / 14

Khone Waterfalls on the Mekong

Full-day outing to explore the islands and waterfalls of the Mekong.

Take a drive 2.5hrs south towards the Cambodian border to visit the Khone Phapheng Waterfall, the main reason why the Mekong River is not navigable all the way to China. The majestic sight of the falls is a highlight of southern Laos, covering an impressive 10km (6mi) stretch of the Mekong.

Continue to the pier at Ban Nakasang and board a local boat to explore parts of Si Phan Don, the 4,000 islands on the Mekong River. Stop at the island of Don Khone.

Once a small French settlement, Don Khone features some colonial-era buildings including an old pier, a railway station, a former French hospital building, and the maritime office.

Enjoy lunch on the island, followed by an afternoon visit to the Liphi Waterfalls, nicknamed the “Corridor of the Devil”, a natural border between Laos and Cambodia. Notice how locals place fish traps at the bottom of the falls to catch fish. Later, return to the mainland and transfer back to your hotel.

Location
Champassak
Day
10 / 14

Wat Phou Ruins

Champasak – now a small town on the banks of the Mekong, is a former capital of the Kingdom of Champasak (1713–1946).

The highlight of this one-street town is the picturesque pre-Angkorian Wat Phou Temple. Built between the 6th and 13th centuries, the temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed for being an outstanding example of the integration of symbolic landscape of great spiritual significance to its natural surroundings.

Depart Pakse and drive 35km (22mi) south through the pleasant rural scenery of hills and local villages to Champasak, and explore Wat Phou.  You have the option to climb the old staircase adorned with nagas (mythical snakes) to admire the surrounding scenery.

Return to your hotel for lunch.

Location
Champassak
Day
11 / 14

Transfer to Vientiane and Night Market snacks

This morning check out from the lodge after breakfast and venture back on your private ride to Pakse airport for your flight to Vientiane, where a local guide will meet you at the arrivals hall. Transfer to the beautiful colonial hotel.

At dinner time let us take you out for an adventurous dinner safari by Tuk Tuk, the three-wheeled taxis of Laos. Enjoy a meal at a bustling Vientiane evening food market where all the hungry locals pick up their takeaway dinners! Explore the market with the interesting, traditional Lao food on offer.

After dinner we’ll take a short walk downtown, past some local petanque courts, to visit the well-known intersection that becomes thriving roadside dessert and drink markets at night. You can try hot soy milk, fresh juices, and other unusual local beverages such as rosella or longan drinks. There are also carts selling 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.

Location
Vientiane
Day
12 / 14

Buddha Park

Morning at leisure, to take it easy or explore on your own on this last day in Laos.

After lunch, your guide will meet you for a relaxing half-day exploring Vientiane’s Buddha Park located 25km (15mi) southeast of the city. Built in 1958, the park 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 Hindu characters as well as animals, humans, and demons. Most are larger than life and carved with intricate and often bizarre details.

 

Location
Vientiane
Day
13 / 14

Time to go!

Say your goodbyes and enjoy last moments in beautiful Laos. Your driver will pick you up from the hotel and take you to the airport. Safe travels home!

Location
Vientiane
Day
14 / 14
1 / 14

Accommodations

Cruises & Lodges

Anouvong on the river

Anouvong

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

Hotel Options

4 Star

La Folie Lodge

Champassak
Colonial style residence
5 Star

Settha Palace

Vientiane
Colonial building in Laos