Follow the mighty Mekong River on a cruise to the charming city of Luang Prabang, head south to the Bolaven Plateau, chase waterfalls all the way to the picturesque 4,000 Islands and the awe-inspiring Khone Phapheng Falls along the Lao-Cambodian border in the far south. Visit the fabulous pre-Angkorian Wat Phou Temple. Relish a food tour in Vientiane. Our suggested itinerary can be fully tailored in accordance with your personal wishes.
Your Mekong River Cruise
Your Upper Mekong and Pakse southern Laos tour begins as you step aboard a luxurious French-colonial-styled riverboat for a leisurely Mekong River cruise through Laos to Luang Prabang. While discovering the most beautiful, remote, areas of Laos, you will see serene nature, isolated villages and magnificent temples. 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 is a tiny city, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995; it is one of Laos’ best-loved destinations. Enjoy a captivating evening of traditional storytelling and music in an intimate theatre. Stroll through the charming town on an off-the-beaten-track walking tour, visit the morning market, admire the architecture, and meet the locals. 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. Wake up before dawn to witness and participate in offering alms to a procession of hundreds of saffron-robed monks in Luang Prabang before heading to the bright turquoise waters of the cascading Kuang Si Waterfalls. Take a leisurely hike through beautiful nature to the Asian Bear Rescue Center.
The Bolaven Plateau
Transfer to Pakse, the gateway to the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos and the Pakse waterfalls. Marvel at the coffee and tea plantations and dramatic waterfalls, and the extensive jungle of Dong Hua Sao from where the perfectly synchronized Tad Fane twin falls originate and drop down a 656ft gorge. Visit the majestic Khone Phapheng Waterfall, which is a highlight of southern Laos, covering an impressive six mile stretch of the Mekong. 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 to see the colonial-era buildings including an old pier, a railway station, a former French hospital building, and the maritime office. Later, visit the Liphi Waterfalls, a natural border between Laos and Cambodia. Head to Champasak to explore the picturesque pre-Angkorian Wat Phou Temple.
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. Your classic southern Laos itinerary ends with a visit to 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.
All tours and transport are with a private guide, with the exception of the cruise portion, which is on a shared basis with other passengers.
Itinerary & Prices
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)
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.
Meals: (B, L, D)
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, 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)
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.
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.
Lao Life Experience
Meet your guide at the hotel and depart for Naxai village, an idyllic locale situated about 8,5 km South of Luang Prabang along the tiny Nam Dohng River.
Here the local people tend to their vegetable gardens and rice paddies, leading to a self-sufficient livelihood amidst lush nature. Welcomed into his home; meet with his family and listen to his stories of growing up in this remote Lao village. Then head out into the garden to collect ingredients for lunch and help the family prepare this truly authentic meal.
After lunch, enjoy some rest before heading down to the river bank to fish for dinner! Using a fish net or fishing stack at the pound area promises some good catch. You will receive a demonstration on how to throw the fishing net before you can try it yourselves then return to the house and help prepare the meal. Be rewarded for your efforts with Lao Lao, or Lao Whiskey, a rice whiskey that nicely compliments the cooked fish.
With a full stomach, bask in the beauty of the dying light as the sun slips below the horizon, before returning to your hotel.
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!
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 your free time and the wonderful nature around you!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!