Day 1: Luang Prabang arrival
On arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to check in the hotel. You are then free to stroll around the town. Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 2: Kuang Si waterfall
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. After breakfast, we visit Royal Palace Museum, which hosts a range of interesting artifacts. Our next stop in the city is the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. We will also take a look at the Traditional Art & Ethnology Center to learn about the many Lao ethnic groups. We then visit Wat Visoun, dating back to 1513 during the reign of King Wisunarat (Visoun), this is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple and was once home to the Prabang Buddhas.
Laos is also known for its traditional crafts, we will take a short visit to the Ock Pop Tock Living Craft Center, where you will have a short tour so you get information about Silk, about weaver, about the Women that work in the Centre. This then takes us to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the pools or walk along the forest trails.
Before returning to Luang Prabang, we stop to visit the Kuang Si Falls Butterfly Park (closed on Tuesday), one of the must-visit spots, where you can have an optional 15 minute tour to learn about butterflies and local flora. You will also visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay, a Hmong village, Ban Ou a Laoloum village and Ban Thapene, a Khmu village. Arriving in Luang Prabang, we ascend the 329 steps to the top of Phousi Hill for a beautiful sunrise view of the city and its glowing reflection on the Mekong River. Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 3 Pak Ou Caves & Nonh Khiaw
Today we begin our boat up the Nam Ou, enjoying the lush green forests and landscape. We will be able to stop off at a few villages and admire the breathtaking limestone karst scenery. Along the way we stop to visit the mysterious caves of Pak Ou, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by devoted pilgrims.
After visiting the caves, we will hop on the car and continue the transfer to Nong Khiaw, the small town along the lazy Nam Ou River. After lunch (your own account), visit the historical cave of Phathok. The Nong Khiaw villagers used this cave as a war shelter during the “Secret War”, to shelter people from bombs dropped in the region. It is about a 30 minute gentle walk from Nong Khiaw town and takes you through beautiful scenery. Learn more about a secret part of the Lao history and explore the historical caves with your guide.
From the cave you will have a beautiful view of rice paddies and the valley. Walk back to Nong Khiaw along a small path through the rice paddies. Enjoy the sunset over the river. There is a choice of local restaurants within walking distance. Overnight in Nong Khiaw.
Day 4 Adventure in Nonh Khiaw
We begin at 8am and start off by boarding a local Longboat and head off upstream through some fantastic landscape before making our first stop of the day at a small riverside village. Here we take some time to look around and if during a weekday pay the local school a visit to see the charming children as they take part in their classes.
After this we continue onwards to Tad Mork which is located close to the ethnic Khmu village of Ban Sop Kong, an hour trek from the river. At the waterfall we shall have time to swim and enjoy a picnic lunch. After enjoying our time at the waterfall we head back to the river where to return back to Nong Khiaw via boat. We will head off down the river through a narrow gorge where we stop at another small but fascinating village. Short stop on the return journey at Muang Ngoy, which sits nestled amongst some amazing scenery! This small town has long been famous amongst backpackers yet remains truly unspoilt! If there is time we can stop for a drink at one of the riverside restaurants before the return journey down the river back to Nong Khiaw.
Day 5 Vieg Thong
Today, we will drive through the most rural and least developed part of Laos via Vieng Kham to Vieng Thong. These back roads are a perfect way to venture off the beaten track and explore the real Laos. We see very few other travelers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. The drive can be challenging on some parts of our journey due to poor road conditions; however the verdant and rugged mountain scenery combined with the colorful local population makes for a memorable experience.
Upon arrival in Vieng Thong, we will drive further to the Khmu village of Ban Son Keua, which is the entrance to the Nam Et – Phou Louei NPA. We will have dinner and spend the night at the host family in Ban Son Keua.
Day 6 Adventure to Nam Nern
Depart for the Nam Et-Phou Louey National protected area. Here you will experience the Nam Nern Night Safari and stay in a simple ecolodge, all of which has been developed with the local community. Learn about wildlife conservation, medicinal plants, traditional agriculture and the history of the Secret War from your local Khmu guide.
Upon arrival at Ban Son Koua, an ethnic Khmu Village, village guides and boatmen will meet you and take you on a short tour of the village where you will learn about the animist tradition of appeasing the village spirit. Then embark on a 1.5 hour journey to the park substation on the Nam Nern River by long-tail boat, along the way learning about upland rice cultivation and having opportunities to spot monitor lizards and bird life.
After arriving at the park substation, you will enjoy a lunch prepared by the village cooking group. After lunch, receive a briefing by park staff about the on-the-ground efforts in protecting tigers and their prey. Around the middle of the afternoon you will depart for the night safari. Stopping near a salt lick, you will hike into the forest. Your local guide, a skilled hunter and tracker, will explain how local people track deer and other wild ungulates. The guides point out evidence of wildlife, such a tracks or scat at the salt lick. The boats will continue upriver to the dinner site, a sandy, flat bank, where you will have a picnic dinner around a campfire. After dinner, your guides tell Khmu folktales and stories about dragons, wildlife, and ghosts. They educate you about the species of animals they may see during the spotlighting and explain the rules and expectations for spotlighting.
Depending on the amount of moonlight, depart for the night spotlighting 1-2 hours after dark, floating down river with engines off. There is only one light per boat. Only guides use the light, to avoid scaring the animals. The guides and boat drivers communicate via hand signals to avoid talking that might disturb the animals. The boat is very quiet so as not to disturb the animals. Animals that may be seen include Sambar Deer, Otters, and Barking Deer, various species of Civets, Slow Loris, Porcupine and Owls (Hogbadgers, Asian golden cat and wild dogs have also been seen).
At the end of the spotlighting, the boats arrive at the evening camp. Before going to bed you will be able to check out a variety of insects attracted to the black light set up near the substation. Stay overngiht in Nam Nern
Day 7 Vieng Xai
Before breakfast, local guides take you on a walk around the jungle, teaching about the use of some medicinal plants and explaining the history of the site, which was once a major settlement during the Secret War. After breakfast, the boats float back through the core zone at a relaxing pace with engines off, while the guides point out wildlife along the way. Upon arrival in the village, you are invited to try earthen jar rice wine (lao hai).
From Ban Son Keua, we will continue driving to Vieng Xai. Along the way, we will take a short visit to the Standing Stone of Hingtang, whose purposes still remain the mystery. We continue to drive to Tad Saleuy, which is still fresh, and not popular to tourism. We arrive in the town of Viengxai late afternoon, check in your basic guesthouse. Overnight in Viengxai town
Day 8 Nameo Departure
The town of Viengxay contains hundreds of caves which sheltered local people and the country’s future leaders for a vital period in world history.In the 1960s Laos was caught up in the conflict known to the world as the Vietnam War. For nine years, from 1964 to 1973, more than 20,000 people lived in a ‘hidden city’ they built inside the limestone peaks all around the area to try to survive daily aircraft bombing raids directed by US forces.
They were only able to farm or work at night, so inside the caves they built everything they needed for their society to survive, including schools, hospitals, markets, a radio station and the headquarters of the Lao Patriotic Front – also known as the Pathet Lao. Take the audio tour that tells the story of the ‘hidden city’ through the history that created it and interviews with local people and discover the area’s beauty as well as its fascinating hidden history. End of the trip. Transfer to border with Vietnam or go back to Vientiane.