We are pleased to offer this new 12 day tour of Laos. Although Nathan has previously run tours In Laos this first tour will be treated as a research tour as we will road test a new itinerary that includes quite a few new locations. A research tour does not have any formal workshops but it is offered at a discounted price and as always Nathan will be on hand to offer photographic advice and guidance.
Nathan will lead you on a journey through Laos along the Mekong from Luang Prabang to the 4000 Islands near the Cambodian border. Luang Prabang is an UNESCO World Heritage site and deservedly appears in the many of the top favourite Asian destination lists. With its combination of highly decorative temples, traffic free streets, French colonial architecture, delicious food and the famous procession of hundreds of saffron robed monks, Luang Prabang offers you a wealth photographic highlights. The temperatures average in the low 20’s°C throughout the country making it a comfortable time to visit. It is in the rainy season, Nathans favourite, which is a gift for fellow photographers with unbelievably green paddy fields, the classic limestone karsts and dramatic skies. The region's waterfalls are almost at their best by August and southern highlights such as the 4000 Islands and Champasak also remain very accessible and enjoyable. Along the way you will visit many local villages where you will get the chance to engage with the various Lao tribes. Laos is also a land of caves and temples. You will visit many of these on the route we take.
Day 1: Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw
On your arrival into Luang Prabang airport, your guide and private car will pick you up and drive you approximately 3.5 hours to Nong Khiaw. In the aftrenoon Nathan will lead a walk around the picturesque town of Nong Khiaw finishing with sunset shots from the bridge.
Day 2: Nong Khiaw – Hill tribe trek
After breakfast we board a local boat upstream on the Nam Ou River. This stretch of the river offers beautiful scenery and great photo opportunities. We make a stop at a number of minority villages en route (including Ban Sop Khing and Ban Sop Jaem), that are only accessible by boat. We also visit the fishing village of Muang Ngoi around lunchtime and a walk around before arriving back in Nong Khiaw by late afternoon.
Day 3: Luang Prabang –City Tour
After breakfast, we transfer by road back to Luang Prabang arriving there by midday. In the afternoon enjoy a walking tour of the city, beginning with quaint Royal Palace Museum, which gives a good overview of the local history. We then begin our walking tour taking in some the cities most beautiful structures, including the country’s most historic and enchanting temple Wat Xiengthong, We also visit Wat Siphouthabath, which serves as a monk school, where you will have the opportunity to chat with a young monk learning about their daily life and offering some wonderful photo opportunities. Late afternoon, climb Mount Phousi, which offers a spectacular sunset and a panoramic
view over Luang Prabang and the Mekong River. End the day with an exploration of the famous Night Market, which offers some great photo opportunities.
Day 4: Luang Prabang
This morning we will witness and partake in the daily morning ritual of ‘Tak Bat’ or giving alms to the monks. This is a unique ritual still followed by the locals in Luang Prabang. We can also visit the local fresh market to see how the locals shop, before returning to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, we drive out of the town where you have the option of stopping to visit Khmu, Hmong and Lao Loum villages, representing the main ethnic groups of Laos. This then takes us to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall where you can take great shots and cool off with a refreshing swim in the turquoise pool or walk along the forest trails. Next to the falls is a Bear Rescue Centre which does a great job in protecting and rehabilitating the rare Asiatic Black Bear. We then return to Luang Prabang by early afternoon where you have the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 5. Luang Prabang – Tak Bat & Explore by bicycle
This morning, make another early visit to watch the alms giving. Your guide will be able to pick out a more secluded spot that few tourists get to see. After breakfast we begin our exploration of Luang Prabang by bicycle. We visit the unique Wat Mai, with its five tiered roof and Wat Visoun, known as ‘The Water Melon Stupa’ due to its shape. We also visit the excellent Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre which gives us a great insight into the ethnic mix and culture of Laos.
In the afternoon we cycle out to Ban Hat Hien, a traditional black smith village, then out towards Ban Don Kao, a Lao Loum village. The dirt road then follows the Mekong River, and we reach Ban Xangkhong, a weaving village. We then visit Wat Xienglek, an old stupa, and cross the bridge over the Nam Khan River. Our final stop is the climb up Wat Phonphao, sat atop a hill offering beautiful views over Luang Prabang and the surrounding countryside. We then return by bicycle to your hotel.
Day 6: Vientiane
Transfer to the airport early this morning for your flight to Vientiane.
Your tour begins with the oldest wat in Vientiane, Wat Sisaket with thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which now serves as a museum of arts and antiques. Nearby is the Presidential Palace. Although you are not allowed to visit inside, you get a good glimpse into the city’s colonial past. We also visit Wat Simuang, one of the most popular and sacred temples in Vientiane and That Dam or the ‘Black Stupa’ located in the heart of the city. In the afternoon travel up Lanexang Avenue you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxai Monument, which resembles its Parisian inspiration, the Arc de Triomphe. The climb to the top offers great views over Vientiane. We continue onwards down Rue Singha 23 to Laos’ National icon, and most important religious building, the golden stupa of That Luang. End the day with a stroll along the Mekong Riverfront, which really comes alive in the late afternoon and early evening with locals gathering for exercise along the riverfront promenade and also to enjoy the sunset.
Day 7. Vientiane – drive to Hin Boun
You will be driven south along route 13 to the central Lao province of Khammoune. En route we stop at Prabaht Ponsan, a stupa dating back to the 15th Century, which is also home to the Budhha's footprint, left when, as legend has it, he was crossing the Mekong. Following lunch we make stop at the interesting Ban Thong Na Mee Hmong Market, then continue onwards into Khammoune province and into the mountainous area, where a stop at a view point near Khoun Kham offers a breathtaking view over the karst scenery, or ‘limestone forest’. Our last stop of the day is Ban Thabuk, the ‘bomb boat village’ where they use old bomb casings from the Vietnam War as boats. We eventually reach Hin Boun area by late afternoon, where you have the rest of the day at leisure or to take in the beautiful river and paddy field scenery.
Day 8. Hin Boun – Kong Lor Cave - Thakek
After breakfast at your lodge, we drive to Kong Lor village and board a small local boat into the famous Kong Lor Cave. We navigate through the cave, which is over 7km long and includes a spectacular cavern over 100m high, as well as a breathtaking stalagmite gallery which you can explore on foot. On the other side of the cave, we take a short walk past some tobacco drying huts to Ban Pon Ngam, a remote village.
Return back through the cave by boat, and in the afternoon transfer directly by car to Thakek, arriving there by late afternoon, in time for a stroll along the riverfront to enjoy a sunset over the Mekong.
Day 9. Thakek – Buddha Cave – Savannakhet
This morning we leave Thakek and stop to visit Tham Pa Fa or Buddha cave, which was rediscovered in April 2004. The cave contains 229 bronze Buddhas that are said to be over 300 years old. The cave is incredibly picturesque, situated high up in a limestone cliff, which offers great views from the top. We continue by road south and arrive in Savannakhet by midday and check into your hotel. In the afternoon, we have time to admire the old French Quarter of Savannakhet as well as the sacred That Inhang stupa, before heading out of the town to visit Soundra Salt Factory, for an interesting tour on local salt production methods.
Day 10: Savannakhet - Champasak
This morning we get back on the road again, heading south to Champasak. En route we stop at a village market famed for its delicious grilled chicken before moving onto Don Khor, a village specializing in Buddha carvings for temples. We also take a short boat ride onto the Mekong River to discover Don Kho a rarely visited island which includes some traditional houses and an ornate temple. Arrive in Pakse around lunchtime and in the afternoon continue to Champasak, arriving there midafternoon. They’ll be time to explore the fading colonial architecture in this small charming town.
Day 11. Champasak – 4000 Islands – Khone Island
Wake up early this morning and leave the hotel at 5.30am for a unique visit to Wat Phou, an ancient Khmer religious complex dating back to the 5th Century. This dramatically sited temple offers a stunning sunset view, and at this time in the morning it will be deserted. Return to your hotel by around 8am for breakfast. Following breakfast, we cross the Mekong River and drive south for 2 hours to Ban Hatsaikhone. Here we board a local private boat for a boat tour of the 4000 Islands. We reach the picturesque island of Don Khone by lunchtime, and in the afternoon explore the island by bicycle, tracing the route of an old abandoned railway and admiring some of the old French Colonial buildings, and the beautiful Liphi Waterfall. We then continue to the far tip of the island and from here we take a boat onto the Mekong to one of the few places in the world where it is possible to see freshwater dolphins. They reside in deep pools near the Cambodia border, and if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of them. We then return to the hotel by early evening.
Day 12: Departure-Pakse
Today you will be transferred to Pakse airport for your departure flight or to continue to Cambodia.
Please Note: Itinerary days may be subject to changes or variations.