25 October 2016
This eight-day tour is a perfect way to get to know the beautiful country of Laos. You'll visit exquisite temples and palaces, take a cruise along the Mekong river, learn more about the country's history and have plenty of chances to visit local markets, shops and restaurants.
Your tour begins in the city of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, close to the borders with both Laos and Myanmar (Burma), and known as the gateway to the Golden Triangle. You'll be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel, where you'll have some time at leisure before welcome drinks and a briefing with your tour leader and the rest of your group.
After breakfast this morning you'll drive towards Thailand's border with Laos at the Mekong, where you'll board a boat for a river cruise. This is your chance to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful countryside and scenes of local river life unfold for a leisurely six or seven hours. You'll arrive at the bustling village of Pakbeng in the late afternoon and check into your lodge before visiting the colourful local fruit and vegetable market.
You'll enjoy another full day of cruising the Mekong today, with two spectacular stops en route. Your first is at the Pak Ou Caves, home to thousands of stunning Buddha statues, and the second at the impressive UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Luang Prabang, Laos' former royal capital. Here you'll disembark at the Royal Jetty, check into your accommodation, then head out to enjoy the traditional local or French cuisine at one of the town's many restaurants.
You'll spend an unforgettable day today exploring beautiful Luang Prabang, admiring the well-preserved French architecture and gilded Buddhist temples. Your tour begins at the Royal Palace Museum, takes in the stunning Wat Mai temple, then visits the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. You'll then head to Xieng Thong temple, renowned as the most beautiful temple in Laos, set at the junction of the Nam Kham and Mekong rivers. After lunch, you'll have the afternoon at leisure to explore Luang Prabang's boutiques and cafes, before an early-evening trip by electric trolley to enjoy a game of petanque.
You'll set off early this morning to see the robed Buddhist monks collecting alms, then visit the local market, before returning to your hotel for a delicious breakfast of freshly-made noodles. Next you'll travel to the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls, where you can swim in the turquoise waters, surrounded by lush jungle. You'll also visit a nearby bear sanctuary to see Asiatic black bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. You'll return to Luang Prabang for lunch, then you'll have some time at leisure before heading to Tamarind cooking school, where you'll learn about traditional Lao ingredients and help prepare tonight's mouth-watering dinner.
This morning you'll fly to Vientiane and begin exploring the largest city in Laos. You'll visit the magnificent Patuxai war memorial and the COPE Centre, which provides prosthetic limbs, to learn more about the horrors of the Indochina war. As the sun sets this evening, you'll have the chance to visit the city's vibrant night market, and to dine at one of the many excellent restaurants.
You'll continue exploring Vientiane today, beginning with coffee in a local café and a chance to learn more about the local coffee industry. Next you'll head to That Luang, the most important monument in Laos, to admire its gleaming golden stupa, then it's on to Wat Sisaket, Vientiane's oldest original temple, built in 1818. You'll pass Haw Pha Kaew, the former royal temple, then visit the National Museum to learn about the Laotian struggle for independence from France and the rise of the Pathet Lao communists. This afternoon you have some more time at leisure – a perfect chance to pick up some last-minute gifts and souvenirs or just relax back at your hotel and perhaps take a refreshing dip in the pool. Your final day in Laos comes to an end with a traditional Lao Baci farewell ceremony in a local house, followed by a feast of traditional jaew dips and sticky rice.
Your trip comes to an end today as you're transferred to the airport for your journey home.
Classic fr £1279pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated