Day 1: Arrive in Vientiane - Visit Local Highlights - Vientiane (L)
Arrive at Vientiane airport, and after customs & immigration formalities, transfer with your guide to your hotel for check in and Lunch. In the afternoon, you will enjoy a city tour to Wat Sisaket with its thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Other sites you will see include the huge golden That Luang monument, and next door, Vientiane's own Victory Monument, which looks like the Arc de Triomphe. This was built at the end of the Indochina wars with money rumored to be American, and earmarked for the airport’s new runway. Thus the departing Americans dubbed this monument the vertical runway! Have a look at the lovely arches inside the monument. Also visit Wat Simuang and Wat Prakeo, which was the original home of the famous Emerald Buddha, which today lives in Bangkok. There are many excellent restaurants in Vientiane, and you will easily find something to suit your taste. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 2: Luang Prabang - Around World Heritage Site Temples & The Town of Luang Prabang (B, L)
Surrounded by thickly forested mountains and situated at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang has a tranquil, old world charm rarely found in Asia today. This fascinating town was the capital of the Lane Xang (million elephants) kingdom until the mid-sixteenth century. In colonial times it served as a provincial headquarters of the north. The legacy of the European presence here - well preserved French architecture and careful street planning – has blended delightfully with more than 30 gilded Buddhist temples to create a town rich in atmosphere and history. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the morning flight to the former Royal capital. Your guide will meet you at the airport and bring you to your hotel. To check in before taking you to a local restaurant to try the local cuisine for lunch! Welcome to Luang Prabang! Your guide will meet you upon arrival at the airport and bring you to your hotel. Then enjoy a half-day spin around Luang Prabang and you will understand why it deserves the World Heritage title! Visit Wat Visoun, the site of impressive Thad Makmo stupa. The rounded dome is stylistically more Sinhalese than Lao. Phou Si hill stands right in the center of this small city. Climb its 350 steps to enjoy commanding views for many miles in each direction. Wat Phou Si sits atop the mountain, along side the skeletons of Indochina war anti-aircraft guns! Then continue on to visit Wat Mai. Built in 1796, the five-tiered roof of the wooden Sim (chapel) epitomizes the graceful Luang Prabang architectural style. Wat Xieng Thong further emphasizes & characterizes the uniqueness of Luang Prabang, its several roofs sweeping low to the ground. See also the impressive "tree of life" mosaic here. The gilt panel on the exterior of the royal funerary carriage house depicts episodes from the Ramayana. Then visit the National Museum, once a king's palace, where displayed inside is a lovely collection of personal artifacts of the royal family, including photos, musical instruments, and many gifts received from the dignitaries of foreign countries. Also peruse the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, a private museum recently opened to explain about the livelihoods of Laos’ ethnic minorities. You’ll learn many interesting facts about the tribal peoples of Northern Laos. This town is wonderful for walking, and today’s excursion will help to give you your bearings! Spend the rest of the day exploring or relaxing on your own. You can find dinner at any number of clean & delicious international restaurants. Lao beer is an excellent pilsner, and many types of French wine are also available at reasonable prices. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 3: Luang Prabang Tours (B, L)
If you wish, get an early start (6:00am or so) and go watch or participate in the traditional Lao rite of Almsgiving to the monks. In the city, some 300+ monks file through silently collecting alms. This is an amazing sight and your guide will be on hand to demonstrate and explain this important ritual. Return to your hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, begin a Mekong Riverboat trip with your guide on the mighty Mekong River to visit the famous & sacred Pak Ou Buddha Caves. These caves, overlooking the confluence of the Mekong & Ou Rivers from on high, have been home to many thousands of Buddha images that were placed here by local people since 16th century, when King Setthathirat found the caves and declared them a holy spot. Today many still pay respect with this old tradition. Walk through the caves before returning to your boat and to Luang Prabang town. Enjoy lunch en route. Return to the hotel to relax or explore on your own. Luang Prabang is a wonderful walking town, and you can find dinner on your own at any number of fine international restaurants. Tonight, if you’d like, have your guide escort you to the local nightlife spot – Muang Swa. Part 50s prom, part 70s disco and very Lao. Places like this are rapidly disappearing in the world. Learn charming Lao circle dancing (Lamvong) techniques! You’ll have to go early though; all nightlife in Laos shuts down at 11:30pm. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 4: Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfall - Next Destination (B, L)
After breakfast, drive with your guide by car to the Kuang Si Waterfall. The falls cascade over many calcified tiers and down several hundred feet into a series of cool, turquoise pools. The water here has a clear blue-green tint due to the high mineral content. You can climb the stairs and look down from various high viewpoints on the way to the top! Bring a bathing suit if you’d like to swim. Afterwards, transfer to the airport for your flight onward. End of services. Our staff will give you the warmest goodbye and hope to see you again