Laos & Cambodia - 18 days

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lao-cambodiaFly from to Luang Prabang and spend time in this beautiful city. Head to  Pakse. Follow the Mekong, explore the Khmer temple of Wat Phou and travel by car and boat to Khong Islands, to Asia’s largest waterfalls, and explore this quaint island by biking.

 

Immerse yourself in the rich cultures and breathtaking natural beauty of Laos and Cambodia on an 18-day adventure that covers all the highlights of both mystical countries. Your journey starts in Laos, visiting Luang Prabang’s enchanting temples and the eclectic capital, Vientiane. Travel south to Pakse to explore the ancient Khmer temple Wat Phu, then continue down the Mekong to Si Phan Don, home to Asia’s largest waterfall. Cross the border and drive south to Kratie to see the Irrawaddy dolphins, visit the river port of Kompong Cham and explore the urban bustle of Phnom Penh. Our journey ends in Siem Reap with a tour of the ancient Khmer temples.

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ITINERARY
Day 1: Luang Prabang Arrival

Welcome to Luang Prabang! Situated where the Nam Khan River meets the Mekong, this fabled city is the former capital of Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its lantern lit streets lined with a mix of faded colonial mansions and sparking mosaic temples; this city is known to enchant its visitors. Our driver and guide will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Enjoy a short city tour to acquaint you with the sites of this small, charming town. Visit the impressive Wat Xieng Stupa, the National Musuem, Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Mai. In the evening, we climb to the top of Phousi Mountain to explore the sacred, gilded stupa and watch the sunset over the city and winding Mekong River. Return to town and explore the Night Market, where you can find an expansive collection of textiles, hand-woven by the local hill tribe peoples.
Accommodations: Hotel in Luang Prabang
Meals: Breakfast
Day 2: Luang Prabang – Kuang Si Falls
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel then drive out of town to visit Kaung Si: an impressive waterfalls, cascading over calcified tiers and down several hundred feet into a series of sparkling, turquoise pools.  Climb the stairs and to enjoy various views of the falls.  En route, stop for a short visit to a Black Hmong Village and learn about their daily life and living conditions. Return to Luang Prabang in the late afternoon.
Accommodations: Hotel in Luong Prabang
Meals: Breakfast
Day 3: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Cave
Spend the day discovering some of Luang Prabang’s most famous sites. After breakfast, take a guided tour of the city’s oldest temples:  Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong—representative of classical Laotian architecture.  After our tour, board a boat for a cruise up the Mekong, enjoying beautiful views of the tranquil countryside on our journey to the mysterious Pak Ou caves. Stop along the way at the Ban Xanghai village, famous for its homemade rice wine. Arrive at Pak Ou in the afternoon and explore these mysterious caverns, filled with thousands of gold-lacquered Buddhas. Return to Luang Prabang in the evening.  
Accommodations: Hotel in Luang Prabang
Meals: Breakfast
Day 4: Luang Prabang – Vientiane
Today we fly from Luang Prabang to Laos’s capital, Vientiane.  Enjoy a free day to relax and explore the city at your leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel in Vientiane
Meals: Breakfast
Day 5: Vientiane – City Tours
Enjoy a full day touring Laos’s capital city. With its wide boulevards unclogged by traffic and many golden temples, this sleepy city hardly feels like a modern capital. After breakfast, start your tour with the city’s oldest temple, Wat Sisaket—filled with thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Then explore the former royal temple, Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha. En route to the famous That Luang Stupa, stop to visit the imposing Patuxay Monument, known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. We conclude out tour with a trip to Bna Nong Bua Thong textile village.
Accommodations: Hotel in Vientiane   
Meals: Breakfast
Day 6: Vietntiane—Pakse
Today we fly to Champasak Province in Southwest Laos: a sleepy agricultural region characterized by rolling plains and alluvial lowlands. Arrive at the Pakse airport in the late morning. Our driver and guide will meet you at the arrival gate and take you on the short drive to your hotel.  Pakse, the former French capital of Southern Laos, is a quirky town, built on the confluence of the Mekong and Se Don rivers and characterized by its faded colonial buildings. Take a guided walking tour to visit some of the local markets then spend the rest of the day at your leisure, drinking in the charm of this quiet capital.
Accommodations: Hotel in Pakse
Meals: Breakfast
Day 7: Pakse—Champasak
Wake early and have breakfast at the hotel then board a boat for a float down the Mekong to Champasak: a sleepy one-horse town that was once the location of the bustling capital of an ancient Lao kingdom. Check in at the hotel then head out of town to visit the ancient Hindu temple, Wat Phu. Wat Phu, meaning “temple on the mountain” is a 6th century Khmer monument aptly built atop a hill overlooking the winding Mekong River. Spend the morning exploring this ancient temple before returning to Champasak for lunch. After lunch we board a boat for a short float down the Mekong to Wat Nyutthitham, a less visited Khmer temple. Return to Champasak in the late afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day relaxing by the riverside.
Accommodations: Hotel in Champasak
Meals: Breakfast
Day 8: Champasak—Si Phan Don
Today we drive to Si Phan Don an archipelago of sandy, palm-topped islands in the midst of the Mekong River. Transfer by boat to Don Khong—Si Phan Don’s largest island—and check in at the hotel.  Then spend the day on a boat trip exploring this tropical archipelago, heading to Don Det and Don Khon to spot the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins and visit the thundering Khon Phapheng Falls, where millions of liters of water crash per second over the rocks. Return to Don Khong in the afternoon and relax beneath the swaying palms as the fireflies dance above tranquil waters.
Accommodations: Hotel on Don Khong
Meals: Breakfast
Day 9: Don Khong—Si Phan Don
Enjoy an entire day basking in Si Phan Don’s languid charm. Have breakfast at the hotel then take a short bike tour of Don Khong to discover authentic island life. Have lunch at a riverside restaurant and then enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure, soaking in the peace and tranquility of Si Phan Don.
Accommodations: Hotel on Don Khong
Meals: Breakfast
Day 10: Don Khong—Stung Treng—Kratie
Today we travel across the border into Cambodia. Have breakfast at the hotel then set out on a drive through the lush Mekong River landscape. Stop across the border in Strung Treng for a tea break then continue on our scenic drive deeper into Cambodia.  Arrive in Kratie in the afternoon and check-in at your hotel. Take a short drive to the north of town and take a local boat to view the freshwater dolphins that inhabit this stretch of the Mekong. Enjoy an hour on the river, before returning to the quaint French colonial town for the evening.     
Accommodations: Hotel in Kratie
Meals: Breakfast
Day 11: Kratie - Kompong Cham
Follow the path of the meandering Mekong on our drive from Kratie to Kompong Cham: a sleepy riverside city and former French trading post. Arrive in Kompong Cham in time for lunch then take a relaxing walking tour to visit Wat Nokor Pagoda, an 11th century Mahayana Buddhist shrine and home to a large reclining Buddha as well as many carved Buddha images. Next take the ferry or walk across the seasonal bamboo bridge to visit Koh Paen, a rural island in the middle of the Mekong. Return to Kompong Cham in the evening.
Accommodations: Hotel in Kompong Cham
Meals: Breakfast
Day 12: Kompong Cham—Phnom Penh
Today we continue our drive down the NH7 to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s vibrant and bustling capital city. Despite its recent turbulent history, Phnom Penh’s wide tree-lined boulevards and faded colonial mansions hold an undeniable charm. We arrive in Phonm Penh in the afternoon, have lunch and check in at the hotel. Enjoy some free time to rest and freshen up before driving to the dock to catch an evening boat cruise along the Mekong River and watch the sunset over the shimmering lights of Phnom Penh.
Accommodations: Hotel in Phnom Penh
Meals: Breakfast
Day 13: Phnom Penh – City Tour – Royal Palace
Phnom Penh was founded in the 14th century and has long been a vital trading hub at the confluence of three rivers: the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac.  Start the day learning about the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia’s recent history on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the notorious Choeung Ek “Killing Fields.” In the afternoon, try out your best bargaining skills on a walk through the city’s expansive “Russian Market,” where you can find anything from motorcycle parts to pirated DVDs and valuable gems. Our cultural tour continues as we visit the National Museum—an excellent introduction into ancient Khmer art and civilization—and the Royal Palace, home to the royal family and the opulent silver pagoda.
Accommodations: Hotel in Phnom Penh
Meals: Breakfast
Day 14: Phnom Penh—Siem Reap
After breakfast our driver and guide will meet you at your hotel and take you on the 5 hour drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. The journey offers an excellent opportunity to observe rural Cambodia up-close. Stop along the way and visit a market, where every assortment of street food is available, including the Khmer favorite: fried spiders! Once you arrive in Siem Reap, check in at your hotel then enjoy lunch at one of the city’s many downtown restaurants. In the afternoon head to the Happy Ranch Horse Farm (located 10min outside of the city center) and take a trail ride through Siem Reap’s serene countryside. Horse cart rides are also available as an alternative option.
*During the rainy season (May-October), you can also choose to take a speedboat up the Mekong from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Or for an extra $70 per person travel by flight.*
Accommodations: Hotel in Siem Reap
Meals: Breakfast
Day 15: Discover Angkor Temples
Enjoy an entire day dedicated to discovering the mysterious Angkor temples. Wake before dawn and take a tuk-tuk ride to visit the jungle-entwined temple, Ta Prohm, at sunrise. Dawn is one of the most beautiful and haunting times to visit the temples, whose ancient sandstone blocks are gilded gold by the early morning rays.  Return to the hotel for breakfast then set back out on a full day temple tour.  Starting with the magnificent Angkor Wat— the largest Khmer temple and finest example of Angkorian art and architecture—, we proceed to Angkor Thom’s imposing South Gate, topped with the four serenely smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara. Next, visit Bayon temple, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King. We conclude our tour with an evening blessing ceremony at Angkor Wat.
Accommodations: Hotel in Siem Reap
Meals: Breakfast
Day 16: Rolous Group – Lunch in Village – Beng Mealea
Today we visit some of the oldest temples in the Angkor complex. After breakfast drive out of town to the ancient capital of King Indravarman I (877-889), now referred to as the Rolous Group and known as the birthplace of classical Khmer art and architecture.  Stop for lunch at a local village then continue on to visit the incredible jungle-covered temple: Beng Mealea. This distant temple is a gem in the midst of the jungle; half strangled with vines and decorated by lichen, Beng Mealea is the true adventure experience. On the way back to Siem Reap, visit a shadow puppet workshop and enjoy a traditional performance put on by the “Little Angels” orphanage and school. Return to Siem Reap in the late afternoon.
Accommodations: Hotel in Siem Reap  
Meals: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 17: Kulen Waterfalls– Banteay Srei – Preah Khan Temple
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel then set off to the tranquil countryside around Kulen Mountain—the Khmer Empire’s capital in the early 9th century. Here we visit countless ancient temples, the River of 1000 Lingas, a reclining Buddha and cascading waterfalls.  After lunch drive to Banteay Srei, home to Angkor’s finest stone carvings, followed by Preah Khan (Sacred Sword): one of Angkor’s largest temples, constructed in the 12th century by Jayavarman VII.
Accommodations: Hotel in Siem Reap
Meals: Breakfast
Day 18: Old market – Departure
After breakfast, explore the Psar Chass, also known as the “Old Market,” for some last minute souvenir shopping, before driving to the airport to catch your departure flight home. Bon voyage!
Accommodations: N/A
Meals: Breakfast

 

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