Day 1: Depart on your overnight flight to Vientiane
Day 2: Private transfer to your choice of hotel for 1 night in Vientiane
Day 3: This morning board the Pandaw Champa for the 10 night cruise. Afternoon city tour
Day 4: Cruise the Mekong passing lush jungle scenery and tiny riverside villages
Day 5: Follow the Mekong on its lazy journey to the French administrative town of Pak Lai
Day 6: Walking tour of Khamo tribal village. Pass through Xanyaburi hydro-electric dam
Day 7: A full day visiting tribal villages, Kuang Si Waterfall and overnight Luang Prabang
Day 8: Morning walking / tuk tuk tour of Luang Prabang. Afternoon free to explore
Day 9: Witness early morning alms procession and cruise north to Pak Ou Caves
Day 10: The Mekong becomes more vigourous as squeezed between towering limestone hills
Day 11: Morning Khamo village walking tour. Cruise through stunning scenery to Thai border
Day 12: Cruise upriver to Golden Triangle. Cross into Thailand at Chiang Sean town
Day 13: Transfer to Chiang Rai. Afternoon tour. Evening flight home or add nights in Thailand
Day 14: Arrive home
Day 1: UK Airport / Vientiane
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Vientiane via Bangkok or Hanoi. If you’d like to break your journey, an add-on in either is easily included.
Day 2: Arrive Vientiane
On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to the city centre where you check in to your choice of hotel for 1 night. The rest of the day is free to recover from the journey and explore the riverside city.
If you’re expecting the usual hectic Asian capital you’ll be surprised by Vientiane’s quiet, laid back atmosphere. While the city is the largest in Laos, it somehow manages to maintain its charm as it slowly develops into a modern city. The French influence is immediately evident with tree lined streets, but you’ll also see Thai, Chinese and Soviet architecture that gives the city a rare type of timelessness. Against this background artsy little cafes, restaurants and galleries are starting to spring up as the city starts its next stage of life.
Day 3: Vientiane - Board The Pandaw Cruise - City Tour (B / L / D)
This morning you'll be transferred to the river where you board the Pandaw ship for a 10 night cruise of the Laos Mekong all the way to northern Thailand. Settle in to your Upper or Main Deck cabin and then meet your fellow passengers over lunch.
This afternoon head back into Vientiane for a tour of the city’s historical highlights. Start at beautiful Wat Sisaket, whose walls are home to thousands of miniature Buddha statues and was the only temple left intact after the Siamese invasion in 1828. Then head over to Hor Pha Keo, a religious museum showcasing a fine collection of Lao and Khmer art. Continue on to Patouxai, the Victory Monument, with panoramic views of town. Finally end up at That Luang, the holiest site in Laos and its national symbol.
Back on board, set sail late afternoon. This evening enjoy a Welcome Dinner on deck.
Day 4: Cruise The Mekong (B / L / D)
Today's a day to settle back, get used to life on the water and enjoy the Mekong River and life that dots its shores. Cruise upstream passing lush jungle scenery and tiny riverside villages. Morning presentation on the Lao language. Afternoon cooking demonstration on the upper deck. Arrive in Ban Xanakham to moor overnight.
Day 5: Cruise To Pak Lai (B / L / D)
Today you cruise to the far west of Laos following the Mekong's lazy curves as it starts to slowly head north. A day well off the tourist path that includes a visit to the old French administrative town of Pak Lai with many colonial buildings and a bustling local market. Now a backwater river port that comes alive every February when it hosts the largest elephant festival in South East Asia.
Day 6: Cruise to Ban Park Bor Village (B / L / D)
Afternoon visit and walking tour of Ban Park Bor (Kmu Tribal) Village, a typical village, set on the banks of the Mekong amid lush jungle. In the afternoon pass through the Xanyaburi hydro-electric dam, one of many now making use of the Mekong's incredible power potential.
Day 7: Ban Mouang Khai Village, Kuang Si Waterfall & Luang Prabang (B / L / D)
After a lazy couple of days enjoying the beauty and tranquillity of western Laos the pace picks up (relatively!) this morning as you visit a Hmong village and continue upstream to the village of Ban Mouang Khai to learn more about traditional Lao life.
After lunch leave the ship and head out to the countryside to visit the Kuang Si Waterfall, whose multi-tiered cascading falls tumble down jagged limestone reliefs into emerald pools. Quite a climb but worth it as you can cool off with a swim in the pools. From here it's a short cruise to Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage city. This evening we'd recommend you leave the ship to explore this magical town, its buzzing night market and the many great cafes and some good local restaurants.
Day 8: Luang Prabang Morning Tour (B / L / D)
This morning enjoy a tuk tuk & walking tour of this beautifully preserved and unique world heritage site with its many Buddhist temples, libraries, royal palace and National Museum. Back to the ship for lunch, then afternoon free to further explore Luang Prabang that is home to a growing number of niche shops and galleries. If you have the energy climb up the 328 steps up Phousi Mountain for superb views of the area. Head back to the ship late afternoon to enjoy a performance of traditional Laos dancing. Moor overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 9: Luang Prabang - Alms Procession - Pak Ou Caves (B / L / D)
Today rise early for a dawn start to watch the traditional Lao rite of Almsgiving to the 300+ monks that occurs each morning. If you would like to make an offering please discuss with guide. Back on the ship enjoy breakfast as you leave Luang Prabang and head up to the Pak Ou Caves that rest high in the limestone cliffs and house thousands of Buddha statues that were hidden from the looting Chinese Haw. The caves were converted into Buddhist temples in the 15th century and are used as a site for old Buddha images that can no longer be venerated in a temple, either because they are damaged or the temple they were displayed in has been destroyed. The cruise continues until the ship moors on a sandbank for evening cocktails.
Day 10: Cruising the Mekong / Pak Beng (B / L / D)
In northern Laos the hills further confine the river and make it far more vigorous than on previous days. Today it feels that the less you see the more you experience, as the hills climb higher, the trees grow taller and river life revolves around the odd fishermen, water buffalo and perhaps one of the elephants still used for logging. There are only a few villages along the way and a stop will be made at a local Khamo village. Continue on to Pak Beng a sleepy town set on a particularly scenic stretch of the Mekong that offers great sun set river views.
Day 11: Cruise Mekong Along Thai Border - Ban Houayxay (B / L / D)
Early morning walking tour of a Khamo village then cruise through stunning scenery to the border of Laos and Thailand. The night is spent on the Lao side in the Huay Xay area where you'll take a late afternoon village walk.
Day 12: Cruise to Chiang Saen & Golden Triangle (B / L / D)
Cruise upriver to the town of Chiang Saen for the border crossing into Thailand. Once one of the major cities of the Lanna kingdom, it served as the capital before King Mengrai established Chiang Rai in 1262. The town was captured by the Burmese in the 16th century and sacked by King Rama I in 1803. Left a ghost town for a hundred years it remains a back water, but scratch under the surface and you'll still find traces of its impressive past.
The Golden Triangle is in Chiang Rai Province, in the far north of Thailand. The landscape is hilly, divided by the Ruak River that flows into the Mekong River. These rivers form a natural boundary between Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. This evening enjoy farewell cocktails and a performance of Thai traditional dancing with dinner to celebrate your final evening on the Mekong.
Day 13: Cruise Finishes (B) - Fly Home
After breakfast disembark and enjoy a short tour of the Golden Triangle including a visit to the opium museum.
From here there are a range of options either transferring to Chiang Rai airport to fly home, add a stay in Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai, or perhaps fly down to your choice of Thai beach. This can be discussed when we put the quote together. Assuming you choose to fly home you will arrive home the following morning.
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas International airport departure taxes if payable locally
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Hotels in Vientiane
The delightfully friendly Capital is the perfect place to start a holiday in Laos
Mekong Laos Pandaw Ship
There's no better way of experiencing life on the Mekong than by joining a river cruise