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HIDDEN TRAILS OF LAOS


Hotel Taj Chandela, Khajuraho

Day 1: Pakse - Champasak
Your journey begins in Pakse, at the confluence of the Mekong and Don Rivers. On arrival you will transfer directly to your riverside boutique hotel outside Champasak, to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the picturesque surroundings.

Day 2: Champasak
An early morning excursion to the fabulous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wat Phou, an ancient Khmer religious complex that dates back to the 5th Century. A centre of Theravada Buddhist worship, these dramatically sited 11th-13th century ruins are one of the highlights of any trip to Laos. Following the visit the rest of the day is then free to relax and enjoy the facilities of your wonderful riverside hotel. Alternatively, you might like to take an optional excursion out to nearby Don Daeng, to enjoy a bicycle ride around this picturesque island. (B)

Day 3: Don Khone Island
Boarding a local private boat this morning, you'll take a tour through some of the spectacular 4,000 Islands that make up the breathtaking Si Pan Don Archipelago, arriving on the picturesque island of Don Khone around lunchtime. This afternoon you will have a chance to explore the island by bicycle, retracing the route of the old abandoned colonial railway and taking in the old French buildings and the captivating cascades of the Li Phi Falls, before heading out by boat to visit one of the few places left in the world where it is possible to see freshwater dolphins. (B)

Day 4: Don Khone - Xe Pian National Park
Returning by boat to the mainland, you then drive the short distance to the spectacular Khone Phapheng Falls, one of the largest and most powerful waterfalls in Southeast Asia. A short journey north then brings you to the remote Xe Pian National Park, arriving at Kingfisher Eco lodge in time for lunch and an afternoon at leisure. Stretching from the Mekong plain to the border with neighbouring Cambodia, Xe Pian is home to a number of tribal villages, as well as an abundance of wildlife including Asiatic bears, Asian elephants and pangolins. (B)

Day 5: Xe Pian National Park
Spend the day trekking in Xe Pian National Park with your local guide. Your trek starts from Ban Khiet Ngong village, where you'll head through paddy fields and wetlands into the surrounding jungle. (B, L)

Day 6: Xe Pian National Park - Savannakhet - Thakek
A long scenic journey north today takes you towards Thakek. Stopping off along the way you'll pay a visit to the village of Don Khor, which specialises in creating temple Buddha carvings, before taking lunch in Savannakhet. There will be time to enjoy the grandeur of Savannakhet's old French Quarter, as well as pay a visit to the sacred That Inhang stupa, before heading out to the Soundra Salt Factory, where you'll enjoy a fascinating tour. The plan is to arrive in Thakek late this afternoon, in time to enjoy a sunset stroll along the river before dinner. (B)

Day 7: Thakek
An early departure this morning begins with a drive to the village of Ban Nakhang Xang. After a quick tour of the village you will begin your trek, following your guide through a section of secondary forest and along a trail that passes beneath towering cliffs and around the shores of Nong Thao Lake to Tham Nong Paseum Cave. If you are feeling adventurous you can take to the waters and swim amongst the stalactites and stalagmites, before continuing on to Khammouane's famous Buddha cave for lunch. After visiting the Buddha statues you then return to the village and drive back to Thakek. (B, L)

Day 8: Thakek - Kong Lor Cave - Hin Boun
A three hour scenic drive this morning bring you to the small settlement of Hin Boun, were you'll board a small boat to explore the famous Kong Lor Cave. This remarkable cave, another of Laos' hidden gems, is over seven kilometres long and includes within it a spectacular cavern over 100 metres high. There will be a chance to explore the stunning stalagmite gallery on foot, before returning to your lodge in Hin Boun later this afternoon. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy at your leisure. (B)

Day 9: Hin Boun - Muang Khoun - Phonsavan
Another long but highly rewarding day, your journey this morning takes you north, travelling through Cental Laos and across a landscape rarely visited by tourists. As the journey progresses the scenery changes, from gentle rolling countryside dotted with small villages, to the more dramatic mountain landscapes around Muang Khoun. A former provincial capital, Muang Khoun once lay at the heart of a kingdom renowned for its temples and stupas and there will be a chance to stop and explore some of its ancient pagodas before continuing on to Phonsavan. The plan is to arrive in Phonsavan by early evening. (B)

Day 10: Phonsavan
In the company of your guide, today provides an opportunity to unravel a little something of the extraordinary mystery of the 'Plain of Jars'. Covering a thousand square kilometres, this remarkable World Heritage Site is home to hundreds of huge stone jars, which litter the barren landscapes around Phonsavan. Their origins are still cause for conjecture, with some suggesting that they are ancient funeral urns, whilst other surmise that they were used to carry vast quantities of fermented rice. Whatever their purpose, they are without doubt one of Laos' most remarkable archaeological sites. (B)

Day 11: Phonsavan - Luang Prabang
A breathtaking drive though the highlands today ends amongst the gracious charms of Luang Prabang, one of the most captivating cities anywhere in Southeast Asia. The country's former capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Luang Prabang is a delightful fusion of French colonial and Laotian styles that can boast an impressive historical pedigree and a wonderful riverside location. The day's journey is filled with a number of interesting diversions including minority Hmong and Khmu villages and an old Russian tank and you should arrive in the city by early this evening. (B)

Day 12: Luang Prabang
A bicycle tour of Luang Prabang offers a chance to stretch your legs today. The laid back charm of the city makes it perfect for exploring by bike and key sights you'll visit include the King's Palace, the National Museum and the temples of Wat Visunnarat, Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai. This afternoon you'll then leave the city behind and cycle out to explore the outlying villages including Ban Hat Hien, Ban Don Kao and Ban Xangkhong. A visit to Wat Xienglek then precedes a climb up Wat Phonphao, to enjoy the beautiful views over the surrounding countryside before returning to the hotel. (B)

Day 13: Luang Prabang
A private boat journey this morning follows the Mekong upstream, to visit the famed limestone caves of Pak Ou. A major pilgrimage site that is believed to be occupied by guardian spirits, the caves are home to a remarkable collection of some 4,000 statues of the Buddha in all shapes and sizes. Returning to Luang Prabang in time for lunch, the rest of the day is then your own. One option for this afternoon is to pay a visit to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls, located just to the south of the city. Another is to join a local cookery class. (B)

Day 14: Luang Prabang
Transfer to the airport today, where your tour ends. (B)


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