Impressions of Laos itinerary


Day 1: Luang Prabang
Sabaidee! Welcome to Luang Prabang.

Once the heart and soul of the ancient Lao Kingdom (Lan Xang) and designated a World Heritage site in 1995, Luang Prabang is endowed with a legacy of historic red-roofed temples and French-Indochinese architecture, not to mention some of the country's most refined cuisine, a multi-ethnic population and rich culture.

There are many sights to see in and around Luang Prabang, or it is simply a fantastic place to wander around. We will start our adventure with a group meeting before we all head out for an optional meal.

Accommodation: Parasol Blanc (Classic room) or similar


Day 2: Luang Prabang
All over South East Asia, Buddhist monks head out before dawn to collect alms of food from the faithful. Laos is the best place to see this in the World, and in Luang Prabang you will see lines of one hundred or more orange-robed monks walking silently in bare feet - each carrying a metal monk's bowl.

This morning we will get up early up in the misty dawn to photograph the monks on their daily outing collecting alms, a practice that dates back centuries. The people of the town wait out the front of their houses with food for the monks to collect and take back to the temple. It is done early, as the monks cannot eat anything after midday. By giving food to a monk you ‘het bon’ or make merit.

Next we will head to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, a picturesque, multi-level cascade that offers fantastically blue pools. In the early morning there will be fewer people here, and although the falls will be in shadow, this can be much better for those classic long exposure pictures that result in a misty blurred effect on the water. Apart for the crowds later in the day, parts of the falls will be in direct sunlight giving excessive contrast.

In the afternoon we will explore the town itelf, visiting Wat Xieng Thong, the most enchanting of Laos’ monasteries. Inside you'll find monks eager to practice their English with you. Continue to Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham temple meaning ‘new temple’ used by Laos Royalty in the past. Beside Wat Mai, we will visit ‘Former King palace’.

In the late afternoon you can either climb to the top of Mount Phousi in the centre of town to see the sunset, or shoot down by the river.

Included activities:
• Monk alms giving
• Kuang Si Water Falls
• Wat Xieng Thong Temple
• Phousi mount
• King's Palace

Accommodation: Parasol Blanc (Classic room) or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 3: Luang Prabang
If you are feeling keen, you will have the option of getting up again to see the monks on their morning alms round, or head to the morning maket to photograph the lively sellers of fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs. After breakfast we will take a boat along the Mekong River to visit the Pak Ou and Thamting caves and Ban Sang Hai Village.

An important religious site overlooking the river at the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the revered Pak Ou Caves consist of two sacred limestone caverns filled with Buddha images of all styles and sizes, brought by devoted villagers over the centuries. The lower cave, known as Tham Ting, is entered from the river by a series of steps and can easily be seen in daylight. The higher cave, Tham Phum, is deeper and requires a torch for viewing.

After the spiritual pursuit of visiting a religious cave, we will re-enter the profane world with a visit to Ban Sang Hai Village, known as the Whiskey village. Here you can see the process of making lao-Lao, the country’s beloved rice whiskey, second only to BeerLao in popularity.

The afternoon will be free to explore this fascinating town. his might include a ferry visit to the far bank of the river where life seems unchanged for generations, or taking in more of the many beautiful Wats.

Included Activities:
• Boat trip to Pak Ou Cave and Thamting
• Ban Sang Hai Village

Accommodation: Parasol Blanc (Classic room) or similar

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch


Day 4: Phonsavan
After breakfast you’ll check out and transfer from Luang Prabang to Xiangkhoang (Phonsavan) (approximately 6 hrs). This is a long journey, but passes through stunning scenery. We will also pass a number of hilltribe villages that often straddle the high mountain ridges. We also pass through the town of Phou Khoun that has a busy hilltribe market.

Phonsavan is the provincial capital of Xieng Khouang Province. It was built in the late 1970s and replaced the old Xieng Khouang which had been destroyed during the Second Indochina War.

The best-known tourist attraction is the nearby Plain of Jars, which is to be nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. The main economic activities in Phonsavan are governmental administration, mining companies from China and Australia, tourism and the work of NGOs clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Today you will have a chance to visit villages from the Hmong and Yao hilltribe minorities.

Included Activities:
• Visit Hmong, Yao villages

Accommodation: Anoulack Khen Lao Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 5: Phonsavan
Today we will visit the famous Plain of Jars, a vast area extending around Phonsavanh from the south-west to the north-east. Mysterious and ancient, over 300 huge stone jars apparently carved out of solid rock are scattered around the plateau. The jars vary in size from 1 to 3.25 metres high and weigh up to six tons each. There are several different theories as to the purpose of the jars, which are estimated to be 2,500 to 3,000 years old. According to local legend, King Khun Chuang had them constructed to store wine for the celebration of his conquest of the province in the 6th century.

Today's tour will focus on Sites I and II, out of the many sites so far discovered. Afterwards continue to Muang Khoun, an ancient capital and stronghold for the Xieng Khuang royal family which was destroyed during the Indochina War. The town was rebuilt after 1975 with rows of wooden Lao houses and a market area and is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.

Included Activities:
• Excursion to the Plain of Jars (Sites 1 and 2) and Muang Khoun.

Accommodation: Anoulack Khen Lao Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 6: Vang Vieng
Today we will travel to Vang Viang (approximately 6-7 hrs). Again, it is a long journey, but through stunning scenery. We will be in a private vehicle so we will be able to stop for any photo-opportunities. Previously this has included villages, people working in fields and various breath-taking views.

Vang Vieng is a riverside town in Central Laos. The town has been known as a party destination for years, and whilst this remains more outdoor-oriented activities are now available such as mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, caving, swimming and rock climbing.

Our hotel overlooks the river, and so we should be in the perfect position to photograph the sunset!

Accommodation: Silver Naga Hotel (Deluxe Room) or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 7: Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is nestled amidst stunning limestone karst rock formations. A popular excursion here is to ride up in a balloon at either sunrise or sunset. If you are lucky the balloon will make the perfect platform for a spot of sunrise photography.

Most of today is free, so you will have time to try some of the avtivities here, or simply walk or bicycle out into the countryside. This could also be a good time to carry out a bit of post-processing ready for a review of work in the evening. In the late afternoon we will head out to visit one of the local caves, and then try to find a good spot to photograph the sunset.

Included Activities:
• Cave visit

Optional Activities:
• Balloon ride – 120 USD / Person

Accommodation: Silver Naga Hotel (Deluxe Room) or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 8: Vientiane
This morning we transfer to Vientiane (3-4 hrs approximately). Again, we will be in a private vehicle and will be able to stop for any photo-opportunities.

Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. There are beautiful sunsets down by the river, and although it has developed over the years, since the first time I visited over twenty years ago, it is still one of the most relaxed and laid-back capital cities you will ever visit.

In the evening, many locals gather down by the Mekong to watch the sunrise with a local BeerLao, before heading to one of the many excellent quality restaurants.

Accommodation: Mali Namphu Boutique Hotel – or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 9: Vientiane
Vientiane, the city of gold and green. With its lush parks and spectacular gilded shrines, temples and statues, the capital of Laos is a relatively calm and agreeable city.

Get ready for a full day of spiritual and significant sightseeing in this chilled-out city. The scarlet and gold pillars and awning of Wat Hor Pra Kaeo are up first, followed by Wat Si Saket, one of the oldest temples in the city. Next, visit the grand stone archway of Pratu Xai, a war monument dedicated to those who fought for independence from French colonial rule. The crowning-jewel of Vientiane’s monuments is Pha That Luang, a shining Buddhist stupa that sits on ground considered holy for thousands of years. After spending some time admiring this Laotian icon, take a visit to COPE – an organisation that crafts and supplies prosthetics and orthotics free of charge. Spend a time in town, perhaps ask your leader where you’ll have the best chance of finding a khao jee (a baguette with salad, meat and pate).

Included Activities:
• Wat Sri Saket
• Wat That Luang
• Wat Hor Pra Keo
• Pratu Xai (Anousavary)

Accommodation: Mali Namphu Boutique Hotel – or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 10: Vientiane to Pakse
Monks head out collecting alms all over Laos, and the ritual in Vientiane seems all the more incongruous in a relatively modern capital city. It is worth getting up early at least once during your time in Vientiane.

Enjoy breakfast before transferring to the airport for your flight to Pakse. Upon arrival in Pakse transfer to your hotel.

Pakse located on the edge of the Mekong River, Pakse is a frontier town and a crossroad for trade between Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

On arrival, we will head to discover a few of the impressive waterfalls on the fertile Bolaven Plateau – Laos’ premier coffee-growing region. During colonial times the Bolaven Plateau was populated by French settlers who were attracted to the cooler climate and fertile soils which created ideal coffee-growing conditions. Today, Lao coffee beans fetch some of the highest prices in the world, and are a source of income for the hilltribes living on the plateau. We will visit a small-scale Fair Trade organic coffee farm to sample a freshly brewed Arabica and Robusta coffee. Situated in a forest-setting, Tad Lo Lodge is nestled next to big and small stream waterfall along the route.

Included Activities:
• Bolaven Plateau
•Visit to coffee plantation

Accommodation: Champasak Palace hotel (Standard Room) – or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 11: Si Phan Don
From Pakse we take a short drive to Wat Phou temple, one of ruined Khmer Hindu Temple complex in Southern Laos. This was once a part of the Khmer civilisation, that was centred on Angkor Wat, and like these temples it was originally was dedicated to Hinduism, before being taken over by the Buddhist religion. Built into the side of a mountain, the temple was otiginally dedicated to Shiva, while the water from the spring directly behind the temple was considered sacred. A series of steep steps lead up to the upper sanctuary and spring, which often attract many pilgrims. Leading up to this staircase is a wide, pillared causeway, which features a number of stone buildings and a couple of large artificial lakes, much like the temple of Angkor in nearby Cambodia.

After visiting Wat Phou, we continue on by road to Don Khong, the main island of the area known as Si Phan Don (4000 Islands). This sprawling riverine archipelago offers many shots of traditional life, fishing and of course, shots of the waterfalls.

When the French colonised Indochina, they had high hopes of being able to navigate the entire length of the Mekong, but this dream was dashed by the many islands, rapids and waterfalls of Si Phan Don. To get around this, they built a railway to bypass the Khone Phapheng Falls, with a loading jetty at each end. You can still see the remnants of this railway spanning some of the islands.

The people here have a lot in common with their neighbours across the border in Cambodia, and the climate is predominantly hot and dry compared to the cooler altitudes in the North.

Included Activities:
• Wat Phou Temple entrance

Accommodation: Villa Muong Khong – or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 12: Khone Island
It is worth an early start again today to see monks on their morning alms round. There are far fewer monks than in manyh of the Northern cities, but the rural location leads to very atmospheric shots.

Today we will be exploring Si Phan Don by boat visiting Ban Khone Village which located in Don Khon Island area and known as fisherman’s village. You will see local life of Laos people here lining with the river. After that take a short drive to Liphi waterfall, one of the highlights of Si Phan Don.

In the evening, we will head out to try to see some of the very rare Mekong River Dolphin. Although the locals believe that these are the spirits of the dead, and traditionally don't try to harm them, there are only a few in this area and we will be lucky to spot them. It is worth a try though, not least as we should also be rewarded by some great sunset shots on the river.

Included Activities:
• Si Phan Don boat excursion
• Ban Khone visit
• Liphi waterfall
• Boat service to looking for dolphin

Accommodation: Villa Muong Khong – or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 13: Khone Phapeng waterfall - Pakse
Today we travel to Khone phapheng Falls, the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia in terms of water volume. Many people called this waterfall as Niagara of Asia, which is somewhat of an exagerratuion, although you will see photographs of the falls on posters all over the country. The local fishermen put bamboo fish traps in the water and you will often see them casting nets into the boiling water of the falls. Predictably, this is a good place to try to shoot blurred water photographs, although to do this you will need a filter to cut down the light. Steve can advise on this before departure if you are interested, and will hold a short workshop instructing how to shoot long exposure waterfall shots at the fall.

Once we have finished our waterfall photography, we will transfer back to Pakse for your departure flight tomorrow. There should be time to explore some of the highlights of Pakse. This evening, we will enjoy an (optional) farewell dinner and review of your best shots from the trip.

Included Activities
• Khone Phapeng waterfall

Accommodation: Champasak Palace hotel (Standard Room) – or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 14: Departure Day
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Hotel check out time at 12:00 noon

Meals included: Breakfast




To keep the trip cost as low as possible, we will need to manage the bookings so that no one is left with a single room, without paying the single supplement. If you are a solo traveller then every effort will be made to ensure that there is someone for you to share with. This has usually always been possible, but if you are flexible about the choice of accommodation when filling out the booking form, then that will give you more chance to secure a place.

Most of the official sites in Laos have limited opening hours, and will often only open at 8am - which is obviously not very good for sunrise! We will try to get around this wherever possible, but we are unable to guarantee anything.

Sometimes when we make an early start it will involve leaving our accommodation before breakfast is served. In this case we will have to make our own arrangements.