On arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Please look for the World Expeditions welcome sign in the arrivals hall. The rest of the day is free at leisure to explore this UNESCO world heritage city. There will be a trip briefing in the hotel foyer, at a time indicated in your final documents, where you will meet your guide before a welcome dinner.
Overnight: Sala Prabang
After breakfast, we jump on the bikes and cycle out to Ban Xang Khong, a village renowned for silk hand weaving and traditional Saa paper making. We continue north to Ban Pak Ou where we board a boat to cross the river to the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. There are two caves 'Tham Ting' and 'Tham Phoum,' and these photogenic caves are renowned for their collection of thousands of Buddha sculptures and images left over the years by pilgrims. After visiting the Pak Ou Caves, we relax and enjoy a cruise downstream on the Mekong River. En route wel stop to visit the riverside village of Ban Xanghai, a popular stop-over producing some special varieties of Laolao, the local rice wine. We continue cruising to Luang Prabang, where we disembark at Wat Xieng Thong, the largest and most stunning temple of the royal city. Built on the Mekong River bank in 1560 under the reign of King Setthathirat (1548 1571), the temple is best known for its impressive Tree of Life mural depicting the story of Buddha. We finish the day by climbing the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi, which cuts a distinctive figure on the Luang Prabang skyline. The hill is a popular place to watch the sun rise or set. From the summit we enjoy spectacular 360 degree views over the city and surrounding mountainous landscape. Upon descending, The Night Market will be starting up. This is one of the nicest markets in Southeast Asia, with genuine local, handmade products for sale at reasonable prices. The locals are friendly, and great bargains can be had - just remember to barter with a smile!
Cycling distance: ~25km
Leaving Luang Prabang behind, we head out by vehicle to Ban Long Lao, a Hmong minority village. Here we can take our time to learn more about daily life in this rural lowland subsistence farming community. We bid our farewells to the villagers and start our hike. The first section winds between paddy fields before entering dense mixed growth jungle with a remarkable diversity of tree species. Our guide knows the trails through the forest well, taking us up and down valleys toward the waterfall. Close by to the falls, we stop by to visit the Free the Bears Sanctuary. The sanctuary was opened in 2003 and houses Asiatic Black bears, also known as Moon Bears which are confiscated by the Forestry Department from the illegal wildlife trade. The sanctuary carries out great work in rehabilitating the bears to prepare them for release back into the wild. The famous Kuang Si Waterfalls, nestled in lush forest are truly a sight to behold. Water thunders down the mountainside plunging 60m into a series of cascading turquoise pools, perfect for a refreshing dip following your hike. Simply relax and soak in the crystal clear pools or we can hike up to the very top of the falls.
Trekking distance: ~13km
Overnight: Sala Prabang
An highly recommended early start provides the fantastic opportunity to witness and even participate in the captivating centuries old daily tradition of the alms giving ceremony, Tak Bat. Before first light, hundreds of saffron-clad monks file out from the old town's 35 temples to collect their daily alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from faithful local residents. Following the ceremony we wander back through the morning market where locals go to buy their fresh produce for the day ahead. We'll head back to the hotel for breakfast, some time to relax and refresh before before heading out for our day's adventure. We transfer to the banks of the Nam Khan River and cross by boat to begin an easy hike through beautiful jungle canopy, stopping along the way to explore a large traditional Khmu village nestled in the mountains. After the village visit we continue hiking down to the stunning multi-tiered Tad Sae Waterfall, where you can relax, explore and enjoy a swim (seasonal as water levels are low from February to July).
Hiking distance: ~8km/ 3-4hrs
Overnight: Sala Prabang
Please note: The alms giving ceremony this morning is a daily religious event not a show for tourists. Therefore, please be respectful - dress conservatively, turn camera flashes off and carefully follow the instructions of your guide.
We take the morning flight to Pakse and head to the former royal capital of Champasak, your base for exploring the UNESCO listed ruins of Wat Phou, one of Southeast Asia's most dramatically situated temples. You have time to explore these intriguing Khmer Empire ruins, perched at the base of Mount Phu Khao overlooking the Mekong River Valley. This wonderful archaeological site of the ancient Khmer civilisation dates back to the 9th century, predating the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A festival of this site is held annually during the full moon in February and attracts pilgrims from throughout the region. From here we continue our journey to Don Khong, the largest island in the Mekong riverine archipelago known as the 4000 Islands which kis undoubtedly one of the most scenic areas in Laos. Here the Mekong can reach up to 14km wide during the monsoon season and is dotted with thousands of islands of various sizes. Don Khong is the largest of the Mekong Islands at 16km long and 8km wide, and the site of Muang Khong, a small former French settlement.
Overnight: Pon Arena Hotel
Following an early breakfast, we take a boat downstream to Don Det where we start our kayaking trip. First, the guide will provide some basic paddle instructions and a safety briefing, after which we paddle to the western side of Don Det, passing many small islands to the north of Don Khone. This takes about an hour and after mastering some minor rapids you can choose to enjoy some more exciting rapids if you wish. Then we stop at the pier and walk to Khon Pa Soi Waterfall where you will have time to explore and enjoy the views. Returning to our kayaks, we paddle on to visit the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin grounds, near the Cambodian border. The elusive and gentle freshwater dolphins are unfortunately becoming increasingly rare but locals and conservation agencies are working to ensure they and their habitat are valued and protected. Afterwards, we stop at a beach to enjoy a well earned BBQ picnic lunch, where you also have time to go swimming in a beautiful spot. This is a very secluded spot and only occasionally visited by local fishermen.
Overnight: Sala Done Khone
This morning we bid our farewells to the beautiful 4,000 islands, and head south to the breathtaking Khone Phapheng Waterfall, Southeast Asia's largest waterfall. After taking our time to appreciate the thundering waters smashing over huge boulders, we continue on to the border with Cambodia. Sua s'dei, Welcome to Cambodia. You are greeted by your Cambodian guide and driver and transferred to nearby Stung Treng. We stop en route to kayak across the Sekong River to Hang Khou Ban village, renowned for making a much loved local snack, Krolan. Watch as villagers cook this popular travel snack of sticky rice, coconut, milk, salt, and soybeans encased and cooked in bamboo. Although Stung Treng receives relatively few international visitors, the area's wetland is marked by the Ramsar Convention (an international treaty to conserve wetlands) as being of international significance. The wetland is renowned for its flooded forests, entire forests submerged every wet season, then left to emerge when the swollen Mekong River waters subside. The tree roots and bushes remain gnarled and pulled in the direction of the water flow, surrounded by contoured dunes of fine sand in a vast expanse of ever flowing water. Enjoy seeing the sunset view on the from your riverside accommodation or out on the water by kayak.
Overnight: Mekong Bird Resort
After breakfast we start our drive west toward Siem Reap. En route we stop off to visit an incredible ancient temple complex at Koh Ker, the jungle surrounded remnants of the capital of the Khmer Empire from 928 AD - 944 AD, a unique period in the Age of Angkor. From the time the Khmer capital was first moved to the Angkor area in the late 9th century, it would remain there for almost 500 years, with one brief interruption when it moved to the site at Koh Ker. The most impressive monument here is the majestic seven-tiered pyramid, Prasat Thom towering almost 40m above the surrounding jungle. Continue on to Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor, arriving late afternoon and spend rest of day at leisure.
Overnight: Sokha Roth Hotel
Today is a full day exploring the most famous temple complex, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Archaeological Park by bike - the perfect way to experience this awe inspiring place. To beat the crowds we start early and cycle to the Ta Prohm, unlike most other Angkor temples, it has been left just it was when rediscovered: a photogenic and atmospheric maze of trees growing out of temple ruins amidst jungle surroundings, making it one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors. Continue on to the lofty heights of Ta Keo then through one of four mighty gatehouses into the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII and at the time was the most populous city in the world with 2m inhabitants. The crowning jewel of the city is Bayon at its epicentre. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur, its exterior gallery walls featuring world class bas-reliefs and its 54 towers, decorated with 216 gargantuan faces. We'll break for lunch before completing our day at the most incredible temple of them all, Angkor Wat - the ultimate expression of Khmer genius. The temple is in fact the largest religious structure in the world and has inspired visitors for centuries. It is easily the most famous and best-preserved of all temples within the Angkor complex. It is a massive three-tiered structure crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65 meters from ground level. The centrepiece of any visit to the temples around Siem Reap, Angkor offers many iconic sights for amazing pictures.
Cycling distance: ~40km
Overnight: Sokha Roth Hotel
Note: Appropriate attire when visiting Angkor temples is trousers or shorts which cover the knees and tops which cover the shoulders. Visitors are frequently turned away from temples when wearing revealing clothing.
After an early breakfast, you will be driven to the Kulen Mountain Range, which rises from the plains approximately 60km north of Siem Reap. Phnom Kulen is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia, and is therefore a popular place of pilgrimage during weekends and festivals. Recent lidar surveys have revealed that there was once an entire ancient city atop the mountain but this has long been lost to the jungle. However, a few remnants remain such as the River of 1000 Lingas, carved into the riverbed to bestow fertility to the waters flowing into the rice fields in the plains below. A hike through the jungle past remote villages reveals life sized stone elephants standing serenely at Srah Damrei. We'll also visit the small wat which houses Cambodia's largest reclining Buddha before heading to the 20m high Kulen Waterfall where we can enjoy a refreshing dip before returning to town. You can join hands in an effort to support reforestation progress in Cambodia by planting a tree in Preah Dak Village. It may be a jackfruit or mango tree, which will later help both carbon offsetting and directly benefiting the local community.
Hiking distance: ~11km
Overnight: Sokha Roth Hotel
After breakfast, we head toward the vast wetlands on the edge of Asia's largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap. Upon arrival, we will be greeted by monks in their brightly colored robes and receive a good luck blessing before you gently kayak through the floating village. Here you will be welcomed by warm smiles from the people who live in this watery landscape. The lake's size and depth increases with the annual monsoon rains by as much as six times and local people have found ingenious ways to live with the ever changing water world. Some villages build their houses on stilts, often up to ten metres high but Mechrey is in fact a floating village. The entire village floats and moves with the receding or increasing waters thereby continually shifting location throughout the seasons. We'll have the opportunity to kayak through the gently lapping waters of the village to witness and learn about the daily lifestyle of the local inhabitants. We continue to enjoy kayaking until we reach the end of the village and there you will be welcomed by our local host, where we will stop for a local lunch in a beautiful setting. After lunch, we continue to gently kayak to the exotic mangroves in high water season, while during low water season you will kayak along the Tonle Sap Lake, seeing rare birds in this tranquil setting giving you a once in a lifetime experience leaving you with ever lasting memories. Our journey then has us transferring back by boat, where you will ride back Siem Reap town. We will enjoy a farewell Khmer BBQ dinner at local restaurant.
Cycling distance: ~30km
Overnight: Sokha Roth Hotel
This morning is free at leisure in Siem Reap. Relax at the hotel or venture out to explore the markets, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants until its time to transfer to the airport for your outbound flight. Trip concludes.