Plain of Jars

Laos Heritage & Conservation Tour

Country: Laos

13 Days | $3,810

Our Laos Heritage and Conservation Tour was designed to show you a side of Laos rarely seen by other travelers, and from this itinerary, you’ll be able to better understand and appreciate the complex history and culture of Laos, which is closely entwined with the natural world.

Starting in Luang Prabang, you’ll spend some time learning about traditional arts, including the incredible local textiles, before learning about conservation projects designed to help protect sun bears and the many native butterfly species. Let the locals show you daily life from their perspective by giving alms to the monks and learning how to tend to the rice fields. Head out of town into the local villages where the fisherman still live off the river, and pay a visit to the Sayaboury Elephant Conservation Center which strives to protect Laos’s iconic elephants.

Visit Phonesavanh and the mysterious Plain of Jars and learn about Laos’s role in the Vietnam-American War and the Secret War. In Houaphan, you’ll safari down the river to spot the local wildlife in one of the last remaining natural tiger habitats in Laos. Finish your time in Laos in the capital of Vientiane and take in the city highlights. We guarantee this will be a trip unlike any other.

Day 1   Luang Prabang: Arrival, Half Day City Tour and Traditional Arts & Ethnology Seminar

Arrive in Luang Prabang. After you have checked into your hotel, your guide will take you on a city tour which includes Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Visun, Wat Aham and Mt. Phou Si.

You will have the opportunity to meet one of the founders and directors of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum in Luang Prabang. You will be taken on a private tour of the museum lead by either Tara Gujadhur or Thongkhoun Soutthivilay, where you will receive insight into the ethnic cultures of Laos through the museum’s exhibitions featuring costumes, jewelry, household tools and religious objects.  You will then continue on to the seminar topic that you have chosen, which is either “Ethnic Diversity or Cultural Change in Lao PDR” or “Guide to Ethnic Handicrafts”. Both of these seminars take about 1 hour — a 30 to 40 minute lecture followed by time for questions. In the “Ethnic Diversity and Cultural Change”, the Director provide an overview of Laos’ ethnic diversity, show photos of ethnic groups, and discuss the changes that these rural communities are undergoing. Objects from the TAEC collection are brought out for you to touch and examine. “Guide to Ethnic Handicrafts” is great for groups that are interested in shopping, and want to learn to distinguish the different handicraft techniques and the people who make them. Whichever topic you choose you will leave the museum with a better understanding of the ethnic minority groups and their handicrafts. You can then return to your hotel or get dropped off and take an evening stroll around the quaint streets browsing shops or wander through the night market.

Meals Included: None

Overnight at Maison Dalabua Hotel – Grand Deluxe Room

Day 2   Luang Prabang: Bears, Butterflies, Kuang Si Waterfall and Living Land

After breakfast your guide will take you on a scenic drive through the countryside to visit the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall. Before reaching the waterfall you will visit the Kuang Si Butterfly Park and the Free the Bears Projects to learn about the conservation efforts led by these local organizations. At the Butterfly Park, you will take a private tour lead by one of the founders who will introduce you to the native species in the region and their determination to educate the local community. From there, head over to the Free the Bears sanctuary near Kuang Si to learn about and meet the Black Asiatic Bear. This morning you will have a one on one tour of the sanctuary with the staff and learn about their mission to save this endangered species. You will help out in preparing the food for the day and assist in feeding the bears. Once you reach the falls, enjoy lunch and a dip in the serene tropical turquoise pools before heading back to town.

This afternoon, you will learn about Laos’s most cherished and cultivated crop – rice! The Living Land Company is a community enterprise that specializes in growing organic vegetables and rice for the development of the local community and seven families that live on the farm. You will arrive at the Living Rice Farm and be introduced to your guide and farming expert. You will learn the 12 steps of rice farming from the seeding of the soil to cooking the coveted sticky rice for everyday consumption. You will have the opportunity to truly experience the life of a farmer by trying your hand at some of the activities, like helping to plow the muddy soil by guiding Susan the farm’s water buffalo or husking the rice with a traditional foot rice pounder. You will also learn about some of the other traditional skills of the farmer like blacksmithing and bamboo weaving. Enjoy the breathtaking view of the expansive rice fields, organic garden of herbs and vegetables, and the fish pond from the balcony of the farm’s traditional Lao wooden house. You will not only have the opportunity to learn about rice farming, but you will have the opportunity to talk to Lao farmers and gain an understanding about their way of life and gentle friendliness.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Maison Dalabua Hotel – Grand Deluxe Room

Day 3   Luang Prabang: Early Morning Alms Giving, Temples & Villages on the Mekong

Wake up at sunrise to give monks morning alms. You’ll be accompanied by your guide who can demonstrate the proper method of alms giving and explain this daily Buddhist ceremony. Return to your hotel for breakfast.

Today you will explore the villages and livelihoods of the locals living off of the Mekong River. After breakfast you will meet your guide and transfer to the boat pier on the Mekong. You will cross the river for Xieng Mien, in the district of Chomphet. Even though Xieng Mien and Luang Prabang are only separated by a short distance, you will quickly be able to see the differences between the two. Walk through the village lanes and visit three historic temples Wat Xieng Mene, Wat Chomphet and Wat Long Khoune. Afterwards you will join your boat and pick up your picnic lunch on the Luang Prabang side of the river before heading down to the pottery village of Ban Jan. Stroll around to observe this village which is centuries old and home to some interesting handicrafts. You might even want to further support the village and pick up one of the fun handmade trinkets sold by the locals.

Afterwards, head down river and take in the lush hilltops and serene river while on the less traveled stretch of the Mekong. Once you reach the fishing village of Ban Chompjua you will transfer to one of the local families’ fishing boats to join as they check traps. The styles and traps will vary depending on the season and level of the Mekong. Learn how time consuming the art of fishing is from the locals as they demonstrate the making of one of their gigantic fishing nets. You will then return to your long tail boat for a picturesque coast while you enjoy your picnic lunch and head for Ban Xing, the Lion Village. Take a walk around this village, believed to date from the 16th century, and see the remnants of a previous time. This farming and fishing village holds some of the oldest traditional homes near Luang Prabang. You will then join your village hosts in their home for a Lao baci ceremony. Your guide will explain this traditional blessing ceremony as you receive well wishes from elders in the village. After the ceremony you will travel up river back to Luang Prabang while taking in the setting sun.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Maison Dalabua Hotel – Grand Deluxe Room

Day 4   Sayaboury: Elephant Conservation Center Discovery Tour – Day 1

Early this morning you will be met by your guide at your hotel in Luang Prabang to head out for your 2.5-3 hour drive into the beautiful Laos countryside towards the Sayaboury Province.  When you arrived at the pier at Nam Tien Lake, you will be transferred to the Center by boat. Install yourself in your private bungalow before your guide takes you to the forest. Along the way, you walk pass the different enclosures where our main activities take place. After enjoying a Laotian style pick-nick, you will see the resident mother and baby at the nursery. The mahout of the mother stays close by while she and her baby have a bath and play. The mother trusts him around her offspring and even lets him play with her a little bit. When the mother and baby have had enough to drink and have returned to the forest, you will take the boat back to the center for a visit to the elephant hospital. Our Laotian vet assistant or the biologist will take you into their world and tell you more about common and uncommon injuries and their respective treatments. It is also the perfect time to ask any questions you have about the biology of the elephants.

Please Note: Medical Care of the elephants at the Elephant Hospital is only carried out by qualified vets.

You will then observe the elephants’ daily bath and learn more about our giant guests’ playful characters. Elephants are surprisingly good swimmers and love water. They also use this time to socialize and strengthen ties in the herd.  After the elephants have washed themselves, you will have the opportunity for interact with the elephants with the mahouts at your side. Get a feel for the elephant’s amazing skin and prickly hair, and experience up the dexterity of their trunks up close. The guide will tell you a little about the background of each elephant. They have all worked hard before they came here. See if you are already able to recognize the elephants just by looking at them!  The elephants will be walked back into the forest for the night and after a short trek, the mahouts will decide on a place where the elephants can graze for a while.  Before dinner, take a moment to take in the surroundings from one of the viewpoints. You can also go for a swim in the lake or visit the museum where one of the staff will give a small presentation on our conservation efforts. During meal time, feel free to ask your unanswered questions to the staff or share one of the Lao style cocktails!

Please note: The center adapts to the rhythm of the animals so schedules and activities may vary so be ready for a flexible program. Accommodation is a rustic lakeside bamboo bungalow with private terrace. Bathrooms are communal with hot water.  Please be sure to bring appropriate footwear as the footpaths through the jungle can be steep and muddy if it rains. 

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at Sayabouly Elephant Conservation Center

Day 5   Sayaboury: Elephant Conservation Center Discovery Tour – Day 2

On the second day, you will meet up with the elephants in the forest. After spending the night grazing in the jungle, it is time for another bath. Enjoy strolling together with these magnificent creatures in their natural environment.  When they have had their fill of water they are brought to the Socialization Area. This is an area where the elephants can freely interact during a big part of the day, recreating a semi-natural living environment. Here the elephants can enjoy simply being elephants, as they would without humans present. Follow the guide around the perimeter to learn more about the group and its dynamics. Take your time on the different platforms to see how a new herd is being formed. This rare opportunity will bring you closer to their natural life, something which is very special about our program and difficult to find anywhere else. Lunch is served at the center. You have some time to relax before we bring you back to Luang Prabang by minivan. You can say your goodbyes to the staff at the restaurant or walk around the center one last time before you will be transferred by boat back to the mainland for your car ride back to Luang Prabang.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Maison Dalabua Hotel – Grand Deluxe Room

Day 6   Luang Prabang to Phonesavanh

Depart Luang Prabang after breakfast for a seven-hour drive along the winding mountain roads to Phonesavanh, home of the Plain of Jars.

Please note: The scenery on this drive is some of the best in the whole country but this long journey on the winding roads can be difficult at times. If you become car sick , we recommend bringing medication to prevent nausea.

On the way, you’ll stop to visit a Hmong hill tribe village and have lunch at a local restaurant. If there is time once you reach Phonesavanh, visit a local mulberry farm and weaving center before checking into your hotel for the evening.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel – Deluxe Room

Day 7   Xeing Khoung: Plain of Jars

After breakfast you’ll drive to see the second and third Plain of Jars sites. Cross over a bamboo bridge and walk through a local farm’s rice paddies to visit jars at Site 3. Once you’ve had a look around, join back with the van and carry on to see Site 2. Enjoy the shade under the tree while taking in panoramic views atop Site 2. You will then drive to the Muang Khoun district for lunch. After lunch you’ll explore Wat Phia, where bombs destroyed the entire temple but left a giant Buddha statue fully intact, as well as visiting the overgrown That Foun Stupa. In the afternoon you will return to town and stop to see the impressive first site of the Plain of Jars. Take your time walking around the biggest and most picturesque of the sites before returning to your hotel for the evening.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel – Deluxe Room

Day 8   Xieng Khoung: Phonesavanh to Sam Neua

After breakfast, stop by the MAG center to learn more about their efforts to clear thousands of life threatening UXO’s that still liter the country’s landscape. Afterwards, hit the road for the Houapahn Province, known for its breathtaking mountainous peaks and fertile valley plains; rich in intricate and complex textiles; and its history of war and turmoil in the 1960’s. Laos attributes the province for being the “birthplace of Laos” as it was the main center for the Pathet Laos’ defense against the US during the “Secret War”.

Along the 4.5 hour ride to the capital of Houapanh you will stop to visit a couple villages along the way. First stop in the Hmong village of Ban ThaJok/Na Kam Peng, which is known as the “bomb village” to see how the village has recycled cluster-bomb casings to decorate their yards and build their homes. Nearby to the village in the valley is a multilevel waterfall, if you wish to make the 2km journey ask for the village to give you directions. Stop for a local noodle soup lunch in Nam Neun before heading onto the main road to Sam Neua. You will then make stops at Ban Nasala, known for its Lao Khao rice whiskey, before heading to the weaving village of Ban Saleuy a, known for their distinctive method of weaving known as Mat-mee or Ikat. If you love textiles, this is a place to stock up on fabrics and gifts. Continue on a short distance to Ban Phonxay for a stop at the Saleuy waterfall before finishing your last leg of your trip to Sam Neua. Check into your hotel and have a rest or take around the town before heading to dinner at Banaonuangxam Restaurant.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Xayphasouk Hotel – VIP Room

Day 9    Houaphan: Vieng Xai Caves and Ban Tam Weaving

After an early breakfast drive 28km to the renowned Vieng Xai Caves for your 9am tour. Once you arrive you will collect your tour headset, which provides exceptional background and history on the secret war and the caves, before meeting your local tour guide, Mr. Somkit. Along with your audio tour, Mr. Somkit will guide you through the network of seven of the more elaborate bomb-shelter caves which provided a base from some 23,000 Lao people. These caves provided homes, offices, hospitals, markets, a metal factory and more during the Indochina War. Most of the caves have minor elements of original furnishings; complete with kitchens, bathrooms and emergency air locked rooms for possible chemical gas attacks. While listening to the fascinating 18 point tour and learning about the war you will have the opportunity to take in the natural beauty of the caves, cliffs and valleys of the surrounding area. It is truly one of the most captivating tours you can take while in Laos. After your tour, head to Mr. Somkit’s house for tea where you can have the opportunity to sit and talk with him about his life growing up in the area and later becoming a personal bodyguard for Kayisone Phomvihane, who was the leader of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and the first Prime Minister of the new Lao PDR.

Have lunch in Veing Xai before heading back to Sam Neua. Once you reach town in the afternoon go to visit Mrs. Nalee’s in her textile shop. Here you will have the chance to learn about and view some of the most intricate textiles coming from all around the Houaphan Province and her role in exporting these crafts to neighboring cities and provinces. You will then join her to visit Ban Tham, a village a 13km to the north, where some of these textiles were created. While exploring the village, you will have the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the top master weavers in the country. Head back to Sam Neua in the late afternoon for a rest before you head out for dinner. This evening make sure to pack your overnight bag for the next days’s night safari as you will head out early and will only be allowed limited luggage for the journey into the jungle.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at Xayphasouk Hotel – VIP Room

Day 10   Houaphan: Night Safari Adventure

Leave Sam Neua at approximately 7:30am to drive to the 99km to Ban San Khoua, the starting point of your Night Safari two day adventure. Village guides and boatmen will greet you and take you on a short tour of the village where you will learn about daily life and the animist tradition of appeasing the village spirits. Afterwards you’ll embark on a 1.5 ­hour journey to the park substation on the Nam Nern River by long-­tail boat, along the way learning about upland rice cultivation and with possible opportunities to spot monitor lizards and bird life. After arriving at the park substation, you will be shown to your very basic open air bamboo huts before enjoying a traditional local lunch. Afterwards, you will receive a briefing by park staff about the on-­the-­ground efforts in protecting tigers and their prey. At mid-­afternoon after you have taken rest, the boat will talk you to continue the journey upriver for a couple hours.

The boat will continue upriver until reaching the dinner site, a sandy, flat bank, where the group takes a picnic around a campfire. After dinner, the guides will educate about the species of animals they may see during the spotlighting and explain the rules and expectations for spotlighting. The group departs for the night spotlighting 2-­3 hours after dark, floating down the river with engines and lights off. The guides will use their headlamp to spot wildlife, if they see something they will then signal you to turn on your light for a better look. The guides and boat drivers communicate via hand signals to avoid talking that might disturb the animals. Animals that may be seen include Sambar deer, otters, barking deer, various species of civets, loris, porcupine and owls. Once you reach back to the camp, the guides will build a camp fire where you can all commerce and talk about the evenings sighting before retiring for the evening.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at Nam Nern Night Safari – Bamboo Hut

Day 11   Houaphan: Ban San Khoua to Luang Prabang

Before breakfast, local guides take you on a walk around the jungle, teaching about the use of some medicinal plants and explaining the history of the site, which was once a major settlement during the Secret War. After breakfast, the boats float back through the core zone at a relaxing pace with engines off, while the guides point out wildlife along the way. Upon arrival in the village, you will be asked to fill out a wildlife monitoring form that is used to monitor wildlife abundance and indicate the amount of bonuses put into the village development fund from the tour costs. Have a last group photo with your guides and boat drivers before you leave by private van for Luang Prabang. On your way stop for lunch and a stretch before continuing on the eight hour driver through the countryside to Luang Praabng. Once you return back to town, check into your hotel for an evening of leisure.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Maison Dalabua Hotel – Grand Deluxe Room

Day 12   Luang Prabang to Vientiane: Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center, COPE Center and City Tour

Check out early from your hotel for your flight – Laos Airlines QV112 departing Luang Prabang at 07:40 & arriving Vientiane at 08:30. You will be met by your guide and driver at the airport. Head out to the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center, 20km outside of central Vientiane. Established in 2002, the LDWDC is a non-profit organization, run by women with disabilities, for women with disabilities and their families in Laos. The center provides vocational training to these women in sewing, weaving, handicraft, computers, English and Lao Language. Today, you will get to meet some of these women by participating in a handicraft workshop and privately guided tour of the center. This will be followed by a traditional baci ceremony and Lao style lunch, prepared by the center. In the early afternoon, say goodbye to your new friends at LDWDC and head back to town.

In the afternoon, stop by the COPE Center to learn about how they are helping the disadvantaged in Laos effected by UXO. Then take a city tour to see the highlights of the capital see, which includes Haw PhaKaeo, Wat Si Saket, Pha That Luang, and Patuxai. Finally, return to your hotel for an evening of leisure.

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Ansara Hotel – Savvy Room

Day 13   Vientiane: Departure

You will be transferred to Vientiane Airport in time for your onward flight.

Meals included: Breakfast


Please Note: This is a sample and does not reflect hotel room availability. The pricing is not final until the itinerary has been confirmed and booked.

Tour Rate: $3,810 per person based on 2 people traveling, with a $2,740 single supplement

Price includes:

  • Air tickets: Luang Prabang – Vientiane
  • Boat tickets as specified above
  • Accommodation as specified above
  • Air-conditioned car/van with driver
  • Licensed English speaking guides
  • Tours and admission fees as mentioned above
  • Meals as specified in itinerary, including water

Price excludes:

  • Personal expenses
  • Visa fees
  • Airport tax
  • Drinks (except water) and meals not mentioned in itinerary
  • Tips
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