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Monks walking near Angkor Thom

Highlights of Cambodia & Laos

Example 11 Day Tour
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Get off the beaten path for your next adventure and explore two of Southeast Asia's little visited countries. Khmer Empire ruins and history, centuries-old temples, and warm local hospitality make a tour to Cambodia and Laos a truly authentic adventure for the more experienced traveler.
Aerial view of Angkor WatLocal paddling on Tonle Sap LakeKuang Si WaterfallGolden Sleeping Buddha, Mount Phou Si, Luang PrabangTa Prohm in Angkor WatKandal Market in Phnom PenhPatuxai monument in VientianeGiving alms to a monkBuddha at Bayon Temple, Angkor ThomMonks walking near Angkor Thom
Highlights
  • Explore Siem Reap, with a focus on temples and ruins including Angkor Wat
  • Go boating on Tonle Sap Lake and witness the daily lives of locals
  • Hike to Kuang Si Waterfall and hike in its turquoise pools
  • Learn about the lasting impact of the region's dark recent history
Activity Level: Easy Active
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh

Arrive to Phnom Penh, meet your guide, and drive to your hotel to settle in for the evening. Once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, the bustling city still retains its colonial charm and picturesque location along the confluence of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers.

Day 2: Explore Phnom Penh

This morning you set out to visit some of the sights of Phnom Penh by cyclo, a traditional way to explore the city. Visit first Wat Phnom temple, the founding place of the city on a small hill. Continue on to the Royal Palace which dates back to 1866. Next visit the National Museum which houses the world's foremost collection of Khmer artifacts from the 4th to 13th centuries. The museum, built in traditional Khmer style itself, displays over 5,000 pieces and constitutes the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth.

This afternoon take some time to learn about a more somber and dark spot in Cambodia's recent history. Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in the former school that was used by the Khmer Rouge. Also visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.

Return to your hotel for the evening.

Notice: When visiting the Royal Palace, visitors are advised to follow a dress code consisting of "long trousers or skirts that cover the knees and covered shoulders". Skirts, small shorts, tank tops, and other revealing clothing are not permitted.

Day 3: Fly Siem Reap

After breakfast take a flight on to Siem Reap, the country's base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire. On arrival meet your guide and transfer to your hotel for check-in and short break before your explorations begin.

Later this afternoon set out to explore the temples of the Small Circuit, the most illustrious of which is Ta Prohm which was built in the mid 12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm was largely left as it was found, with overgrown jungle trees and vines causing many parts of the temple to crumble to the ground. The picturesque ruins very much live up to their portrayal in the film Tomb Raider. Visit also Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th century and Srah Srang, also known as the 'pool of ablutions'.

Day 4: Siem Reap Ruins

Your first stop this morning is the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under Jayavarman VII. Surrounded by an eight-meter-high wall, the city is a perfect square. You can enter through the stone south gate to an entrance with a row of 54 gods or demons holding the sacred Naga snake. From there, continue to Bayon Temple in the center of the city. With 54 towers and four faces, this monument represented the 54 provinces of the then-Great Khmer Empire. Also, see the Terrace of the Elephants and Leper King, who both offer bas-reliefs.

Here the Buddhist monks celebrate a private blessing ceremony for you, wishing you health and a safe journey. Return to the hotel for a break from the mid-day heat.

This afternoon, leave early to travel to Angkor Wat before sunset, when the number of tourist is at its lowest. The city was built in the early 12th century under the rule of King Suryavarman II and was designed after Mount Meru, also known as the home of the gods. The King himself was claimed to have lived here after his death as the holy dwelling of Vishnu. Stone carvings and bas-reliefs that reflect Hindu mythology and the battles Suryavarman II waged during his rule decorate the walls of the temple. Another notable feature of Angkor Wat is the more than 2,000 Aspara dancers decorate the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around 30 years of intensive labor, and today a depiction of Angkor Wat is said to symbolize the soul of the Khmer people. Explore the ruins before returning to your hotel later this evening.

Day 5: Tonle Sap Lake

Drive to Kampong Kleang village. Imagine wooden houses on 32 foot (10 m) tall stilts, surrounded by water in the wet season and on the flood plains of the lake in the dry season. Drive on the dirt road to the village; along the way see many wooden houses and traditional fishing equipment as well as small children waving their hands and saying hello to you. Upon arrival at the stilt house the family welcomes you with some tea and coffee before you start walking around the village. This community of Kampong Kleang knows many inventive ways to catch fish. Learn about the village life while visiting a local school, seeing the smoking of catfish, and speaking to a fisherman while he is making reparations on his net.
 
Lunch at a local restaurant.

*Boat trip is only possible from Aug to Feb when the water levels are high enough. An alternate floating village of Chong Kneas may be arranged in Mar and Jul.

Return to Siem Reap and spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.

Optional tour for an additional cost: Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus
Transfer from your hotel at 7.30 p.m. by Remok (tuk tuk) to the Phare circus tent, located just outside of town. This evening, enjoy a show at the Cambodian Circus. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. and lasts about an hour. Phare Ponleu Selpak means “Brightness of the Arts”. This is a circus like none other, and it’s very different from a western style circus. Phare is a Cambodian non-profit art organization founded in 1994 by eight young Cambodians returning from refugee camps along the Thai border. The purpose is to improve the development of local communities by providing education and professional artistic training. The circus performers are very talented and passionate, and have traveled all over the world giving performances. The shows are constantly rotating, depending on the time you visit. All of their shows are fantastic and focus on both traditional and contemporary themes. Some people credit Phare with the rebirth of Cambodian dance and culture.

Day 6: Fly Luang Prabang

Breakfast is served at the hotel. Free until you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Luang Prabang. Meet your guide and driver upon arrival and transfer to your hotel for the night.

Day 7: Observing the Almsgiving | Visit the Pak Ou Caves

Rise early this morning to the sound of the monastery bells at dawn and witness the lines of monks emerging to receive their morning rice from the townspeople. You're asked to keep a respectful distance while observing this sacred ritual. If you take photographs, do not use a flash and try not to let this interfere with this highly revered ritual. Then visit the lively morning market and be immersed in the local lifestyle, observing locals who are doing their grocery shopping, and return to your hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast, travel through Laos' scenic countryside to the Pak Ou Caves, a mystical pilgrimage site perched above the Mekong River 27 miles outside of Luang Prabang. Upon arrival in Ban Pak Ou, take a boat to get across the river and reach the Pak Ou caves. More than 3,000 Buddha images of various ages and sizes are on display, some of which are inlaid with semi-precious stones. After exploring this sacred site, return to Luang Prabang by boat and cruise along the Mekong. Enjoy the lush river life along the Mekong while sipping a drink and tasting some Lao snacks on the way back.

Along the way, visit two riverside villages. In Ban Xang Khong, prized Lao textiles are still woven on ancient wooden looms. Some villagers are also involved in the production of mulberry paper. The villagers of Ban Xang Hai make Lao Lao, a rice whisky. If you dare, take a sip of this potent beverage.

Day 8: Ethnic Minorities | Kuang Si Falls

Meet your guide and driver after breakfast, then start the day with a visit to the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, a museum dedicated to the ethnic minorities of Laos. Then drive into the peaceful countryside, stopping to explore several villages along the way. See a Hmong, a Khmu, and a Lowland Lao village and compare their different lifestyles, traditions, and religions. In Ban Long Lao, you can see Hmong and Khmu people living peacefully side-by-side. The Hmong settlers were the most recent to come to Laos. Hmong built their villages on the mountaintops and practiced shifting cultivation of corn and other crops. With local guides, you have the chance to see houses from inside, traditional dresses, and explanations about different craft productions or other common work routines. The villagers are grateful for this additional income, and proud to welcome visitors from far away!

Continue on with a trek through various landscapes until you arrive at the top of the Kuang Si Waterfall. Hike down and enjoy lunch here as crystal water cascades into idyllic turquoise pools. Also, take time to visit the nearby Sun Bear Refuge to learn more about the poaching of these endangered creatures.

After this, visit the Buffalo Diary Farm, known for its sustainable approach to local farming. A guided tour of the farm and information on how they work with the local community are included, as well as buffalo feeding and bathing, milking demonstrations, feeding chickens, pigs, and rabbits, and bottle feeding calves. Before returning to your hotel, relax in the café and enjoy the 'cake of the day' served with ice cream and tea or coffee.

Day 9: Walking Tour of Luang Prabang | Fly Vientiane

This morning, explore the historic and charming World Heritage. Explore some of the most popular temples, such as Wat Xieng Thong, an exquisite 500-year-old temple built in the classic Luang Prabang style. Continue wandering up the peninsula, stopping at other temples, the National Museum, which is the former Royal Palace, and other sites as you wish. Overlooking the palace is Phousi Mountain; be sure to climb the 328 steps up, as it is said those who haven't climbed the steps have not truly made it to Luang Prabang.

Later, transfer to the airport for your flight to Vientiane on Lao Airlines, QV 102 (11:30/12:15), ticket issued by Khiri Laos.

Upon arrival, meet your guide and transfer to your accommodation.

Day 10: Highlights of Vientiane

Meet your guide and continue to explore Vientiane's past and present after breakfast. Visit Wat Sisaket, the only structure to survive the Siamese invasion of 1828 intact. Across the street sits Ho Pha Keo, reconstructed in the 1930s on the site of the original building. A short journey up Lane Xang Street gives you a glimpse into the changing face of the city. Among the more modern structures is Patouxai, the Lao Victory Monument. Also, visit Wat That Luang with its central lotus-bud spire and 30 surrounding stupas-the most sacred structure in all of Laos. Also, pay a visit to the COPE Visitor Centre for a moving insight into the Secret War, which left Laos as the most heavily bombed country in history. Enjoy lunch at Kua Lao Restaurant.

Travel out of town to Xieng Khouan Buddha Park after lunch. It was here that a renegade monk formed his sect and began to mold magnificent, eerie statues out of concrete, based on Hindu, Buddhist, and Brahman iconography. Each status tells a story or a moral fable. He began in 1958 and continued until the Communist takeover of Laos in 1975. This is a surreal place full of interesting photographic opportunities!

Day 11: Return Home | Vientiane

  • 1 Breakfast
Today get to the airport early (without a guide) for your flight home or on to your next destination.

Accommodations

Phnom Penh - Hotels

Luang Prabang - Hotels

Vientiane - Hotels

Siem Reap - Hotels

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$1,825

Notes

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*If starting your tour on Tuesday, the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre will be closed on day 7.
Included
  • 5 Lunches
  • 10 Nights Accommodations
  • 10 Days Locally Hosted Guide Service
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Carbon Offset Fee 
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Tourist Visa
  • Internal Flight: Luang Prabang - Vientiane
  • Internal Flight: Phnom Penh - Siem Reap
  • Internal Flight: Siem Reap - Luang Prabang

Map

When to Go

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Chance for unpredictable weather but with fewer visitors.

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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
Meyer Smolen

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