This 14-day overland adventure explores the highlights of two distinct countries, from the ethnic villages, spectacular waterfalls, and bucolic "4,000 Islands" of the Mekong River in Laos to Cambodia's "floating villages" and the great temple complex of Angkor. You'll explore these wonders by riverboat, bicycle, and tuk-tuk, all the while immersing yourself in these countries' ancient and colorful cultures.


  • Explore the cities, farms, and rivers of Laos and meet locals on a cultural exchange
  • Come face to face with Asian black bears at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre
  • Cycle the "4,000 Islands" of the Mekong River and take ferry rides between isles
  • Hike around the grand temples of Angkor Wat and admire their intricate bas-reliefs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Luang Prabang (Laos), Optional Activities Luang Prabang
Day 2 Cultural Highlights City Tour & Ethnic Villages Luang Prabang
Day 3 Local Farm Visit & Cooking Class, Waterfall & Bear Rescue Center Luang Prabang
Day 4 Morning Buddhist Ceremony, Visit Pak Ou Caves Luang Prabang
Day 5 Train to Vientiane, City Tour Vientiane
Day 6 Fly to Pakse, Waterfalls & Coffee Plantations, Transfer to Champasak Champasak
Day 7 Explore the Ruins of Wat Phou Champasak
Day 8 Transfer to Don Khong, Bike & Ferry Tour of "4,000 Islands" Don Khong
Day 9 Waterfall Visit, Transfer to Sra'aem (Cambodia) & Preah Vihear Temple Sra'aem
Day 10 Follow the Khmer Rouge Route to Siem Reap Siem Reap
Day 11 Day Trip to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom & Temples Siem Reap
Day 12 Floating Village Boat Tour, Local Cooking Class & Dinner Siem Reap
Day 13 Countryside Cycling Tour & Cambodian Circus Siem Reap
Day 14 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Luang Prabang (Laos), Optional Activities

The Luang Prabang peninsula
The Luang Prabang peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers

Welcome to Laos! Upon arrival at Luang Prabang Airport, you'll be met by your driver/guide for a short transfer to your hotel. If you like, you can spend the day relaxing poolside at the hotel. Or, if you're restless after the flight, take a stroll through this town, which was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Laos and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nestled at the foot of mountains in the north of the country, Luang Prabang enjoys a privileged location atop a narrow peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. Each river is lined with restaurants and bars and makes for a pleasant evening stroll, as does the Night Market and nearby Night Food Stalls, which open at sunset.

Day 2: Cultural Highlights City Tour & Ethnic Villages

One stop on today's tour is the Royal Palace Museum of Luang Prabang

After breakfast, head to the quaint Royal Palace Museum for an overview of the culture and history of this ancient city. Then stroll the quiet back lanes to Huan Chuan Heritage House, a traditional stilt longhouse, for a refreshing iced tea in the lush gardens. Next, you'll visit the tip of the peninsula and the enchanting Wat Xiengthong temple with its graceful sweeping roof. Before a typical Laotian lunch at a local restaurant, you'll also explore the nearby Wat Khili temple, housing a historical photo exhibition of Buddhist heritage.

Later, visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, which offers fascinating insights into the nation's diverse ethnic and cultural mosaic. See this cultural heritage firsthand on a trip out of town to Ban Xang Khong and Ban Xieng Lek, ethnic villages known for textile weaving. Back in Luang Prabang, you'll visit 15th-century Wat Visoun, known as "The Watermelon Stupa" due to its shape. Finally, take time at leisure to relax or to see some of Luang Prabang's other intriguing temples, such as Wat Aham (where you can meet novice monks who gather daily at the prayer hall for meditative chants).

Day 3: Local Farm Visit & Cooking Class, Waterfall & Bear Rescue Center

Grab the basket and pull up a seat at Kuang Si, where you'll enjoy a picnic

This morning, travel outside of town to a local family farm, where your hosts will happily guide you around their traditional rice fields. Roll up your sleeves and live the life of a farmer for the morning as you learn about the production of typical Laotian rice crops, meet the resident buffalo and see how they help with the harvest, and try your hand at plowing, planting, and harvesting rice without modern machinery. After you've worked up an appetite in the fields, sit down to taste some classic Laotian dishes made from rice. 

Then, continue to Kuang Si waterfall to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the beautiful triple-tiered cascades with natural jade-colored pools. Nearby, you'll see endangered Asiatic black bears up close at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. Here, bears and other rare animals—such as leopard cats, civets, pangolins, and red pandas—rescued from smugglers are cared for and, if possible, rehabilitated for release back to the wild. Afterward, you'll return to Luang Prabang and have the evening free.

Day 4: Morning Buddhist Ceremony, Visit Pak Ou Caves

Start the day with a morning visit to the monastery to meet Buddhist monks

It's an early start today as you'll meet your guide around 6 am and plan the day's adventures together. If you like, begin the day by experiencing the morning ritual of Tak Bat. This ceremony involves Buddhist monks leaving their temples early in the morning to walk through the streets collecting alms from the local community. This long-standing tradition has ancient roots, dating back to the time of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, over 2,500 years ago. Then, you can visit a municipal market abuzz with activity as locals pick up their fresh produce for the day.

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the waterfront and board a private boat for a cruise up the mighty Mekong River. Enjoy the tranquil countryside passing by as you cruise to the mysterious Pak Ou caves. This pair of caves is set in a limestone cliff facing the Mekong and is packed with thousands of Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes. During the return trip downstream, you'll stop at the traditional weaving and textile villages of Ban Xangkhong and Ban Nongxai before arriving back in Luang Prabang in the early afternoon.

Day 5: Train to Vientiane, City Tour

The golden Buddha at Wat Pha That Luong is one of the country's most impressive landmarks

Transfer to the station in Luang Prabang early this morning and board a train for the two-hour ride to Vientiane. Upon arrival, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. After settling in, you'll meet a guide and embark on a tour of Laos' largest city and capital. Sitting on the Mekong River and known for its colonial architecture and rich cultural heritage, this city doesn't lack impressive monuments and historical sights.

This half-day tour begins at the oldest temple in Vientiane, Wat Sisaket, which is famous for its thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Then, visit the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, now a museum of arts and antiques. During a stroll along Lanexang Avenue, you can snap photos of the imposing Patuxai Monument, which resembles Paris' iconic Arc de Triomphe ( hike to the top offers great views over the city). Continue down Rue Singha 23 to Laos' national icon and most important religious building, the golden stupa of That Luang. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 6: Fly to Pakse, Waterfalls & Coffee Plantations, Transfer to Champasak

Visit even grander waterfalls, like Tad Fan, on a trip to the Bolaven Plateau
Plan your trip to Laos
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

It's a big travel day, as, after breakfast, you'll transfer to Vientiane's airport and board a one-hour flight to Pakse. This city lies in the far south of the country, where the Mekong and Xe Don River meet. Upon arrival, your personal driver will pick you up for the ride east and up to the Bolaven Plateau, high above the Mekong Valley.

This area is Laos' central coffee-growing region and is dotted with towering waterfalls. You'll visit the Tad Fan waterfall, a massive twin-chute cascade, followed by visits to tea and coffee plantations to learn about their production process and sample fresh local brews. Afterward, return to Pakse and continue south to the historic town of Champasak, where you'll overnight.

Day 7: Explore the Ruins of Wat Phou

Hike around the ruins of Wat Phou temple

After breakfast, you'll take a 10-minute drive to the ruins of Wat Phou temple, a Khmer Hindu religious complex dating to the fifth century. This well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises a tiered geometric complex of temples, shrines, and waterways extending some 6 miles (10 km) from the mountaintop down to the Mekong River. At the end of the excursion, you'll return to Champasak, where you'll spend another night.

Day 8: Transfer to Don Khong, Bike & Ferry Tour of "4,000 Islands" 

Just some of the "4,000 Islands" of the Mekong River you'll explore

In the morning, take the ferry to the east side of the Mekong. There, continue south to Don Khong, the largest of the thousands of islands that dot this section of the Mekong River. After checking in to your hotel, hop aboard a mountain bike for a full-day adventure.

During this excursion, you'll cycle along dirt roads of three lesser-visited isles among the Si Phan Don Islands—colloquially called "4,000 Islands"—that form a complex mosaic along this braided stretch of the Mekong River. You'll reach these tiny isles by small local ferries, beginning with Don Phouman—a quintessentially Laotian island of fishing hamlets and ancient rice fields. You'll then island-hop to Don Saang Phai, where you'll visit its ancient wooden Buddhist temple and learn about the importance of religion and beliefs in the local culture.

The next stop is the long, slender island of Don Loppadi, whose villagers specialize in weaving fishing nets and bamboo baskets. Here, you'll sit down with a local family for a home-cooked lunch of fresh-caught fish, papaya salad, sticky rice, and home-brewed rice wine. Finally, you'll return to Don Khong by boat, passing a network of tiny uninhabited islands before arriving back at your hotel, where you can take the evening to rest up.

Day 9: Waterfall Visit, Transfer to Sra'aem (Cambodia) & Preah Vihear Temple

The spectacular Khone Phapheng Falls, which cross the Mekong River

This morning, travel to Khone Phapheng Falls. This is one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in Southeast Asia, barrelling over the Mekong in a spectacle of foaming waterways tumbling between jagged bedrock. Then, it's a short distance to the Cambodian border, where you'll meet an English-speaking guide and embark on a scenic trip into the northern Cambodian countryside and the village of Sra'aem.

Here, you'll transfer to a specially-fitted 4WD truck for the steep climb up to the ninth-century Preah Vihear Temple. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, this UNESCO World Heritage Site enjoys a spectacular location atop a plateau offering sweeping views over the plains of Cambodia. The temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an axis hundreds of meters long. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel near the temple and can spend the rest of the day exploring.

Day 10: Follow the Khmer Rouge Route to Siem Reap

A roadside shrine in Choam honoring those who perished during the Khmer Rouge regime

You'll journey south this morning to reach Siem Reap, passing through northern Cambodia's last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge dictatorship (1975-1979). You'll stop briefly to visit Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's cremation site at Choam, on the Thailand border, and the house of Khmer Rouge military head Ta Mok ("The Butcher") in Anlong Veng.

Continue to Siem Reap and check into your hotel. Spend the day relaxing, or head out on foot to explore this charming gateway town to the legendary Angkor temples. Perhaps head to the teeming Psar Chaa (Old Market), whose alleyways are packed with locals haggling over everything from household goods to fresh produce.

If you like, enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment at one of Siem Reap's professional spa centers. There's also the option for a fish pedicure (where you stick your feet in an aquarium, and fish flock to nibble away the dead skin). For dinner, head to the restaurants and bars of Pub Street.

Day 11: Day Trip to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom & Temples

Angkor Wat gilded by morning sunlight

Embark from Siem Reap this morning by remork (a Cambodian tuk-tuk) for a full day exploring the great temple complex at Angkor. Begin with the magnificent, early 12th-century Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world, adorned with bas-relief carvings of more than 3,000 apsaras (mythical heavenly maidens). Then, head to the adjacent ancient city of Angkor Thom, enclosed by massive ramparts totaling 7.5 miles (12 km) in length. Begin here with the central, pyramidal Bayon Temple, with its 54 spires adorned with giant and enigmatically smiling stone faces.

You'll also explore the Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of the Elephants before exiting Angkor Thom through the extraordinary Victory Gate for a traditional Khmer lunch beside the Royal Bathing Pool of Srah Srang. Then head to the iconic and photogenic, root-riddled Ta Prohm—colloquially nicknamed the "Tomb Raider" temple for having featured in the eponymous 2001 Angelina Jolie movie. After roaming its overgrown temple courtyards and corridors, return to your hotel in Siem Reap and enjoy dinner in town.

Day 12: Floating Village Boat Tour, Local Cooking Class & Dinner

Cruise around the floating villages of Tonlé Sap

Today, visit Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. You'll board a traditional wooden boat and cruise around the Mechrey floating village, a Cham Vietnamese-Cambodian community whose homes rise and fall with seasonal water levels. After seeing their traditional way of life, continue to the community of Saray, where you'll witness how locals weave floor mats, baskets, and hammocks from water hyacinths; plus, you'll enjoy lunch at a floating restaurant.

Dinner tonight is a very special culinary adventure with a local family organized through Dine with the Locals, a group that organizes local food adventures and memorable culinary experiences. During your visit to the family home, you'll learn to cook traditional Khmer dishes as you all prepare and enjoy the meal together. Each host family accepts only one booking per day to ensure a personal experience. 

Day 13: Countryside Cycling Tour & Cambodian Circus

Locals in the Cambodian countryside threshing rice

This morning, set out on a bicycle for a guided tour of the beautiful countryside surrounding Siem Reap. You'll pedal past pagodas and temples rising over the rice fields and gain firsthand insights into the local rural Khmer life and culture. Highlights include a stop at the village Kirimanon to meet women who make traditional wicker baskets, as well as visiting a local family that makes traditional rice noodles.

After lunch, return to your hotel and spend the rest of the day relaxing by the pool or indulging in a spa treatment. End the day after dinner with modern Khmer theater performed by Phare, The Cambodian Circus. Founded in refugee camps as an outlet for traumatized young Cambodians to express themselves using art, Cambodia's homegrown version of Cirque du Soleil tells uniquely Cambodian stories using music, dance, and classic circus acts. 

Day 14: Depart Siem Reap

Leahaey samreab pelnih! (Goodbye for now!)

Time to say goodbye to Cambodia (for now). If you like, you can return to Southeast Asia soon to discover even more of its gems and wonders. After breakfast at the hotel, you'll transfer to the airport in Siem Reap and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Laos & Cambodia: Luang Prabang Overland to Siem Reap - 14 Days
Map of Laos & Cambodia: Luang Prabang Overland to Siem Reap - 14 Days