A very unique travel experience and certainly unlike any other we offer in Indochina, Way of the Elephant promises to take you well away from even the slightest scent of a beaten track.
Route: Luang Prabang – Nong Khiaw – Muang Khua – Muang La – Pakbeng – Hongsa – Luang Prabang.
Day 1: Arrive Luang Prabang (B/)
Day 2: Luang Prabang, Walking Tour (B/)
Day 3: Luang Prabang (B/)
Day 4: Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw (B/)
Day 5: Nong Khiaw, Nam Ou River, Muang Khua, Muang La (B/D)
Day 6: Muang La, Trek (B/L/D)
Day 7: Muang La, Pakbeng (B/D)
Day 8: Pakbeng, Hongsa, Elephant Trek (B/L/D)
Day 9: Elephant Trek (B/L/D)
Day 10: Elephant Trek (B/L/D)
Day 11: Elephant Trek, Mekong River Cruise, Luang Prabang (B/L/)
Day 12: Luang Prabang (B/L/D)
Upon arrival at Luang Prabang Airport you will be met by your guide for the transfer to your hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Luang Prabang, the ‘Jewel of Indochina’, is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site and regularly voted as one of Asia’s premier travel destinations. The ancient royal city is surrounded by mountains and is situated at a junction of the Mekong and Khan Rivers.
In the centre of the city is Mount Phousi, rewarding climbers of its 328 steps with stunning views of the surrounding temples and hills. Luang Prabang, a city where time has seemingly stood still, is also an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional Lao architecture with structures built by the European colonial authorities in more recent times. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.
In the evening there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from – we also recommend the local river side stalls for some truly authentic Lao flavours, washed down with the excellent Beer Lao!
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
An option (although we highly recommend it; in fact, we almost insist) for early-risers is dawn visit to witness the long lines of orange-robed monks leaving their pagodas to receive offerings of food from the residents of Luang Prabang. It’s a fantastic experience and for many a highlight of their visit to this iconic city.
After breakfast, enjoy a tour of the city. Your circuit begins at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, continuing on to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-reliefs. During Pimai (the Lao New Year celebrations in April), the Kingdoms Palladium – known as Prabang and normally housed in the Royal Palace Museum – is put on public display in this temple. Continue on to Wat Xieng Thong, perhaps the most photographed temple in Luang Prabang (quite an accolade!).
In the late morning visit Wat Mai and the unique Wat Visoun, entirely rebuilt after its destruction in 1887 by the invading Black Flags from southern China. In the courtyard of Wat Visoun stands the Watermelon Stupa, which is shaped like the fruit it takes its name from.
In the afternoon start with the excellent Arts and Ethnology Centre which will give you further insight into the ethnic mix and culture of Laos. There is also time to visit the weaving and textile villages of Ban Xangkhong and Ban Xienglek before returning to the Old Town to climb Mount Phousi and enjoy the stunning views across Luang Prabang as the sun sets.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Your day is at leisure.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Late morning departure by road Nong Khiaw, a picturesque journey alongside the course of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers.
Nong Khiaw is a remote village situated on the banks of the Nam Ou River and flanked on either side by stunning mountainous back-drops. The remainder of your day is at leisure so why not take a stroll along the river bank, wander through local villages, or just settle back with a Beer Lao and wait for the spectacular sunset.
Overnight in Nong Khiaw.
Morning departure by small boat up the Nam Ou River to Muang Khua. This particular stretch promises stunning scenery and a sprinkling of remote villages, including Ban Sob Jaem a Khmu Village, and Hmong villages that can only be accessed by boat. Upon reaching Muang Khua, continue by road to Muang La, famous for its natural hot springs, arriving by mid afternoon.
The remainder of your day is at leisure to enjoy the serenity of the Muang La Resort and its welcoming hot spring baths. Overnight in Muang La.
After a short transfer by 4×4, start your day’s trek through the beautiful surrounding forest. For much of the morning you will pass amongst a landscape of lush vegetation and rice paddies. In the late morning you will arrive at an isolated Khamu village of stilted houses.
The community has not changed much for hundreds of years and you will have the opportunity to learn about their daily life, discovering about the aspects of the community that play such an important role; respect for the wisdom of elders, the innocence of the youngest, and the solidarity of people. After lunch, set off into the surrounding hills where you will discover a series of interesting caves and enjoy incredible views of the valleys below.
Return to Muang La in the late afternoon where the remainder of your day is at leisure.
Overnight in Muang La.
Morning departure for Hongsa, a small village just a few miles down river from the Mekong River-side town of Pakbeng, a popular spot with travellers wanting to break their river journey between N.E Thailand and Luang Prabang.
Pakbeng is an interesting town to walk through, and you will see many H’mong and tribal Thai minority people in the area. Enjoy sunset and dinner from the balcony of your lodge overlooking the Mekong River.
Overnight in Pakbeng.
Enjoy a special sunrise and breakfast at the lodge before making the drive to the rural village of Hongsa. Here you will change guides, meeting with one of the specialist guides provided by the locally based organisation that care for the elephants.
The long wait is almost over and after a short walk to Sibounheuang village you will meet the elephants and their mahouts who often spend their entire life caring for just one elephant.
Once loaded and aboard, the caravan will depart the village and head in the direction of Ban Viengkeo, a famous mahout village of the Tai Lue ethnic group. Continue along the banks of the Nam Khene River passing an outstanding back drop of rice fields and forest. You will arrive at your final destination in plenty of time to pitch camp before dark. Throughout the day you will begin to learn some basic mahout craft and ensure that your elephant remains suitably fed!
Overnight in Ban Then.
After breakfast and having helped the elephants to theirs, join your mahout with the grooming and bathing duties.
The caravan will depart for the village of Ban Thene, 4km to the east. The elephants pass through the beautiful village and cross a small river before the path narrows and the vegetation becomes thicker – you’ll be happy to have such a high seat!
The afternoon is spent travelling through the untouched, natural surroundings, sticking close the Nam Thap River. Arriving at Ban Nam Tap Village, set up camp near the forest on the outskirts of the village before enjoying a well earned bathe in the nearby river. Having ventured into the village and met some of the locals, join your guide in preparing the evening meal.
Overnight in Nam Thap
Once again there are bathing and grooming duties to take care of before leaving the camp. You’ll then start the days trek on foot as there is a steep hill to climb, those that make it to the top will be rewarded with a stunning panorama of the valley below and a spot of lunch in a small hamlet.
The remainder of the morning is spent sitting up high, following the course of the Nam En until you reach the village of Ban Kheng En where the elephants are likely to head straight for the banks of the Mekong River – no surprises there!
By now you will have learned a variety of the necessary skills and commands to ride your elephant so this afternoon there will be time for a short ‘elephant driving test’ allowing you to show your mahout how much you have learned in the past few days.
After your test you can join your mahout at the village chief’s house for a traditional Baci ceremony, the purpose of which is to call escaped spirits back to the body, a tradition that is very important for Lao people before major events such as weddings, births, travel or when welcoming friends.
Set up camp on the banks of the Mekong River before taking the elephants in for a well earned bath. Unquestionably a highlight of the trip, if not a lifetime, the elephants display their fun loving-side once in the water and you can be sure of some magical moments.
Diner will be around the campfire with the villagers, learning elephant commands and hearing local stories and superstitions.
Overnight in Ban Kheng En or camping.
Enjoy a truly special breakfast on the banks of the Mekong River, watching local boats passing by, before packing your bags for your journey to Luang Prabang, departing from Tha Souang Pier. Having said goodbye to your four legged friends, travel east to Luang Prabang along the picturesque Mekong River.
Arrive in Luang Prabang in the late afternoon where the remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Your day is at leisure until your transfer to the aiport for your onward flight.