Images of Laos
An escorted photography tour of Laos taking you from the mountains of the north and World Heritage Luang Prabang to the sublime 4,000 Islands of the far south
13-day Laos photography tour
A 2-week Laos photography tour of some of the historical, cultural and scenic highlights of this little-known, landlocked and mountainous country, led by one of our highly experienced professional travel photographers.
The tour is suitable for anyone with a passion for travel to remote areas and an interest in photography, from beginners to budding pros. For the former, hands=on instruction and advice will be available while we’ll do our best to ensure the latter get to the right place at the right time. In keeping with the All Points East philosophy, we emphasize travel photography that appreciates local people, their cultures and traditions and encourages a positive impact on the people and places that we visit. Subject matter, as with all our photography tours, features everyday life, street scenes and the local inhabitants as much as the country’s spectacular landscapes, architecture and famous sights.
Our itinerary begins in the fabulous ancient capital – now UNESCO World Heritage Site – Luang Prabang where we’ll explore the beautiful temples and colonial architecture – as well as getting into the surrounding hills and villages – of what is acknowledged to be the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia.
From here we head south, via the lively, riverside, modern-day capital Vientiane to the old French Mekong port of Pakse from where we’ll explore the picturesque landscapes and plantations of the Boloven Plateau before taking a boat down the Mekong to another UNESCO site – the spectacular Angkor period temple of Wat Phu.
Our final destination is the sublime landscape of a Mekong River archipelago known as the 4,000 Islands where myriad isles, traditional villages and picturesque waterways fill the width of the river before it tumbles over one of the world’s largest waterfalls, Khone Phapaeng, into northern Cambodia.
A wealth of varied landscapes, spectacular ancient temples, colonial architecture, colourful local markets and scenes of everyday life on this unforgettable Laos photography tour following the mighty Mekong from the mountains of the far north to its inland delta in the extreme south.
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Vientiane - arrival, orientation and time to explore
Arrival in the Lao capital Vientiane. Time to relax or take a riverfront stroll along the Mekong with an introductory briefing from our travel photographer and a welcome, local-style dinner.
Photo themes; architecture, temples, street life
Overnight: Vientiane Transport: Walk, Meals: D,
Day 2 - Vientiane - city sights
Tour of some of the city’s fascinating sites – picturesque Si Saket Temple with its thousand, ancient Buddha images, Vientiane’s most famous landmark That Luang, as well as the highly unusual and photogenic ‘Buddha Park’. We’ll also have time to check out the local markets and street life of this laid-back, charming Mekong-side city.
Photo themes: – architecture, temples, street life, markets
Overnight: Vientiane Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 3 - Luang Prabang - walking tour of the old city
Flight to World Heritage Luang Prabang and check into our French-period villa hotel. An afternoon walking tour includes a market, the former royal palace and spectacular Wat Xiengthong, the town’s most celebrated temple, with plenty of opportunities along the way to capture scenes of everyday life in the quaint winding alleys amid the well-preserved period architecture.
Photo themes; period architecture, street life, river scenes, markets, ancient temples
Overnight: Luang Prabang Transport: Plane, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 4 - Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Falls and sunset Mekong cruise
Early visit to catch the light and action in the colourful morning market before a drive through the surrounding hills, to the stunning Kuang Si Waterfalls. The tour includes stops at a traditional silk weaving project and the Free the Bears Rescue Centre. Return to Luang Prabang for a scenic sunset boat trip on the Mekong River.
Photo themes: – market, landscapes, village life, river scenes, sunset
Overnight: Luang Prabang Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 5 - Nong Khiaw - north into the hills
Morning boat trip up the Mekong to the sacred Pak Ou cave temple, with its myriad Buddha figures, followed by a short but scenic drive through the hills to Nong Khiaw. The town has a truly spectacular setting amid dramatic karst scenery along the banks of the Ou River. Explore the village before perhaps catching sunset from a strategically placed riverside terrace.
Photo themes; landscapes/karst scenery, river scenes, village life
Overnight: Nong Khiaw Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 6 - Nong Khiaw - boat trip up the Ou River
An exciting boat journey north up the spectacular Ou River as it cuts through awe-inspiring, jagged limestone cliffs and past remote fishing villages only accessible by boat. In the afternoon we will return to Luang Prabang with an opportunity to participate in a traditional village Baci Ceremony, performed to celebrate important events such as a wedding, birth, or for welcoming guests.
Photo themes; mountain landscapes, river scenes, villages, portraits, Baci Ceremony
Overnight: Luang Prabang Transport: Minibus, Boat, Meals: B,
Day 7 - Pakse - head to the far south
Morning flight from Luang Prabang to Pakse in southern Laos. Check in to a centrally located hotel with the afternoon at leisure to explore this French-period Mekong riverport and perhaps hone your street photography techniques in the local market and temples?
Photo themes: street-life, architecture, market, temples
Overnight: Pakse Transport: Minibus, Plane, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 8 - Boloven Plateau - coffee plantations and waterfalls
After an early start to discover the weird and wonderful products and meet the friendly locals in the town’s vast and colourful fresh market, we’ll head into the interior and the famous Boloven Plateau, Home to numerous ethnic minorities and the centre of Lao’s coffee growing industry our visit takes in a plantation, spectacular waterfalls and plenty of landscapes and village scenes on the way.
Photo themes: landscapes, plantations, country life, market, portraits
Overnight: Pakse Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 9 - Champassak - down the Mekong to Wat Phu
Boat journey down the Mekong to the small, historic town of Champassak with its impressive stock of period architecture. Visit World Heritage Wat Phu – temple dramatically situated on a mountainside overlooking the valley of the Mekong. From here a short hop by road and ferry takes us to the 4,000 Islands, a stretch of the Mekong of truly outstanding natural beauty straddling the Lao, Cambodian border. Check into our riverside resort with time to wander the waterfront to select the prime, sunset cafe terrace.
Photo themes: The Mekong, small-town life, historic architecture, Angkor ruins
Overnight: Don Khong Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 10 - 4,000 Islands - by boat through the archipelago
Morning tour of the island to discover the still very traditional rural life plus a visit to a local market. In the afternoon we’ll travel by boat – winding our way through the labyrinth of waterways and islands – to our next destination, picturesque Khone Island. A stroll through the riverbank village offers atmospheric images of crumbling colonial villas and dusk across the river.
Photo themes: landscapes, village life, markets, rural scenes, river scenes
Overnight: Don Khone Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 11 - Don Khone - Khone Phapaeng Falls and dolphins
Explore the island by tuk-tuk and on foot culminating in a visit to Southeast Asia’s – and indeed one of the world’s – largest waterfalls, the stunning Khone Phapaeng Falls, We’ll also take a boat trip where, with luck, we’ll catch a glimpse of some of the rare freshwater dolphins that still inhabit this scenic stretch of the Mekong River.
Photo themes: landscapes, river life, country scenes
Overnight: Don Khone Transport: Boat, Walk, Tuk Tuk, Meals: B,
Day 12 - Don Khone - return to Pakse
A morning stroll along the route of the old French railway which linked Don Khone and Don Daet before an afternoon return to Pakse by road and river for a photography debriefing and perhaps some post-production tips in a rooftop cafe. Evening farewell Lao-style dinner.
Photo themes: river views, landscapes, photo editing and processing
Overnight: Pakse Transport: Minibus, Plane, Boat, Meals: B, D,
Day 13 - Pakse - departure at your leisure
Departures from Pakse International Airport connect to Bangkok, Vientiane or Siem Reap while a transfer to the Thai border and on to Ubon Ratchathani for flights to Bangkok or other Thai destinations can also be arranged.
Extra accommodation in Luang Prabang prior to your tour or in Pakse or the 4,000 Islands afterwards is available on request
Overnight: Departure Meals: B,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
A wide range of photographic opportunities in what is perhaps Southeast Asia's least-known destination including dramatic mountain scenery, street-life, villages, ancient temples of Luang Prabang and the 4,000 Islands
- Hands on photographic assistance, tips and advice by our experienced professional travel photographer
- Discover the ancient temples and well-preserved colonial architecture of World Heritage Luang Prabang
- Explore the sublime landscapes of the picturesque 4,000 Islands on foot, by tuk tuk and, of course, boat
- A wealth of fantastic photo opportunities of street-life, local markets, handicrafts and village scenes
- Boat trip up the Mekong River past dramatic karst landscapes to the thousand Buddha images of the Pak Ou cave temples
- Tour of some of the sights of Laos' capital Vientiane on the banks of the Mekong followed by an evening street-food tour
Air Departures (UK)
- 24 October 20 3,300 GBP
- 28 November 20 3,350 GBP
- 13 March 21 3,350 GBP
- 25 October 20 2,450 GBP
- 29 November 20 2,500 GBP
- 14 March 21 2,500 GBP
Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed
*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Vientiane
*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.
We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...
Chanthapanya Hotel, Vientiane view
- Well-appointed rooms with pool, restaurant, bar and gym
- Great location, a short walk from town centre and riverside
- Centrally located yet quiet position
Villa Chitdara, Luang Prabang view
- 'French colonial' chic at Luang Prabang's Villa Chitdara
- Friendly staff, a relaxed atmosphere and central location
- Great spot for exploring the old World Heritage town
Nong Kiau Riverside, Nong Khiaw view
- Spectacular riverside location on the banks of the Ou
- Traditional Lao-style wooden stilt chalets
- Convenient location, a short stroll to Nong Khiaw Village
Pakse Hotel, Pakse view
- Splendid views from the hotel's rooftop bar and restaurant
- Sip a cold one as you watch the sun set over the Mekong
- Central but quiet location in the old port town
Seng Ahloune Resort, 4,000 Islands
- Scenic riverside location
- Located on Khone Island in Sth Laos's scenic '4,000 Islands'
- Traditional style wooden chalets
*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.
Visa Info & Notes
Visas: Lao visas are available on arrival at Vientiane International Airport for between $30 & $42 depending upon nationality
These are available for most nationalities with the exception of certain African and Middle Eastern countries. (You can check the list at this link.) For some reason, Swiss, Luxembourgeois and Russian passport holders are exempt from visas while any nationalities not included in the visa on arrival list will need to apply at a Lao embassy or consulate beforehand.
The fees are only payable in $US except for Thai/Lao land crossings where baht are accepted and this is where things do get slightly complicated as pricing does vary from country to country. Most European passport holders plus South African, Australian and NZ are charged $30 with the exception of Swedish who pay $1 more and British who pay an extra $5. US citizens are also charged $35 while, for reasons we can’t fathom, Canadians pay $41. (Note a $1 overtime fee is charged for public holidays and outside of standard Lao office hours.)
Requirements are at least 6 months passport validity, a minimum of 1 blank page and 2 passport-sized photos. Both tourist visas are 1-page stick on type and you’ll receive additional, regular sized, entry and exit stamps.
Tipping: we recommend a kitty system for the smaller, daily tips such as hotel/restaurant staff and local guides and drivers. Amounts inevitably vary with group size but would generally be in the region of $3-4 per person, per day. With regards guides accompanying you for longer periods we’d recommend a separate tip of approximately $5 per person, per day though of course, this is always discretionary and performance related. (Local currency or USD are fine.)
Meals: Although you may assume Lao cuisine is little-known outside of Laos the fact that it’s hugely popular in neighbouring Thailand is a good reference and indeed many well-known Thai dishes such as the famous green papaya salad (som tam) and spicy minced pork salad (laap) are of Lao origin. Certain dishes can be pretty firey – though your tour-leader can, of course, ask for them to be toned down – while the more Chinese and Vietnamese influenced dishes, which will be more familiar to foreign travellers, being generally mild.
Both vegan and vegetarian diets are easily catered to.
Accommodation: all choices fall into the comfortable 3* range and are en-suite and air-conditioned. We have posted a selection of sample accommodation on the lefthand hotel tab but please note that as we try and avoid the larger hotels, availability, in high season particularly, means we use several options in each destination. Please note that since many establishments are on the small size, swimming pools – with the exception of the 4,000 Island resorts – are not a common feature.
Activities: note that no activities are compulsory and that any offered, including trekking, can be tailored for any fitness level or alternatives suggested.
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