Cambodia & Laos Explorer

This captivating small group tour offers an excellent introduction to Cambodia and Laos’ cultural and historic sights. Enjoy a great mix of sightseeing and authentic local experiences as you journey north from Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh to the charming laid-back town of Luang Prabang in Laos. Explore the magnificent Temples of Angkor in Siem Reap and discover the traditional arts of Battambang along the way.

A great choice if you long to see Cambodia and Laos' key sights – especially if you enjoy an itinerary focused on culture and history – but you also want to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Cambodia & Laos Explorer with Kuoni (Check Availability)

• Phnom Penh: 2 nights
Depart from the UK on your overnight flight to Phnom Penh, via Bangkok.
Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. The evening you can look forward to a welcome dinner with your group and tour leader.
Begin your exploration with a cyclo tour of the capital. The first stop will be the Royal Palace which was built in the mid-19th Century to serve as the residence of the Kings of Cambodia. Within the complex you’ll witness the Throne Hall and the Silver Pagoda – an impressive marble temple which replaced the previous wooden structure and features a dazzling floor of over 5000 silver tiles, a solid gold Buddha and an emerald Buddha.

Continue to the striking Khmer-style National Museum of Arts which is home to a treasure trove of prehistoric, pre-Angkor and post Angkor relics. This afternoon, learn about Cambodia’s tragic history during a visit to the Tuol Sleng Museum which was once a prison used by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. The final stop of the day is the Buddhist temple of Wat Phnom which was originally built in the 14th Century.

• Battambang: 1 night
Depart this morning for a full-day road transfer to Battambang. This is a great opportunity to chat to your tour leader and learn more about Cambodia’s history and culture. En route, visit a pottery village at a hamlet in Kampong Chhnang to observe the traditional art of pottery production. During the harvest season you will also have the opportunity to enjoy an authentic experience, such as harvesting the rice or sugar palm production, while learning more about the daily lives of the local people. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant along the way and continue to Battambang.

Transfer to your hotel before visiting the village of Wat Kor to see a traditional wooden Khmer house and learn how the house escaped unscathed during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. This evening you can look forward to a foodie tour of the old colonial quarter of the city and along the banks of the Sangke River. Stop for tastings at popular local venues and enjoy traditional dishes such as sweetcorn fritters and steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf. Approx. journey time: 11 hours with stops.

• Siem Reap: 3 nights
This morning, enjoy a fascinating insight into village life during a local livelihood tour of the villages that surround Battambang. Visit the homes of local artisans and observe as local products are created, such as rice paper – you may also have the chance to join in. Continue to Siem Reap by road and, if time permits, you'll visit the silk farm in Pouk and discover how fine silks are produced. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant and set out on a boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake to visit the Mechrey Floating Village. On arrival in Siem Reap, transfer to your hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure. Approx. journey time: 9 hours with stops.

The city acts as a gateway to the world-famous archaeological ruins of Angkor, and today you’ll explore this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to the Roluos group, which consists of the Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei temples – some of the oldest structures in Angkor, is a great introduction to the temples. Continue to the Prolung Khmer Pottery and Weaving Training Centre which aims to revive the ancient Khmer craft traditions and provide young Khmer women with the skills to create pottery and weaved products.

A real highlight of the tour is this afternoon’s visit to the beautifully-preserved Angkor Wat, the most popular and spectacular of Angkor’s many temples. This 12th-Century architectural masterpiece will take your breath away with its beauty and scale. An optional gondola ride as the sun sets over Angkor Thom is the perfect way to end your day.

Rise early for a chance to witness the sun rising over Angkor Wat before returning to your hotel for breakfast. This morning is at leisure or you can join an optional excursion that's a real treat for foodies – a half-day cooking class at Siem Reap’s Ecole Paul Dubrule, a hotel and tourism school. Begin the class at a local market where the chef will teach you about cooking with vegetables, herbs and spices. Set about preparing your Khmer dishes under the guidance of the chef before tasting your creations.

The afternoon will be spent at the South Gate of Angkor Thom, which was built in the late 12th Century and served as the last capital city of the Khmer empire. A particularly fascinating site at Angkor Thom is the central Bayon temple with its massive stone faces that adorn the structure’s many towers. The rest of the day includes visits to the Royal Enclosure, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King as well as the breathtaking Ta Phrom temple where trees grow out of the ruins. This evening you can look forward to dinner with a show at a local restaurant

• Luang Prabang: 3 nights
Enjoy a cultural morning with a visit to the Les Artisans d’Angkor arts and crafts school to learn the traditional techniques used for wood sculpting, stone carving, lacquer work, polychrome and stone patina work. Discover unique and authentic lacquered products at the artisans’ studio, Theam’s House. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Luang Prabang in Laos (approx. 1½-2 hours). On arrival, transfer to your hotel and if time permits you can enjoy an orientation tour of the charming UNESCO-listed city by tuk tuk. Climb Phousy Hill to enjoy spellbinding sunset views over the city and the Mekong River. Enjoy dinner at your hotel.

Board a traditional boat for a cruise upstream on the Mekong River. Visit the mysterious caves of Tham Ting and Tham Phoum which house hundreds of Buddha statues left by devoted followers over the years. Enjoy lunch on board on the way back you’ll stop at the 'paper village' of Ban Xang Khong which specialises in paper making and silk weaving. Visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre which houses a collection of over 400 objects – such as jewellery and household items – that represent over 30 distinct ethnic groups. Walk down to the night market before enjoying dinner at the Coconut Garden which serves Lao and western dishes in a lovely garden setting.

Rise early to witness the morning ritual of ‘Tagbat’, when saffron-robed monks make a daily collection of alms through the town. Soak up the atmosphere during a visit to a local market selling fresh fruit, vegetables and meat as well as local favourites such as rodents, bugs and frogs! Return to your hotel for breakfast before heading southwest to the Kuang Si Falls (approx. 1 hour). A short walk through the forest leads to these pretty waterfalls and you can enjoy a dip in the natural pools. You'll also see the bear sanctuary which houses Asiatic black bears that have been rescued from inhumane conditions. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the falls before returning to Luang Prabang. This afternoon, visit the Royal Palace Museum which houses Phra Bang – the country’s most sacred Buddha image. Continue to the 16th-Century temple of Vat Xieng Thong and the Wat Mai temple. Enjoy dinner at 3 Nagas Restaurant. Enjoy some free time on the last morning before transferring to the airport for your overnight return flight to the UK.

What to expect
• Busy days spent sightseeing
• Some potentially bumpy roads
• Exploration on foot and by boat, cyclo and road
• Cambodia’s infrastructure is less developed than some countries and so an element of patience and an open-minded attitude are required
• Driving times are approximate
• Prices do not include the Cambodian visa fee ($30 on arrival) and Laos visa fee ($35 on arrival)
• Not recommended for those with walking difficulties.

Accommodation on tour
In Battambang, Maisons Wat Kor has a tranquil setting and offers an authentic taste of the region, with traditional wooden Khmer houses on stilts, a restaurant serving healthy local cuisine and a cooking class that includes a visit to a nearby market. Experience traditional Lao charm and hospitality at Le Palais Juliana which has a peaceful setting surrounded by forests and mountains in charming Luang Prabang. Single travellers Single room supplement from £547

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