UNESCO Cambodia & Laos: The Temples of Angkor & Luang Prabang

Ancient kingdoms come alive on this fascinating Journey to two of Southeast Asia’s most remarkable UNESCO World Heritage sites. Immaculate Buddhist temples and French colonial architecture are on full display in Luang Prabang, Laos’ former royal capital set along the Mekong River. Learn how the country’s ethnic Hill Tribes are adapting age-old traditions to the evolving cultural landscape, and revel in the lively atmosphere of its modern capital, Vientiane. Then head to Cambodia to explore the colossal archeological complex at Angkor, which encompasses spectacular remains of different Khmer capitals between the 9th and 15th century. Marvel at Angkor Wat, the world’s largest free-standing religious monument, and other important temples while discovering the fascinating history and legacy of the Khmer Empire.

Starting at $7,499 USD per guest

Pre-Cruise Itinerary Overview

6 days, 5 nights

Day 1: Welcome to Laos! Upon arrival in the capital city of Vientiane, meet your guide and transfer to your hotel for check in. Spend some time relaxing and freshening up before dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

Hotel: Settha Palace Hotel or similar

Day 2: Join your guide for a morning tour of Vientiane. First up: Patuxai (Patuxay), a massive arch monument honoring Laotian soldiers lost during World War II and the country’s War of independence from France in 1949. Known as Vientiane’s Arc de Triumph, Patuxai offers panoramic city views from its top-floor platform. Get a peek at the gold leaf-covered Wat That Luang, the “Great Stupa” — believed to contain the Buddha’s breastbone — and stop by the COPE Visitor Centre, a physical therapy center that helps survivors of UXO (unexploded ordnance or weapons) and others with disabilities regain their mobility.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before visiting two of Vientiane’s most important Buddhist sites. Completed in 1824, Wat Sisaket was the only temple left standing in the capital city after the Siamese army invaded a few years later; it is home to nearly 7,000 Buddha statues, as well as Jataka murals that depict stories of the Buddha's past lives. Wat Prakeo (also known as Haw Phra Keo or Haw Phra Kaew) was built in the 16th century to house the revered Emerald Buddha that now sits in Bangkok; today it displays ancient Khmer stone carvings, a gilded throne, and other Laos treasures. Afterward, head to the airport for your flight to Luang Prabang; upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and check in. Relax and freshen up before dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

Hotel: Victoria Xiengthong Palace or similar

Day 3: Set at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers with a lush mountain backdrop, Luang Prabang has long been considered the heart of Laotian culture. The Old Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its distinctive blend of colonial buildings and traditional Laotian architecture. Early risers can watch the fascinating Alms Giving Ceremony, a daily ritual when hundreds of saffron-clad monks walk single-file through Luang Prabang at sunrise to collect their food offerings. Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before your full-day tour, beginning at Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham or simply Wat Mai (“New Temple”), the city’s largest Buddhist temple. Dating from the late 18th century, Wat Mai is renowned for its stunning gilded relief carvings that depict scenes from the Sanskrit epic, Ramayana. Then explore the National Museum, Laos’ former royal palace. Built in 1904 and featuring a blend of Laotian and French colonial architecture, the compound includes the monarchy’s living quarters and displays a collection of crystal Buddha images and other important religious artifacts, along with traditional Lao instruments and dance masks.

Laos is home to more than 50 ethnic groups and 160 ethnic subgroups, the majority of whom live in villages scattered about the country’s northern and central regions. At the Traditional Arts and Ethology Center, you learn about these Lao Hill Tribes while watching artisans practice their time-honoredcrafts. Visit Wat Visoun, Luang Prabang’s oldest Buddhist temple noted for its 113-foot-high Stupa of Great Lotus; as well as Wat Xieng Thong, a wonderfully ornate temple where Laotian kings were once crowned, before lunch at a local restaurant. Afterward, head out into the serene countryside, passing rice paddy fields on the way to the Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls; the beautiful three-tiered cascade with its turquoise pools and lush jungle setting make this a favorite escape for locals. On your way back to the city center, stop at Wat Pha Baht Tai to watch the sunset over the Mekong River. Stroll Luang Prabang’s bustling Night Market to shop for textiles, handicrafts paper lanterns, and ceramics before dinner at a local restaurant.

Hotel: Victoria Xiengthong Palace or similar

Day 4: In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap. Collect your Cambodian visa upon arrival, then head to your centrally located hotel and check in. Enjoy lunch on your own, perhaps sampling some of Siem Reap’s famous street food. Tonight’s dinner is in the hotel’s restaurant.

Hotel: Sokha Angkor Hotel or similar

Day 5: Set out for Angkor, capital of the ancient Khmer Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The vast Angkor Archaeological Park — which stretches for more than 150 square miles — encompasses spectacular remains from different Khmer capitals between the 9th and 15th century. The city was forgotten in 1431 and, for hundreds of years, its existence was simply a fable told by Cambodian peasants. “Rediscovered” by the West in the mid 1800s, the complex comprises hundreds of temples, including more than 70 major ones. The grandest of these — indeed, the largest religious monument in the world — is Angkor Wat, built during the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Your visit here reveals its detailed bas-reliefs and carved devatas (goddesses), as well as the symbolism behind its design meant to replicate the cosmic world on Earth.

Continue to Banteay Srei, known locally as the “Pink Temple” or “Lady Temple.” Constructed of red sandstone and exquisitely delicate in design, it is home to some of the most intricate carvings in the Angkor complex. Enjoy lunch on site before heading to Angkor Thom, the “Great City” and last capital of the Khmer Empire. King Jayavarman VII, who built most of this moated walled city in the 12th century, had renounced Hinduism for Buddhism, and the imagery found here reflects those changed beliefs. (Angkor Wat was transformed to a Buddhist temple, as well.) Angkor Thom represents the pinnacle of Khmer art and architecture, which you come to discover while admiring its 1,150-foot-long Terrace of Elephants and famous Bayon Temple, covered in thousands of giant stone faces. Also visit the jungle-draped Ta Prohm — aka, the “Tomb Raider Temple” — before returning to your hotel. Freshen up before tonight’s dinner, accompanied by a traditional Apsara dance performance.

Hotel: Sokha Angkor Hotel or similar

Day 6: Enjoy breakfast before transferring to the airport for your flight to Singapore. Upon arrival, head to the pier and embark your Seabourn ship.
 

This Pre-Cruise Seabourn Journey Is Available:

Post-Cruise Itinerary Overview

Day 1: Disembark your Seabourn ship in Singapore and transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap. Collect your Cambodian visa upon arrival, then head to your centrally located hotel and check in. Tonight’s dinner is in the hotel’s restaurant.

Hotel: Sokha Angkor Hotel or similar 

Day 2: Set out for Angkor, capital of the ancient Khmer Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The vast Angkor Archaeological Park — which stretches for more than 150 square miles — encompasses spectacular remains from different Khmer capitals between the 9th and 15th century. The city was forgotten in 1431 and, for hundreds of years, its existence was simply a fable told by Cambodian peasants. “Rediscovered” by the West in the mid 1800s, the complex comprises hundreds of temples, including more than 70 major ones. The grandest of these — indeed, the largest religious monument in the world — is Angkor Wat, built during the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Your visit here reveals its detailed bas-reliefs and carved devatas (goddesses), as well as the symbolism behind its design meant to replicate the cosmic world on Earth.

Continue to Banteay Srei, known locally as the “Pink Temple” or “Lady Temple.” Constructed of red sandstone and exquisitely delicate in design, it is home to some of the most intricate carvings in the Angkor complex. Enjoy lunch on site before heading to Angkor Thom, the “Great City” and last capital of the Khmer Empire. King Jayavarman VII, who built most of this moated walled city in the 12th century, had renounced Hinduism for Buddhism, and the imagery found here reflects those changed beliefs. (Angkor Wat was transformed to a Buddhist temple, as well.) Angkor Thom represents the pinnacle of Khmer art and architecture, which you come to discover while admiring its 1,150-foot-long Terrace of Elephants and famous Bayon Temple, covered in thousands of giant stone faces. Also visit the jungle-draped Ta Prohm — aka, the “Tomb Raider Temple” — before returning to your hotel. Freshen up before tonight’s dinner, accompanied by a traditional Apsara dance performance.

Hotel: Sokha Angkor Hotel or similar

Day 3: Take a morning guided tour the Angkor National Museum, which showcases its namesake complex and the Khmer civilization. This interactive museum houses one of the largest collections of Buddha statues and relics assembled under one roof. Return to the hotel to check out and enjoy lunch, then transfer to the airport for your flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival, head to your centrally located hotel and check in. Settle in and relax before dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

Hotel: Victory Xiengthong Palace or similar. 

Day 4: Set at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers with a lush mountain backdrop, Luang Prabang has long been considered the heart of Laotian culture. The Old Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its distinctive blend of colonial buildings and traditional Laotian architecture. Your full-day tour begins at Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham or simply Wat Mai (“New Temple”), the city’s largest Buddhist temple. Dating from the late 18th century, Wat Mai is renowned for its stunning gilded relief carvings that depict scenes from the Sanskrit epic, Ramayana. Next stop: the Traditional Arts and Ethology Center, dedicated to preserving the culture of Laos’s ethnic Hill Tribes. Learn about their traditional village life while watching artisans practice time-honored crafts.

Explore the National Museum, Laos’ former royal palace. Built in 1904 and featuring a blend of Laotian and French colonial architecture, the compound includes the monarchy’s living quarters and displays a collection of crystal Buddha images and other important religious artifacts, along with traditional Lao instruments and dance masks. Visit Wat Visoun, Luang Prabang’s oldest Buddhist temple noted for its 113-foot-high Stupa of Great Lotus; as well as Wat Xieng Thong, a wonderfully ornate temple where Laotian kings were once crowned, before lunch at a local restaurant. Afterward, head out into the serene countryside, passing rice paddy fields on the way to the Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls; the beautiful three-tiered cascade with its turquoise pools and lush jungle setting make this a favorite escape for locals. On your way back to the city center, stop at Wat Pha Baht Tai to watch the sunset over the Mekong River. Stroll Luang Prabang’s bustling Night Market to shop for textiles, handicrafts paper lanterns, and ceramics before dinner at a local restaurant.

Hotel: Victoria Xiengthong Palace or similar

Day 5: Early risers can watch the fascinating Alms Giving Ceremony, a daily ritual when hundreds of saffron-clad monks walk single-file through Luang Prabang at sunrise to collect their food offerings. After breakfast at the hotel, check out and transfer to the airport for your flight to Vientiane. Upon arrival, head to your centrally located hotel to check in and enjoy lunch before your guided city tour. First stop: Patuxai (Patuxay), a massive arch monument honoring Laotian soldiers lost during World War II and the country’s War of independence from France in 1949. Known as Vientiane’s Arc de Triumph, Patuxai offers panoramic city views from its top-floor platform. Get a peek at the gold leaf-covered Wat That Luang, the “Great Stupa” — believed to contain the Buddha’s breastbone — and watch the Mekong River sunset from scenic Chao Anouvong Park. Return to the hotel and freshen up before tonight’s dinner at the upscale Khualao restaurant, enjoying fine Lao cuisine accompanied by a traditional dance performance.

Hotel: Settha Palace Hotel or similar

Day 6: At the appropriate time, transfer to the airport for your onward journey.
 

This Post-Cruise Seabourn Journey Is Available:

Please note: Participants must bring 2 passport size photos for Laos & Cambodia visas that will be issued upon arrival at the airports. Passports should have at least 2 blank pages & be valid for at least 6 months from the dates of entering Laos & Cambodia. Participants must negotiate stairs and/or uneven surfaces and is therefore not advisable for guests using a wheelchair or for those with mobility limitations. Modest attire is required; knees, shoulders and midriffs must be covered; shorts and short skirts are not allowed. Shoes and hats must be removed before you enter the temple(s). Bring along a pair of thick socks to protect your feet from the hot pavement. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Bring a hat.