The Archaeology of Cambodia & Laos Tour
Tour Angkor Wat & Laos: Discover Cambodia’s Khmer city of Angkor, plus unspoiled Laos where Buddhism still governs the culture
With Dr. Damian Evans
March 2 – 18, 2023
Why take this Cambodia & Laos Archaeology Tour?
- Visit both of Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Angkor and Preah Vihear
- Two full days in Luang Prabang, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Laos
- Specially-arranged dinner with traditional Cambodian dance and puppet show
- Private view of excavations in the West Mebon
- Specially-arranged gondola boat ride for sunset on Angkor Thom’s baray.
- Travel with archaeologist, Damian Evans
- Limited to a maximum of 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Angkor Wat & Laos Tour Daily Itinerary
Day 1: Depart USA.
Day 2: Arrive in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Day 3: Phnom Penh city tour.
Day 4: Phnom Penh city tour.
Day 5: Prasat Wat Nokor. Transfer to Preah Vihear.
Day 6: Preah Vihear. Beng Melea, Koh Ker. Transfer to Siem Reap
Day 7: Roluos Group. Angkor Museum.
Day 8: Banteay Srei. Bantéay Samre. West Mebon.
Day 9: Angkor Thom. Royal Terraces.
Day 10: Angkor Wat. Ta Som. Preah Khan.
Day 11: Fly to Pakse, Laos. Vat Phou Ruins.
Day 12: Fly to Vientiane with city tour.
Day 13: Full day in Vientaine.
Day 14: Fly to Luang Prabang with city tour.
Day 15: Travel by boat to Pak Ou. The Royal Palace.
Day 16: Fly to Bangkok, Thailand.
Day 17: Fly back to the USA.
Explore the History and Culture of Cambodia & Laos
Located in what is now Cambodia, Angkor Thom, the capital of the flourishing Khmer empire in the 11th century, once was one of the world’s most densely populated cities. An incredible mass of dazzling pagodas grew up around Angkor Thom, culminating in the glory of the magnificent temple complex at Angkor Wat.
With the fall of the Khmers, the temples were slowly recaptured by the lush forest and remained a hidden legend until 1861 when they were re-discovered and introduced to the western world.
Join only 13 others for an enlightening 17-day journey to Cambodia and Laos that includes not only four full days exploring the great Khmer city of Angkor, but also takes in glorious Banteay Srei, remote Beng Mealea, rarely-visited Koh Ker, and Cambodia’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, Preah Vihear.
And in the nation’s capital of Phnom Penh, we visit the National Museum filled with Khmer treasures, the opulent Royal Palace, and the Silver Pagoda, home of a priceless emerald Buddha.
From Siem Reap we cross the border into Laos and travel to Wat Phu, certainly one of the most spectacular of the Khmer cities.
For centuries, the Mekong River was a major artery of the Khmer Empire, and the spectacular temple ruins along the water’s edge proclaim this civilization’s greatness. While in Laos, explore the capital city of Vientiane, and discover the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang.
Join archaeologist, Dr. Damian Evans, who has worked in Cambodia for more than a decade, and enjoy an insider’s view of these two countries on this truly memorable cultural trip.
Keep reading to learn more about this incredible archaeological tour of Cambodia and Laos, and please get in touch if you have any questions.
“What a class act! It’s just the sort of thing – not going the extra mile, but going the extra TENS of miles, that I should have learned to expect from you. You and Far Horizons have spoiled me. I’m sneering at tours that promise ONLY 20-25 participants; ones that have “ho-hum” extras; etc. It if sounds like you’ve developed a major fan, you’ve got it right… The entire trip was WONDERFUL, tremendous, terrific, every superlative I can come up with & some I can’t…” – Jo Thomas
“I went to see and learn about Angkor Wat and ended up with so much more. But then again I knew I would get that traveling with Far Horizons.” – Lynne Johannes
Damian Evans received his PhD from the University of Sydney, and from 2007 to 2015 was the founding Director of the University’s Research Centre in Siem Reap, Cambodia, established for the study of Khmer history, society and archaeology. In 2015 Dr. Evans joined the Siem Reap Centre of the French Institute of Asian Studies (EFEO), the oldest and most prestigious international institution for the study of Laos and Cambodia, where he heads a lab specializing in uncovering and mapping ancient landscapes using cutting-edge technologies. He was also a Deputy Director of The Greater Angkor Project (GAP), the largest international, multidisciplinary research program at Angkor. His ground-breaking discoveries using space technology have been reported extensively in international news reports, journals, and newspapers including the Associated Press, The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph in England, the Los Angeles Times, Science, International Herald Tribune, National Geographic News, and BBC News and BBC Radio. Dr. Dr. Evans was featured in both the National Geographic Channel’s and the History Channel’s documentaries on Angkor. He has been the invited speaker at conferences throughout the world, and has been the recipient of a multitude of awards and grants including one from National Geographic.
‘Damian made the trip come alive. He was excellent in every way.’ – Anne TenBensel
“Damian Evans was easy to talk with: he knew his topic and clearly has a love and enthusiasm for what he does. Because he lives in the area he gives more of an insight and empathy into the culture and people and, in turn, their history.” – Lynne Johannes
Cambodia & Laos Tour Itinerary
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Fly from LA to Cambodia
Day 2: Arrive in Cambodia’s Capital, Phnom Penh
Arrive Phnom Penh. Transfer to the charming boutique Palace Gate Hotel & Resort, a luxurious 5-star boutique hotel in the heart of Cambodia’s bustling capital, and our home for three nights.
Day 3: See Historic Khmer Architecture
Begin our explorations of the capital of Cambodia by boarding a cyclo to view the historic Khmer architecture of the city. This afternoon visits the Genocide Museum of Toul Sleng, documenting the devastation left by the Khmer Rouge.
The site is a former high school that was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. The buildings at Tuol Sleng are preserved as they were left when the Khmer Rouge was driven out. The regime kept extensive records, including thousands of photographs. Several rooms of the museum are now lined, floor to ceiling, with black and white photographs of some of the estimated 20,000 prisoners who passed through the prison. Our final stop is the Russian Market, or Psar Toul Tom Puong, repository of an amazing selection of goods from silk to silver to antiquities. Gather this evening for our festive welcome dinner. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Visit Cambodia’s National Museum of Art
We begin with a visit to the magnificent National Museum of Art, containing some of the greatest works of art ever produced in Southeast Asia. Founded by the French in the early 20th century, the museum is housed in a beautiful building constructed in the traditional Khmer style. Continue to the lavish Royal Palace, still home to Cambodia’s present king, and the Silver Pagoda, so named for the 5,000 silver tiles which adorn it and which houses the priceless Emerald Buddha sculpted from baccarat crystal. Dinner is on our own to sample one of Phnom Penh’s excellent restaurants. (B/L)
Day 5: Explore Prasat Wat Nokor
Today is a long but worthwhile day as we travel into the lush countryside to Prasat Wat Nokor. At first glance, this Mahayana Buddhist shrine made in the 11th century of sandstone and laterite simply seems to offer an opportunity to visit a Khmer temple. Instead, as though passing through a portal, a transformation occurs and little by little we become aware that this is a living sanctuary that is a revered modern expression of the Buddhist faith. Certainly, we find carved lintels and pediments still in situ; but we then find ourselves visually assaulted by a riot of multi-hued, almost garishly painted scenes from the life of Buddha. And here and there are scattered day altars, created by present-day devotees, nestled within the many ancient alcoves, each graced with a modern-day statue of Buddha.
The opportunity to see this vivid juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern within a living temple is an experience not to be missed. Our afternoon drive takes us into the Preah Vihear Protected Forest, a protected area located in the highlands of the Dângrêk Range in northern Cambodia bordering Thailand. Overnight tonight in the Preah Vihear Boutique Hotel for one night. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Tour Cambodia’s Newest UNESCO Site
Explore the resplendent yet rarely visited site of Preah Vihear, Cambodia’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in isolated and spectacular splendor on an enormous overhanging cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, this is without question the most magnificent site of any Khmer temple. It was laid out on a north-south axis with only one entrance, and most of the large monuments here were built as a microcosm of the Hindu universe, a magical recreation on Earth of the home of the gods and the surrounding seas and continents. Possibly pre-dating Angkor, Preah Vihear displays distinctive architecture covered with stunning carvings. On our drive towards Siem Reap, you’ll stop at Koh Ker, shrouded in forest and the capital of the Angkorian empire from 928 AD to 944 AD.
Long one of Cambodia’s most remote and inaccessible temple complexes, the opening of a new road makes the site accessible, though still isolated. Built by King Jayavarman IV, the city once contained almost 100 temples. The most important structure is more than 100 feet tall, with a design that resembles a seven-stepped stupa. Then it’s on to Beng Mealea, one of the most interesting of Angkor’s many edifices. The 12th-century temple is enclosed by a massive moat and is nearly the size of Angkor Wat, but utterly subsumed by the jungle. Clambering over large sandstone blocks to reach the inner sanctuary and worship corridor is an exploration to remember. Continue to Siem Reap and overnight for the next five nights in the Shinta Mani Angkor Boutique Hotel, decorated in the lovely Cambodian style. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Angkor National Museum
This morning’s excursion takes us east to the Roluos Group, comprising three remarkable temples. Dating from the late ninth century, this is the oldest area open to visitors of the 600-year Angkor Period. See Bakong, protected by fierce seven-headed serpents and elegantly sculpted elephants, Preah Ko, with its six towers made entirely of brick and covered with ornate stucco ornamentation, and Lolei, covered with stunning carvings. An active Buddhist monastery is located within the compound.
Finish the day at the Angkor National Museum, housing a collection of approximately 1,300 pieces, including a gallery of 1,000 Buddhas. (B/L/D)
Day 8: Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre
An early morning drive takes us to Banteay Srei, an exquisite miniature temple hidden in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest. In remarkable condition, it has a beautiful tapestry-like decoration covering the walls and scenes inspired by Indian epics that contain a liveliness not seen in earlier complexes’ more formal adornment.
Continue to Banteay Samre, a graceful Hindu temple built in the early 12th century in the Angkor Wat style. The elaborate architecture and fine carvings make this a must-see pagoda. This afternoon, enjoy an optional visit to the Artisans d’Angkor Workshop, created to revive, support, and teach the artistic traditions of Cambodia. Transfer to Chandara Villa this evening for a private dining experience with traditional dancing and a small-format puppet show. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Walk Through Angkor Thom…
Spend the morning in Ta Prohm, a largely untouched site since its “rediscovery” by French explorers. Shrouded in dense jungle with massive roots of soaring trees encasing the temple walls, the sanctuary creates a lost world environment. Move on to enjoy a specially-arranged morning tea in the forests at Sra Srang. Opposite this 10th-century baray, or reservoir, lies Banteay Kdei, a large unrestored monastic complex displaying carvings of exceptional beauty.
In the afternoon, walk through Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire and surely one of the world’s great architectural achievements. The city was fortified by an enormous square of laterite walls 26 feet in height and almost two miles on each side, and within the city are glorious temples and terraces. Traverse the long causeway guarded by tranquil gods and intimidating demons and the Terrace of the Elephants protected by a multitude of these animals. Walk through the Bayon with its richly decorated galleries of bas-reliefs displaying historic scenes along with depictions of everyday life 1,000 years ago. Crowning the Bayon are tall towers graced with four iconic heads, one facing each cardinal direction that may represent the rulers of the four cardinal points at the summit of mount Meru. Explore Phimeanakas, the sanctuary where the king was said to have had nightly congress with the Snake Goddess. (B/L/D)
Day 10: Angkor Wat and Preah Khan
Begin the day in Angkor Wat, constructed as the funerary sanctuary of a 12th-century king and represents an earthly model of the cosmic world. Within the galleries is the longest continuous bas-relief in the world. The exquisite imagery on one wall depicts the kingdom’s military strength with parades of soldiers and the ruler mounted on his great war elephant. On another wall is the depiction of Vishnu and other gods pulling on a great snake to churn the cosmic sea in search of eternal life. After lunch, walk through the vast complex of Preah Khan, built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII and covering 140 acres. Today it is an outstanding example of a large linear temple complex in a dense jungle setting.
Covering 138 acres, Preah Khan’s boundaries are defined by a protective moat and fortified walls adorned by monumental carved stone garudas—eagle-like divine beings. Our last stop is at the small temple of Ta Som, one of the late-12th – century Buddhist temples built by Jayavarman VII. As the sun begins to go down, board traditional Khmer gondolas to float on the baray surrounding Angkor Thom. Lift a glass to the glorious sunset and a memorable day! Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 11: Fly to Laos
Depart Cambodia on our flight for Paksé in Laos. The slow-moving Mekong River flows through southern Laos at a leisurely pace, through the lush rainforest, and past charming villages. This majestic waterway was once a major “highway” for the Khmer empire, and awesome reminders of the greatness of this civilization are located along the water’s edge.
Aboard a privately-chartered longtail river boat, zigzag south through spectacular scenery. Arrive at Champassak in time for a riverside lunch, followed by an exploration of the majestic pre-Angkorian 10th-century temple of Wat Phu, once connected to Angkor Thom by a Royal Road. The temples contain extraordinarily beautifully executed reliefs and are considered some of the best of Khmer art. Return to Champassak and overnight at the River Resort Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 12: Explore Vientiane, Laos
A morning flight brings us to Vientiane, where we have time to explore the renowned Central Market, overflowing with enticing wares. After an elegant lunch, we will explore Wat Phra Kéo, the original home of the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Si Saket, containing hundreds of small wooden, bronze, and terracotta Buddha images sitting in niches. Dinner is on our own to enjoy one of this capital city’s many fine restaurants.
Overnight for the next two nights in the Settha Palace, a beautiful French colonial mansion built at the turn of the last century. The French left Laos in 1953, but today there are more French people living here than at the height of colonial occupation. Dinner is on our own to discover one of Vientiane’s excellent restaurants. (B/L)
Day 13: See Pha That Luang, Laos’ Most Sacred Structure
This morning, we go to Carol Cassidy’s Lao Textiles workshop, studio and gallery. Specializing in 100 percent hand-woven silk, the forty Lao artisans she employs produce exquisitely crafted wall hangings, scarves, shawls, and custom furnishing fabrics. Carol’s pieces are displayed in galleries and museums throughout the world. After lunch, explore Vientiane, walking along the river, including Pha That Luang, Laos’ most sacred structure and Buddhist pilgrimage site. (B/L/D)
Day 14: Luang Prabang, UNESCO City
Fly to the former royal capital of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage City. Enjoy lunch upon arrival, walk through the truly picturesque city, and visit Wat Wisunalat, containing the largest Buddha in Luang Prabang, and Wat Xieng Thong, a royal pagoda built in the 16th century. See the murals depicting life on the Mekong River as it was centuries ago in Wat Paa Huak and the ornate door panels at Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham. Overnight for two nights in the boutique Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel, located in the city’s heart. (B/L)
Day 15: Ancient Meditation Caves of Pak Ou
Board a long-tailed boat to motor up the Mekong River to the ancient meditation caves of Pak Ou. Located on a striking limestone cliff where the Nam Ou River meets the Mekong, the caverns were used to worship the river spirit until Buddhism spread into Laos along the southern route from India.
Now filled with thousands of beautiful Buddha images, the site is still revered by locals who travel here to worship. After lunch, walk through the former Royal Palace. Visit the Private Chapel to see a gold Buddha, the opulent reception room of the king, the throne room, and the royal library. Our final dinner together will be at one of Luang Prabang’s superb restaurants. (B/L/D)
Day 16: Flight to Bangkok
Early this morning, watch the monks receive their offering of food from the local people. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for our flight to Bangkok, Thailand, with lunch onboard. Dinner is on our own. Overnight at the 4-star Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel. (B)
Day 17: Flight back to Los Angeles
$9,795.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes four internal flights; gratuities to guides and drivers; all hotels; meals as noted in brochure; entry fees; and land transportation.
Cost Does Not Include: The donation of $150.00 per person to Heritage for Kids, international air to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and returning from Bangkok, Thailand; passport or visa fees, airport taxes, necessary vaccines and tests, beverages or food not included on regular menus, laundry, excess baggage charges, alcoholic drinks, or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: The cost of the trip does not include the separate donation check for $150.00 (per person) to ‘Heritage for Kids.’ As a tour company that benefits from the historical, cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to scholars, archaeological and cultural projects, and museums in each of our destinations. This has created a bond with the academic community that allows you to gain an ‘insider’s view’ of work being done in each country. For this trip, we kindly ask you to make your $150 donation checks out to the “Heritage for Kids.” The donation check is considered part of your registration and is non-refundable.
A deposit of $750.00 to Far Horizons and a separate check for $150.00 donation check is required upon making your reservation, along with a completed and signed registration form. Final payment is due 120 days prior to departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a travel bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest to the trip. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450.00 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
If you do not fly on the group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Travel in Cambodia and Laos
The tourist infrastructure in both Cambodia and Laos does not meet United States’ standards. The adventurous nature of the itinerary makes it essential that you be in good physical condition. Long walks, as much as two miles or more each day, may be required to reach some areas, including walks over steep gradients and over poorly maintained paths. Participants, unassisted, must be able to walk on rough trails and keep up with group members. The roads in this part of the world are frequently poorly maintained, and may involve long drives over uneven terrain. The hotel in Pakse is the best available but is basic. A flexible attitude, team spirit and a good sense of humor are essential! If you have questions about your ability to handle this sort of challenge, please call us.
THIS ARCHAEOLOGICAL TOUR TO CAMBODIA AND LAOS IS LIMITED TO 14 PARTICIPANTS