Although infrastructure in Laos is vastly improved, traveling can still be a little rough. If you have only a week, it is probably best to confine yourself to Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang.

Day 1: Vientiane

After arriving in Vientiane, start the day by visiting the city's oldest temple, Wat Si Saket. Check out the thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Then head for the former royal temple of Haw Pha Kaeo, which previously housed the famous emerald Buddha image that is now in Bangkok. On the way to the famous and sacred structure of Phra That Luang, you can stop to take a look at the imposing Patuxai Monument, a huge structure very closely echoing the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. As the sun goes down, make your way to the Mekong for a relaxing drink before enjoying a meal at one of the many superb restaurants the city has to offer.

Day 2: Vang Vieng

Travel by road to Vang Vieng, possibly making a stop at the 11th-century archaeological sight of Vang Xang. Upon arrival at Vang Vieng, you can cross the Nam Song River, and then enjoy a short walk or trek through the breathtaking and eerie karsk scenery to Tam None cave and the nearby hill villages. Today ends with a glorious view of the sunset over the Nam Song River. Enjoy a quiet dinner in one of the restaurants in town, although in all honesty Vang Vieng is a little disappointing on the food front. Pick one by the river, near the hospital unless you like noise.

Day 3: Tubing on the Nam Song River

Have a relaxing and watery day drifting down the Nam Song river on inflated tractor-tire inner tubes. This has become a must-do in Vang Vieng over the years.

Day 4: Driving on Rte. 13

Travel by road on the truly spectacular Rte. 13 to Luang Prabang. It is one of Asia's most beautiful drives. You will need to start early. The scenery is unrivaled, with a mixture of steep terraced fields and hill-tribe villages, and there are some interesting stops along the way.

Day 5: Luang Prabang

Spend the day wandering the spellbinding city of Luang Prabang, enjoying the faded colonial charm of the place including the city's oldest temple, the magnificent Wat Xieng Thong. In the afternoon, take a cruise on the Mekong River, enjoying the special tranquillity of the area, and visit the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, crammed with thousands of gold Buddha statues. Along the way, make a stop at the village of Ban Xang Hai, known as Lao Whiskey village for their local moonshine. Once back in Luang Prabang, take a short drive to Ban Phanom, well known for its hand weaving. In the evening, wander through the night market where handicrafts, jewelry, and souvenirs of all sorts amount to a shopper's nirvana.

Day 6: More Highlights of Luang Prabang

Visit the Royal Palace Museum, which houses a superb collection of Lao cultural artifacts dating from the days of the early kings right through to the last one. Then take a look at the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun, the shrine of Wat Aham, then climb up to the top of Phousi Hill for an exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa, and a beautiful sunset view of the city and the Mekong River.

Day 7: Back to Vientiane

Take a morning flight back to Vientiane. Drive the 24km (14 miles) out of town to Buddha Park. Enjoy the strange creation of a philanthropic eccentric, whose vision is realized in this bizarre collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. To finish off your trip, take a leisurely afternoon stroll along the Mekong, watching life on the river go by and stopping at one of the many cafes along the banks.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.