Pakse & Southern Laos
Southern Laos is one of Asia’s hidden gems, where the people maintain their traditional ways of life and the scenery is unparalleled. The main town, Pakse, is a great starting point for travelers. It is serviced by an international airport and is not far from the Thai border. Although an interesting town, most travelers do not choose to spend much time there as there is not a lot to see.
Heading east from Pakse, you enter the Boloven Plateau.Here, in the cool highlands, Laos’ delicious coffee and tea is grown and harvested. The area is also filled with great waterfalls and is an ideal trekking destination for light day hikes.
South of Pakse is the town of Champassak, situated on the Mekong River. Champassak is a blend of English and French colonial buildings and traditional Lao houses. This tranquil area is also home to the splendid Wat Phou. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos.
Starting in Champassak lies the 4000 Islands, called ‘Siphandone’ in the Lao language. This area is one of the jewels of the Mekong, where the river stretches over 14km wide and has thousands of islands between the river banks. The water flows around the islands and forms rapids as it runs down to the Cambodian border. Siphandone is a unique and breathtaking place with a laidback atmosphere.
Spending a night or two on Don Daeng Island at La Folie Lodge is a real treat. The lodge is in a spectacular location: facing the hills of Wat Phou and surrounded by the Mekong River.
The 4000 Islands are one of the remaining homes of the Irrawaddy Dolphin, a freshwater dolphin on the verge of extinction. Staying on the islands of Don Khone, Don Khong, or Don Det one is likely to spot these elusive animals.
Also in this area, on the way to the Cambodian border, there are the Lippi and Khone Phapheng waterfalls. The Phapheng falls are the largest falls in Laos and also the only section of the Mekong that is not navigable by boat. Lippi falls hold a sort of mysticism for the Lao people who believe they capture evil spirits.
We think the best way to explore this region is by traveling along the Mekong by boat. Our Wat Phou Cruise is a spectacular journey through the Siphandone region. Enjoy the tranquility of the steady pace of boat travel as you venture along the Mekong on this 3 day- 2 night cruise.
Where to stay?
Located in an area where exceptional natural beauty and unspoilt charm combine with areas of significant cultural interest, La Folie Lodge sits on a secluded beach facing the ancient Khmer temple of Wat Phou. In this idyllic spot, we provide a refined, welcoming atmosphere with international-class facilities. Senesothxuen Hotel has been established by a French and Lao couple aims to be the "Home Away From Home" for visitors to enjoy the peaceful and un-spoilt nature of the 4000 islands.
Southern Laos - Attractions
Wat Phu (“mountain temple”) dates back to the 5th century. The original temple was built by Khmer Hindus on the top of a hill at a fresh water spring. The peak of the hill is said to resemble a Shiva lingum. The exact history of Wat Phu is unclear, but it was certainly a temple site of the Khmer empire that eventually made Angkor Wat its capital. The temple is stunning and very remote, with superb views of the Mekong valley. At the top of the temple site are a number of carved rocks, resembling a crocodile, a naga and an elephant. It is believed that these rocks were used for human sacrifices. The most pleasant option to reach the temple complex from Pakse is by chartering a boat down the Mekong River. The journey to the town of Champassak takes about 90 minutes. From Champassak, an 8-km tuk-tuk ride can be taken to the temple.
Si Phan Don (4000 Islands)
Si Phan Don is a collection of islands south of Laos and its name literally translates to “4,000 islands”. The largest of the permanent islands are inhabited year round and offer fascinating glimpses of tranquil river-oriented village life – “more detached from time than from the riverbank” as one source described it.
Khone Phapheng Falls
The biggest island with 55,000 inhabitants is Done Khong, a peaceful place for an overnight visit. Several waterfalls drop over the escarpment. Some of the most spectacular are Tat Phan with the height of 120 meters and Khone Phapheng.
Situated on the northeast of Champassak province, the plateau is accessible to parts of Salavan, Attapeu and Sekong provinces. However, there are more options for tourists visiting the plateau from Pakse.
The plateau is fertile farmland specializing in coffee, tea, and fruits production. The plateau houses a dozen mainly animist ethnic minorities, including Laven, Alak, Katou, Ta-Oy, Houne, Ngai and Suk communities. Accommodation on the plateau is limited, but Tad Lo waterfalls have a number of bungalows where visitors can enjoy trekking and elephant rides.