Si Phan Don and southern Laos

With an even slower and more laidback way of life than the rest of Laos, Si Phan Don, or Four Thousand Islands, is a beautiful place to spend a few days. This river archipelago in the Mekong close to the Cambodian border is still a very traditional area, isolated as it is from the rest of the country, and boasts rare flora and fauna as well as a raft of easy going outdoor activities.

What to see

Dons Khong, Det and Khon

Dons Khong, Det and Khon

The three largest islands of the archipelago, Dons Khong, Det and Khon offer back to basics relaxation. Whilst Don Khong is the sleepiest of the three, on Don Det and Khon you can cycle and swim, go tubing, take boat trips and explore bamboo forests. The must visits are Khon Phapheng and Somphamit, where the Mekong rages over rocks and through crevasses to form powerful rapids and cascades. From the southern tip of Don Khon it is possible to spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphin, which you can also look for on boat trips.

Bolaven Plateau

Bolaven Plateau

Escaping up to the cool climes of the Bolaven Plateau can be a welcome relief to the heat of Laos’ southern lowlands. A verdant area the plateau’s fertile soils weren’t cultivated before the French turned the area over to growing coffee, fruit and cardamom which are still grown today. An area of exceptional natural beauty, where rivers run through lush forest before plunging off of the edge of the plateau, a number of Laos’ ethnic minorities also live and farm here. This is another area to make the most of what Laos does best – relaxed exploration in pristine surroundings.

Wat Phou

Wat Phou

This atmospheric Khmer ruins of Wat Phou are set picturesquely in a lush river valley at the base of Phou Kao mountain about 45 minutes by road from the town of Pakse. Originally built as a Hindu place of worship dedicated to Shiva the series of ruined temples today are used for Buddhist worship and is highly venerated by local Laotians. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

Where to stay

Pon Arena Hotel

The Pon Arena Hotel was recently constructed in a traditional style on Don Khong Island. The hotel is located on the waterfront and you can enjoy dinner at the terrace restaurant overlooking the Mekong. Hotel facilities are limited but the rooms are comfortable and the welcome is warm.

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