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You’ve Decided to Head off to Southern Laos – and then What?

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Laos is fast becoming one of the most desirable travel destinations out there. It may be landlocked (meaning no seaside beaches and oceans) but that does not take away the country’s charming character. You may have heard by now stories of the ever unwinding ambiance of Laos, how the air is just filled with relaxation and that there never seems to be any worry in the country. With so many stories about the laid back atmosphere, it’s got to be true, right? Yes it is. And it is even more so in Southern Laos.

If you need to get away from it all; no technology, no work, no deadlines, no hassles, then you have chosen the right place. But sometimes too much of a good thing can leave you dazzled and somewhat intimidated. The usual questions remain: What to do? Where to go? We are to help answer those so you get a clearer picture of what to expect in Southern Laos.

First, expect some variety. What you get in Southern Laos is warm weather down on the ground, cooler climates up in the hills, ancient Khmer temples, European colonial buildings, verdant flora and fauna and down to earth riverside settlements. The people though are all quite the same, friendly, smiling and like the atmosphere, pretty laid back.

Below we have listed some of the attractions of Southern Laos. This should help answer the earlier set of questions of What to do? Where to go?

  • Pakse – This is the main hub for Southern Laos. If you need to come down to this region of the country, you’ll probably end up here. How long you stay is up to you. It is, after all, the region’s largest town, but you can still practically explore the entire place by foot. Pakse is your prototypical sleepy settlement, which introduces you nicely to the area. If you are looking to spend some time here, then suggested stops include Wat Luang, the town’s biggest temple housing Buddha’s footprint and the vast green rice fields of Ban Keosamphanh.
  • Wat Phou – If you like temples then Wat Phou is where you need to go. The 11th century Khmer temple sits peacefully amongst the soothing greenery that makes up the area. As with many Khmer structures, its intended purpose was to be a Hindu place of worship. Elements of the religion can be seen today, such as a shrine where a linga is placed. And like other Khmer temples, it eventually became Buddhist. It is quite an experience to arrive at Wat Phou from the river.
  • Savannakhet – Laos’s second largest city with just 120,000 people. If you like the sights of colonial structures mixed in with the local scenery, then this is it, the town is a classic example of what Indochina is all about. This is also your base for nearby eco-tourism treks.
  • Bolaven Plateau – A highlight of Southern Laos for some. And its 1,000 to 1,350 meter elevation above ground guarantees that the weather will be cooler. A fine relief from the heat and humidity, that’s for sure. But other than cooler weather, the place offers breathtaking natural scenes. Some of the country’s finest waterfalls are here including the 120 meter drop of Tad Fane (which by the way is Laos’s farthest drop) and the equally impressive Tad Lo Falls. This truly is nature at its best. But wait, there’s more. The area is renowned for producing some of the country’s if not the world’s best coffee. Imagine having a nice robust cup and relaxing to the flora. It is an unbelievably soothing experience! And wait, there’s even more. A lot of indigenous  hilltribes call the plateau home. If you ever are interested in their simple and unchanged way of life, this is the perfect opportunity for it.
  • Siphandon – Another highlight for many visitors to Southern Laos. This is the best definition of what life is life down here. It is slow paced (even slower than the other places we mentioned before), it is green, it is scenic and it is relaxing. Some sit by the river and let the rhythmic sound of the current clear their minds, some hop onto a hammock and let the soothing environment get to them, others go for a walk, a bike ride or relax with a beverage in hand. Whatever your definition of relaxation is, the place’s got it. In fact, Siphandon, when translated means 4000 Islands. Obviously that means there are tons of islets here, but most of them usually appear during the dry season when the water level subsides. So, which islands to go to?
    • Don Det – Perhaps the most developed island of the bunch, with installed electricity poles and wires, ensuring 24 hour electricity. None of this was available ten or even five years ago. That being said, you’re still in for a relaxing time. If you want, take a boat tour and catch glimpses of dolphins, perhaps even the rare Irrawaddy.
    • Don Khon – A little more up market, larger and even quieter than Don Det. A nice set of waterfalls are located here. Remnants of colonial France are present such as buildings, the rail tracks and an old train. There are great waterfalls here, with Jacuzzi-like pools.
    • Don Khong – The largest of the islands, perhaps best known for its vast rice fields. If you are looking for a good cycle, this is probably your best bet, with its unbeatable scenery and humble villages scattered throughout.

So, there you have it, the complete lowdown of Southern Laos. If you’re thinking it then you’re right, why not go to most, if not all of these places? You can base your exploration of the area with our Blend of Calm in Southern Laos tour or our 4000 Island program. But there’s also more of the country to explore. If you’re thinking of experiencing the complete Lao flavor, then check out our tours here.

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