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In a nutshell

See World Heritage-listed Wat Phu, one of the most impressive Khmer temples outside of Cambodia. Visit Don Deng, a tranquil island just off Champasak, to see a traditional Lao lifestyle in action. Visit the few ruins or just soak up the atmosphere.

On the western bank of the slow-flowing Mekong, some 40 kilometres south of Pakse, sits the quaint riverside town of Champasak. A modest place, Champasak is deserted compared to places such as Pakse and Don Dhet, with travellers preferring to take daytrips to nearby Wat Phu. To our minds, this makes the town even more appealing than it has ever been.

The Khmer-period ruins of Wat Phu, some 10 kilometres to the southwest of town, were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2001, but aside from a large carpark, a semi-modern looking administrative centre and a museum, the fantastic ruins are largely as they've been for centuries.

Well worn and heavily weathered, this is the most important Khmer site in Laos. An attractive but rather small affair, what Wat Phu lacks in size and grandeur it more than makes up for with charm and atmosphere. Overshadowed by Phu Pasak and littered with frangipani, Wat Phu's somewhat rambling, almost teetering appearance hides its importance. The site predates many of the finds in Angkor and Thailand and if you're lucky enough to have an uncrowded early morning or late afternoon to yourself the whole place has a bit of a lost city feel to it.

The ruins draw a steady crowd of daytrippers from Pakse and further afield -- you can even do a day trip from Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand if you'd like – but with Champasak's handful of colonial mansions, typical Chinese shopfronts and pretty wooden houses, try to allow for at least an overnight stay.

Even in high season, this is a sleepy place. Along the solitary main road water buffaloes and wandering geese are more common sights than cars and buses, and the riverfront with its smattering of small restaurants and hammock-strewn cafes creates an ideal getaway from the midday heat.

Although most skip Champasak, this is a perfect stopover place between Si Phan Don and Pakse and those with an spare day or two would do well to give this place a look.

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Text and/or map last updated on 23rd June, 2013.

Last reviewed by:
Adam gave up a corporate career in 2009 and left Australia for the hustle and bustle of Southeast Asia. He now lives in Indonesia, where as well as writing for he plays around with

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Easy Access
By morpet, 27 April 2013
4.0  stars

Cozy luang prabang
By caseyprich, 14 February 2011
5.0  stars

You Can't Get There from Here!
By exacto, 19 February 2010
4.0  stars

Southern Vibe
By chaos23, 13 June 2009
4.0  stars

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