Photo: Crossing the river.


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Nestled at the edge of the Bolaven Plateau, Tad Lo is a watering place, literally and figuratively. Three waterfalls and bunglow-plus-hammock-type accommodation lure budget travellers with relaxation and refreshment.

Though located in Salavan Province, the launching point is most commonly Pakse, 85 kilometres away. Generally known as Tad Lo, it’s actually a series of three waterfalls, Tad Lo, Tad Hang and Tad Soung, all grouped around the village of Ban Saenvang, colloquially referred to as Tad Lo village.

Gorgeous. Photo taken in or around Tad Lo, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Gorgeous. Photo: Cindy Fan

Tad Lo is something of a small-scale backpacker’s hangout and more are catching on, either visiting by public bus, or by motorbike on a multi-day journey through the Bolaven Plateau. Whether doing the so-called short loop or long loop from Pakse, Tad Lo is usually the first night’s accommodation—and there are some good cheap ones, without the trashiness found at other backpacker mass tourism haunts on the banana-pancake trail. The vibe is low-key, and the few travellers in town do get together at night in restaurants to share stories over a cold beer. Fandee Guesthouse and Palamei Guesthouse usually offer a family-style feast you can sign up for. All this makes one consider staying longer.

Those planning to stay only a night, Tad Hang and Tad Lo can be ticked off in a single afternoon. Tad Hang is the first set of falls you see upon arrival. It is the smallest and gentlest of the three, providing the best opportunity for taking a dip, but be warned—and this applies to all the falls—a dam is released every day around 16:00 causing the water to sharply rise. You need to be well clear of the water before then.

Further up river, Tad Lo is a powerful cascade pouring over a wide rock wall. It’s wonderfully untouched for now.

Follow the rainbow. Photo taken in or around Tad Lo, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Follow the rainbow. Photo: Cindy Fan

Stay longer and Tad Soung, ten kilometres from the village, will having you perched at the edge of a cliff watching as the Xe Set river plunges 90 metres into a deep gorge. The Tourism Information Centre offers a challenging two-day trek along the Bolaven escarpment. Or simply enjoy the down to earth peace of it all, hammock-ing, watching an elephant bathe in the river at Tad Lo Lodge at 16:30, then going for a bath of your own, heading up the road from the lodge to Tad Lo, joining villagers for an end of day splash.

The village is located 1.3 km off of Route 20. There are two roads from Route 20 that take you in but the vast majority of visitors are arriving from Pakse, therefore taking the first road they come across—go this way and you’ll find most of the accommodation and the Visitor Information Centre across the bridge.

The Tourism Information Centre is worth checking out if planning to stay longer than a night. Not a lot of English is spoken but there’s posters on sights and programmes which you can point to. The guesthouses here are relaxed and all close to the office so if you can buttonhole someone that can translate, they’d probably be willing to help.

The nearest hospital and police station are in Lao Ngam (15km) and Salavan (30km). The remote provincial hospital in Salavan would be better than the district hospital in Lao Ngam, but for anything the least bit serious, get yourself to Pakse, or better yet, Thailand.

Only a few guesthouses and lodges have WiFi in their restaurants. Tad Lo does get 3G.

Major villages along Road 20 from Pakse to Tad Lo often have at least one ATM and petrol station. There is no ATM in Ban Saenvang.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Tad Lo.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Tad Lo.
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