Southern Laos

Southern Laos

Often left off harried backpackers’ itineraries, Southern Laos can be a rewarding part of the country to explore. It offers some great obscure sites, underground rivers, towering waterfalls, ethnic diversity, ancient ruins and chilled-out backpacker havens. Far fewer travellers venture here and many of those who do tend to dash straight down from Vientiane to the southern hub of Pakse but there’s a lot in between that is well worth exploring. Slow down! This is Lao PDR (please don’t rush) after all.

Elsewhere on Travelfish: Highlights of Southern Laos

The capital of Khammuan, Tha Khaek, offers fantastic options for exploration including caves, rock climbing, swimming holes and a deservedly popular motorbike route called the Tha Khaek Loop, which will take you to Konglor Cave. The seven-kilometre long pitch-dark boat ride on a river through the mountain is a must.

Further south along the Mekong is Savannakhet, where beret-wearing old men still play petanque in front of crumbling colonial buildings, charming remnants of a time when the city was a bustling French trading outpost home to both French and Chinese merchants.

From here you can head into the hinterland to explore rugged parks; that’s right, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can only go trekking in northern Laos.

Pakse in Champasak province is the hub of southern Laos and options for travellers continue to grow, including boutique accommodation, outdoor adventure activities and Mekong river cruises. It’s the gateway to the Bolaven Plateau, known for its cool climate, amazing waterfalls and coffee plantations. Paksong is the coffee capital of Laos and coffee lovers will appreciate the specialist farms doing great things and the city’s numerous cafes. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say it’s the best cup you’ll have in Southeast Asia. Not to be missed is Wat Phu,a UNESCO-protected complex of pre-Angkorian and Khmer Empire ruins from the fifth to 15th century (it pre-dates Angkor Wat).

If you want to rough it and get well and truly off the grid, you can do it on the border with Vietnam in Salavan, Sekong and Attapeu.

In stark contrast, Si Phan Don, better known as the 4,000 Islands, attracts happy backpackers like lazy sun-drunk flies to honey. Just shy of the Cambodia border, the sleepy islands offer cheap bamboo bungalows with hammocks where zoning out is the primary activity. Wake up in time to catch the gorgeous sunset on the Mekong. There’s not much to do here except cycle around and delay leaving Laos for yet another day.

If you only have two weeks or less, we recommend you choose between northern Laos or southern Laos. Check out our “LAOS: North or south?” trip planner to help you decide which one.

14 destinations in Southern Laos

Learn more about Don Khon
Don Khon

Charming island getaway

Learn more about Champasak
Champasak

All about Wat Phu

Learn more about Tad Lo
Tad Lo

Waterfalls and chilling out

Learn more about Don Khong
Don Khong

Real Lao life

Learn more about Don Dhet
Don Dhet

The land of the lotus-eaters

Learn more about Ban Khiet Ngong
Ban Khiet Ngong

Village living

Learn more about Tha Khaek Loop
Tha Khaek Loop

Get a bike and go

Learn more about Attapeu
Attapeu

Vietnamese boom town

Learn more about Pakse
Pakse

The southern hub

Learn more about Tha Khaek
Tha Khaek

The launching point for that loop

Learn more about Savannakhet
Savannakhet

A low-key riverside city

Learn more about Salavan
Salavan

The Broken Bridge

Learn more about Paksan
Paksan

Little-visited

Learn more about Sekong
Sekong

Well off the radar