I recently had the chance to visit Pakse in Southern Laos and its surroundings – which is a region that surprised me with incredible nature, welcoming locals and amazing food. Today, I want to tell you more about Pakse and Southern Laos, including some of the best things to do in Pakse during your trip.
Southern Laos is certainly not one of the most touristic regions in South East Asia, especially when you compare it with nearby tourist magnets like Thailand. For me, the trip around Southern Laos was a positive surprise and I can just recommend including Pakse and the region of Southern Laos to your next trip in the region – you will not regret it.
For some more impressions, check out my highlight video:[toc]
*This article was written as part of a Press Trip with Laos Tourism, yet all opinions are my own.
Things to do in Pakse, Southern Laos
Vat Phou is one of the main attractions around Pakse – being a UNESCO World Heritage Site it’s no surprise that this place is special and has a lot to offer for every visitor. Vat Phou is a ruined Khmer Hindu complex in Southern Laos and located next to Mount Phou Khao, which looks majestic even from far away.
While the still visible ruins date back to the 11th century, there was a temple as early as the 5th century – which is, unfortunately, not visible anymore. In fact, Vat Phou is older than the world-famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which was quite surprising for me.
Additionally to the ruins, you can also follow a path up the hill, which will lead you to a shrine, which looks quite interesting and is actually the main part of this historical place.
Overall Vat Phou might not be as interesting or impressive as other old and huge temples – yet, it is a perfect combination of history, culture and natural beauty – and in my opinion one of the first things to do in Pakse if you travel there!
Vat Phou Salao
If you are in Pakse you will soon see a huge Buddha overlooking the city from a hill. Joining the Buddha to enjoy the views on your own is definitely a good idea! You can overlook the whole city and some beautiful sceneries of the nature of Southern Laos. For me, the big golden Buddha felt a little bit like Christ the Redeemer in Rio (of course, other religion!), as it looks quite cool to take a selfie there. Big advantage: There are basically no other tourists, unlike in Rio de Janeiro.
While the big Buddha & the stunning views are definitely the main attraction of Vat Phou Salao – it’s also worth exploring the several other Buddha statues as well as the nearby temple.
To get to Vat Phou Salao, you can either hike up the hill from Pakse or take a Tuk Tuk that will bring you to the top. Either option is fine, however, I’d recommend hiking up early morning or for sunset, if you decide to do so.
Khone Phapheng Falls
Did you know that Laos is home to the biggest waterfall in South East Asia? I did not and was amazed by its power and beauty. The Khone Phapheng Falls in Southern Laos, which you can reach easily from Pakse, is the largest waterfall in South East Asia by water volume and worth a day trip from Pakse.
Due to its immense power, the falls are the main reason why the Mekong River is not fully navigable into China, even though French colonialists tried it various times in the past.
The falls are located nearby the border to Cambodia and quite touristic for Southern Laos – yet, I would suggest everybody that is visiting Pakse or Southern Laos to include it in his itinerary. They are not as powerful or impressive as Foz do Iguacu in South America but still incredible to see and especially without thousands of other tourists, which makes the experience more special.
Don Det (4000 islands)
When talking about the best things to do in Pakse or Southern Laos you can’t skip the 4000 islands, a beautiful region in the Mekong River. As the name already tells it consists of many different islands, most of them completely untouristic or even inhabited.
During my trip, I stayed on Don Det for one night – which is kind of the “main island”, as it offers a lot of accommodation, bars, and restaurants for explorers from all around the world. While there are not dozens of activities to choose from, it’s certainly a perfect place to relax and spend some holidays.
Despite being an island with tourists, the prices are fair and you will get great value from your stay. From Don De,t you’ll also have several options to explore the regions, including remote islands with pure nature.
I stayed in the Golden Hotel Don Det, which is located next to the river, has an awesome pool and cool bungalows – I can just recommend it! The staff was very friendly and welcomed us with a traditional ritual.
Local “Baci” Ceremony
One of the most interesting things to do in Pakse is certainly to be part of a local Baci Ceremony. A Baci Ceremony is uniquely from Laos and basically a good luck ritual which is usually held for big events such as a wedding.
During my stay, we were welcomed with a Baci Ceremony 2 times, which was an interesting and special experience. What I liked the most about it was that the local Lao people really wish you all the best in your life – you can feel that they are great and genuine people – and It just made me feel good being with them.
Tat Somphamit Waterfalls
The Tat Somphamit Waterfalls, also known as Li Phi Falls, means “spirit trap” if you translate it. Some locals believe that the falls are a trap for bad spirits as they wash down the river. To me, the falls were incredibly beautiful and powerful – and while you can’t swim next to powerful waterfalls usually, you have an option here:
A short walk away from the main falls (with many signs, you can’t miss it) you will find a little beach a bar and some places to hang out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to really relax there, but I can just recommend taking some more time when visiting the Tat Somphamit / Li Phi Falls.
This interesting combination of the powerful falls and a little beach to relax makes the falls one of the best things to do in Pakse – especially when you plan to do a trip to the 4000 islands (which you should!).
Don Khon Island
Don Khon Island is next to Don Det and much smaller, but also worth a visit. While you will meet some party crowds on Don Det, you will be able to enjoy more peace on Don Khon Island – which is much less touristic.
On Don Khon, you can find some old French colonial buildings, which remind about former times under French colonialists. The most famous sight is the old “train bridge”, which the French colonialists used for their steam railway system. While the island is not so touristic yet, I found it interesting to read about the history of the region (which was available in English).
Try Laos Coffee
Laos has a big tradition of coffee – which surprised me because I honestly didn’t know about it. While trying the local coffee I realized how good it is – and I really think it’s one of the things to do in Pakse – especially if you like coffee as I do. While you can try it in almost every local restaurant – the best experience is to visit one of the coffee plantations, preferably in the Bolaven Plateau.
I did a little tour on a local coffee plantation, where I learned about the history of coffee in general & Laos – and, of course, tried some of the really tasty and strong (!) coffees.
Waterfalls Bolaven Plateau
Because the Bolavean Plateau has so many amazing beautiful waterfalls I just decided to show you them all together. When staying in Pakse, you must visit the Bolaven Plateau in my opinion, as it is home to my favorite waterfalls in Southern Laos.
Tad Yuang Waterfalls
Even if you don’t have much time – the Tad Yuang waterfalls are a must-do trip from Pakse. The falls are incredibly tall and simply look insane – while you also have the possibility to swim there, depending on the current height/strength of the water. For me, the Tad Yuang is one of the best things to do in Pakse.
Tad Lo Waterfalls
Tad Lo are rather small falls(yet, pretty wide!) and less spectacular than others in Southern Laos. However, it was interesting to see local fishermen that were basically hiking next to the falls to catch some fish.
Also, some extremely cute puppies where around the area, which made the visit even better. If you don’t have time to visit all the waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau, I’d personally skip this one though.
Tad Fane Waterfalls
Last but not least: My favorite waterfall in Southern Laos – and admittedly, also one of my all-time favorites. The Tad Fane Falls are the highest waterfalls in whole Laos (120 meters!) and extremely spectacular.
As an extra bonus, there are some really cool activities to do: Zip-lining over the huge sceneries of the falls or, even crazier: Having a coffee in the air, including a view to the Tad Fane falls. In my opinion, everybody that visits Pakse or Southern Laos simply has to see these insane waterfalls – you will not regret it!
Hotels in Pakse
After I told you some of the things to do in Pakse, I will also tell you some options on where to stay in Pakse – including my recommendations for hotels in Pakse.
4* Champasak Grand Hotel: For around 50$ you can get an amazing hotel with western standards, friendly local staffs, and simply great rooms. It also has an outdoor pool, a gym, and breakfast with various options (both local & western). I personally stayed in the hotel for 3 nights and really liked it. If you are looking for a great hotel in Pakse, the Champasak Grand Hotel should be your choice.
3* Pakse Hotel & Restaurant: Another hotel with great standards and a good location – the best part about the Pakse hotel is its rooftop restaurant/bar though, which will offer you fantastic views over the city and Mekong river.
Chato Hostel: Budget option with a single room for a bit more than 10$ and shared dorm rooms for under 10$. The rooms look great and the Hostel has the best ratings for all Hostels/Hotels in Pakse in the budget section.
How to get around in Pakse
Getting around in Pakse or Southern Laos can be difficult, as public transportation is not (yet) really good. However, there are still some great options to get around.
The first option would be to simply rent a car or motorbike – and get around on your own. You can reach all major attractions by road and Google Maps works perfectly.
Secondly, you could join one of the many tour operators, which would sell you a package with different attractions. While this might be easier as you don’t have to worry about the organization, however, you will also always be with a group of other people and maybe can’t enjoy the beauty of Southern Laos to it’s fullest.
Drones in Laos
Because I added some drone images into this blog post, I decided to create this little extra section for some information about the drone laws and rules in Laos.
Drones under 200 grams in Laos
If your drone is under 200 grams (most drones are not though), you don’t need any permissions and are ready to go.
Drones over 200 grams in Laos
While there are not many restrictions for drones in Laos if they are under 200 grams – this is not the case for the most common drones, such as the DJi drones, as they weight more than 200 grams.
In that case, you’ll need permission by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications before flying your drone in Laos. Additionally, use common sense, which means do not fly close to airports, at night, bad weather conditions and also do not disturb other’s privacy rights.
If bringing your drone without permission to Laos, you can get fined for importing or using it. According to my research, the fines are usually around 1’000’000 Kip (more than 100$).
*Please note that I had permission to fly my drone while traveling Southern Laos with the official Tourism board.