What to See in Champasak - the Gem of Southern Laos

09 Apr, 2024 | A-> Z Guide

Find out what to see in Champasak, the southern province of Laos that features countless unforgettable attractions such as islands, temples, and more.

Any trip to Laos should include some time in Champasak province. Here in the southern part of the country, temples, villages, and stunning scenery await you. This travel guide will help you plan your Champasak adventure as we go on a virtual tour of the most remarkable attractions in this province. 

Champasak Facts & Figures

In the southwest part of Laos is Champasak province. Here are some interesting facts about Champasak:

  • While the name “Champasak” refers to the former capital of the kingdom by the same name, in present times, the province’s capital is Pakse. 
  • As of 2015, 694,023 people called Champasak home. 
  • This province shares borders with Thailand and Cambodia. Between Thailand and Champasak, the Mekong River flows. 
  • The region is famous not only for its natural beauty but also for its rich history and fantastic mix of architectural styles from different eras and cultures.

Top Attractions in Champasak 

1. Bolaven Plateau

This majestic plateau is located between 3,280 and 4,430 feet above sea level, depending on exactly where you are standing. There are multiple reasons to pay it a visit during your tour of southern Laos.

The first is the remarkable scenery. This is the place to go if you want to see waterfalls, including the tallest one in the country called Tad Fane. All the water moving through the area feeds the vegetation, which is incredibly verdant as a result, adding to the area’s iconic beauty. 

Another reason to visit the plateau is to visit the villages of Katu, Alak, and Suay. These villages give you a chance to mingle with the locals and get to know their cultures, while also shopping for handcrafted souvenirs. 

As you traverse the plateau, you also will be able to learn a bit about the region’s history, including its involvement in the Phu Mi Bun Revolt and the Vietnam War. 

2. Vat Phou

Vat Phou, also spelled “Wat Phou,” is a Champasak adventure that will take you back in time. This temple complex is among the most ancient not only in southern Laos but in all of Southeast Asia. While most of the structures were built between the 7th and 13th centuries, some of them date back to what is estimated to be the second century BCE.

The building site selected for Vat Phou is itself considered a holy place, as Mount Phou Khao is associated with Shiva. Against this dramatic background, you can explore the temple’s corridors and “palaces.” You will discover carvings linked to both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths, some of which are incredibly detailed. A small museum on-site houses some of these artifacts to protect them from the elements and draw special attention to their artistry and religious significance.

3. Wat Luang

The next holy site to explore on your tour of southern Laos attractions is Wat Luang, a Buddhist temple in Pakse. It is noteworthy for its exquisitely ornate architecture, featuring vibrant colors and elaborate designs. While not an ancient site (its construction took place in 1935), it nonetheless captures just as strong a sense of holiness. 

Learn more about the life of the Buddha in its paintings, view a 500-year-old statue of the Buddha in the museum, discover the holy relic in the Chedi (stupa), and bask in the atmosphere of peace that surrounds you in the temple’s garden. An afternoon spent at Wat Luang is one that will uplift your spirit for a lifetime. 

4. The Golden Buddha (Phu Salao)

Vat Phou Salao in Pakse is very beautiful, but most visitors come to the temple to take the hike up to the world-famous Golden Buddha statue atop the hill. You can ride a tuk-tuk to the foot of the hill starting at Pakse Centre. But from that point on, you will be on foot. Be warned that the stairs are quite a climb; it is best to be well-rested before you attempt it.

Putting in the effort pays off in a huge way when you see the majestic panorama of Pakse and the Mekong River far below, and the Golden Buddha statue overlooking it all. Once you are up here, surrounded by sky, clouds, and solitude, soak it in for as long as you want before you make the descent back down the stairs. Take the time to meditate on all the wonders of Champasak and rejoice at being alive.

5. Wat Muang Kang

You are not yet done with your tour of holy southern Laos attractions; one more to see along the Mekong River is Wat Muang Kang. 

The ubosot (ordination hall) features white pillars and a red roof; its distinctive design makes it one of the most recognizable locations in Champasak. The hŏr tąi (Tripitaka library) is equally unique, bringing together disparate Eastern and Western architectural elements in a surprisingly harmonious way. No other temple in the region has been as active for as long as this one. 

6. Ban Nong Bueng Woodcarving Village

While much of what to see in Champasak involves temples, there are some other exciting destinations and activities you can add to your itinerary, one of which is paying a visit to the Ban Nong Bueng Woodcarving Village. 

Located along the Mekong River, this village is the place to go if you want to bring home some handcrafted souvenirs, supporting the local traditional economy. The village has been around since just before the turn of the 20th century. The Lao and Taoy families living there have passed down their wood and stone carving techniques from generation to generation. Marvel at their creations, and maybe bring home a few to remind you of your trip. 

7. Si Phan Don - The 4000 Islands     

While you are in the Mekong region, visit the Si Phan Don archipelago, the “4000 islands.” To see all of the islands, plan your visit for when the river is low; during floods, only half the islands remain above water. 

While most of the islands are not inhabited, there are some places to stay, especially in Don Det and Don Khong. Whether you wander around town, go on a bicycle ride, hike to some waterfalls, or go for a boat ride or swim, you will savor every second you have escaped from the crowds of Laos’ more popular destinations.

8. Don Khong 

Don Khong, the largest of the 4,000 Islands, deserves some extra attention in this guide to what to see in Champasak. You can reach this island by crossing a French railway bridge from Don Det. 

The most impressive destination in Don Khong is Khone Phapheng Falls. These falls are the largest in Southeast Asia, featuring cascades of whitewater over rugged rocks. While photographs capture the picturesque beauty of the falls, they fail to do justice to how large they are. So, be prepared to be amazed when you arrive.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the falls are all you can see on Don Khong, however. While you are on this remarkable island, you can visit sleepy villages and astonishing temples and caves, all while surrounded by stunning mountains and foliage. This is also the perfect spot to plan a fishing trip, as the river is rich with abundance. 

How to get to Champasak 

Now you have some ideas for what to see in Champasak. But how do you embark upon your Champasak adventure? 

There are a few options for getting to Champasak. If you want to fly into the region using Lao Airlines, you can land at the Pakse International Airport (PKZ). 

Another option is to rent a car and drive to Champasak from the airport in Danang (DAD), which you can expect to take around 7 and a half hours. Plan some extra time, as you no doubt will need to stop along the way to take breaks or look around. 

If you are starting at Pakse, you generally will take a boat across the Mekong River, and drive or hire transportation on Route 13. There is a good chance you end up taking some bus trips with Green Paradise Travel as you venture to various southern Laos attractions.

Regarding the boat trips across the Mekong, the most common staging point is Ban Muang village boat landing on the east side of the river. It takes about 20,000-30,000 kips to hire a boat by yourself, depending on which direction you need to go (east to west is more expensive). If you need to save, you can spend about 10,000 kips to share a boat with other passengers. 

After crossing the river, you arrive at Ban Phapin. You can then either hire a tuk-tuk or ride on a motorbike if you brought one (note that there is an extra fee to ferry across a motorbike). Once you are actually in Champasak, these two options as well as renting a bicycle are usually the best ways around. 

With its scenic beauty, its distinctive architecture, and its rich history, Champasak is host to many of the most intriguing Southern Laos attractions. Contact Exotic Voyages to start designing your Champasak adventure.

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