LAOS Vang Vien Huts On The River Logo Laos (1)
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Si Phan Don

Also known as ‘Four Thousand Islands’, Si Phan Don is a beautiful yet often overlooked region where the mighty Mekong disperses into a 14km wide web of rivulets creating a maze of islets, rocks and sandbars. The islands vary from size to size, from simply rocks in the river to sizeable areas dotted with villages and farms.

Acting as a natural barrier, this region has managed to avoid outside influences like the French colonialists and the American War and preserve its southern Lao culture. The stunning archipelago has impressive waterfalls and is home to rare flora and fauna, including a species of freshwater dolphin – the Irrawaddy Dolphin.

Si Phan Don is the ideal place to relax, thanks to its serene environment. Sit back and take in the views of the islands with their traditional wooden houses, lush tropical greenery, and the powerful Mekong in the background. Laos is an extremely laid-back nation, and Si Phan Don is one of the most easy-going places you will find. Spend your days here cycling the dusty roads, wandering the villages, travelling down the river on a traditional longtail boat and - if you are lucky - spotting a rare Irrawaddy dolphin in the water. In the evening, enjoy the country’s national drink, namely a cool Beer Lao, whist watching the hot tropical sun setting over the Mekong: bliss.

The hotels here are charmingly simple. You will find boutique lodges on some of the islands, which make for ideal places to stay for a few days of relaxation and exploration. Another option to discover the area is to travel onboard the charming Vat Phou Rice Barge. This unassuming boat offers river-based accommodation, a chance to take in the atmosphere of Si Phan Don, and also visit the crumbling ancient Khmer temple of Wat Phou, a site to rival those found in neighbouring Cambodia.

Accessible from the small city of Pakse, a perfect way to continue the journey from Si Phan Don is to cross into Cambodia, and combine the two countries. The best time of year to visit is between November and March when the weather should be dry and warm.

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