Laos - Getting to know the Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands)

If you've done even a small amount of research, there's little doubt that this region will be figuring in your Laos holiday plans! A wonderful area of a country that still remains, to some extent, lost in time, Si Phan Don is often misunderstood, but with the right planning a trip to the 4,000 Islands can be truly captivating. So - let us tell you more...

Laos Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) Travel Guide

Don't merely think about this region as a collection of 'islands' - in fact, some aren't even islands as we might think of them. Instead, think of it as a riverine network that carries you on a journey - a journey taking in extreme natural beauty, deeply embedded traditions, vibrant cultures, opportunities for some exhilarating activities and (with our expert guidance, of course!) hidden corners in which you can simply kick-back and pause - even fleetingly - the pace of Western life.

Si Phan Don is a part of South-East Asia that offers something for most type of traveller. If you're planning a honeymoon in Laos, the region's visually stunning beauty is one of real romanticism. Those in search of a spot of light adventure will be rewarded with opportunities for trekking, off-road motoring and rafting, and if you’re eager to reconnect with nature, you’ll find an abundance of birdlife, beautiful waterfalls and dramatic mountain ranges. On top of all that, the region boasts the impressive Khmer temple complex of Wat Phou, and the Bolaven Plateau.

Getting off the trail in the 4,000 Islands

  • Relax. There are some lovely corners in which to savour this magical region in true peace, the islands of Dong Khone and Dong Khong being amongst our favourites. They're typified by small, laid-back hamlets with a smattering of restaurants, minority villages and easy going Laotian life right out of your traveller’s imagination. Accommodation is limited, but we know one or two real gems providing a perfect base for cycling, strolling and generally chilling out.
  • Dong Daeng is another tranquil spot of sandy beaches and pre-Angkorian ruins, as well as being the setting for the rather wonderful La Folie  - a very special property in a unique location.
  • For a spot of on-the-water luxury, the two-night Vat Phou Cruise plies the Mekong River between Pakse and Wat Phou, through the winding waterways of the 4,000 Islands, taking in the area’s lesser known highlights as well as those already on the map.

Improvements to infrastructure in recent years has meant some journey times have been slashed so, even if you’ve under two weeks at your disposal, you can now easily include four or five of the most magical destinations in Laos whilst only needing one or two internal flights.

What to do in Si Phan Don

  • Wat Phou is not just one of the key sites of the area - it’s also where many people begin their journey. It's one of the loveliest settings chosen by the Khmer to build a religious settlement, and the result is possibly the most significant legacy from the Khmer empire to be found outside of Cambodia. 
  • An ideal companion to Wat Phou is some time spent exploring the Bolaven Plateau - an elevated area of waterfalls, lush jungle interior and picturesque trails.
  • Other highlights of the region include the cascading rapids of Tat Somphamit, Wat Phu Khao Kaew and the Khon Phapheng falls.

The endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin

Seen in these waters, and considered by locals to be a reincarnated human, but count yourself lucky if you spot one, as they’re now thought to number fewer than one hundred. You can find out more here.


There's an easy land crossing between Laos and Cambodia just south of Si Phan Don

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