Day 1: Arrive at Pakse. Non-stop flights are available from Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Siem Reap, Cambodia. You are greeted at the airport by your guide and driver and driven to the east into the Bolaven Plateau. The region is much higher in elevation than the Mekong River valley, and thus exhibits cooler temperatures which give rise to tea and coffee plantations. The plateau is also home to countless rivers and waterfalls, as well as several unique tribal cultures, who are descended from a mixture of Lao, Khmer, Alak, and Katu.
Begin your exploration of southern Laos with a couple of interesting stops en route to the first waterfall. First, you will visit a village whose inhabitants are skilled in the art of knife making. Next, visit a tea plantation for some nice photo opportunities and a sampling of the local product. Continue the interesting drive through the Bolaven Plateau and the Dong Hua Sao jungle, which is a National Biodiversity Conservation area, and home to thousands of species including monkeys, elephants and tigers. Your next stop is the stunning Tad Fan waterfall. These two chute style waterfalls tumble over 300 feet down the side of a large hole in the jungle; a truly impressive and peculiar sight.
Proceed onward toward Tad Lo and enjoy a brief stop at a coffee plantation and then the vibrant and colorfully ethnicThaTeng market. You will also enjoy a visit to an Alak village and a Katu village; distinctive because of their tradition of building their coffins long before their death, and keeping them under their houses. You will then arrive at the destination, the beautiful Tad Lo waterfall. You are assisted with check-in to your hotel, and you will enjoy the rest of the afternoon at your leisure to explore the area around the falls.
Day 2: Tad Lo - Kingfisher Lodge. You are assisted with check-out in the morning and driven back toward Pakse, but this time turning south on National Highway 13 toward the French colonial town of Champasak. From Champasak, south, is a fascinating area where the Mekong River becomes even more prolific and spreads out, creating thousands of islands, both large and small within its banks. The vast wet land area created by this phenomenon has played an important role in history, having been coveted, fought for, and ruled by many different ancient southeast Asian kingdoms. Before your in depth exploration of this area though, another detour is taken to the east and your home for the next two nights: Kingfisher Eco-Lodge. Arrive at the lodge and you are assisted with check-in. Boasting a location in an extremely rich wildlife area, (between the Xi Pian Natural Protected Area and the BeungKiatNgongWetlands) Kingfisher Lodge is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in the rural side of Laos. Every aspect of the lodge is designed to support the local communities and wildlife conservation. You are at leisure for the balance of the day to explore the natural areas around the lodge.
Day 3: Kingfisher Lodge - Elephant Trek. After breakfast, embark on a full day voyage into the jungle in the same manner as the explorers of old: on elephant back ! The trek starts from the village, as you ride your gentle pachyderm across the wetlands and into the jungle. Enjoy a couple of hours of observation of the diverse ecosystem with the sounds of avian jungle dwellers in concert, and then dismount to allow your elephant to forage for food as you enjoy a picnic lunch. Proceed back to the camp after lunch, arriving in the afternoon. The rest of the evening is at your leisure.
Day 4: Kingfisher Lodge - Khone Island. You are assisted with check-out after breakfast and driven further south toward the Cambodian border and the heart of the Mekong region known as “4000 Islands”. You will board a private boat in the village of Ban Hatsaikhone and embark on a riparian exploration of this unique island region surrounded by the mighty Mekong. Arrive on the picturesque island of Don Khone by noon and enjoy a break for lunch. This island of formidable size is one of the more peaceful islands in the region, having limited infrastructure and nightlife. The island features an old, obsolete light gauge railroad track that goes around the island, which will serve as your route for an afternoon exploration of the island by bicycle. Sights along the way include several old French colonial houses and buildings, and the sprawling and robust Li Phi waterfalls. Exploring the island by bicycle also allows for the opportunity to experience the authentic, simple lifestyle found in the villages in rural Laos. Arrive at your hotel in the mid-afternoon and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure to relax in this no-pace environment.
Day 5: Khone Island - Don Daeng. After an early breakfast, board your private boat once again to the mainland and you are driven to explore the powerful KhonePhapheng Falls; the largest waterfall in southeast Asia. Not only are these falls impressively large and loud, they are noteworthy as being the main reason that the Mekong is not fully navigable into China. Next, board a private boat for a trip down the Mekong to the Cambodian border and the habitat for the elusive freshwater Irrawady River Dolphin. These dolphins are considered critically endangered in Laos and Cambodia. The dolphins have been rumored to share a unique symbiotic relationship with local fisherman, as they wait for an auditory signal, then drive fish into the fisherman’s nets in exchange for a share of the bounty !
Next, your car will pick you up again and drive you north to the town of Champasak where there will be a break for lunch.
Afternoon: Proceed for a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wat Phou. This piece of land has a long history dating back to at least the 5th century A.D. The current set of ruins is Khmer in origin and was constructed in the 11th century A.D. The setting is dramatic, as the temple complex is shrouded by tall mountains, one bearing a natural lingam at its peak. Wat Phou is considered to be one of the world’s most important archaeological sites and should be on the bucket list of any ancient temple enthusiast.
Afterward, you are driven to your hotel on the island near Wat Phou and across the river from Champasak called Don Daeng. Much like Don Khone, it is an island unaffected by modern technology, where villagers live simple, peaceful lives growing and harvesting rice in the center of the island.
Day 6: Don Daeng. You are at leisure on this day to explore the area on your own. You could simply enjoy the tranquil island of Don Daeng, and immerse yourself in the rural culture, explore the fascinating town of Champasak, just across the river, or return to Wat Phou. No guide and driver are provided on this day, unless specifically requested by you.
Day 7: Don Daeng - Pakse - Onward flight. You are assisted with check-out by noon and driven to Pakse to board your flight to your next destination.