Champasak is a small town bordered by the Mekong River in southwestern Champasak province of Laos.
A crossroads of various Southeast Asian kingdoms and culture, Champasak figured heavily into the political climate and conflicts of the region between the 10th and 17th centuries. The Khmer, Siamese, and Lan Xang Kingdoms all fought for control of this important river trading hub between through 1700s. At the beginning of the 17th century, Campasak became the capital of an independent Laotian kingdom until the French protectorate of Laos unified the entire region under a single flag in the early 20th century. Today, little of the former royal majesty the city was associated with is apparent, but its aging French colonial architecture and bucolic lifestyle are an attractive substitution.
The ruins of Wat Phu (Wat Phou) just five miles from town are the region’s most visited historical site. The ruins were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. The Khmer Hindu temple overlooks the Mekong River, and predates the massive super structures found in Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. The temple compound was converted into a Theravada Buddhist temple in later centuries, and a busy center of worship today despite its state of decay.
Best Time to Visit Champasak:
Champasak’s best sightseeing weather falls between November and May. Higher temperatures come in with June and stay through October, but the frequent showers that are common during the second half of the year cool the atmosphere considerably during the early mornings and afternoons.
How to get to Champasak:
Champasak is about 20 miles from the regional travel hub of Pakse. Pakse is best reached by a direct flight, and from there our guests travel overland in a private vehicle to reach the city of Champasak.
Champasak’s royal trappings are long gone, but the slow pace of life and easy access to Wat Phu makes it one of the most memorable destinations on a luxury tour of Southern Laos.
Western clothing choices are fine to wear while exploring the city, but if you’re heading into the ruins of Wat Phu, it’s best to dress modestly for the excursion as the ruins are a very active worship center for Buddhists. Visitors to the historical site should dress in clothing that covers shoulders, arms, and knees at the very least.