The Xe Pian National Protected Area, considered the second most important biodiversity conservation area in Laos, currently has half-day elephant rides at Kiat Ngong village. This tour takes visitors to an archeological site, Pu Asa, perched atop the mountain above the village. For those interested in learning about medicinal plants and forest products, Kiat Ngong village guides can be hired for half-day walks through nearby forests. Visitors can stay overnight in Kiat Ngong's community-operated bungalows, which overlook an expansive wetland that is excellent for bird watching.

Trekking in Champasak

A new two-day trek, led by local guides, is currently being developed in Xe Pian. It heads through a variety of forest types and landscapes to an overnight home stay in an ethnic Lavae village. The trek includes a morning walk to an area with populations of gibbons.

Southern Champasak Province features the Four Thousand Islands, which are considered to be the largest complex of waterfalls and rapids in the world. Rafting and kayaking through this amazing stretch of Mekong waterfalls, up to 14 km wide, is only for those with intermediate to advanced skills. Also not to be missed are the Irawaddy freshwater dolphins which can be seen from Don Kone island.

Vat Phou temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which predates Angkor Vat in Cambodia, is one of Champasak’s main attractions. There is a new community-based alternative for accommodation at the Vat Phou Conservation area: homestays can be arranged on Don Daeng island located across the Mekong river from Vat Phou. On Don Daeng, local guides can be hired for walks around the island, boat trips and bird watching.

In northern Champasak Province, the Pu Xieng Thong National Protected Area recently opened a one-day trek led by village guides. The trek covers some of the major natural and cultural sites of Pu Khong Mountain, located inside the protected area, which is best known for its diversity of orchid and mushrooms species. Home stays are available in Mai Singsamphan village, located at the base of the Pu Khong Mountain.

The Mekong River north of Pakse (capital of Champasak province) opens the door to interesting cultural attractions, most notably silk weaving on Don Ko island, a former French colonial administrative center. Home stays with local families is also available on Don Ko Island.

In the northeastern part of the province, the Bolaven Plateau rises some 1,500 m above sea level and is famous for producing some of the finest Arabica coffees in the world. Beans can be purchased along the road from local villagers.

The plateau also has two very beautiful waterfalls, the Xe Katamtok and Tad Fane Waterfalls. The Tad Fane Resort, located at the edge of Dong Houa Sao National Protected Area, has breathtaking views of the waterfall and can arrange one day treks around the protected area and to nearby coffee plantations.


Xe Pian National Protected Area

Location: Champasak and Attapeu, 2,400 sq km

Ecotourism Activities Available:
Trekking, bird watching and elephant riding.

Key Species: Tiger, banteng, irrawaddy dolphin, Asian elephant, gaur, sun bear,Asiatic black bear, yellow-cheeked crested gibbon. The Xe Pian-Dong Hua Sao NPA gibbon population is of major global conservation significance. Xe Pian has the highest number of birds recorded for any NPA. Seven of these species have not been recorded in any other protected area in Laos. Important species include the giant ibis, black ibis, sarus crane, white-winged duck and the white rumped, long billed and red headed vulture.

Habitat: Forest types include evergreen, mixed evergreen and deciduous. Terrain is hilly and low with extensive areas of flatlands in the east and south at an altitude of 150 – 300 m. The Xe Kong plains in the east are dissected by three main rivers– the Xe Pian, Xe Khampho and near the northern and eastern perimeters, the Xe Kong. It contains numerous mainly seasonal wetlands. Drainage is largely south to Cambodia and north to the northern wetlands.

Access: The main access is by Road No. 13. South of Pakse at Km. 48, Route No. 6 heads east along the northern boundary of the NBCA, and then branches to several villages.


Phou Xieng Thoung Protected Area

Location: Salavan & Champasak, 1,200 sq km

Ecotourism Activities Available: Trekking & orchid photography.

Key Species: Green peafowl, banteng and leopard.

Habitat: Semi-dry evergreen forest is the predominant forest type. Dry dipterocarp forest, mixed deciduous forest and bamboo are patchily distributed. PXT incorporates the Lao side of the Mekong River and the adjoining hills eastward. To the east, its edge is well defined by a steeply rising escarpment to a low sandstone plateau.

Access: Route 13 south runs roughly parallel with the eastern boundary within a distance of 1-6 km. Route 13 is being rebuilt as a hard-top road. A rough track negotiable by 4WD cuts 6 km across the reserve to the Mekong River and the enclave village, Khanthungxai. Another track reaches the enclave village, Thakhamxomxua. Also accessible from Ban Mai Singsampanh.


Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area

Location: Champasak, 1,100 sq km

Key Species: Elephant, grey-faced tit-babbler, yellow-cheeked gibbon.

Habitat: Semi-dry evergreen forest is the dominant vegetation type in the lowlands and the uplands. Lowland plains comprise well over half of the protected area at elevations from 100 - 300 m. Steep to very steep slopes rise to the edge of the Boloven Plateau at an elevation of around 1,000 m. Peaks near the plateau rim reach almost 1,300 m.

Access: Dong Houa Sao is easily accessed from major hard-top, all-weather roads in the west (Route 13 South) and north (Pakse-Paksong). Another east-west road skirts DHS in the south.