Si Phan Don (4000 islands)

Si Phan Don (4000 islands)

1. Where is Si Phan Don?

Si Phan Don (Lao: ສີພັນດອນ; means that 4000 islands) is a river archipelago located in the Mekong River, in the province of Champasak in southern Laos. The islands are actually not 4000 -but it doesn’t matter- and the archipelago is called Si Phan Don. The three best-known islands are Don Det, Don Khon, and Don Khong. Half of which are submerged when the Mekong River is in flood. If you intend to travel to Laos, don’t forget to add it to your travel diary. Laos has many things to discover, alongside Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Vang Vieng.

2. Best time to visit 4000 islands

The ideal time to travel to South Laos is the dry season from November to April next year, the weather is cool and dry. In rainy season,the Mekong River water level rises quite dangerously when you visit the 4000 islands and flood waters prevent you from seeing many beautiful waterfalls.

3. How to get to Si Phan Don?

Despite 4000 Islands being slightly underrated than other major cities like Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Vang Vieng, you can still see travel agency offices offering bus trips to 4000 Islands. To get there from Northern Laos (Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng), you will first need to take a bus to Vientiane. Most of the agents will sort these out for you, but just to give you an idea how it’s like.

In Vientiane, you may need to wait for a couple of hours before hopping onto the sleeper bus, which will bring you all the way to Pakse in a 12 hours drive. The highway between these two cities is quite well-maintained. So, as long as you’re not sleeping at the top deck at the back, you’ll probably not have any trouble sleeping. Be warned about the possibility of bed bugs, which is a total nightmare!

From Pakse, you’ll need to change the bus to travel to Nakasone. It will be a 3-hours drive. And from Nakasong, you’ll have to pay for the speedboat to get you to 4000 Islands; this will take around 10-15 minutes. The speedboat will drop you at Don Det jetty, so if you’re staying in Don Khon, you’ll have to walk a little. If not, ask for help from the tuk-tuk riders.

si pha don 4000 islands

4. What to see in Si Phan Don?

Don Khong

Don Khong is bigger than the three, is 18 km long and 8 wide: it is probably the most structured, with electricity and roads.

Although it is more than Si Phan Don, there is hardly a main road on Don Khong, a couple of hotels for foreigners and a dozen local restaurants, some travel agencies, laundries and Internet Cafes. In particular, there are no ATMs on Don Khong Island, nor anywhere in Si Phan Don.

Compared to the other islands, Don Khong still seems more modern and more comfortable. On Don Khong, there are not many things to discover, but it is a mandatory place to stay and rest after the tour.

For Asiatica Travel travelers, we choose the Pon Arena Hotel, the most luxurious with comfortable private rooms, made entirely of wood but still standard for European travelers. Pon Arena becomes option number 1 thanks to its beautiful swimming pool with a river view of Mekong.

Si Phan Don Don Khong

Don Khone

Don Khon is the smaller island, from our point of view than having the biggest tourist attraction in Si Phan Don. With its 4 km x 3, it is the ideal place for those in search of breathtaking natural spectacles: the Khon Phapheng waterfalls, the largest in all South East Asia and the Somphamit waterfalls (also called Li Phi falls where the Irrawaddy dolphins, a dolphin that lives only in the Mekong River.

These waterfalls are very photogenic thanks to the cliff on which you can take photos or watch Fishermen fish with nets. Unfortunately, it is only possible to see the cliff in the dry season (November to March).

Don’t forget, the remains of the first railway in Laos, built by the French to connect to Don Det. Currently, the locomotive and rusty track still exist. What a pity, if this track still exists, we can travel from Saigon, Northern Cambodia and Si Phan Don by train!

si pha don 4000 islands

Don Det

Don Det is the island of pure relaxation: it is the ideal solution for those who want to choose the right middle ground between tranquility and sociability. There are a great many bungalows here with the Mekong river view. If you want to spend a night in a standard hotel, you can choose Sala Don Khon an old villa built from the colonial period or Sale Ban Din, a river float. You can cycle around to visit old villas and remote villages.

Si Phan Don Don Det

5. Useful tips

ATMs: There is one ATMs on Don Khong which may just be the only ones in the 4000 islands. We would still recommend having enough cash for your entire stay in Si Phan Don! In case you run out of cash, there are some places you can exchange money on the islands but don’t expect favorable rates. Another option is to pay for a boat to take you to Nakasong, which is the closest place on the mainland with ATMs.

Wi-Fi: Times are changing and you can find plenty of Wi-Fi in the 4000 islands these days. Most accommodations and restaurants will have it, just don’t expect a super-fast or reliable connection.

Si Phan Don Don Det


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