Must-See Southern, Off-the-Beaten-Track Laos

Laos is a mountainous country nestled between Thailand and Vietnam, just north of Cambodia, that is frequented on the backpacker trail. While most tourists flock to the northern region of the country for the quaint town of Luang Prabang and tubing in Vang Vieng, southern Laos is an often over-looked part of the country that deserves some consideration from the discerning traveler who is looking for a more authentic and off-beat experience.

I headed north from Cambodia and entered Laos in the 4000 Islands region (Si Phan Don), which did not disappoint as a haven of relaxation and natural beauty along the mighty Mekong river.

The following photos were taken on Don Det, the island most travelers choose to stay on while visiting 4000 Islands:

Most visitors to the area also hire a push-bike to cross the bridge and tour the waterfalls and “beach" of neighboring Don Khon:

Just north of Don Det, outside of the town of Pakse, southern Laos' most populous city, lies the Bolaven Plateau motor biking loop. These are quite possibly the best-preserved and well-paved roads in all of Laos, making the trip both easy and enjoyable.

Most travelers leave their packs at their guest house of choice, rent a bike for anywhere from USD$8-$6, and take one, two, or three days to bike around the loop, viewing truly spectacular waterfalls along the way:

The best part of the loop is the interaction with the friendly locals. I hardly ever saw another Westerner during my journey.

If you're heading to Laos, budget some time to explore the truly beautiful southern region. Few times in my life have I seen such untouched natural beauty. What's more, this is a very cheap area to visit, costing me about USD$15 per day to travel, eat, sleep, and pay waterfall entrance fees.

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Author Bio:

Kristin is a former investment banker who is on a nomadic journey throughout Southeast Asia. You can connect with her via her blog, Be My Travel Muse, Twitter, and Facebook.

All photos by Kristin from Be My Travel Muse via Flickr: Photo 1; Photo 2; Photo 3 ; Photo 4; Photo 5; Photo 6; Photo 7; Photo 8; Photo 9; Photo 10; Photo 11