Champasak, Laos – An Unspoiled Travel Retreat

By Mark Wiens 29 Comments
Main Street in Champasak, Laos
Main Street in Champasak, Laos

Champasak, Laos, is the type of place where a tourist can take a vacation from traveling.

In contrast to other parts of Laos such as Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, or the 4000 Islands that at times get a bit overrun with gap year backpackers, Champasak is a quiet retreat.

Even though there is a constant flow of electricity that powers Champasak, the entire life of the town is dictated by the sun (as it should be); People wake up at sunrise and shut down when the sun light disappears for the night.

Searching for nightlife? Think again.

Champasak is located on the banks of the Mekong River, a section where the sheer wideness of the river sparks enough emotion to gasp.

Champasak, Laos
Wideness of the Mekong River

The main reason why the select few visitors choose to get off that main Southeast Asian tourist trail trap and stop in Champasak is because of the UNESCO World Heritage temple complex of Wat Phou, located just 10 km away from the city.

Champasak Laos
Wat Phou in Champasak, Laos

As evening rolls in, bringing forth a comfortable breeze of fresh air, there’s no better activity than taking an easy stroll through town. The sunset degree of light reveals an almost new dimension of the already admirable French colonial buildings.

French Colonial Building in Champasak, Laos
French Colonial Building in Champasak, Laos
Vat Phu, Champasak, Laos
Champasak, Laos

What to do in Champasak

Wat Phou

The single handed draw that pulls a few tourists to Champasak is the UNESCO world heritage temple complex of Wat Phou.

The temple, which actually pre-dates those of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, is set against a remarkable natural mountain landscape and is structured in terraces up the hillside.

The stone carved posts, lintels, statues and the quiet environment are what make Wat Phou an amazing temple to visit. You can see more pictures and read all about my visit to Wat Phou right here.

Around Town

The overall town of Champasak is very small, it can be fully explored by foot or even better by a leisure bicycle ride. There are a number of incredibly preserved French colonial buildings, a few gift shops, some modern temples, and a couple of restaurants.

Relaxation

The country of Laos was designed to be relaxing, and Champasak is no different. The wide expanse of the Mekong River makes a perfect setting for a river swim, or a great place just to relax on a patio, read a book and take it easy.

How to get to Champasak

Most travelers get to Champasak either from the city of Pakse, just 30 minutes away, or from across the border in Thailand.

  • From Pakse: It’s easy to catch a songthaew (back of the truck public vehicle) from the main market in Pakse direct to Champasak. Songthaews leave from Pakse as soon as they are full, and cost 20,000 Kip ($2.49) per person.
  • From the 4000 Islands: Don Khong, Don Det, and Don Khon all have tourist oriented travel agencies that can easily arrange transportation directly to Champasak, via boat and bus. The cost is usually 50,000 – 60,000 Kip ($6.22 – $7.46) each way.
  • From Thailand (Ubon Ratchathani): The easiest way to get from Thailand to Champasak is to take the border bus from Ubon Ratchathani to Pakse and then take a songthaew from Pakse to Champasak.

I traveled to Campasak from the 4000 Islands of Laos area, and I paid 50,000 Kip for a ticket from Don Det Island to a location across the Mekong River from Champasak. I then had to pay a local boatman 10,000 Kip for a ride across the river to the town of Champasak.

Vongpaseud Guest House, Champasak, Laos
Vongpaseud Guest House, Champasak, Laos

Where to Stay in Champasak

One of the coolest budget places to stay in all of Champasak is Vongpaseud Guest House, located right in the city center with a splendid view of the Mekong River.

The owner is possibly the most jolly man in all of Laos, laughing after every sentence he speaks. The rooms are old but clean and cost 30,000 Kip ($3.73) for double room with a fan. The food is quite good and the prices are decent by Laos standards.

I don’t think there’s even a need to have an official address in Champasak, but here is their telephone number if needed: 031920038.

Vongpaseud GH also offers bicycle rentals for 10,000 Kip ($1.24) per day and motorcycle rental for 100,000 Kip per day. If you are up for biking to Wat Phou, it’s only about 10 km and takes around 30 minutes.

Conclusion

As tourism grows and the backpacker route through Laos develops, there’s no telling how many years Wat Phou and Champasak will remain serene and off the main backpacker checklist.

At the moment it’s the setting, the atmosphere and the fact that very few tourists visit the area that gives Champasak such a special feeling as an unspoiled travelers retreat.



29 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • downingsf

    5 years ago

    + I also stayed at this GH across the river!
    Very helpful GH owner that offered a free ride just to look at his GH – a truly, passionate spirit. I even left him one of my American T-shirts i had brought to give as a gift to a friend i had yet to meet 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Cool to hear you also stayed at the same place. The owner really was jolly and a genuinely nice guy! Next time I’m there I’ll look out for your t-shirt!!

  • downingsf

    5 years ago

    Your site/blog is of great value! Would like to meet up!

    Lao…… I have found myself in 11 countries since 1990 – my last visit to Mainland S.E. Asia / Lao was in 2010 and included Pakse & Champasak …… and i will return!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey great to hear from you and awesome that you’ve traveling so much around SE Asia. Where are you originally from?

  • Stephen

    6 years ago

    Champasak was my favorite stop in all of Laos. It was the Laos I was expecting, the Laos that everyone had told me about. Unfortunately, the rest of the country has changed to meet the demands of backpackers. But in Chapasak (and all the way down to Wat Pho) people were genuinely friendly and happy to see me, not just looking at me like a walking dollar sign. It’s a quiet and peacefull place on the Mekong, and one of the few towns I would return to in Laos.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the comment Stephen! Great to know that we both had similar thoughts about Champasak. Hopefully it will remain in its calm state and not get too overpopulated with tourism in the future.

  • Grace

    6 years ago

    Wat Phou looks amazing. So what’s there to eat around here? Any delicacies?

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      It’s such a quiet sleepy town, that (unlike other big cities) it seemed that locals mostly just ate at home instead of restaurants. There were a few street snacks and eateries on the street, but not a lot of choice. The guest house I stayed in had pretty decent food though, som tam (papaya salad) and sticky rice.

  • Riku S

    6 years ago

    Haha, dude I stayed at that same GH and have to say that the owner really is a jolly man! I spent a few nights drinking beer lao and shooting the breeze with him on that terrace overlooking the Mekong. Great place to stay and definitely worth the money.

    Safe travels and take care man.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Dude, that’s hilarious man – thanks for the comment.
      That guy is probably the happiest man in all of Laos, maybe even all of SE Asia.

  • Jeremy Branham

    6 years ago

    Whenever I travel, I always try to incorporate small towns like this in between big cities. When you are constantly on the go, slowing down in places like Champasak is a great place to relax and enjoy the experience of traveling.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Small cities and little towns just have such a different feeling from the major cities in the country. I agree, staying in quiet small towns after fighting through chaotic cities is a relief and gives you sometime to just think and relax.

  • Jozef @ Where Now

    6 years ago

    Looks like a really interesting and worthwhile place to visit. Definitely nice to get away from the rat race every now and then!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Yes, getting away to a travel retreat is really nice sometimes!

  • Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    6 years ago

    Relaxing does sound nice right about now and this looks like the place to do it! Loved that Temple.

  • Ruth cArol feldman

    6 years ago

    We leave next week for Laos beginning our trip up north luang namtha.
    We will travel south eventually getting to pakse,but definitely to stop
    In champasK.thanks for your excellent description.keep writing

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Awesome Ruth!
      Glad you are going to go to Champasak and Pakse. I’ll be publishing an article (later today my time) about Wat Phou – the temple near Champasak. Hope you have a great time traveling.

  • The Travel Chica

    6 years ago

    I love the concept of a vacation from traveling. I’ve been taking one in Buenos Aires, and I’ve been here 3 months!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Yes, even if we are permanent travelers (and bloggers), sometimes it’s necessary to just get away from the internet and enjoy some quietness.

  • adventureswithben

    6 years ago

    I’ve been so crazy with work recently that this looks real nice. I need to relax.

  • eva hamori

    6 years ago

    Laos, never hear of it before, sounds charming.
    I love the way the town is dictated by the sun. It’s the natural way.
    thanks for the post:)
    eva

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Eva!
      Yah, it just a small town, and despite their electricity, it seems like everyone just winds down when darkness falls. A wonderful town to relax in!

  • Leslie

    6 years ago

    Looks beautiful! We took a slow boat down the Mekong but didn’t stop in Champasak. Glad to hear it’s not like Vang Vieng… that was a bit overdone for my tastes 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Leslie,
      I’ve actually never been to Vang Vieng, sort avoided it due to all the stories of heaving about it being overdone. If you get a chance to visit Champasak, it’s a great little retreat!