Champasak, Laos – An Unspoiled Travel Retreat

By Mark Wiens 4 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.

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.

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

  • Grace

    13 years ago

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

  • Riku S

    13 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.

  • Jeremy Branham

    13 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.

  • Ruth cArol feldman

    13 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