Si Phan Don
Don Kong Island © Dario Severi
The famous 4,000 Islands region of Laos unfolds at the tail of the Mekong River in the far south of the country, lapping over into Cambodia. The area is renowned for its spectacular waterfalls, tranquil village life and unspoiled natural beauty. It is also home to the rare and only occasionally sighted pink Irrawaddy dolphin. The two most popular islands are Don Khong, the largest and most developed, and backpacker-magnet Don Det. Prices for accommodation and food are some of the cheapest in Asia. The area is also used as an entrance point to Cambodia, and buses frequently make the one-hour journey to the border. Don Det has become a bit grubby of late, although some people still rave about it. Don Khong seldom gets a bad review. This is the place to spend slow days hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming and relaxing in bungalows with balconies over the water. There is lots to see and do, including heading out for water safaris to look for the dolphins - be sure to ask the guides not to go too far, or else be prepared to pay a border crossing fee, as Cambodia is literally a stone's throw away. Si Phan Don is an unmissable place to visit in Laos for young travellers, or those travelling on a tight budget.