Visiting Khone Phapheng Falls in Laos [A Do-It-Yourself Guide]

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Khone Phapheng Falls in Si Phan Don (4000 Islands) is the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia. Due to its location far from Don Det and Don Khon, it’s not as easily accessible as compared to other waterfalls. And the information we found on the internet was so limited that we decided to find a way to visit by ourselves. So let’s talk about how to visit Khone Phapheng Falls in Si Phan Don, Laos by yourself today!

When I talked about Khone Phapheng Falls being the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia, don’t get me wrong, it’s the largest, not the tallest! But if you’re backpacking in Laos, then you definitely shouldn’t miss this waterfall, which is one of the best waterfalls in Laos.

Ready to visit Khone Phapheng Falls? Let’s do it!

southern laos si phan don 4000 islands khone phapheng falls

Brief Introduction to Khone Phapheng Falls

Also known as Khon Phapheng Falls or Khone Falls. But if you watch closely, you might not believe that it’s the largest waterfall.

Why? Because it doesn’t seem that ‘large’ at all, right? Let me help you clear that up.

The highest fall in Khone Phapheng Falls is just 21 meters, but what makes it largest is the succession of rapids which stretches 9.7km of the river’s length.

It’s also the main reason that the Mekong River is not fully navigable into China due to the rocky landscape.

In the late 19th century, the French colonialists attempted to navigate through the falls but failed repeatedly until they gave up and built a railway in Don Khon (Don Khone) and Don Det instead. Also known as Don Det-Don Khon narrow gauge railway.

The two main islands in 4000 Islands are Don Det and Don Khon, and the Falls is nowhere near them. Don Khong is also inhabited but there’s almost no tourism activity going on there.

Now let’s get into how you can visit it by yourself.

khone phapheng falls signboard

How to Visit Khone Phapheng Waterfall?

First of all, I’m aware that there is a tour organized by Mr. Phao, who owns and runs Mr. Phao’s Riverview Bungalows. I did not take that tour because I want to do it myself instead of joining tours.

If you too prefer doing things by yourself, read on.

The first thing you have to do is get yourself to Nakasong in Champasak Province. And the only ferry station in both Don Det and Don Khon is at the northern tip of Don Det.

This means if you’re staying in Don Khon, you’ll have to walk 40 minutes to the station or simply rent a bicycle.

The one-way ferry ticket will cost 15,000 Kip per person, and the duration is around 10-15 minutes.

There are only two departures per day, at 8 am and 11 am in the morning so you might want to catch the earlier one.

I arrived there at 9 am, but with some help from a Lao-speaking Korean backpacker, the operator drove us across the river in a smaller boat.

What’s next?

Once you’re in Nakasong, walk a little bit to the main street, where you’ll find some tuk-tuks waiting for customers.

The average price to Khone Pha Pheng Falls is around 80,000 Kip for a return trip. The driver will wait for you at the entrance until you finish visiting.

The tuk-tuk journey takes around 20-30 minutes on the super dusty highway.

Summary: Don Khon > Don Det (by foot or bike) > Nakasong (by ferry) > Khone Phapheng Falls (by tuk-tuk)

Check out these 17 Fun Things to do in Vang Vieng, Laos!

Entrance to Khone Phapheng Falls in Si Phan Don Southern Laos

Arriving At The Entrance

Surprisingly, Khone Phapheng Falls is a very popular attraction for foreigners, especially the locals, Thais, and Vietnamese.

You’re not going to find large Korean and Chinese tourist groups here. It’s not a very popular destination for them, yet.

Facilities are very well-maintained, the whole area was clean and neat, and there are free buggy cars to bring you around.

There are English languages on all the information boards and signboards so you’ll not have any problems navigating around.

Pay the entrance fee of 55,000 Kip per person at the counter and you’ll get a sticker for admission.

Yes, it’s probably the most expensive attraction in Laos.

Editor’s Note: Find out how are the sleeper buses in Laos like, are they really as bad as people portrayed?

khone phapheng falls entrance fee 55,000 Kip per person

Manikhoth Temple

Once you enter, you’ll pass through Manikhoth Temple before seeing the Falls.

Manikhoth, or Manikhot is a historic and sacred tree that has been staying in Khone Phapheng Falls for more than 2,000 years until it’s dead on 19th March 2012. The reason was unknown.

Lao people believed that the tree is able to give life and death. It’s believed that the core of Manikhoth can make things die and the top part of the tree can bring dead things back to life.

Every Buddha days from October to March, there are a bunch of white egrets flying around Manikhoth tree three rounds before landing on the branches and trees nearby. It’s said that the egrets are showing respect.

After its death in 2012, the Manikhoth could not be brought up from the water due to the heavy flow of water in Khone Phapheng Falls.

It wasn’t until 13th January 2013 that Manikhoth was successfully recovered and placed in Khone Phapheng Waterfall Museum.

Every January, Lao people will come and pay respect by giving white flowers and prayers in the Manikhoth festival.

Manikhoth Temple

Manikhoth Sacred Tree remains in Manikhot Temple

Up Close with Khone Phapheng Falls

After the temple, you’ll arrive at an observation deck along the riverside, with beautiful views over the waterfall.

The observation decks are very well-maintained, with a bunch of facilities like swings, tables, and benches.

There’s a board showing you the location of Manikhoth tree before its death, which will leave you questioning how could a tree that huge survive there for thousands of years.

Editor’s Note: Check out these 3 days itinerary for Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and also this one-day Vientiane itinerary!

Manikhoth Sacred Tree was located from at the rocks in the middle of the waterfall

The observation decks are huge, so don’t worry about not having a good angle view over the waterfall.

Restaurants are also abundant in the area as well, though it can be a little pricey for some people. The dishes are also the same in all the restaurants there, mostly serving fishes from Mekong River.

(The ice-cream is crazy expensive!!)

We spent a little bit over an hour there, just relaxing under the shades on the benches. Tourists start coming in around 11 am, so we decided to leave for the next destination.

The best time to visit Khone Phapheng Falls would be in the morning when it’s more quiet and calm.

A Section of Khone Phapheng Falls with a sprinkle of rainbow

This Board Says Khone Phapheng Falls is the Largest Waterfall in the world

Should You Visit As Well?

I would say that this waterfall is worth your visit only if you’re not ‘pocket-sensitive’. Here’s the rundown of how much I spent to visit.

  • 55,000 Kip (Entrance Fee)
  • 40,000 Kip (Return trip from Nakasong to Khone Phapheng Falls, I shared it with a friend, so half of 80,000 Kip)
  • 30,000 Kip (Return trip from Don Det to Nakasong of Champasak Province)

The total was 125,000 Kip per person. I never spend that much money to visit ONE attraction in Laos, but I think it’s worth it.

Three travelers watching the waterfall

Wrapping It Up

So what do you think about Khone Phapheng Falls? Would you pay it a visit too, despite the expensive cost? Let me know in the comments below. And if this article helps in your visit, please help me to share it to those who need it! Thanks for reading and enjoy traveling in Laos! Check out these 10 things to do in Luang Prabang if you’re visiting any time soon!

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A Visit to Khone Phapheng Falls in Laos - Southeast Asia's Largest Waterfall

Written by

Yen is a university student from Malaysia and a huge fan of Blues music and photography. His passion for travel can be traced back to 2016 when he spent 6 months traveling New Zealand. By blending into the locals and traveling long-term, he shares all the comprehensive and detailed travel ideas and guides for the countries with his footprints.

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