The Khone falls, a series of cascading waterfalls in the Mekong river is one of Laos’ most beautiful natural attractions. The impressive falls in Champasak province near the Cambodian border are the largest in volume in South East Asia.
The falls, also known as Khone Phapheng, are located in an area called Si Phan Don, which literally translates to “Four thousand islands”. At this point the Mekong river broadens out; during the rainy season the river and series of cascades is kilometers wide and extend over a length of almost 10 kilometers downstream.
The falls are most impressive during the dry season. In the rainy season much of the rapids and falls disappear as a result of the raised water level in the river.
The Khone falls are located South of Don Khon island, the area which is the home of a small group of rare Irrawaddy dolphins. At the highest point the waterfall is 21 meters high. Just above the Khone falls is a viewpoint with a pavilion providing great views over the waterfalls and numerous islands. Several food stalls and stalls selling handicrafts are found nearby.
Colonial era railway and bridge
The Khone Phapheng falls are the main reason why the over 4,000 kilometer long Mekong river is not navigable by ship from China downstream into the South China sea. In the 19th century, when Laos was part of French Indochina, the French tried to establish a shipping route in an attempt to connect the countries of French Indochina to the sea. After several attempts to navigate the falls by ship had failed, they decided to go around the falls by building a railway and a railway bridge between Don Det and Don Khon islands.
Other waterfalls in the area
Around the islands are many more waterfalls of varying heights including the Li Phi falls, located on the North West corner of Don Khon. From a viewpoint you can watch the impressive falls that stretch out over a length of many kilometers.
How to get to Khone falls
The falls are most easily reached from the Laotian town of Pakse, located about 145 kilometers to the North. See the “How to get to Si Phan Don” section for details. Once on the islands, the most fun way to get to the falls is renting a bicycle or mountain bike from hotel or guesthouse at 10,000 to 20,000 Kip per day.
Admission to the Khone Phapheng falls is 10,000 Kip per person. If you start your trip from the mainland or Don Det island, you will have to cross the bridge between Don Khon and Don Det, for which there is a fee of 25,000 Kip including access to the falls.