If you want to see the biggest waterfall in all the world by volume and by width, it is in southern Laos where the mighty Mekong River falls in cataracts into a pool. It goes by several names such as Khone Phapheng in Laotian and Khone Falls, and in French, it is called Chutes De Khone.
This waterfall might be what kept the civilization of the Laotian Mekong basin distinctive because though it was very useful for native people to float around on over its broad placid face in Laos, it kept travel, trade and naval invasion from the sea at bay.
Most people never see it. It is out of the way of most tourist travel. There are no large cities or airports right by it, and the transportation infrastructure there is primitive. So it is a good idea to arrange for a private driver who can take you there, take you around, and take you back for meals and hotel. Here is important information about the waterfall, what to do around it, and prices for entry and transport.
Highlights of Khone Phapheng Falls
A huge crashing volume of white water: Hear it roar! Many rivers have a greater volume of water. However, those rivers don't have big falls like this.
Good for: people who love natural places, waterfalls, and majestic scenery
Not overly touristy: The whole area is off the beaten track in the extreme south of Laos where it is more quiet, sleepy, and lazy. The island towns are good for relaxation, and you'll you find many foreigners simply doing that. The main international travelers are Thais, Vietnamese and Westerners. There are no large Chinese and Korean tour groups as in the north.
Lots of other things to do nearby: It is in Champasak Province that is rich in things to do without crowds. You can find awesome places such as 4,000 small islands and the waterfall. You could kayak on the broad Mekong River, stay and eat in laid back native towns, go to other waterfalls, and kayak out to see dolphins!
Khone Phapheng Falls Quick Facts
- Height, breadth and volume: The main drop is 14 meters (45 feet), and the stair of cataracts have a total drop of 22 meters.
- Width: It is almost 11 kilometers wide. At any one point though, you'll only glimpse a small portion of the falls.
- Volume: The flow is 9,500,000 liters (2,500,000 gallons) per second. This is almost double the volume of Niagara Falls.
- Suitable for: nature lovers and photography
Khone Phapheng Travel Essentials
- The best time to visit: Dry season is from about November to April when it isn't monsoon season. During monsoon season, the water is deeper and more impressive though.
- Open hours: about 8 am to 6:00 pm daily. For best lighting, 8:00 am. Crowds come at 11:00 am.
- Recommended visit time: You can spend an exciting hour walking to the waterfall and back.
- Time to walk next to the waterfall: From the gate, you can walk for 10 minutes to the waterfall. A golf cart to ride the 200 meter distance is an extra 11,000 kip.
- Tickets: It is 55,000 kip (about 7.00 USD) for a VIP ticket including a cart ride. There is a 44,000 kip entrance fee to simply walk 10 minutes to the falls.
The Top Things to Do
Photography: You can get really scenic, epic shots at the waterfall. For the best lighting, arrive around 8:00 am.
Kayak on the Mekong to the falls: Kayaks and kayak tours with a guide are available. For example, from Don Det, you take a kayak with a tour guide for a charge of about 200,000 Kip or 25 USD. There are rapids along the way, and they know how to navigate them. It is a good day's trip with lunch, and you'll arrive in the afternoon. You can go further to try to find dolphins.
Tips for Visiting the Khone Phapheng Waterfall
Here are some tips to help you have an awesome time.
Crime Safety Tips
Watch your money and valuables: We suggest bring just a little bit of cash. Watch your phone and valuables.
Avoid transport scams: Sometimes, there are scams involving transportation or renting equipment. Don’t leave your passport anywhere as a deposit unless absolutely necessary.
Laotians dress conservatively, and they get embarrassed or offended when men and women show too much skin. Wear tops at the falls.
How To Go to Khone Phapheng Falls
You can choose the option best for you and the time that you want to spend. Work out in detail with your driver how long he will wait for you. If possible, don't pay in advance, but pay at the end of the trip.
Go through people with good reputations: To avoid problems, we suggest that your hotel or hostel arranges a ride with someone reputable to avoid problems such as drivers driving off or overcharging. If you pick your own ride, try to get in with a group of other tourists. We don't recommend going by yourself in a vehicle or with a motorcycle driver for touring outside of town.
- Round trip by tuk tuk (songthaew, pickup truck): about 60,000 kip (about 7.00 USD).
- Go with a tour: There are numerous small tourist companies and guides/drivers offering their services. Most will try to limit the time for your trip and limit what you can do, and you might have to go with other customers. Some might surprise you with extra charges or problems.
- Private tours: Asia Highlights is a good choice for those who want to arrange for a tour with comfortable and fast transportation with an expert English-speaking guide. You can travel in cool comfort, set the itinerary, and have the time and flexibility to go where you want so that you can visit several places in 1 day. Check out the options below. It is you who decides the agenda.
Air-conditioned car: The climate is very hot and humid. Temperatures often rise above 35°C or 100°F. We'll provide comfortable and cool transport.
Consider a Private Driver vs Flight and Public Transport
Because the closest airport, Pakse Airport (PKZ) is 3 and a half hours away from the waterfall, it makes sense to go by road from many places far away, perhaps even from as far as Vang Vieng. Here are some examples.
- From Siem Reap, Cambodia: In the best case scenario, a trip to the waterfalls using a combination of public transport and a flight from Siem Reap to Pakse Airport can take 6 hours total including 1 hour for the flight in the best case situation if there are no flight delays. The total cost might be up to 600 USD. However, a private driver such as ours can take you there directly in about 10 hours including stops.
- From Da Nang: The trip by our private driver might take about 10 hours including a meal stop, but taking public transit and a flight would take about the same amount of time or more if things go well, and it would probably cost more than 300 USD. The reason why is that you'd have to transfer at Ho Chi Minh City.
- From Vang Vieng, Laos: The popular northern Laotian tourist town is far from the nearest airport. For example, if you take public transit to Vientiane Airport in four and a half hours, take a flight to Pakse, and continue with public transport. The total trip would be 11 hours in a best case scenerio with costs approaching 300 USD. Going direct, a private driver might take 15 hours including meal stops.
If you are taking a bus from Vang Vieng to Don Det, it takes 48 hours. Then you still have to go on to the waterfalls. We can turn this otherwise tiring and long trip into a two or three-day scenic road tour with stops at highlights along the way and restful accommodations. Having a personal driver and expert tour guide is a great benefit.
Visit Khone Phapheng with Us
Going with us is an excellent way to tour the whole region since the airport is 3½ hours from the waterfall. The Mekong River and the many islands makes travel more time consuming and complicated. So you might as well go by road vehicle all the way from numerous locations in central and northern Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
We can turn your trip to the waterfall into a great inland tour with stops, meals, accommodations and things to do along the way as you specify. It is safer than public travel, and more enjoyable. Contact us, and we'll provide the expert advice to help you design your own tour. We are a big regional travel company experienced with tours in Southeast Asia and can arrange a multi-country trip that is an enjoyable adventure.