Laos is one of the most underrated places to visit in Southeast Asia. From gorgeous cliffs, mountains, UNESCO sites, caves, and waterfalls; this country really has it all for the adventurous travel junkie. One of the best regions to explore for any adventure seeker would be the coffee and waterfall region the Bolaven Plateau. Best seen by renting a motorbike and completing the loop starting and ending in Pakse, you’re in for a 4 to 5 day treat in this Southern Laos waterfall wonderland.
Rent a Motorbike
The best way to see this scenic loop is by motorbike. While there is some winding, narrow dirt roads, this trip is best done for those that aren’t faint of heart. You will need to be able to operate a manual bike, but don’t let that scare you. After a little practice, you’ll be ready to go. Even for beginner riders, the loop can easily be done, the best part would be that there is barely anyone on the road and you’ll have the place to yourself.
Stop in Tat Lo
One of the first stops and one of the best things to do in the Bolaven Plateau is spending the night in the chilled-out village of Tat Lo. There are inexpensive guesthouses with balcony views of the river and Tad Lo waterfall making for a serene spot to enjoy after your first 85km stretch. We recommend getting to Tat Lo early to really get to enjoy the relaxed vibe here. You’ll spot a few other backpackers as many come here just to enjoy this village for a few days and do not go on the entire loop.
If you want to spend extra days, this is the place to do it. There is a great tour you can book at the local visitor’s center where a local will take you through different tribal villages and teach you about the rituals and customs at each one. Not only that but you will also get to see two more waterfalls and even have lunch on top of one of the falls.
Related: Planning Your Trip to Laos
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Spend the Night at Tad Tayicseua
After leaving Tat Lo, you will pass through the more quiet villages of Sekong and Attapeu. While there isn’t much going on there, you may be forced to spend the night to give yourself a butt break from motorbiking the 146 kilometers from Tat Lo to Attapeu. If you’re like us and stop in Attapeu, you’ll start wondering if you should just turn around and go back to the relaxed and charming village of Tat Lo.
Don’t do it! Rest if you have to but you have more incredible stops ahead.
Another 116 kilometers from Attapeu is Tayicseua, aka waterfall heaven and one of the best things to do in the Bolaven Plateau. There is a homestay that just opened up a few years ago that wasn’t a common stop on the Bolaven Plateau but should be on everyone’s radar. The no fuss style lodging requires you to sleep in a tent under a shelter and bathe in a nearby river. The friendly local who owns the 400 acres of land will tell you about all 15 of her majestic waterfalls. Most can be visited within an hour or two trek. Be sure to wear your swimsuits under your trekking clothes and to pack water and snacks.
You won’t be able to say you’ve been to many places like this in your lifetime. Each waterfall seemed to out do the other. There’s even a waterfall on her property she won’t give directions to because of the local rare tiger population that sometimes visit there. If the charming woman who runs the guesthouse doesn’t make you want to stay here forever, the waterfalls will.
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Waterfall Hopping in Paksong
Paksong is another action-packed stop on the Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop. Here the waterfalls flow like champagne and visiting is arguably one of the best things to do in the Bolaven Plateau. You know you’re getting close to Paksong when you pass through the coffee plantations and feel the cooler air. Even though the town doesn’t have much to offer, there are tons of waterfalls to visit and enjoy within a 5-kilometer distance from one another.
With that being said, be sure to eat before 5 pm as most of the place turns into a ghost town after that and you may find yourself pretty hungry without any food.
Some of the most impressive falls to visit here include the stunning double falls of Tad Fane. You can only view from the Tad Fane resort, but it’s worth a stop. If you plan ahead and schedule in an extra day you can book a local to take you down to the base of the falls. It is forbidden to go on your own, as we were told by locals, because of the venomous snakes including King Cobras who are abundant in the area.
Another one of the majestic falls is Tad Yuang. Walk down around to the base of the falls by following the wooden stairs. You will be able to take breathtaking photos from the bottom and picnic with a delicious lunch in the grassy clearing towards to top.
Tad Champee is another gorgeous waterfall that has a great area for swimming. Since this waterfall isn’t as big as the others you can literally swim underneath the falls or take the wooden raft in place under the falls. There’s also a great bench here where you can just sit and enjoy the serene atmosphere.
Tad E-tu is another dramatic waterfall in Paksong that has a resort. This is a great place to come for lunch since they have a restaurant and amazing viewing deck.
We recommend splurging here and staying at one of the waterfall resorts at Tad Fane or Tad E-tu.
*Be sure to stop at Bolaven Plateau’s largest waterfall, Tad Katamtok just off the road on your way to Tayicseua and Paksong. As soon as you turn on route 16, towards Paksong there will be a sign that is easy to miss. The sign is at kilometer 16 on your left as your ascending on the hill. Be sure to set your odometer and watch out for that tiny sign! This is a great butt break with a view!
Related: If you still haven’t had your waterfall fill, here’s another guide to exploring the waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau
Make Your Way Back to Pakse
After Paksong your Bolaven Plateau loop is sadly almost over. We recommend planning your days, nights, and motorbike rental based on what piques your interests. There are actually tons of waterfalls throughout the Bolaven Plateau and these are the only well-known ones. If you have time on your side, plan an extra day where you can improvise a bit and look for more. There were more waterfalls that we didn’t see on route 16 between Tayicseua and Paksong.
Another one of the best things to do in the Bolaven Plateau would be to make extra stops in the small villages and support the locals. We would sometimes see ladies working on textiles and would stop to admire and exchange warm smiles. You will feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere sometimes but we found the locals in Laos to be some of the most foreigner friendly folks we’ve encountered on our travels.
Happy travels and waterfall hunting!