Where to stay and other tips
The best time to visit is between October and December. The local currency is the kip, but the Thai bhat and United States dollar are accepted and widely used.
The cuisine down south is humble and home-style, with Thai, Viet and Cambodian influences. Chilli seems to be the key ingredient in many dishes.
What the cuisine in southern Laos may lack in sophistication, it makes up for with supremely fresh ingredients.
Do try laab, the national dish of Laos. The minced-meat salad can consist of chicken, pork, beef or fish tossed with fresh herbs, roasted ground rice, chilli, fish sauce and lime juice.
Another local comfort dish is tom padeak, made of salted fish and best eaten with rice.
Many eateries serve salads. Clear soups - with ingredients such as carrot, pumpkin and tofu, as well as pork balls - are homely and comforting. Sticky rice is a staple, eaten even for breakfast.
WHERE TO STAY
At Bolaven Plateau: Tadlo Lodge is an eco-friendly resort spread across 4ha of land which was originally jungle. Each of the 25 bungalows is decorated with French, Lao and Cambodian works of art.
The staff there can help to arrange trekking, cycling and elephant-riding activities. The resort provides transfers to and from Pakse.
Address: Ban Tanglea, No. 20 Road, Lao Ngam District
Tel: +856 34 211 889
At 4,000 Islands: Senesothxuen (say "san-sot-xuen") Hotel is one of the top resorts in the 4,000 Islands area. Take your pick from standard to deluxe and superior rooms, as well as suites. The four-star home-style hotel is located on Khong Island.
Address: Ban Khang Khong, Champasak
Tel: +856 30 526 0577
Sala Don Khone offers accommodation options ranging from floating studios that face the Mekong River and islands, to spacious suites in converted French colonial houses. If you are in the mood to splurge, there are also bungalows with private balconies.
Address: Ban Khone Tai, Khong District
Tel: +856 31 260 940