Located: in southern Laos
Total area: 10,691 square kilometers
Population: 416,942 (2023)
8 Districts: Salavanh, Ta-Oy, Toumlane, Lakhonepheng, Vapi, Khongxedon, Lao-Ngarm and Samouay
Capital of the province: Salavanh
Salavanh Province is a southeastern province situated on the Bolaven Plateau and is devoted to agriculture and nature, offering idyllic scenery.
Salavanh Province is home to the Phou Xieng Thong National Biodiversity Conservation Area, covering nearly 1,000 square kilometer in the western part of the province, next to the Mekong River. It is thought that the Asiatic black bear, banteng, clouded leopard, Douc langur, elephant, gibbon, guar, Siamese crocodile and tiger inhabit this area.
Salavanh has vast tracts of forest and is home to three National Protected Areas that harbor a wealth of biodiversity. Xe Xap, (1,335 km2) Xe Bang Nouane (1,970 km2) and Phou Xieng Thong (1,200 km2) lie mostly within Salavanh’s borders, have a range of habitats and micro-climates and are home to a diverse population of ethnic minority groups. The Mekong River separates Salavanh from Thailand and the province also shares a border with Vietnam to the east. The main geological features are the Bolaven Plateau, Mekong River Valley and Southern Annamite Mountains, which rise to over 2,000 meters in the eastern portion of the province.
Most visitors access Salavan by route 20 from Pakse, stopping in Ban Houn, a roadside village that produces fine weavings and basketry. Tad Lo, the best known attraction in the province is a wide, multi-tiered waterfall surrounded by lush greenery and a number of well-planned resorts and guest houses. At Tad Lo you can rent a bicycle, enjoy nature walks and venture out to surrounding villages on the Bolaven Plateau. Tad Lo sits in the center of a major coffee and vegetable growing region, so there is usually a variety of fresh seasonal produce on the menu.
East of Tad Lo and the provincial capital are Ta-Oy and Samouay Districts, populated mostly by Mon-Khemer speaking ethnic groups. Here you can see traditional long houses that may house up to 45 people. A nice outing in Ta-Oy is a trip on the Xe Lanong to watch birds and walk to the La Lao Waterfall.
Criss crossing the eastern half of the province is the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail network, still in use today as a link between remote villages. Along the trail you can see extensive evidence of the heavy aerial bombardment this part of the country suffered during the Second Indochina War.
On the Mekong is Khongsedon District, maker of some of the most potent lao Lao whiskey in the country. Khongsedon has many unusual rock formations along the Mekong valley, best known among them is Phou Lahit with its prehistoric rock paintings.
One of the most entertaining songs and dances in the entire country, the Lam Salavanh, was conceived here and this catchy tune really does make you want to get up and dance! There are excellent “khaen” players in Salavanh and the traditional instrument is still made here. Besides coffee, two famous Salavanh products are the fragrant coconuts from Naxai Village and the delicious barbeque chicken that can be purchased at Napong Village on route 13.
Like everywhere else in the country, Lao New Year or Pi Mai is celebrated throughout Salavanh for a week around 14 April. Before this are the Katang and Ta-Oy ethnic group’s annual festivals, which occur during late January – early February.
Though Salavanh’s forests hide prehistoric sites including stone caskets and cave paintings, little is known about the province’s history except its wartime past. Historians suggest the area was an outpost of the Champasack Kingdom in the early 19th century. Newspaper reports from the 1940s discuss Thai troops clashing with “Indochinese” forces in Salavanh, including bombing raids by French planes.
From then until Laos’ liberation in 1975, the province was caught up in a tug-of-war between Western-backed forces and Lao independence fighters. The renowned Ho Chi Minh Trail passed through Salavanh’s eastern mountains, attracting some of the most intensive bombing the world has ever seen during America’s “Secret War”, resulting in the razing of Salavanh District.
TAD LOR WATERFALL
This beautiful waterfall is the primary tourist destination in Salavanh Province and is the jump off point for further adventures into this remote province. The waterfall offers a relaxing environment and a range of guest houses and resorts styled in traditional architecture. Located 32 kilometers from Salavanh District, travel on the road No.20 to Salavanh-Pakse District, Champasack Province, using the time about 1 hour and 30 minute.
Kengku is located in Suliya Village, Vapi District, Road No.15B, about 40 km from Salavan town. This waterfall is generated by two Rivers: Xedone and Xe Set, which come to flow together at an interesting point. It is about 3 km long and 1 km wide. The area is very suitable for sightseeing and picnic. Located: Ban Tongkham, Laongam District, It is far from district about 16 kilometers on the Street No.20 and turn left and the route is confortable in the dry season.
ONG KEO STONE STUPA PARK
This one-of-a-kind stupa commemorates Ong Keo, one of Laos’ first revolutionaries to fight against the French colonialists. He played a major role in encouraging Salavan residents to fight for independence at a time when they were frightened and forced into labor. Though the date remains elusive, Salavan’s elders place the local hero’s death in the late 1960s or early 1970s. To honor Ong Keo, villagers around Salavan Town decided to build a stupa during the war, and they did so in a most unusual way. They constructed a short, square stone wall, but lacking cement, they simply began placing rocks inside. The pile turned into a pyramid, and locals returned over the years to place rocks on the ad-hoc stupa to make merit while paying respects to Ong Keo. Location: The stupa is located in Salavan Town’s northeast next to the hospital.
THE KATOU WEAVERS OF BAN HOUAY HOUN
When touring the lush forests of the Bolaven Plateau, take the time to stop in at Houay Houn Ethnic Village. Here, you will find the unique hand woven textiles of the Katou people. The Katou are a small but distinct ethnic group in Southern Laos, renowned for their contrasting red and black textiles and white beading. Houay Houn village is nestled into a coffee plantation and the villagers tend to the plantation, as well as produce their signature weavings. They also grow and produce their own cotton and use natural dyes made in the village; indigo, rosewood bark, sappan and blood yam to create different colours. If you are travelling from Pakse towards Salavan, stop in at Houay Houn for a memorable cultural experience with the warm and friendly Katou clan. Then, relax in the serene beauty of the Tad Lo waterfalls with a swim at the rock pools and a meal at one of the many riverside restaurants. Don’t forget to sample a cup of freshly ground Lao coffee. Location: About 10 kilometers southwest of Laongarm Town on Route 20 and exactly half way between Salavanh Town and Pakse.
Built over 200-years ago, bombers destroyed the original Simongkhoun Temple on the Xe Don River in 1972. Remnants of this temple and its stupa can still be seen in the town’s northeast, though vines and shrubs try to hide it. Novice monks sometimes rest in the temple’s sala on the river bank near the warehouse storing longboats used during the annual boat racing festival. However, a new temple has risen across the street, and an even larger one is under construction next to it. Location: The temple is situated in the northeastern part of Salavanh Town