Don Det is the third largest island in the Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands Region) in the far south of Laos which features a cluster of islands in the Mekong River. Don Det is the busiest of the inhabited islands in the area and a reputation of having Laos’s liveliest night life since the level of regulation in Vang Vieng increased and the partying which once went on there largely came to an end.
About Don Det
Don Det is a small island, approximately 3.5 km long by 1.25 km at it widest point. There is a trail all the way around the coast which is 7.2 km long, and popular track to follow on a bicycle. The main town in Don Det (there is only one) is at the northern end of the island where the boat services to and from Nakasong on the mainland arrive and depart. This small town is the liveliest part of the island which has the greatest concentration of hotels, bars and restaurants, and the lowest likelihood of your being able to get a good night’s sleep during the high season.
These are our three top accommodation recommendations in Don Det:
- Budget: The Boathouse
- Mid-Range: Moon By Night
- Expensive: BABA Guesthouse
These are some places to visit and things to do on Don Det, and these are explained below, however, the main activity is relaxing in a hammock by the river and drinking in the evening. Older visitors tend to go to the larger island just to the south of Don Det, Don Khon. Don Det attracts a generally younger crowd. The facilities on the island have improved a lot over the last fifteen years since foreign visitors first started coming to the island and it now has electricity, internet, mobile phone reception and a wide range of restaurants, including several good Indian restaurants. Some of the more expensive hotels even have air-conditioning. You can find fairly cheap places to stay, and cheap food to eat, but both will be on the basic side. Don Det is relatively expensive for South East Asia, which is unsurprising as it’s a remote island where everything needs to to be brought in by boat.
River Trips from Don Det
Don Det’s main feature is the Mekong River. You can swim in it, and you can float down it in a rubber tube, and you can kayak along it. All these activities are relatively safe for good swimmers, and fairly cheap, although you need to bare in mind that the Mekong on both sides of the Island flows into large waterfalls about 4 km downstream from the main town. Getting caught in either waterfall is likely to be fatal. For this reason the French colonialists built a railway line across the length of Don Det and Don Khone to transport goods as the river is not navigable for any kind of boat, large or small. A railway bridge still connects the two islands and there is a rusted old steam train you can visit.
To really appreciate the 4,000 Island Region we recommend that you take an organised boat trip. These boat trips are a little pricey for some young backpackers on tight budgets (around 200,00 Lao Kip per person) but they do take you to some of the lesser seen islands and more interesting parts of the area. They also offer the best opportunity to see the Irrawady River Dolphin. There are an estimated 20 of these dolphins in this part of the Mekong so they are difficult to spot, however, they tend to congregate in particular areas so local tour operators are normally quite good at finding them.
Waterfalls near Don Det
The largest waterfall in the Mekong River, the Khone Phapheng Falls, is not on Don Det but accessible via the mainland. To get to this massive waterfall you need to take a boat back to Nakasong on the mainland and then a tuk-tuk 20 minutes south to the visitor centre.
Easier to reach are the two waterfalls on Don Khon. The waterfall on the western side of the island, known both as the Tat Somphamit Falls and the Li Phi Falls, is the more spectacular of the two. To get there consider hiring a bicycle, which costs around 15,000 Lao Kip for the day for a basic bike, and more for a good one. The other expense is the 35,000 Lao Kip charge for crossing over the railway bridge connecting Don Det to Don Khon. After you have paid keep the ticket safe as you will need to present it to access the viewing area at the Tat Somphamit Falls and to cross over the bridge again on your way back to Don Det.
Travel to Don Det
Following the links below below for information about travel to Don Det.
- Bus services from Pakse to Don Det
- Bus services from Vientiane to Don Det
- Bus services from Phnom Penh to Don Det
- Bus services from Siem Reap to Don Det
Location of Don Det
Don Det is located 142 km by road from Pakse.