Also known as Si Phan Don, 4,000 Islands is one of the most laid-back destinations in Laos. It is situated in the south of the country, just above the border with Cambodia, and is a wonderful place to come to experience rural, authentic Laos.

Si Phan Don represents the widest part of the Mekong; during the rainy season, it expands to up to 14 km. When the dry season arrives, it shrinks back to reveal thousands of tiny isles - hence its name. A number of the area's permanent islands are inhabited all year round, and preserve life much the way it has been for centuries. Locals primarily live off fishing, with the islands being largely self-sufficient.

Indeed, so isolated are the islands from modern life (which, however, is now beginning to creep in) that they were little affected by the French and American wars - though it's possible to see some vestiges of a French presence, such as in the remnants of the only railway ever to be constructed here.

As well as simply relaxing and enjoying watching local life unfold, you can visit some of the region's spectacular natural sights, such as the vast Khon Phapheng Falls, and do a little people-watching at the Muang Khong Market.

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