Vang Vieng is one of the towns that I least expected to visit, although I had some time. In the end, I decided to give it a try and no surprises, I loved Vang Vieng! There are so many awesome things to do in Vang Vieng that you can easily spend up to a week, and believe me it would go in a blink. After Luang Prabang, no wonder this mountain town is one of the top places to visit in Laos. In this Vang Vieng travel guide, check out all the places to visit in Vang Vieng apart from tubing & partying(for the which the city was infamous, more on that below).
Is Vang Vieng Worth Visiting?
To give a brief, Vang Vieng is located amidst mountains in central Laos to the north of Vientiane, the capital. The town is blessed with limestone mountains home to cave, cliffs, lakes, and waterfalls.
Vang Vieng Deaths
The little town of Vang Vieng has a dark past. A few years ago, young backpackers from the west and down under began a trend of nightlife in the town, where parties went on until early morning with too much drinking. What’s dark? The thing is they went drunk tubing in the Nam Song. The river became the death zone, where hundreds of backpackers started dying due to drug & alcohol overdose. It had turned into an infamous town until 2012 when the government brought down rave bars and banned the activities.
After losing tourism and foreigners for a while, the town has transformed to attract nature lovers. In the last few years, Vang Vieng has turned out to be one of the best destinations to add
Quick fact: Did you know? The US had created their secret airbase in Vang Vieng, called Lima Site 6, against the protocol!
Top Things to do in Vang Vieng
1. Go Tubing
Tubing is the top attraction in Vang Vieng. Tubing is renting tires or inner tubes and floating in the river. You can spend an entire day tubing in the Nam Song river by hiring tubes per hour. You will pass through a few bars from where you can buy drinks. Drinking and tubing together aren’t allowed anymore officially though. Also, the river is notorious for hidden rocks beneath and cliffs, so be cautious while tubing. You can relax and get splendid views along the Nam Song and relax until 6 PM, which means you’ll also watch spectacular sunset views as well.
Here are some things to keep in mind while tubing.
- You can rent tubes at a place near Halley’s Coffee. You pay about 60,000 LAK to 7 USD per person along with 60,000 LAK deposit, after which you will be taken in a tuk-tuk to the starting point for tubing. This price doesn’t include the return trip after tubing, which will cost about 1 or 2 USD.
- Carry a dry bag to put away things that you don’t need. Or best, don’t bring any item that you need and lock it away in your hotel or hostel.
- If you extend your ride beyond 6 PM or lose your tube, you will lose your deposit.
- The payment is by cash everywhere including drinks and food in the bars along the river. So carry enough cash.
2. Caving – Explore Nam Tham Caves on Tubes in Vang Vieng
Caving is upgraded tubing. Instead of being by yourself in tubes, in caving, you go tubing in groups visiting caves. The popular cave for this activity is Nam Tham Cave. Also popular as Water Cave or Phu Kam Cave, you can book a tour combing tubing as well as visiting this cave. You stay in groups holding ropes, and you can explore the dark caves wearing headlight. The guides will take you through some steep, muddy and dark places, making it a whole new level of adventure.
3. Swim in Lusi Caves
There are a few caves where you can go swimming in the dark if you are looking for some adventure. Lusi Cave is the most popular and is one of the top things to do in Vang Vieng. It is known for a lagoon amidst dark caves, where you can enjoy a swim.
The entry fees to the cave are 10,000 LAK. You can hire a guide for an additional 10,000 LAK, who will take you to the entrance of the Lagoon, which is about 30 minutes away. You can reach Lusi Cave by renting a motorbike or a tuk-tuk.
4. Picnic at the Blue Lagoon in Tham Poukham Cave
It is popular among the tourists as Blue Lagoon and is one of the cool things to do in Vang Vieng. Located in Tham Poukham Cave, it is another place where you can swim between the caves in the lagoon. You can also get to witness stunning views of the mountains.
You will have to climb a little to reach the entrance of the caves. There is a statue of a reclining Buddha along with many other Buddha images in the cave.
Blue Lagoon is open between 8 AM to 6 PM. The best way to reach the caves is by renting a motorbike. You can also get there by bicycle. The entry fee is 20,000 LAK per person. Hiring a guide is 10,000 LAK additional.
5. Do Rock Climbing at Pha Daeng Mountain
If you are still wondering what to do in Vang Vieng, then how about rock climbing? Yes, blessed by a series of gorgeous limestone mountains, there are many places where you can go rock climbing for adventure and get some fantastic bird views from the top. Pha Daeng mountain is famous among the tourists as the best rock climbing spot, thanks to its exquisite location.
Green Discovery and Adam’s climbing school are two centers in Vang Vieng offering rock climbing activities as well as training from beginner’s level. They provide equipment and guide you through the trails. October to March is the best season for rock climbing in Vang Vieng. It is closed during monsoons. It costs about 30 USD per person and can be booked at your hostel or guesthouse.
6. Zipline on the Nam Song
How do zoom passing above forests and a river sound? If it sounds fun, it is. One of the best things to do in Vang Vieng is probably Ziplining. The adrenaline surge, those stunning views and the sense of adventure are all worth your money and time. There are various places for ziplining, some of them are near the caves. Mekong Zipline adventures offer ziplining over the river and is a popular Vang Vieng attraction.
You can book the tour directly with them or via your hotel. There are combo tours as well, which are economical and a better way to plan your Vang Vieng trip.
7. Kayak & Swim in the river
After tubing, Kayaking is one of the famous Vang Vieng activities for travelers. You can rent Kayaks on an hourly basis or for an entire day. Or you can simply swim in the Nam Song to your heart’s content. Wear modest swimsuits and avoid bikinis if possible as the locals are conservative.
8. Witness Stunning Sunsets from Pha Nygren Viewpoint
When you are in a lovely town surrounded by mountains and a river, you can’t miss the spectacle of sunsets. One of the things that should be your Vang Vieng itinerary is going to Pha Nygren. The Pha Nygren viewpoint is the best place to watch a magical sunset in Vang Vieng. The entry fee is 10,000 LAK per person. Start the hike around an hour before the sunset time. Wear good hiking shoes and please don’t wear slippers. Carry a water bottle and flashlights as well.
9. Hop in the Hot Air Balloon to watch a stunning sunrise
One of the recent attractions in Vang Vieng is taking the hot air balloon. At about 100 USD, it is probably one of the cheapest rides in SE Asia at the moment. You’ll get up to see some fabulous views of the Karst mountains sprinkled with green rice fields and the beautiful river in between. If budget is not your constraint, a ride in the hot air balloon should be your top activity.
You can book these tours directly with the companies or through your hotels and guesthouses.
10. Explore Tham Chang Cave
Tham Chang is among the top attractions and gets a bit touristy these days. You can rent a motorbike or a bicycle to get to the bridge, where you need to first pay 5000 LAK to cross. You enter the cave on the other side of the bridge paying about 10,000 LAK.
There is a waterfall beside the cave and a lagoon inside. It is closed during monsoon, so plan your trip accordingly.
11. Hike to Tham Loub and Tham Ho Caves
Tham Ho and Tham Loup are twin caves popular for hiking and exploring amidst mountains. It is a simple and fun hike as the path is flat and the views from the top are awesome. The entry fee is 20,000 LAK, and an additional 10000 LAK for a guide.
12. Enjoy Spelunking in Nang Ou Kham Cave
If you want an advanced cave experience, visit Nang Ou Kham Cave. A narrow entrance leads to several chambers. Unlike other caves, there is no water although you can expect inflow up to knee levels around monsoon.
The entry fee is 10,000 LAK per person. The best way to get there is to hire a motorbike.
13. Visit the Big Golden Buddha at Wat Kang Temple
Laos is no short of temples and Vang Vieng is an exception. There are not many of them, but among the few, Wat Kang is worth a visit for the big Golden Buddha. Head there in the evening when the weather is pleasant.
14. Watch reruns of Friends
This one is surely a unique thing to do in Vang Vieng. There is a cafe in the town with a big screen that does a rerun of the TV series Friends on a loop. Watching this epic series never gets old, and also, when you just want to relax after an action-packed day, heading here is the best.
15. Do Yoga amidst mountains
What better way to unwind amidst beautiful landscapes other than a Yoga in Vang Vieng? There are plenty of places in the town offering Yoga sessions. You don’t have to have any prior experience, so don’t worry, just go out, sign up for one of these classes and relax your body and mind.
16. Feel Rejuvenated with a Lao massage spa
After being outdoors indulging in adventures, the best way to wind up is to opt for a relaxing spa massage. There are different kinds of massages to choose from, and all of them are good. Go for a full-body Lao massage to treat your body and mind. The spa parlours are available in the downtown, and many luxury hotels and resorts offer them to non-guests too.
17. Go Hand gliding over the mountains
I am not adventurous enough to try this, but I would certainly recommend it for the daredevils who want to experience the adrenaline rush. For about 30 minutes, you will get to enjoy the beautiful vistas of Vang Vieng making it one of the top things to do in Vang Vieng.
18. Hike to Hmong villages
Vang Vieng is home to Hmong ethnic community, which has its unique way of life. The villagers are warm and friendly to visitors, and you can visit their homes, weaving houses and monasteries consisting of sculptures from the 16th century. You should definitely visit these villages as a part of your Vang Vieng tour.
19. Take a dip in Kaeng Nyui Waterfalls
One of the top places to visit in Vang Vieng town is Kaeng Nyui Waterfalls, which also has a clear pool. You can rent a motorbike to get there. After a short walk, you will arrive at the waterfalls cascade. You need to go a bit ahead to reach to the main waterfalls. There are streams and pools along the way. It’s a great place to unwind, especially as it receives fewer tourists. The entry fee is 10,000 LAK.
20. Drive an ATV on the dusty roads of Vang Vieng
How about cruising on an ATV through scenic fields and mountains? If that sounds fun, go for it because it is fun! Even if you haven’t driven one before, you will be fine as the tour guys will help you out. You can book these tours directly in the shops.
21. Go Bird Watching at Nong Nok Reservoir
If you are interested in bird watching, head to Nong Nok, an artificial dam located near Vang Vieng. The journey to the reservoir is worth it as you will pass through beautiful Laotian countryside. Cranes, Wild eagles, Pelicans, parrots and goose are some of the birds that you can spot here. The entry is free.
Where to stay in Vang Vieng?
The best places to find accommodation in Vang Vieng is near the city centre. There are many options for all kinds of hotels in Vang Vieng, whether it is hostels, guesthouses or hotels. Here are my top recommendations in each category.
Top budget stays:
|Hotel Name||Ratings||Check the latest prices|
|Jasmine Vangvieng Hotel||9.1||Jasmine Vangvieng Hotel|
|Vang Vieng Victory Hotel||9.2||Vang Vieng Victory Hotel|
|Saksiri Riverside Boutique Hotel||9.3||Saksiri Riverside Boutique Hotel|
|Pangu Hotel||8.7||Pangu Hotel|
|Namsong Bridge Bungalows||8.6||Namsong Bridge Bungalows|
Recommended medium budget hotels in Vang Vieng:
|Hotel Name||Ratings||Check the latest prices|
|The Sanctuary Nam Ngum Beach Resort||9.2||The Sanctuary Nam Ngum Beach Resort|
|Green View Resort||9.4||Green View Resort|
|Sansan Resort||8.7||Sansan Resort|
|Premier Vang Vieng Hotel||8.6||Premier Vang Vieng Hotel|
If you are want to enjoy a luxurious stay, here are my top picks
|Hotel Name||Ratings||Check the latest prices|
|Amari Vang Vieng||8.8||Amari Vang Vieng|
|Riverside Boutique Resort, Vang Vieng||9.2||Riverside Boutique Resort, Vang Vieng|
|Kong Resort||8.7||Kong Resort|
|Inthira Vangvieng||8.7||Inthira Vangvieng|
What is the best time to visit Vang Vieng?
Vang Vieng is a tropical destination which can be visited all around the year. The best time to visit Vang Vieng attractions is from October to February when it is winter. The weather is very pleasant, and after monsoons, the river subsides to good levels after swelling up. No surprise that this is also the peak season to visit Laos. So expect to pay a little more on everything if you are not a traveler with plans.
How many days in Vang Vieng?
You can spend more than a week drinking, tubing, partying or just enjoying life along the river or be done within a day or two. I would suggest spending ideally 3 days to get a glimpse of Vang Vieng.
How to get to Vang Vieng?
The best way to reach Vang Vieng is by buses and minivans. They are cheap although it might not be very convenient.
From Luang Prabang – Most of the people leave or arrive from Luang Prabang. The lack of comfort is made up by the scenic landscapes that you will pass through on your journey. It takes between 6 to 8 hours from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng by bus.
Frome Vientiane – It takes about 3 to 4 hours from Vientiane to Vang Vieng by bus depending on the road conditions.
The tickets for these buses and minivans are available in all guesthouses, hotels and hostels. They also pick up from your hostel or hotel without additional charges. VIP buses cost around 30 USD. Minivans cost around 20 USD, but the travel time is longer.
Vang Vieng Travel Tips
- No need to book any of the tours before you are in Vang Vieng. For best prices and better planning, opt for combo tours, which are available for tubing, caving, Kayaking, and ziplines.
- There are plenty of day trips and half-day trips for adventures as well. Book them if you don’t want the hassle of independent travel.
- There are only a few ATMs available. So get enough cash when you find one
- Carry flashlights, and wear good hiking shoes while trekking or exploring the caves. Better if they are waterproof.
- Carry extra clothes or dress as per your preferences as you’ll get wet during the adventurous activities.
- Carry a wind jacket or a warm sweater if you are
travelingduring November and December. The nights get cold.
- If you are claustrophobic or afraid of dark places, then some of the caves might not be for you.
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