A cool little town in Central Laos that is well-known for its nightlife, party vibe, and river tubing, you may be surprised to learn that the pretty riverside town also offers a brilliant assortment of outdoor activities and natural attractions. Gorgeous views come as standard!
With a wide choice of accommodation and dining options, Vang Vieng is really easy to get around by foot. Here are some top things to do when in town:
1. Tubing along the Nam Song River
Organised by a local collective, excited tourists can rent inflated inner tubes and spend the day drifting along the pretty Nam Song River. It costs around 55,000 LAK (approximately 7 USD) to rent a tube for the day, and you must also leave a deposit. Many shops also sell an assortment of inflatable toys as well. Be careful with your belongings – whilst it is possible to buy “waterproof” bags in Vang Vieng, many travellers have reported that they aren’t quite so waterproof after all.
The water is fuller and faster during and just after the rainy season (May to October), whilst those looking for a calmer and more sedate experience will enjoy the town during the hot season. There are several sets of exhilarating rapids along the river and a handful of bars where you can stop for a drink and bite to eat. Although not as hedonistic as it was in the past, Vang Vieng still offers loads of tubing fun if you are sensible.
It is also possible to enjoy kayaking along the river too.
2. Lapping up the stunning views
Head to the almost any section of the river bank and you will be rewarded with the most stunning river vistas with an enticing mountain backdrop. Small boats make their way along the waters and local kids splash, bathe, and play close to the shallower edges. Look out early in the morning and you may spot children having a wash in the river, preparing to go to school.
3. Chilling out at Tham Poukham / the Blue Lagoon
A pretty little lagoon at the bottom of a cave, the Blue Lagoon is a nice place to swim in the sparkling waters, relax on the grass, or enjoy the shade in one of the bamboo huts. Shriek in excitement as you throw yourself into the refreshing waters from the rope swing and pose for pictures on the narrow plank of wood as you try not to fall in!
If you are feeling active, you can also make the short climb up the bamboo ladder into Tham Poukham - the Golden Crab Cave. Inside there are some interesting rock formations as well as a large reclining Buddha statue – the Sleeping Golden Buddha. Take a torch (or rent one on site) if you want to explore beyond the main chamber.
4. Exploring deep, dark caves
The mountains around Vang Vieng are home to plenty of fascinating caves. Whilst a couple of the smaller ones, such as Tham Xang / Elephant Cave are easy to see independently, having a local guide to go with you into larger caves is highly recommended. Many are pitch black with jagged rocks and long drops. You can often arrange with a tuk tuk driver or somebody outside the cave to accompany you for a small fee. Do not scrimp on hiring a head torch if you don’t already have your own – you will need it!
Chang Cave / Tham Chang is well-lit and offers some great views of the surrounding farmland. The high entrance is reached by climbing a stone staircase.
Head to Tham Nam if you want to try something a little bit different … a river runs through the cave and access is by way of rubber inner tubes!
5. Visiting local temples for a taste of Laotian spirituality
Vang Vieng has a few small temples that you may enjoy … if you aren’t already templed out! They are similar to those that you will find almost everywhere else in the country, but each still offers its own unique charms and a peaceful and tranquil air.
Wat Done Hor is Vang Vieng’s oldest temple, dating back to the early 1900s. Wat That is a popular temple with visitors, two multi-headed nagas guarding the ornate green and gold entrance arch. Within the temple complex, you can enjoy the colourful and decorative main hall, several modest stupas, and a collection of golden Buddha statues.
More Vang Vieng fun and adventures
The captivating karst mountains offer some excellent climbing opportunities, and the undulating landscapes are also perfect for mountain biking. There are several traditional ethnic villages just outside of the main part of town, although if you do take a wander through, do remember that these are people’s homes rather than human zoos! There are some great community initiatives, such as fruit picking at organic farms, youth engagement events, and short-term teaching projects that allow you to interact more with the local population and give something back whilst on your travels.
More than just a quick stopping point between the capital of Vientiane and the charming Luang Prabang, plan to spend at least a couple of days in scenic Vang Vieng - it’s Simply Beautiful!
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