Must-Visit Attractions in Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng is home to a variety of impressive temples, of which Wat That is the largest
Vang Vieng is home to a variety of impressive temples, of which Wat That is the largest | © Wojtkowski Cezary / Alamy Stock Photo
Alex Robinson

Blessed with a dramatic skyline of limestone karst mountains and a gently winding ribbon of river, Vang Vieng’s gorgeous landscapes have been a draw for travellers since Laos opened its doors to tourism in the 1990s. Even the most active will find endless things to do, before relaxing in a riverside bar and soaking in those gorgeous views. So here they are, the must-visit attractions in Vang Vieng, Laos.

1. Blue Lagoon 1

Natural Feature

Hurling yourself into this little turquoise lake – set in green forest just outside town – has long been a Vang Vieng ritual for travellers. There are numerous ways to do it – from the shore of the lake itself, from platforms in the trees, from a waterslide or a rope swing. What do you do afterwards? Not much; laze in the sun with scores of other backpackers, soak in the water; or for something a little more exhilarating, zip line through the trees.

2. Blue Lagoons 2 and 3

Natural Feature

Blue lagoon number 3. Vang Vieng, Laos. Clear clear water in the lagoon.
© Dmitrii Melnikov / Alamy Stock Photo

Less crowded than Blue Lagoon 1 – not to mention a longer and bumpier tuk-tuk ride from town – Blue Lagoons 2 and 3 let you in on a slightly quieter alternative to their more famous counterpart. Still, there are plenty of zip lines, slides and swings to get you plunging into the water.

3. Tham Chang Cave

Natural Feature

Tham Chan
© Regina Beach/Culture Trip
A steep jungle path leads into these peaceful caves, honeycombing a hill not far from the Blue Lagoons. Do your utmost to get here early before the tour groups descend in order to make the most of the glistening Buddha statue set against walls of flowstone, the towering stalactites and glassy clear pools fed by slowly dripping water.

4. Tube or kayak the Nam Song

Natural Feature

It was the gentle adventure pursuit that first brought inquisitive backpackers to Vang Vieng in the 1990s: drifting among Vang Vieng’s breathtaking landscapes in a tractor-tyre inner tube on the idly flowing Nam Song river. Two decades on, it’s still hard to beat. The formula is simple. Grab a tyre and flag a ride on a tuk-tuk, which will bump you over the dirt road upriver. Jump in and spend an hour or so floating back to town. And if an old tyre isn’t the way you want to travel, for a few dollars more you can rent a kayak.

5. Tham Nam Water Cave

Natural Feature

VANG VIENG, LAOS - MARCH 14, 2017: Horizontal picture of Blue Lagoon at Tham Chang Cave, close to the city of Vang Vieng, Laos.
© RAFAEL KATAYAMA / Alamy Stock Photo
Tham Nam lays on three of Vang Vieng’s most popular pastimes – tubing, caving and lagoon-swimming. The lagoon is a barely flowing river that runs past lush jungle before cutting into the mountains and flowing through inky-black caves. With ropes to pull you through and the whoops of numerous backpackers to follow you can’t get lost and the water is only waist-deep. With river-water swimming pools, ziplines and restaurants as well as the caves, you can make a visit to this cave an all-day affair.

6. Lusi Cave

Natural Feature

It’s within a short walk of Vang Vieng town – across a bamboo river bridge and rice paddies – and yet Lusi remains one the region’s least spoilt caves. You’ll need a guide if you’re up for the challenge as there are no lights and paths are difficult to see, even with the aid of torches. Most people come for the swimming which – as ever in Vang Vieng – is in a freshwater river lagoon. Mind you, here it’s in the pitch black, with fish nibbling at your toes whether you need a pedicure or not.

7. Wat That temple

Buddhist Temple

Wat That, buddhist temple area, Vang Vieng, Laos
© Peter F / architecture / Alamy Stock Photo
Like neighbouring Thailand, Laos is a Theravada Buddhist country and temples play a central role in the life of the people. You’ll witness monks proceeding from the prayer halls in the mornings to beg for alms and local residents coming to pray at the feet of the Buddha on a daily basis. Since it’s a small rural town, Vang Vieng’s wats are not as overwhelming visually as in Luang Prabang and they all date from the 20th Century. With that said, they’re amazing to behold – particularly Wat That in the town centre, which is Vang Vieng’s largest.

8. Tham Phu Kham Cave

Natural Feature, Park

Dress modestly when visiting Tham Phu Cam; this spectacular cave is a sacred site that looks like a scene from a Chinese painting. A beautiful gilt reclining Buddha lies peacefully among towering, monolithic rocks covered in moss, illuminated in a shaft of sunlight. Bring swimming gear for a cooling dip in the cave lagoon and don’t forget your walking shoes; it’s a steep, vertiginous climb up a cliff face to get to the entrance.

9. Pha Poak

Natural Feature

Scenic view of fields, limestone mountains and Pha Poak hill near Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province, Laos, on a sunny day.
© Tuomas Lehtinen / Alamy Stock Photo

There may be more spectacular views over the Vang Vieng landscape – for instance, from Nam Xay and Pha Ngern – but only the Pha Poak outlook is both reachable on foot from the town centre and easy to climb. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the trailhead – on a path leading across the bamboo river bridge and the rice fields – and another 30 to scramble up rocks and ladders to the flag at the top. The views, over jagged hills and rivers, are blissful.

10. Kaeng Nyui Waterfall

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Park

In the dry summer months, Kaeng Nyui can shrink to a trickle but after rains it swells into a cascade, plunging from green hills into a rushing mountain river. The only way to reach this place is by following a jungle trail that passes over a wobbly rope bridge and becomes extremely slippery in wet weather. So don’t set forth without wearing your sensible shoes. The trailhead lies just under 10km (6mi) from Vang Vieng. Come early in the day to avoid crowds.

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