How to get there
4 hours, $6
Mini-van: 4 hours, $16
16h 30min, $37
Via Vientiane: 16h excl transfer time, $13 + $46 – $115
What to do in Vang Vieng
#1 Visiting the Blue Lagoons
Blue Lagoon 1
Bask in the sun, swing on a rope and practice your backflips!
Blue Lagoon 1 is the busiest of the 3 famous lagoons in Vang Vieng as it’s closest to the town center. It’s a good place to cool down and get over your hangover, but expect it to be crowded. The water is cool and clear enough to see the fish. The lagoon itself is quite narrow, but there is enough space to put your towel on the green grass, where you’ll also find picnic tables and food stalls.
There is a huge tree that you can climb up to make 2-5 meter jumps, wooden ladders, and swings to sit on while partially submerged in the water.
You will have to cross a bridge to get there. The toll costs $0.50 per person on a bike and $0.70 per person on a tuk-tuk. The price to enter the lagoon is $2, and it’s open from 8:00 to 18:00. Bring extra cash for bathroom use, equipment rental and snacks. A round-trip tuk-tuk ride will cost you $5-$7 per person. You can also rent a bike for the day for as low as $2. It’s a good place to spend 2-3 hours of your day.
Blue Lagoon 2
Set off by swimming some laps and jump on bamboo rafters in the hidden waters of Blue Lagoon 2!
It’s the biggest among the three Blue Lagoons, but many people don’t realize it’s there—perfect if you want to chill in peace. As the sun gets higher, find a cozy hut and settle in with your picnic bag, or try the mouth-watering Lao dishes at the café. Once your energy levels are restored, you can jump from a tall platform or play “lagoon volleyball” with your friends! There is also a VIP pool for those who seek more privacy.
Open cottages and treehouses now border the lagoon. Canopies and platforms have also been added to cater to thrill-seekers, and there’s a sunflower garden for the romantics. It’s a worthwhile place to spend 3-4 hours.
From Van Vieng town you can take a $5 buggy down a dusty road to reach Blue Lagoon 2’s main entrance, where you’ll need to pay a $2 entry fee.
Blue Lagoon 3
Ride a zip line or fly on a swing before flipping into the blue water! Not in an adventurous mood? Blue Lagoon 3 is also the perfect place to float lazily on a tube while taking in the breath-taking view of splendid limestone formations.
The Blue Lagoon 3 is popular for its location: turquoise waters enclosed by great limestone mountains. It is sleepier than Blue Lagoon 1 and has a chill-out vibe. A zip line runs across the pool, and a rope swing has been installed. There are also punts, bamboo rafts, and comfortable decks and cottages for those who want to take things slowly.
Tip: Follow the path to the back of the restaurant where you will see a ‘toilet’ sign. If you continue on this path, you will find a hidden cave. Slide down the narrow opening and go exploring! Bring a light, and remember it’s at your own risk.
This paradise is 14km from Blue Lagoon 1 and down a long dirt road. Expect to pay $10-$15 per person. If you take a shared tuk-tuk from your hotel to Blue Lagoon 1, then to Blue Lagoon 3 and back to town. The entrance fee for Blue Lagoon 3 costs $2, and gates are open from 8:00 to 18:00. Most people stay here for 3-4 hours, which makes it a perfect visit to combine with Lagoon 1.
#2 Pha Ngern Viewpoint
Go 2.000 feet into the sky and witness a fantastic view of Vang Vieng.
Roughly 5 kilometers outside the town of Vang Vieng is the sweeping Pha Ngern Viewpoint. It’s a 2.000-foot high summit that offers a panoramic view of the rice paddies dotted by wooden huts as well as a stunning golden sunset. A refreshing escape from the touristy Vang Vieng!
It can take 30-45 minutes to reach the summit for an average hiker, and there are three viewpoints. The first and second viewpoints are impressive, but only the top will give you a clear view of the entire town. The path is steep and usually slippery, but there are steps, rails and ropes in the right places. Choose a clear day for a safer hike, and consider doing it before or after visiting the Blue Lagoon.
A $5-$7 tuk-tuk ride will take you there. On the way, you’ll pass through beautiful countryside and will share the road with cows, buffalo, and locals carrying crops. Bring 10,000 Kip or $2 for the entrance fee and grab a walking stick! You can start as early as 6:00.
Drift down the river as the sun kisses your skin, stop by a few small bars for drinking games, meet new friends, and enjoy the landscape as you float toward the finish line.
Vang Vieng is popular for tubing, and while it’s not as loud and boozy as it used to be, it still offers an unforgettable experience. The crowds are smaller, the swings have been removed, and a limited number of bars are allowed to open—making the tubing experience safer.
You’ll pass by 2-4 shanty bars, each with their own drinking games. The one bar organizes beer relays, and others have beer-pong or a basketball site with loud party music bouncing out of the speakers.
Tubing is one of the top reasons to visit Vang Vieng, so “tubing tours” are offered by almost every hostel in town. You can ask for a tubing tour at your hostel or arrange it on your own. We recommend just booking at the hostel and joining a nice crowd of people.
The party-tubing tours all leave around noon, and you will meet fellow travellers from other tours at the first bar. Cold beers will be waiting for you, and the bar staff will make sure the party vibe is in the air. Play drinking games with your mates, make new friends and enjoy the freedom of the backpacker life. Ready for a new bar? Search for your tube at the ‘parking dock’ and float down the river to the next bar.
If you’d rather do it on your own and don’t want to be part of the drinking games, you can also take a shared tuk-tuk ($2.50 per person) from the center of Vang Vieng to Kangmuong St., east of Nam Song River. Across from Hally’s Coffee (visible on Google Maps) is the “tubing office”, where you will find a yellow “Tubing” sign and some tubes outside. Tube rental is $7.20 plus another $7.20 for the deposit (which is refunded when you return the tube). Tuk-tuks line up outside the office and charge $1 per person for a ride to the starting point. Prepare at least $2.50 for a tuk-tuk ride back to the tubing office.
Make sure to write down your passport number because they’ll ask for it at the tubing office. Also, if you’re not planning on drinking much and are just after the scenery, come before lunchtime while the sun is high and glowing over the landscape.
#4 Vang Vieng Motorbike Loop
If you want to get the best out of your 6-8 hours in Vang Vieng, the best thing to do is to hop on a bike and drive around town. Bike rentals only cost $2-$4.
With a bike, you’ll be able to absorb the surroundings while driving along the road to the viewpoints. The Maylyn Guest House in Kangmuong Street is a great place to start. From there, you will explore mysterious caves, climb the famous Pha Ngeun Viewpoint. On the way you can buy food on skewers from walking vendors and take a break whereever you want while being, take a break under the porch the locals and be enchanted by the countryside. Feeling dusty and sweaty? Stop at one of the Blue Lagoons for a refreshing dive! As you return to the starting point, you will pass by magnificent limestone mountains softened by the sunset.
Consider downloading a guide from www.hobomaps.com. This guide shows a great route and map of which places to visit and the road to drive. It costs only $2 and is totally worth it. Make sure to pack enough water and snacks, plus extra clothing.
# 5 Climbing
Test your endurance, build your confidence and enjoy the rewarding scenery of Vang Vieng!
There are hundreds of routes with steep rocky formations and amazing views from the top. If you’re not into partying or leisure walks, climbing is a great alternative.
Adam’s Climbing School and Central Climbers School are the best rated schools in the area, and both include professional English-speaking guides. Adam’s Climbing School was the first climbing school in Vang Vieng (founded in 2005), but Central Climbers also has well-experienced guides.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there’s a climb for you. You’ll be fitted with high-quality equipment and guided all throughout each climb. If you’re truly in for an outdoor adventure, combine climbing with kayaking or a hot air balloon ride.
You may enroll for a half day, full day or 3-day training, depending on the route you want to climb. Tours starts at 9:00 and costs $25-$45.
#6 Top 5 Caves to visit in Vang Vieng
The caves of Vang Vieng are definitely thrilling. Some of them are so large, you’ll feel like you could get lost, and others are so small you’ll have to squeeze yourself inside. Some play a part in the history and religion of the locals, and others have a chilling air of mystery.
Some of the caves can be reached by a short walk, and others are most easily visited by renting a (motor)bike or by hiring a tuk-tuk.
- Tam Chang
Tam Chang is the most popular cave, and it’s known for its huge stalagmites and stalactites. During the Chinese Haw invasion in the 19th century, it served as a refuge, offering protection to an entire village.
The cave is only 1km from downtown, so you can easily reach it with a 15-minute walk. You’ll have to pay $1 if you come on foot to the mouth of the cave, or $2 if you come by bike (tuk-tuks are not allowed).
Entrance to the cave is another $2, and it’s $0,25 to enter the small pool at the mouth of the cave. Compared to the other caves in Vang Vieng, Tam Chang is the most developed one and is easy to explore, thanks to the well-lit chambers with sturdy stairs and handrails.
The caves are open from 8:00 to 16:00. Be sure to wear shoes because some tracks can become slippery, particularly during the rainy season. Allow at least 6 hours for the journey, the cave exploration, a snack break and some swimming.
- Tham Nam (water cave)
The water cave is another popular cave, one that can be entered through the water. You can rent a tube and torch at the entrance for 10.000 Kip ($1) and follow a rope to enter the cave. Getting in can be a bit of a challenge, especially during the wet season when the current is stronger. Once you enter the cave, it will be pitch black, and only the torch will show you the beautiful limestone rocks.
The stream flows through the cave for about 500m and takes about half an hour to reach the end.
The cave is about a 10km drive from downtown. The main road is easy to travel on, but you’ll have to go on a more rocky road towards the end. We recommend visiting the cave in the early morning around 8:00/9:00 before all the group tours arrive.
The cave is best visited in combination with the Elephant cave which is only a short walk from the river.
- Tham Sang (elephant cave)
The elephant cave is named after an elephant-shaped stalactite, which also symbolizes the history of the cave. Legend goes that wild elephants used to live in these caves, as big bones have been discovered there.
Inside the cave you will find several Buddha statues and a golden bell made from bomb shells dating from the Vietnam War, when over 2 million bombs were dropped on Laos to cut off connections and tunnels from Vietnam to Laos.
It’s only a small cave, but it’s worth a short visit in combination with the water cave. Best to visit this cave in the morning when the light enters the cave. Entrance is 10.000 Kip ($1).
- Tham Pha Poak
Tham Pha Poak is a short, dry cave halfway through a hill. The cave has some nice limestone formations inside, but it is more popular for being the door to the peak of the hill.
There is an entrance fee of $2, and then you will be led through the cave to an opening, which is the starting point of the climb. It takes only 30 minutes to reach the top. You’ll be assisted by ropes and wooden ladders, but you still have to scramble over some boulders and to avoid jagged stones. At the top is a view of the whole of Vang Vieng on one side and of the breath-taking Karst Mountains on the other.
It’s only 1.2 kilometers west of the town center, making it ideal for short visits.
- Tham Pou Kham
Apart from being a side-trip if you’re planning to refresh yourself at Blue Lagoon 1, Tham Pou Kham is an attraction for its labyrinth of tunnels and chambers. At the entrance is a bronze reclining Buddha that welcomes guests and glimmers under the sunlight.
Arrows will lead you through a tunnel that gets darker with every step, so make sure to bring a torch. Just follow the arrows and you will come back to where you came from. Entrance fee is $2, and you can rent a torch for $2. Consider hiring a guide for $2-$3 if you’re anxious about getting lost in total darkness.
#7 Kaeng Nyui Waterfall
Slowly dip into a cold pool, listen to water as it pours down the rocks, and stroll through a thick forest.
The Kaeng Nyui Waterfall is a 30 meter-high waterfall, 7 kilometers east of Vang Vieng. Locals have built pathways, bridges, decks and huts around the falls, transforming the area into a relaxing destination on the east side.
Find your way through a forested area, cross streams on wooden bridges, discover secret spots and spread out your picnic mat. It’s not the biggest waterfall in Laos, but combined with the fun walking paths, it makes a refreshing treat!
Note: During the dry season (March to May), you’ll only see a small stream dripping down the mountains. Better make your way to one of the lagoons if you’re looking for a place to cool off.
From the parking area, there are signs pointing to the waterfall. It’s $2 for the entrance fee and some dry bags. The area is open from 8:00 to 18:00, and you will want to spend 2-3 hours of your day there.
#8Vang Vieng Elephant Sanctuary
Feed elephants, walk with them through a jungle and cover them in mud!
Prepare to be charmed by gentle giants at the Vang Vieng Elephant Sanctuary. Located on the southern part of the town is a place where elephants roam freely and live peacefully. The money raised by the sanctuary is used for food, veterinary care, land and payment to the real owners of the elephants for allowing the sanctuary to care for them, instead of making them work.
The staff will give you bananas and sugar cane to feed the free-roaming elephants and will guide you through the sanctuary while telling the individual stories of these rescued elephants. You can touch, bathe, walk, photograph and play in the mud spa with them!
When you book a tour, the Elephant Sanctuary will arrange a pick up at either 8:30 or 12:00, from anywhere in Vang Vieng. Half-day tours ($50 or 450,000 Kip) last for 3 hours, and lunch is served with traditional Lao food and fresh fruits. Morning tours start at 9:00 and afternoon tours at 12:00. It takes approximately 1 hour to reach the sanctuary from the town center.
Overnight tours are also possible. You will have to call the Elephant Sanctuary to arrange this because you will be staying with a local family and will experience traditional Lao hospitality.
Tip: Avoid overfeeding the elephants so they won’t forget how to obtain their own food in the jungle.
Did you travel this route or visit this place? Share your experience in a comment below.