In the heart of Northern Laos lies the small and stunningly beautiful town of Vang Vieng. With numerous hiking viewpoints, an abundance of relaxing blue lagoons and unique caves to explore it’s easy to see why visitors flock to this region in Laos. This complete guide will help you figure out what to do in Vang Vieng so that you can make the most of your time here and not miss out on the adventures!
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What to Do in Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is an adventure lovers paradise. With so many outdoor activities you’ll be sure to stay busy during your time in this small town. I recommend at least 3-4 days in Vang Vieng and longer if you have the time. In this Vang Vieng guide you’ll discover the top things to do in in the town and surrounding areas.
To reach the Nam Xay Viewpoint, Vieng Tara Villa, the Blue Lagoons and the Pha Ngern Viewpoint you will need to cross the Nam Song River. You can do this via a sketchy looking bamboo bridge called the Namsong Bridge. There are varying fees associated with what vehicle you are crossing with and for a motorbike it costs 10,000 LAK ($1.12 USD) round-trip. The bridge is meant for two-way traffic but you might have to wait to cross if a car or truck is on it.
1. Nam Xay Viewpoint
The TOP thing to do when visiting Vang Vieng, Laos is hiking up to the Nam Xay Viewpoint. Located only 15 minutes outside of town, the Nam Xay Viewpoint offers one of the best views in Laos!
At the top of the climb you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of towering limestones cliffs and a sprawling valley below. While the hike up only takes about 25-30 minutes the trail is very steep and difficult at times. There are sections where the trail is only stacked rocks and boulders so you’ll need to hold on to the bamboo railings for support.
Once you’ve reached the top of the viewpoint you will see multiple wooden viewing platforms and photo spots. Please stay on these and do not take any risks for a photo. There are also two motorbikes at the top which you can use for photos and honestly I am still wondering how they got those up there!
The best time to visit is either just after the sun rises or right as it starts to set. However, for safety reasons it is important to stay off the trail unless there is light as it can be quite dangerous.
The fee to hike is 10,000 LAK ($1.12 USD) and you will pay in cash before entering the trailhead.
2. Relax & Swim at Blue Lagoon 3
Located about an hour outside of town is a small oasis known as Blue Lagoon 3. In fact there are actually many small lagoons all over Vang Vieng but 5 that are equipped for visitors. They are known as Blue Lagoon 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 and can be easily located on your map.
Blue Lagoon 1 is the most crowded due to it’s convenient location to town so we skipped it and headed straight for Blue Lagoon 3. The rocky, dirt road leading to Blue Lagoon 3 is long but easy to navigate with signs along the way. There is an entrance fee of 10,000 LAK ($1.12 USD) per person including motorbike parking.
At the Vang Vieng Blue Lagoon 3 you’ll find a small cafe, bathroom and some picnic benches to hang out on. There are also some fun rope swings, bamboo rafts and inflatable tubes that you can use at no extra cost! The water is crystal clear, refreshing and the perfect spot to cool off during the mid-day heat!
The blue lagoons are best visited during the dry season when the water is clean and clear. During the rainy season the lagoons can become very muddy with uninviting brown water.
3. Hike Up the Pha Ngern Viewpoint
Another amazing viewpoint is at the top of the Pha Ngern mountain located about 10 minutes from the center of town. Just like the Nam Xay hike there is a 10,000 LAK ($1.12 USD) entrance fee and a very steep climb up.
It will take an exhausting 45 minutes to climb up so be sure to bring some water with you. This hike is more challenging than the Nam Xay hike with the trail consisting mostly of large rocks. Once you reach the top you will find two small huts and beautiful panoramic views.
The Pha Ngern viewpoint is not as crowded as Nam Xay and it is very peaceful if you head there first thing in the morning! We had the whole place to ourselves for about an hour when we arrived at 8:30 am.
The entrance is a bit more difficult to find but if you put Silver cliff (start point/parking) into your GPS you will head in the right direction. You can also put these GPS coordinates into your map: 18.914545,102.416731 which will be the turn off of the main road. At this turn off you will see a sign for a primary school so use that as your guide.
4. Relax at the Bamboo Bridge in the Pha Tang Village
One of the most picturesque places in this area is just a short 30 minutes drive north of Vang Vieng. The short bridge at the entrance to the small village of Pha Tang provides an incredible viewpoint of the river, town and rising limestone cliffs.
Once you’ve crossed the river, drive into town and make your way to the small pedestrian bamboo bridge. The bamboo bridge can be found at these GPS Coordinates: 19.0751571, 102.4285291. Plan to spend some time here sitting on the bridge, dipping your toes into the river and watching the locals take their afternoon swim.
» Photo Tip: Have your photographer stay up on the bridge while you go down by the water’s edge to get the perfect shot!
5. Visit the Rice Terraces at Vieng Tara Villa
One of the most instagrammable spots in Vang Vieng is the rice fields at the famous Vieng Tara Villa hotel. During the right season the rice fields will be lush and green! Unfortunately for us we didn’t have the dramatic effect of the flourishing fields but the boardwalk and surrounding mountains still make this place beautiful!
You are typically not allowed to take photos here unless you are staying at the property or purchase something from their restaurant. However, they allowed us to enter and take some photos without a problem since they were experiencing a low amount of bookings.
The cost to stay at Vieng Tara Villa starts around $75 USD per night.
6. Take a Yoga Class in Vang Vieng
Whenever I travel I am always searching for yoga classes within the area. Fortunately I found a Yoga Studio in Vang Vieng which offers 3 daily classes. They have an indoor yoga studio at the Silver Naga Hotel, as well as an outdoor yoga shala on the other side of the river about a 20 minute walk from the hotel.
They have mats and props that you can use and their instructors come from all over the world.
Yoga Class Schedule:
- Silver Naga Hotel Studio: 7:30 am and 5:00 pm
- Outdoor yoga shala: 4:00 pm for a sunset flow
Yoga Class Prices:
- 1 Class: 80,000 LAK ($10 USD)
- 2 Classes: 120,000 LAK ($15 USD)
- 5 Classes: 280,000 LAK ($35 USD)
- 10 Classes: 480,000 LAK ($60 USD)
7. Take a Hot Air Ballon Ride Over Vang Vieng
While the views of Vang Vieng are incredible from the ground, I’m certain they are even more amazing from the sky! There are a few companies in Vang Vieng that offer hot air balloon rides over the small town. Laos still remains one of the cheapest places in the world to take flight in a hot air balloon.
There are two hot air balloon companies in Vang Vieng: Above Laos and Vang Vieng Tours. The price ranges from $95-120 USD depending on if you book online or in town once you arrive. You can probably get a better deal in town but know that they could possibly be booked up.
Also note that the hot air balloons do not fly during the rainy season so if you want to do this activity you’ll need to visit when they are flying.
We did not do the hot air balloon ride in Vang Vieng. However, I have taken flight in a hot air balloon in Tanzania over the Serengeti and it was an incredible experience!
» A Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Serengeti in Tanzania
8. Walk Across the Orange Pedestrian Bridge
The iconic orange bridge is actually a pedestrian only bridge and is how you access the Tham Chang Cave. There is a small parking area just before the entrance to the bridge where you can leave your bicycle or motorbike. The fee is 10,000 LAK ($1.12 USD) to cross and you will pay at the ticket counter.
The bridge and cave are just a few minutes drive by motorbike from the center of town!
Photo tip: If you have a zoom lens, have the photographer stand farther back and zoom in on the subject. This is called image compression and will make the mountains appear larger in the background!
9. Explore the Tham Chang Cave
Vang Vieng, Laos is known for having many cave systems which you can explore throughout the area. One of the more popular spots is the Tham Chang Cave located on the other side of the Nam Song River, just opposite the main town.
To reach the cave you will pay the 15,000 LAK ($1.68 USD) fee and proceed to the stairs leading to the caves entrance. Inside the cave you are free to walk around wherever you’d like as long as you stick to the designated path.
Be sure to check out the small, secret blue lagoon that is located just behind the ticket counter! It seems like not many people know about this so it would be a fun place to take a refreshing dip!
10. Tubing Down the Nam Song River
Vang Vieng tubing is a very popular activity in town but we did not do it. Essentially you rent an inflatable, circular tube and let the current of the Nam Song River carry you along while stopping at bars along the way. If you decide to go tubing then make sure to apply plenty of sunscreen since you will be exposed to the sun for many hours.
Where is Vang Vieng, Laos on a Map
Vang Vieng is a small town located in Northern Laos between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Due to this location, Vang Vieng is a perfect place to spend a few days when driving from the two mentioned cities above.
You can click on the Google Maps below to see all of my saved spots for what to do in Vang Vieng!
How to Get to Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is located almost equal distance between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Since there is not an airport close to Vang Vieng you will need to take a bus from either one of the two towns mentioned above.
There are two bus options, the mini van or VIP bus, both of which leave on a frequent schedule from either Luang Prabang or Vientiane. After asking around it seemed like they were very similar in price and comfort so we just chose the one with a departure time that worked best for us. The mini van is smaller and the VIP bus is the larger bus.
The buses stop a few times during the journey at various rest stops along the way. Here you’ll find some snacks to purchase and pay toilets.
- From Vientiene the journey takes about 4-5 hours and costs 70,000 LAK ($7.90 USD)
- From Luang Prabang the journey takes around 5-6 hours and costs 100,000 LAK ($11.20 USD)
These prices were for the mini van which can hold 10-12 passengers and luggage.
Of course there is always the option to hire a private car but that would be a bigger expense.
How to Get Around Vang Vieng
The best way to get around Vang Vieng is either by motorbike or bicycle. You can rent a motorbike at one of the many rental shops in town or through your hotel.
We chose to rent through the hotel because everywhere was requiring you to leave your passport. I felt more comfortable leaving my passport at the hotel during the day and paying a little bit extra. It is cheaper at one of the rental shops but you’ll have to make that decision for yourself.
Most motorbike rental shops only allow you to have the bike from 8am to 6pm which isn’t ideal for those early morning adventures. For a higher price of 90,000 LAK ($10.15 USD) we were able to get the bike delivered to the hotel at 6:30am.
If you only want to rent during the scheduled hours the cost is around 50,000-70,000 LAK ($5.65-$7.82 USD).
Renting a bicycle is the cheapest option and you can easily get around Vang Vieng that way. However, some of the distances are far and during the middle of the day it can be very hot. So if you do decide to rent a bike bring lots of water with you.
There is also the option of renting an ATV or dune buggy for the day. The prices seemed to vary between 500,000-800,000 LAK ($55-90 USD). The ATV’s would probably be more useful during the rainy season and didn’t seem necessary during our time there.
Is Vang Vieng Safe?
Yes, the town of Vang Vieng is relatively safe to tourists. In fact, the biggest threats to your safety relies heavily on your own decisions.
1. Safety Concerns With Alcohol and Drugs
In the past, Vang Vieng was known for being a huge party town. A deadly mix of drugs, alcohol and water activities led to an untimely death for too many tourists and therefore the government cracked down.
For quite a few years now, Vang Vieng has returned to its peaceful state and focuses more on the outdoor activities instead of the partying. However, that doesn’t mean that the drugs have completely gone away. If you are approached by anyone trying to sell drugs just walk away and DO NOT engage or even think about purchasing. I didn’t experience this personally but I’ve heard it still happens from time to time.
Most of the deaths that occur in Vang Vieng were due to drugs, alcohol, a combination of both and stupidity. When you are visiting and participating in activities such as tubing down the river or hiking up to viewpoints be sure to make smart decisions and don’t be dumb.
2. Safety Concerns When Hiking to the Viewpoints
When we were at the Nam Xay Viewpoint two locals arrived at the top and appeared to be looking over the edge for something they’d lost. We asked what they were looking for and they said a person. My heart sank as they said that a man had arrived the previous evening for sunset and his motorbike was still parked down below this morning.
They stated that they didn’t see the man come down but weren’t entirely sure either. His motorbike may have been broken and he got another ride or something horrible may have happened.
Either way it was a huge reminder that safety should always come first. There are many amazing photo opportunities at the Nam Xay Viewpoint, as well as the other viewpoints, but please stick to the designated areas.
Where to Stay in Vang Vieng
- Budget: Vang Vieng Galaxy Guesthouse- clean, a/c, good wifi and breakfast included.
- Mid-Budget: Silver Naga Hotel
- Luxury: Vieng Tara Villa and Riverside Boutique Resort
» Click here for my favorite stays in Vang Vieng on Airbnb
Where to Eat in Vang Vieng
- Luang Prabang Bakery- A delicious French bakery with many sweet treats
- Sanaxay Restaurant- Serves local food and western food at a decent price with large portions
- Il Tavalo Vang Vieng- Delicious wood fire pizza. A little pricy but worth it!
Best Time to Go to Vang Vieng
Since you’ll likely be heading to Vang Vieng for outdoor activities you’ll want to travel here during the best time of the year. From the end of October through March the weather is typically dry and warm but not too hot.
Between March and May the temperatures will start to rise and the humidity will increase. We were there in the beginning of March and the temperature was around 100°F (38°C) during the middle of the day.
September and the beginning of October are the rainiest months in Vang Vieng. Try to avoid these months if you are looking to do a lot of hiking and relaxing at the blue lagoons.
Important Things to Know Before Visiting Vang Vieng
1. Visa on Arrival in Laos
Currently there is only the option of a visa on arrival when entering Laos. On the airplane you will be given a disembarkation card to fill out. However, once you arrive at the airport there will be an additional form to fill out. After you’ve done that you’ll need to go to the line to purchase your visa on arrival. First you will hand in your passport and all documentation.
Next you will go to a second counter to make the payment. The fees vary between $30-45 USD depending on the country you are from. THEY ACCEPT ONLY CASH, NO CREDIT CARDS. They will not accept torn, ripped or folded bills so make sure they are crisp and new. There is also not an ATM inside the immigration area of the airport so you will need to have cash already on you. They also want only USD but will except Euro so be sure to have the correct currency as well.
In addition to having cash you will also need to provide a passport sized photo. If you do not have one with you they will take one there for an additional fee. Honestly, I recommend always carrying a few passport sized photos with you while traveling because you never know when you’ll need them.
Note: This is the procedure at the airport. I do not know if it is the same for those entering by land.
2. Cash & ATM’s
There are many ATM’s located around Vang Vieng so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting cash to pay for things. Most places take cash only so you’ll need to make sure you have enough on you. Our hotel allowed us to pay by credit card but that may not be the case everywhere.
3. Where to Get Gas or Petrol in Vang Vieng
The main gas station is called Plus Gas Station and is located on Highway 13. The petrol or gas is about 10,000 LAK ($1.12 USD) per liter. You can also find small stands around Vang Vieng where locals are selling petrol out of the glass bottles.
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WHAT CAMERA GEAR DO I USE?
» Click HERE for the Full Travel Photography Gear Guide to see what’s in my camera bag!
- Main Camera: Sony A7III
- Wide angle lens: Sony G Master 16-35mm f/2.8
- Zoom lens: Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3
- Prime lens: Sony 85mm f/1.8
- Secondary Camera: Canon 6D Mark II
- Canon wide angle lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L
- Canon lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L
- Underwater camera: Leica X-U
- Camera with gimbal: DJI Osmo Pocket & Underwater Housing
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro 2
- Camera Bag: Polar Pro Drone Trekker
- External Hard Drive: LaCie 2 TB rugged mini external hard drive
Mayuri Patel says
This one is such complete Guide to Van Vvieng. Saving this for my visit to Laos someday.
Thank you so much! Hope you can make it there soon!
Wow! Such a detailed post. Pinning for later when I can get here.
Thank you Bliss! There really are so many amazing things to do and see here that you’ll be sure to have a wonderful time!
This is such a great guide 🙂 I love your pictures too! I am saving your post for the future. I would love to visit Laos.
Thank you Cristina! Laos is such a beautiful country with so many friendly people, you will have an amazing time when you do go!
Katja | placesandnotes says
Wow, I visited Vang Vieng back in 2007 and lovee it for its laid back atmosphere. Your pictures are wonderful, they bring back memories but I also see some new things I didn´t know about. Would love to go back to Laos one day 🙂
How incredible that you have already visited! I am sure there are so many changes in Vang Vieng from when you were there but the stunning views still remain the same! I’m sure it would be so much fun to go back agin one day!
this post is so so helpful!! I am traveling to SE Asia in 2021 for around 4 months and Vang Vieng is super high on my list of places to visit!
Thank you Erin! You’ll have an amazing time traveling around SE Asia! I just spent the last year doing it and it was life changing! Make sure to visit Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng! They ended up being two of our favorite places and we wish we had more time there!
Meghan Emcee says
I love this in-depth guide to Van Vvieng! Hopefully, this travel ban will be over soon so I can go, your pictures are stunning! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Meghan! I really hope that we will all be able to travel again by the end of the year or at least 2021!
I can’t believe how many amazing views there are. This reminds me of a place in China, Yangshuo, with similar looking mountains and a small town surrounded by countryside. I’d love to visit Laos. Hopefully I’ll get there soon.
Oh wow! I imagine that Yangshuo would be a place I’d like to visit as well then! Sounds beautiful! Hope you make it to Laos one day!
Alexandra Booze says
Ohh I think I could use a yoga class or go tubing down the river haha! Sounds so relaxing. I have yet to make it to Asia so I think I need to change that 🙂
The yoga was so wonderful and the view for the class was incredible! There really are so many amazing places to visit in Laos and Asia in general that you will have a fantastic time wherever you decide to go!
Urban Wanders says
I had no idea a single blog post will make me want to visit Laos but it just seems like a dream! Thanks for the detailed post – I’ll definitely be referring to it in the future 🙂
Thank you so much for the kind words! It really was such a beautiful place with friendly people! I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance!
Love this blog post! Definitely will look at this again when i go to Laos one day!
Thank you Tyra! Hopefully you get to make it there one day soon!
Carla Vianna says
This is such a detailed blog post with so much useful information! Your photos capture the essence of Laos beautifully.
Thank you so much Carla! We honestly couldn’t put the camera down because Laos is just such a stunning country!
These views are breathtaking! I regret not visiting Laos when I was in Thailand. Would love to take a hot air balloon ride here!
Well hopefully you will be able to make it back here one day! We didn’t take a hot air balloon ride but kind of regret it now!
This is amazing Marisa! I am hoping to make it to Laos during my next Southeast Asia trip. I love how there are so many things to do in Vang Vieng!
Thank you Taylor! You will love Vang Vieng! We wish that we had more time in Laos as well so hopefully we can return again one day to explore even more!
Lauren Gabel says
Thank you for this comprehensive guide and all the lovely photos!! Laos is actually very high up on my list (one of the few Southeast Asian countries I haven’t hit yet)….I was planning to visit this year, but due to travel restrictions it may now be 2021. But I’ll have to revisit this when I’m booked & going!
Thanks Lauren! We fell in love with the country and were so sad that our trip there got cut short due to the virus. Hopefully we can make it back there again one day as well!
I’m actually hoping to travel here sometime this year, I’ll definitely save this post for when I do 😁 love your photos, amazing!
Thank you so much Jen! Vang Vieng definitely surprised me with how beautiful it is and how much there is to do!