Vang Vieng is one of the most famous and peculiar cities in Laos. Close to the capital of this small and charming Southeast Asian country, Vang Vieng is known for its breathtaking nature, as well as the crazy parties. Curious? Discover everything to do in Vang Vieng.
Often cited as one of the most loved and appreciated cities by the backpackers in Laos, this city has a wide variety of things to do.
And for that reason, it is practically a must for anyone traveling to Laos.
In this article, you will discover everything about the city of Vang Vieng. The history, the atmosphere, what to do, and where to go in this beautiful and crazy city in Laos.
Nature in Vang Vieng, Laos
Where is Vang Vieng: some general information
The city of Vang Vieng is located in the province of Vientiane. The town is to the north of the capital of Laos and to the south of the former capital of the country, Luang Prabang, being more precisely about 4 hours by bus.
Vang Vieng is located on the banks of a famous river in Laos, the Nam Song, and has karst mountains in its relief. A natural feature responsible for the appearance of caves, underground rivers, and other surprises of nature.
The city has more than 50 thousand inhabitants distributed.
Vang Vieng had a considerable expansion in its infrastructure during a sad period in Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War, where the Americans built an Air Force base that was used by Air America.
Fortunately, since a few years ago, the city has grown due to tourism. Every year, thousands of backpackers visit the town to discover its natural beauty, temples, and attractions.
Another thing that attracts many tourists to the city is the fact that Vang Vieng is a small village, tranquil, and a breathtaking landscape. At the same time, it is crazy and quite partying, as you will see later in this article. Not to mention the curious fact that it is a city that simply loves Friends.
That’s right, the 10-season series is so popular that it is broadcast on TVs in all cafes in the city. It is a real passion and local tradition to watch the series in the cafes of Vang Vieng.
But Vang Vieng is much more than that. Now, let’s explore all that this city has to offer.
Things to do in Vang Vieng?
Vang Vieng is a city with many things to do, especially for nature lovers, and lots of places to visit. It is one of those villages, so small and so welcoming that it leaves little desire to leave.
It is quite touristy, no doubt, but it is still a mandatory stop.
Blue Lagoon and Tham Phu Kham Cave
Blue Lagoon and Tham Phu Kham Cave are located close to each other and are one of the main highlights of Vang Vieng. Get ready to spend a full morning or an afternoon around there.
To discover the Blue Lagoon of Vang Vieng and the beautiful cave nearby, you can start enjoying the exploration before you even reach the site. If you like adventure and nature, you can rent a bicycle and go to the place.
Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng, Laos
The journey is not long for those who go biking, it is only about 11 km through nature, which still allows for a pleasant exercise through the environment in Vang Vieng.
About Blue Lagoon, one must be honest in saying that it is not always blue in color. If you want to see the blue lagoon waters, you should try to go to Vang Vieng in September.
Another interesting detail of this lagoon is that it has swings hanging from trees, where you can relax for a few moments, before jumping into the water for a refreshing and relaxing bath.
And you have a tree right there in the middle, where you can climb quickly and, from about 2 meters high, jump into the water. You can trust that it has enough depth there, and it ends up being addictive.
Entrance to the Tham Phu Kham Cave near the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng
The Tham Phu Kham is a cave with stalagmites and stalactites. An interesting point of this beautiful cave, especially for those who appreciate Buddhism, is a statue of a golden Buddha inside the cave.
To enter the cave, you have to climb a steep staircase to the top. Right at the entrance, rent a flashlight, because, inside the cave, you have places where you can’t see anything.
And, as you must be wearing sandals, coming from Lagoa, then you have to be really careful not to slip.
Just remember, during the rainy season, this cave is closed for visitation.
Tham Phu Kham cave near the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng
Tham Jang Cave
The Tham Jang cave is located southwest of Vang Vieng. To get there, you need to cross a bamboo bridge situated on the Nam Song River. After you have to go up a flight of stairs to reach the entrance, about 50 meters after the bridge.
Gruta Tham Jang in Vang Vieng
A caverna Tham Jang é bem iluminada e conta com escadas e degraus para visitantes circularem sem problemas.
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Um detalhe interessante sobre essa caverna é que ela serviu de Bunker para defender-se do saqueador Jenen Hore — Yunnanese em chinês — durante a invasão chinesa no século XIX.
Tham Hoi Cave
Tham Hoi is also known as the Snail Cave.
This cave, belonging to the group known as Tham Sang Triangle, composed of three more, is named after a snail-shaped stalactite.
Tham Hoi has more than 3 km of the interior after the entrance that can be explored by anyone. In its interior, there is still an underground lake with crystal clear waters.
Gruta Tham Hoi in Vang Vieng
The cave also has other very impressive stalagmites and stalactites, as well as limestone formations that look like melting candle wax.
Buddhist culture also had to be present in this cave. Inside this cave, you will find two statues of Buddha. One of them, a reclining golden Buddha with statuettes of worshipers around it, which is close to the entrance.
The other statue is further down the cave and is most visited by Buddhists who will pay their respects.
Kaeng Nyui Waterfall
The Kaeng Nyui waterfall is a must-see for anyone visiting Vang Vieng and looking to explore the nature of the area. The village can get very hot at times, which makes this destination a great option to cool off and enjoy the view.
Kaeng Nyui Waterfall in Vang Vieng
The path to Kaeng Nyui, and two other waterfalls at the site, is kind of challenging, ideal for adventurers.
It is just 6 kilometers northeast of the city of Vang Vieng and can be reached on foot, by bicycle or by songthaews (open-top van taxis). The path is somewhat rocky, and there are not many shadows to protect yourself from the sun. Fortunately, it has a stop near the waterfall where you can buy drinks.
The waterfall itself has 34 meters that make up for the trip. But you may be unlucky enough to find the waterfall with little water, without even being able to dive.
Phangern Mountain Viewpoint
For those who like landscapes and sunrise, then you should visit the Phangern Mountain Viewpoint in Vang Vieng.
The climb to the top of the mountain takes about 20 to 35 minutes. The time to climb varies slightly due to possible stops, especially when it is hot.
Sunrise at Phangern – Vang Vieng
It is not an arduous trek, and the terrain is not very rugged. However, it is advisable to take appropriate shoes, as there are always some parts that can complicate a little for those who are little prepared.
The effort to wake up very early will be rewarding. The mountain has an incredible view from its top, which cannot be obtained anywhere else in Vang Vieng.
To watch the sunrise, you’ll have to wake up very early (around 4:15 am), but it’s well worth it. Not only for the view but for all the animal life in the region, where the region’s wild pigs are not lacking.
Nam Xai viewpoint
Another great view at Vang Vieng can be found at the Nam Xai viewpoint.
The Nam Xai viewpoint offers an incredible, lush, and picturesque view of the whole of Vang Vieng. It is seen as a hidden gem of this Lao city, and close to the Blue Lagoon, another mandatory stop when going to Vang Vieng.
Especially the cliffs and rice fields that surround this viewpoint.
To reach the viewpoint, you have to make a steep climb, something that makes climbing a little tricky. However, local farmers in the region built bamboo fences along the way over time.
The climb should take about 30 to 40 minutes to reach the top. Although it is tiring to reach the Nam Xai viewpoint, it is one of the best views you will find in Vang Vieng.
Pha Poak is a small limestone hill that is located to the west of Vang Vieng. You can identify it by a flag at the top of this hill, very close to the banks of the Nam Song River.
Climbing this hill is popular with backpackers who have a sense of adventure. Every year, most of those who go to Laos and visit Vang Vieng do the climb up the Pha Poak hill.
Pha Poak in Vang Vieng, Laos
The base of the hill is easy to climb, but it becomes more difficult as you reach the summit. The ascent time is around 30 minutes, and the use of appropriate climbing shoes is highly recommended. That’s because, during the way up the hill, there are many pointed and sharp stones, which can cause accidents.
Even so, it pays to do this climb because the view is incredible. On one side, it is possible to see the whole of Vang Vieng and, on the other hand, the karst mountains that are close to the city.
Night Market in Vang Vieng
Like most of the main cities in Laos, Vang Vieng also has its own night market. It starts in front of the Silver Naga Hotel and continues along the entire length of the city.
Food stall at Vang Vieng night market
The Night Market has a good number of street food stalls, places to have drinks, and several souvenir shops for those visiting the city.
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This market has been less frequented lately, much due to the presence of many cafes and restaurants. This allowed a more peaceful stroll along with the market.
Jungle Party: parties in the forests
In addition to being a village with lots of nature, there are plenty of crazy parties in this quiet village. They are parties organized by tourists and some locals and are usually held every Friday, in a natural environment.
Fazer aulas de Yoga
Yoga is an ancient practice that has numerous variations, or paths. For example, Bhakti, Jnana, Raja, Karma, Kundalini, and – the best known in the West – Hatha Yoga, just to give a few examples.
In Vang Vieng, it is possible to practice Hatha Yoga in various places in the city. And it is an excellent way for those looking to relax after all the tours and activities that Vang Vieng offers.
Tourists who like adrenaline and practice adventure activities on their trips, such as cycling and climbing, can enjoy after a beautiful Yoga class outdoors. Taught by a graduated instructor who knows what he is teaching, of course.
Tubing in Vang Vieng
Tubing is one of Vang Vieng’s most famous and popular activities. It consists of sitting on a tire and letting yourself be carried away by the waters of one of the city’s lakes or rivers.
The best place to do the tubing is to go up in a minivan to the Nam Song river, lie on a tire and then float calmly along the river.
Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos
In the past, the practice of tubing was much more free and easy, and anyone could practice the activity whenever they wanted.
Unfortunately, several deaths caused by accidents with this practice have caused the Lao government to adopt security measures.
Landscape seen from the Nam Song river in Vang Vieng
Ainda é possível praticar o tubing, porém é preciso seguir estritamente alguns regulamentos de segurança importantes, que estão sobretudo ligados com consumo de alcóol em excesso e andar por zonas mais perigosas.
Não precisam ficar assustados com esse risco. Basta apenas que sigam as recomendações do governo e dos organizadores e aproveitem bem esta relaxante atividade em Vang Vieng.
Hiking in Vang Vieng
Something that cannot be missed during a trip through Vang Vieng is the walks around nature.
Nature walks in Vang Vieng
This crazy little town in Laos has several trails and paths where you can go hiking all day. But especially during early morning and late afternoon in Vang Vieng, when the weather is more pleasant.
Anyone visiting Vang Vieng cannot fail to take walks in the city and discover all the beauty that the place has to offer.
Boat and Kayak Tours
Tubing is not the only way to go down the Nam Song River. It is possible to take this tour also by kayak. At this point, it is possible to rent a kayak to split and descend the river.
Kayak in Vang Vieng, Laos
On kayak trips, you barely have to row to go along the river path. They can enjoy the currents and head to the rice fields grown in the city, as well as caves that can be visited.
It is straightforward in Vang Vieng to rent kayaks almost anywhere in the city.
The Nam Song River seen from above in Vang Vieng
In addition to kayaks, it is also possible to take boat trips in Vang Vieng. So, there is no shortage of fun solutions in the water, which is excellent for a village like this, where temperatures can reach 40º.
Rock Climbing in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is known for its karst mountains and limestone hills. Two viewpoints already mentioned in this article are even part of these rock formations.
Because of this, the practice of climbing is quite popular with tourists who visit the city. And every year, several tourists venture up Mountains like Phangern and Nam Xai.
However, tourists do not need to go climbing hills like these two without any kind of preparation. There are climbing schools scattered around Vang Vieng, where they can take theoretical and practical classes that guarantee a safer climb.
Which makes Vang Vieng ideal for people looking for adventures safely. Since they will be able to take advantage of the adrenaline of climbing with the right knowledge to climb without problems during the route.
Remembering that it is possible to have guides during the climb, making the journey more comfortable.
Zip Lining in Vang Vieng
Another activity in Vang Vieng for those who love adventure is the practice of Zip Lining.
It is possible to practice this activity in different places in Vang Vieng and its surroundings, where you can slide along fast lines, even in the middle of the nature of the village.
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The best thing is the view that you have up there, from where you can contemplate the mountains, as well as the stunning rice fields grown in the city. This is if your focus is no longer on your fear of heights.
Ballooning through Vang Vieng Village
Vang Vieng also has hot air balloon rides. This tour is offered by several tour companies that operate on trips to Vang Vieng.
Andar de Balão logo ao nascer do sol em Vang Vieng, Laos
Those who are not afraid of heights and want to have a panoramic view of the city and the surroundings of Vang Vieng simply should take this tour. From up there, you can see incredible and distinctive landscapes, such as Jade Hued rice paddies.
They can also see the mountains and limestone formations present in the region, the caves, and waterfalls, not to mention the environments within the city.
Rent a mountain bike
In Vang Vieng, the bicycle turns out to be the best means of transport to explore the village and many of the nearby natural destinations. For beautiful trails, go west of Nam Song.
Cycling through nature in Vang Vieng, Laos
However, the most common thing about cycling in Vang Vieng is to go to the Blue Lagoon or explore the beautiful villages that are outside the city.
And yes, rice paddies are also a great Vang Vieng spot for cycling.
Watch Friends in Vang Vieng
This seems trivial, and some don’t like the series. But it is impossible to go to Vang Vieng and end the trip without watching an episode of Friends.
The series is present in all cafes in the city, not to mention other establishments. The townspeople are in the habit of watching this series continuously in these places. Which is practically a city tradition.
How to get around Vang Vieng
Knowing what you can do in Vang Vieng, we will now know how to move around the city.
Between individual vehicles and for families or small groups of people, it is possible to walk around the city by own or rented car, motorcycle, or bicycle.
Bus station in Vang Vieng, Laos
Among commercial options, Vang Vieng has the bus, minibus, minibus sleeping bus, and Vip Bus. Although the latter is more used for trips between Vang Vieng and other cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
And speaking of that, anyone in Vientiane or Luang Prabang, for example, can use either the VIP Bus or the Minivans to get to Vang Vieng and vice versa.
As Vang Vieng is right on the mountain, on the route between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, it always ends up being a stopping point, staying almost halfway between both cities, about 4 hours away.
The route is very unpleasant, with constant curves and counter-curves, which turns out to be a terrible trip for those who get sick quickly.
Best Vang Vieng Restaurants
This article would not be complete without a visit to the restaurant options that Vang Vieng has to offer.
This city of Laos has a good number of restaurants, some local, but the majority are very touristy. There you will find all kinds of food, from pizza, pasta and, of course, local cuisine.
Main street of the small village of Vang Vieng in Laos
Some restaurant options you can try in Vang Vieng:
- Il Tavolo: an Italian restaurant that is run by a father and son. The food is as authentic as that found in the European country, and there is simply nothing left to be desired.
- Chaleun: this is a local cuisine restaurant by Vang Vieng. Among its famous dishes is Chicken Satay, which comes with a free fruit shake.
- Café eh eh: a small Australian owned café located next to the Elephant Crossing Hotel. The establishment has an excellent cafe at a very affordable price and is popular with tourists. There you will be encouraged to try the kombucha.
- Sababa Organic Restaurant: Pad Thai is the typical dish of this family restaurant, which is located next to the café eh eh.
- Sabaidee Hamburger: This establishment features delicious hamburgers combined with hand-cut fries.
- Gary’s Irish Bar: Tourists should try the fish and chips at this bar when they visit Vang Vieng. Also, they have a ping pong table.
Places to stay in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng has a large number of rooms for tourists, from hotels to guesthouses. The price also fluctuates a lot. With options for the ones who want cheaper accommodation and those who are willing to spend more for a good hotel.
Elephant Cross Hotel Vang Vieng
Among the most recommended options for tourists when they go to Vang Vieng are the Elephant Crossing Hotel, the Silver Naga Hotel and Inthira Vang Vieng. These three are especially recommended for those looking for a hotel located in the heart of the city.
Another option is the Real BackPacker Hostel, ideal for those looking for a cheap room to spend the night in the city.
There is also Amari Vang Vieng with its incredible view and the Guesthouse Maylay, which mixes beauty and simplicity like no other in the city.
Best time to visit Vang Vieng
When planning a trip, many tourists often search for the best time of year and the climate of the place to travel. And with Vang Vieng, this Lao city is no different.
In the case of Vang Vieng, the best time for the trip will depend a lot on the season and preference of tourists.
For those who like a colder climate, it is best to travel in the dry season, which runs from November to March. March to May is a little more uncomfortable, is recommended for those who like a warmer climate.
Between May and October, the rainy season, it is not recommended to go to Vang Vieng. And the reason for that is that monsoons can make travel difficult.
How long to stay in Vang Vieng
Finally, another point still to be mentioned is how long the tourist should spend in Vang Vieng.
To begin with, the city is small. However, it has many activities and things to do. This could lead many to believe that a week could be a short time to spend in this Lao city.
However, Vang Vieng is still a small village in the middle of the capital Vientiane and the old capital Luang Prabang. There are many things to do in Vang Vieng, but the city itself is too affected by tourism, which, for those looking for more local nature, ends up losing interest.
Thus, three to four nights is enough time to enjoy the trip to this city and discover its charms.