I had the best time in Vang Vieng and stayed longer than I had originally planned to.
When I was traveling to Vang Vieng from Vientiane (both in Laos, Southeast Asia) I had no idea just how many outdoor activities there are here. Sure, I knew about the tubing and the caves and the BeerLao and the bikini ban but it wasn’t until I arrived that I discovered a ton of other cool things to do. From kayaking, rock climbing and mountain biking to yoga workshops and watching Friends reruns, this eco-conscious little mountain town is actually a whole lot of fun.
Planning on traveling to Vang Vieng? Here’s the top 15 things to do;
1. Go Tubing Down The River
Vang Vieng is most famous for its tubing (ok drunken tubing but you can stay sober these days, it’s allowed!). Tubing down the river no longer goes hand in hand with being wasted but you can stop for a BeerLao or two at the bars along the way and grab a bite to eat at the many cafes lining the river. Or simply lie back and let the flow of the Nam Song River guide the way as you soak up the serene surroundings.
Vang Vieng Travel Tip: Aim to get to the riverside by about 11am, rent a tube then jump in a van to get to the starting point. You’ll need to pay again to get a ride back into town afterwards so bring enough cash with you, most importantly, in a waterproof wallet or it won’t be worth much after your tubing session.
2. Zip Lining Over The Jungle Canopies
You may not have imagined that traveling to Vang Vieng would result in any kind of adrenaline pumping activities, what with its reputation as a chilled-out, boho, backpacker town. Well surprise surprise! Welcome to the Vang Vieng Zip Line experience. If you want an adrenalin fueled afternoon then you can sign up to go zip lining. Travel to Tham Nam, also known as the Water Cave and then sail through the air on a zip line while admiring the jungle canopy all around you.
Vang Vieng Traveler Tip: Zip lining is a relatively new addition to Vang Vieng’s adventure activities and you can find some tours that will combine all the best adventures into one epic day for you; tubing, kayaking, trek through rice paddies, hike mountains and zip line.
3. Float Above Vang Vieng In A Hot Air Balloon
If you’re good with heights then float over Vang Vieng in a hot air balloon to admire its rice paddies, crop fields and stunning natural beauty from a birds eye view. More tour companies are offering hot air balloon rides around Van Vieng these days and for the optimal view, try to plan your ride to coincide with the sunset.
Vang Vieng Travel Tip: If you’ve always wanted to experience a hot air balloon then Vang Vieng might just be the perfect place to do it, especially if you’re on a tight budget. It’s around $100 for a ride, which is very cheap compared to most other hot air ballon rides around the world anyway.
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4. Rock Climb Pha Daeng Mountain
Take advantage of the limestone mountains surrounding Vang Vieng, which offer a great rock climbing opportunity for those with rock climbing experience and a good level of physical fitness. There are so many different locations to go rock climbing in Vang Vieng, but Pha Daeng mountain is considered the best by most travelers here. This is partly due to its easy access (located over the river from town) and the fact that it has dry trails during rainy season so it’s a good all-year-rounder.
Vang Vieng Rock Climbing Tip: Make sure that the proper safety equipment is available before you set off. Also choose one of the established rock climbing schools that’s been around a few years. Word of mouth and recommendations from other travelers when you arrive will be your best bet.
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5. Go Mountain Biking
This is a really fun and easy way to explore Vang Vieng at your own pace and considering it’s only about KYT 20,000 a day (that’s cheap) to hire a mountain bike, there’s really no reason not to give the Tuk Tuk drivers a break. You can ride your mountain bike east towards Vang Vieng’s lush green hills or head to the famous Blue Lagoon Cave and along the Nam Song River stopping in little villages for refreshments and some river gazing as you go.
6. Kayaking On Nam Song River
You’ll find that a lot of the top Vang Vieng travel activities are based on or around the Nam Song River which runs straight through town. If you’ve done tubing already and fancy something a little more hands-on then kayaking down the river is something you should try. This is also an opportunity to kayak into the mouth of some of Vang Vieng’s caves. If the hot sun gets too much, cool yourself down with a secluded swim.
7. Volunteer At The SAELAO Project
Just outside the center of Vang Vieng in Nathang Village you’ll find the SAELAO Project. This aims to provide sustainable development opportunities for Vang Vieng locals and you can can get involved by helping on the organic farm, by helping to build sustainable buildings or by teaching the villagers basic English.
Vang Vieng Travel Tip: If you’re only traveling to Vang Vieng for a short time then stop by anyway to try some delicious Laotian cuisine in the onsite restaurant, all cooked by local community members.
8. Do Yoga In Vang Vieng
You will need to get your zen-on at some point during your stay here. Yoga in Vang Vieng is a great yoga studio with classes and workshops currently held at Silver Naga’s Hotel Yoga Shala. The perfect way to start your day before the tubing, mountain biking or kayaking adventures begin. Alternatively, end your adrenaline-filled day with some much needed muscle-soothing sun salutations. Namaste to that.
Vang Vieng Yoga Tip: Check up-to-date class and workshop times and locations on the Yoga In Vang Vieng studio website.
If you’re traveling to Vang Vieng, make sure you visit at least one of these caves;
9. Than Nam Cave
Tham Nam is considered one of the prettiest caves in Vang Vieng. If you enjoyed your tubing experience then Than Nam is for you because during rainy season you can stay on your inner tube as you cross through the cave with the help of a line of rope over your head. The Nam Song River has a small offshoot that trickles through, however during the dry season the water levels are usually too low to do this.
Than Nam Cave Travel Tip: You will be surrounded by total darkness the moment you enter the cave so do rent a torch so you can see the rock crystals, stalagmites, stalactites and random cave dwelling creatures, without stubbing your toe.
10. Tham Phu Kham Cave
Tham Phu Kham, meaning ‘Blue Lagoon’ in Lao, is said to be one of the most sacred caves in Laos. Combine exploring this traveler’s favorite Vang Vieng attraction with a dip in the Blue Lagoon afterwards.
Tham Phu Kham Tip: Get to the cave by traveling to Ban Na Thong and then be prepared to hike to the main mouth of the cave.
11. Tham Hoi Cave
After you’ve gone through all the rice fields, (don’t worry this is nothing like The Beach movie) you’ll know you’ve arrived at the right cave if you see a big Buddha statue in the entrance. Tham Hoi cave has a 30km long inner chamber made of limestone and also has a small lake inside.
12. Tham Chang Cave
Hire a mountain bike for this trip because Tham Chang Cave is about a 15 minute bike ride outside of Vang Vieng. The upside to this forced exercise is a secluded cave, nowhere near as popular with tourists as Than Phu Kham, and a blue lagoon that if you’re lucky, you get all to yourself!
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13. Tham Loup/Loub Cave
Tham Loup or Tham Loub as it’s sometimes known is one of the more untouched, natural caves with a large collection of stalactites. If you’re looking for a more laidback Vang Vieng cave experience then Tham Loup is a great choice.
14. Nam Ou Kham Cave
How skinny are you? Nang Ou Kham Cave has a very narrow entrance and you’ll have to squeeze yourself inside. If you manage this you’ll find a large relatively un-spoilt chamber. There’s no river running through this one, unlike a lot of the other caves in Vang Vieng but the inside still gets wet during rainy season so wear waterproof clothing and watch your valuables.
Last but not least;
15. Burnt out from just reading this list of things to do in Vang Vieng? Just give up and watch Friends
This is the trippiest thing about Vang Vieng these days. In every place with a TV, and most restaurants and cafes here have 2 or 3 TV’s inside, the only show playing, back to back, is Friends. You will have a moment, while sipping your BeerLao, where you completely forget where you are, (who you are, how you got here… ok no, that’s just me after 2 whole beers). Oh the power of Rachel’s perfect hair and Phoebe’s smelly cat.
Or, watch Friends AND eat carbs;
Actually, talking about trippy things in Vang Vieng, check out this Vang Vieng accommodation for… Voyeurs… Extroverts… Broke Backpackers? You decide:
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Read more on my trip to Vang Vieng: Chillin’ In Vang Vieng, Southeast Asia’s New Oasis Of Calm
Check out the Jetset Bunny Guide To Laos including the basics, things to do, eat, stay and plan: Laos Travel Tips