I found the town of Vang Vieng to be one of the most beautiful places I visited during my Laos itinerary. The beautiful karst mountains, the rice fields, the blue lagoons and the caves just make the area incredibly beautiful. When you come here, you may never want to leave again.
A few years ago, Vang Vieng was known for the town where backpackers come to party, drink and tube. After a number of fatalities from the combination of alcohol / drugs and tubing, the government had imposed stricter measures. This makes the madness a thing of the past.
But Vang Vieng is still a popular backpacker destination, and there’s much more to do than just party. I’ve listed the 7 best sights in Vang Vieng down below.
Top 7 things to do in Vang Vieng Laos
1. West Vang Vieng Loop
One of the coolest things to do in Vang Vieng is the West Vang Vieng Loop. This 26 km loop is highly recommended. Along the way you will be treated to the most stunning views.
The loop can be done by mountain bike or by motorbike. Although with the mountain bike is very tough and I wouldn’t highly recommend this. You can rent a mountain bike at Maylyn guesthouse across the water. But the most relaxed way is with the motorbike. You can rent these in the town for about 80,000-120,000 Kip for 24 hours (depending on your negotiation skills).
To start the loop you first have to cross the Namsong bridge. You pay a small amount to cross the bridge. It costs 4,000 Kip as a Pedestrian, 6,000 Kip as a cyclist and 10,000 Kip for scooters and motorcycles. The ticket is valid for a round trip.
The road after the bridge is still paved and of excellent quality. But pretty soon the fine asphalted road turns into a dirt road with loose pieces of stone, which remains the main part of the route. Not very relaxed. That’s why I think that taking the route by mountain bike is very unpleasant …
The image below shows the West Vang Vieng Loop route on the map.
2. Pha Ngern Viewpoint
The most beautiful viewpoint of Vang Vieng is the Pha Ngern Viewpoint. I also thought it was one of the toughest viewpoints. It took me 1.5 hours to get to the top and I had to recover from the ridiculously difficult climb for at least half an hour. To reach the viewpoint, you cannot walk all the way, but you really have to climb via pointed rocks, rickety wooden stairs and narrow bridges.
But on the other hand, your effort will pay off in a fantastic view!
I was very surprised to see that there was a “shop” on top of the mountain made of wooden planks. Here you can buy instant noodles and drinks. I have deep respect for locals who have to climb this viewpoint every week or maybe even every day!
3. Blue lagoons Vang Vieng
When you drive the West Vang Vieng Loop, you will encounter several blue lagoons. These are referred to as blue lagoon 1, 2 and 3.
But in addition to these large lagoons, there are also a number of small, but stunning lagoons. Like the big ones, these are indicated on a sign with a photo along the way. It’s definitely worth visiting these smaller lagoons and chances are you don’t have to share them with anyone!
Most blue lagoons contain small fish. If you sit on the edge with your feet in the water, the fish will nibble on your toes. This way you will be treated to a free fish spa!
The blue lagoons all cost 10,000 Kip each. The lagoons often also have a cave and sometimes a viewpoint. Always bring enough water and food yourself. Food and drinks are not always for sale at the blue lagoons.
Blue Lagoon 1
Blue lagoon 1 is the closest to the city and is also the most visited of all. The blue lagoon is part of many organized tours, so it’s very crowded in the afternoon. Preferably visit the blue lagoon 1 early in the morning. There is a cave (Tham Phu Kham Cave) with a reclining Buddha statue.
Blue Lagoon 2
Blue Lagoon 2 is located in the south of the West Vang Vieng Loop and is a lot of fun to visit. You can jump from a great height off wooden structures and swing into the water with ropes. There are sun beds and picnic tables on the lawn where you can relax. And you can also zipline there!
Blue Lagoon 3
Blue lagoon 3 is the most remote and is therefore the quietest of the 3. There are rafts in the water and there is a wooden construction with a rope with which you can swing into the water. You can also zipline here.
4. Caves in Vang Vieng
Everywhere in the karst mountains of Vang Vieng there are many caves, hundreds of them actually. Also along the West Vang Vieng Loop. But the most famous caves can be found about a half hour drive to the north. In this beautiful area there are 5 caves: Elephant Cave, Water Cave, Phatao Cave, Loup Cave and Hoi Cave.
You can visit these caves through a tour, but the best thing is really to explore them on your own. We were often the only ones in a cave which was quite exciting.
For the Elephant Cave you have to pay 5000 or 10,000 Kip I thought. Inside the cave you will find a small temple with Buddha statues and a stone that resembles an elephant. A little imagination is needed here. The cave itself is not much interesting though.
The Water Cave is, yes, a cave in the water. You explore the cave while you float on an inflated tube and you pull yourself further into the cave with a rope. Of course you’re wearing a head lamp, because it’s pitch dark.
Since I wasn’t wearing swimwear, I tried to keep my clothes dry by choosing the largest possible tube. But after the visit I was still quite wet. So, bring some swimwear! You can also zipline around the Water Cave.
You can explore the Phatao Cave, Loup Cave and Hoi Cave on foot with a head lamp that you get after you’ve paid entrance.
When we arrived at the caves we parked our motorbikes somewhere on a large site. A woman walked up to us, wrote down our number plates and asked for a small amount of money. What for? No idea, but most likely because she sees that we’re tourists.
It’s quite interesting, but in Laos they ask money for almost everything everywhere. Also for the bridge to get to the caves and for the caves themselves. These amounts are often between converted € 0.50 to a few euros, so it isn’t a big deal.
Actually we forgot to have lunch and didn’t see a place nearby to get some food. The locals pointed to a number of wooden houses a few hundred meters away. There was a family having lunch and also wanted to make us a bowl of noodle soup for a small amount of money. And it was the most delicious noodle soup I had eaten on my trip! Super tasty with fresh herbs and vegetables.
A few years ago, tubing was the main activity of Vang Vieng. After the government has imposed stricter rules on alcohol and drug use after many incidents, there is much less tubing. But it is still possible! It’s still a fun activity to do with a bunch of people. But even when you’re alone it’s fine, because you can sign up at some companies who divide you in a group.
6. Hot air balloon in Vang Vieng
A very popular activity is a hot air balloon ride around sunset over the beautiful mountainous surroundings. During my visit I had too little time to make this balloon flight, but I probably would’ve done it otherwise!
The government has imposed stricter measures with regard to alcohol and drug use, but you can still party very well in Vang Vieng. Every hour from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am, you can always get a free drink in a different bar. Alcohol is incredibly cheap in Laos, but I didn’t quite understand the earnings model of giving away free Vodka Cola. Nevertheless, it’s great fun!
Now and then there’s also some kind of Jungle Party a bit out of town.
Best place to stay in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is not very big, but it’s still nice to know what’s the best place to stay.
If you would like to stay and party in the center between the backpackers, look for a hostel near the Sakura Bar. This is the place to be in the evening.
If you prefer to stay in a quieter place, choose a ho(s)tel southeast of the Namsong bridge or just west of this bridge. For example, if you have always wanted to sleep between the rice fields with a view of the karst mountains, choose Vieng Tara Villa. Lao Valhalla Bungalows is also highly recommended for its quiet location and pleasant rooms. Keep in mind that you need a bicycle or scooter to get to the center and book on time!
Restaurant tips in Vang Vieng
Feel like eating some Thai food? At Happy Mango you will undoubtedly eat the tastiest Thai dishes in Vang Vieng. You can eat a delicious pad thai, spicy curries and mango sticky rice here. It’s cheap and very tasty.
After all the rice and noodles, I was very craving for Mexican food, I love that! The dishes at the restaurant Amigos fully met my wishes. The Nachos, Quesadillas and Guacamole were lovely!
How to get to Vang Vieng?
The town is easily accessible from Luang Prabang by bus. This ride takes 5+ hours depending on the route the bus takes. The bus can drive through the mountains or drive around it.
Onward travel from Vang Vieng
From Vang Vieng you can travel further south to Vientiane (about 3+ hours), but also to Thakhek (8+ hours) and even to Vietnam. But if that makes you happy … See here an overview of departure times and travel time from Vang Vieng by bus.