In the days of old Vang Vieng had a rather wild reputation. The reason for this was that it attracted a young crowd who liked to sample the cheap drinks and swim in the river. Predictably, this led to a number of accidents over the years and in 2012 the local Lao government decided to clean up Vang Vieng’s image. This has meant that Vang Vieng has become a little less wild and a little more focused on cultural activities instead of hard partying.
That said, you can still find an exciting nightlife scene here as well as a huge number of local cafes, eateries and bars. Another key reason to come here is to enjoy the idyllic river scenes and also explore the neighboring limestone caves, many of which have gorgeous swimming holes located inside.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Vang Vieng…
1. Visit Tham Nam
Tham Nam has the claim to fame of being one of the most important and pretty caves in Vang Vieng.
The inner chamber runs for some 500 meters and the Nam Song River has a small offshoot that trickles through the cave.
If you visit during the rainy season you can tube inside the cave, although in the dry season the water levels are usually too low to do this.
As you go through the cave you can check out the stalagmites and stalactites, rock crystals and cave dwelling critters.
2. Go tubing
One of the activities that Vang Vieng is most famous for is the chance to go tubing down the charming Nam Song River.
Once at the riverside, you can pay a small fee to hire a rubber tube and then float down the river which is also lined with cafes and places to stop off along the way.
You can also just tube in front of a number of restaurants which means that you don’t have to stray too far and you can happily spend the full day floating around and enjoying the majestic yet serene surroundings.
3. Have lunch at the SAE LAO Project
The SAELAO Project is located in Nathang Village which is some 7 kilometers outside of the center of Vang Vieng.
This project was set up to provide sustainable development opportunities for the local community and you can come here to learn about how the volunteers teach English to the villagers, help with organic farming and build sustainable buildings in the area.
You can volunteer to help out at the project if you wish, but if you are just passing through then you can visit the onsite restaurant which is run by the local community and try some toothsome Laotian dishes.
4. Go caving at Tham Loup
Tham Loup, or Tham Loub as it is also known, is one of the more rustic caves which has hardly been touched inside, and this is the reason why many people choose to come here.
The cave is also known for its large collection of stalactites and if you are looking for a more serene and unhurried cave experience then this is a good pick in Vang Vieng.
5. Rent a mountain bike
If you are looking for some transportation in Vang Vieng then look no further than a mountain bike.
This is one of the easiest ways to explore Vang Vieng and you can also rent a bike for as little as KYT 20,000 per day.
Many people choose to ride out to the famous Blue Lagoon Cave or you can also explore the pretty villages outside of Vang Vieng that line the Nam Song River.
If you are feeling adventurous (and active) then you can also go for a ride to the east of Vang Vieng that takes you over gorgeous undulating emerald green hills.
6. Explore Tham Jang
Tham Jang is one of the best known caves in Vang Vieng as it was an important spot in the history of Laos.
This cave was actually the spot of an army bunker when the Chinese invaded Vang Vieng in the 19th century, so history buffs should make sure not to give it a miss.
To get into the cave you will have to walk up a steep set of steps but it is more than worth the additional effort.
7. Go rock climbing
Vang Vieng is surrounded by scenic limestone outcrops and eerie karst formations.
This means that rock climbing is a common pastime here, although you will need to have some level of rock climbing experience and a good level of physical fitness in order to do this safely in Vang Vieng.
If you want to go on a rock climbing adventure, then make sure you do so with one of the established rock climbing schools in town.
Also insist on the proper safety equipment and inspect this before you set off on your climb.
8. Try the grilled meats
If you are looking for something local to eat in Vang Vieng then consider checking out the grilled meat vendors that set up along the water front in the evenings.
They usually sell what is known as beeng moo which is basically barbecued pork or you can also try the naam kow which are balls of rice which are mixed with toothsome pork sausage.
As is the custom with Laotian food, all the food is served with plates that are heaped with local salads, herbs and other aromatics so that you can customize your meal.
9. Visit Tham Sang
Tham Sang is one of the smaller caves in Vang Vieng which is noteworthy as it is the home of several images of the Buddha.
There is also a spot known as the Footprint of the Buddha which is said to be a sacred place in the cave and the inside of the chamber is covered in stalactites.
One of these is said to look like an elephant, after which the cave is named.
If possible try to come here as early as possible as this is when the light in the cave is at its most beautiful.
10. Go kayaking on the river
The main artery running through Vang Vieng is the river and with that in mind many of the activities in town center around this majestic waterway.
If you want to do something a little more exciting than tubing and are looking for an adventure, then you can have a go at kayaking.
One of the main kayaking tours will take you to some of the caves around Vang Vieng, and you can kayak up the river and then continue directly on into the mouth of the caves.
There is usually also time to get out of the kayak and go for a swim which will help you cool off after a long day paddling.
11. Go spelunking at Tham Hoi
Tham Hoi is a distinctive cave in Vang Vieng as it has a sizeable Buddha statue located at the entrance.
The inner chamber of the cave is some 30 kilometers long and is made of limestone.
As with many caves in Vang Vieng it has a small lake inside which makes pretty patterns on the ceiling.
Another main reason to come to this cave is that you get to journey through pretty rice fields as you approach the main entrance.
12. Try zip lining
If you want an adrenalin pumping afternoon in Vang Vieng then you can sign up to go zip lining.
This is a fairly new activity in the region and you can travel to Tham Nam, better known as the Water Cave and then whizz through the air on a zip line.
This is also one of the best ways to get a look out over the jungle canopy that surrounds most of the caves in Vang Vieng.
13. Visit Tham Phu Kham Cave
Tham Phu Kham mean “Blue Lagoon” in Lao and is this is said to be one of the most sacred caves in the country.
As you would expect this also makes it one of the most popular spots to visit in Vang Vieng and it is also known for its azure waters (a nod to the name) and large bronze statue of the Buddha.
To get to the cave you will need to travel from Vang Vieng to Ban Na Thong and then hike to the main mouth.
Once inside you can swim in the lake in a cave or you can also try swimming into the inner chamber on a rope.
14. Go hot air ballooning
In recent years a number of tour companies have been offering hot air balloon rides around Vang Vieng.
If you have a head for heights then hop in a basket and float over jade hued rice paddies and past looming limestone outcrops.
This is a great activity if you want to take in Vang Vieng from a completely different vantage point, especially if you plan a ride to coincide with the gorgeous sunsets.
15. Squeeze inside Nam Ou Kham Cave
Nang Ou Kham Cave is one of the less visited caves in Vang Vieng and if you want a more rugged spelunking experience then this is the place to come.
It can be a bit challenging to get inside the cave which has a narrow entrance, but once you manage this you will be rewarded with a large chamber that is more unspoilt than many others that have been developed and adorned with statues in Vang Vieng.
There is no river inside the main chamber but it can get quite wet in the rainy season so make sure to plan accordingly.