Vang Vieng is a tiny town in central Laos that is one of the most infamous destinations along the Banana trail in Southeast Asia. Once known as a backpackers party haven, Vang Vieng was most known for its tubing and epic nights out.
But in 2012 Vang Vieng decided to shut down the river bars and the town has worked tirelessly to rebrand itself as the place for outdoor adventure, highlighting its natural beauty, adding a number of things to do in Vang Vieng that attract a more diverse range of travellers.
Vang Vieng sits along the Nam Song River with a backdrop of mountains and while concrete buildings are forever rising in town it’s only in search of the best view.
The party scene hasn’t fully disappeared here yet but you can safely visit for a serene getaway in nature now too.
How to Get to Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is located between two major cities in Laos, Luang Prabang and the capital, Vientiane. Depending on the route you take through Laos, you will most likely arrive at one of these cities first before making your way to Vang Vieng.
Getting from Vientiane to Vang Vieng
If you are taking an overnight bus from Vietnam, Vientiane will be your dropping off point. From Vientiane buses and minivans leave throughout the day with VIP options available that are very affordable. This journey will take between four and six hours (but always plan for longer, it is Southeast Asia!).
Getting from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
Luang Prabang will most likely be your first stop if you’re arriving from Thailand. Aim to travel by VIP or express services as the local buses can be very slow and uncomfortable. This journey should take between six and eight hours. Both journeys are comfortable enough although motion sickness can be a problem for some so the big bus (VIP) is recommended. Shared transfers are also an option.
For travel in Laos and Southeast Asia 12Go is an ideal option to let you know what prices to look for and what options you have.
Things to do in Vang Vieng
Discover what to do in Vang Vieng for every type of traveller.
Swim in a Blue Lagoon
The blue lagoon in Vang Vieng is one of the top things to do in Vang Vieng but in all honesty, it’s not really that blue, depending on which time of the year you visit. The best time to see the famous blue colour is from September to March.
It is still a nice break from town and a place to relax for a few hours. You will find a large carpark, food and drink stalls and a host of locals and tourists dipping in and out of the water.
There is a cave located nearby with a statue of the sleeping golden Buddha which closed during the rainy season (June-August).
There are still another two blue lagoons just outside of town which aren’t as popular. All tuk tuk drivers will know how to get to the blue lagoons, 1 (the most famous), 2 and 3 (the best because there are fewer people).
Vang Vieng Tubing
This is the activity that had made Vang Vieng into a backpacker paradise and a notorious party destination. After a number of deaths the Laotian government put in place regulations for safety measures but tubing hasn’t been totally banned.
You can still hop in a minivan which will take you to Nam Song River with a bunch of other backpackers who are ready for a day in the sun and water with drinks in hand.
Grab your inner tube and float down the river where ropes will be thrown out to pull you in so you can enjoy drinks on land, laze in hammocks or play some volleyball.
The river bars close once the sun begins to set and everyone moves into the town to continue the party and experience Vang Vieng nightlife.
Explore the Vang Vieng Mountains
The countryside around Vang Vieng is extremely beautiful and there are plenty of opportunities to explore at your own leisure or as part of a tour. Two of the best viewpoints are from Phangern Mountain and Nam Xay Mountain, both of which are easy enough to get to for beginners.
Kayak Along the River
Kayaking in Vang Vieng is one of the best ways to experience the surrounding nature. You’ll barely have to paddle as the current will take you past rice paddies and caves that you can check out. Kayak rentals are available throughout town and most likely at your accommodation too. Kayaking tours are also available that take you into a cave too.
Go Chasing Waterfalls
Kaeng Nyui Waterfall is a short, 20-25 minute drive away from Vang Vieng but it’s worth the drive and hike to get to it. You could technically walk it but it’s far so it’s recommended to take a motorbike or get a driver with a truck if you have a group.
It’s best to visit Kaeng Nyui waterfall during the rainy season from June-September when it’s at its most powerful. You’ll start your hike at the bottom where there are a few smaller waterfalls and make your way to the top.
Watch Friends With Your New Friends
Not your typical thing to do on your travels anywhere but doesn’t watching Friends with new friends sound awesome? For some weird reason there’s a cafe in Vang Vieng that plays Friends on loop all the time.
Chill out while kicking back on one of their comfy lounge spaces and order yourself a milkshake and settle in for a few hours. It’s also the perfect thing to do if your adventure plans get rained out!
See the Views from a Hot Air Balloon
Hot air balloon rides are a treat in Vang Vieng as they are quite cheap and give you views over limestone mountains and the river. You have the option to take a sunrise or sunset float over the green rice paddies.
Check Out the Caves
There are four caves just outside of Vang Vieng, the Tham Sang Triangle, each of which has an intriguing reason to enter. Tham Sang, the Elephant Cave, is known because there is a stalactite inside shaped like an elephant while another cave, Tham Hoi has a Buddha at the entrance.
All are easy to get to by tuk tuk, motorbike or bicycle. Caving tours are also a popular option.
Experience the Thrill of Zip Lining
There is a kayaking and zip lining adventure that you can take so you can literally soar over the lush rice paddies from above for epic views from a mountain. Sounds awesome, right?
Get Adventurous Rock Climbing
There are a number of rock climbing schools and locations for you to test your skills on beginner to expert level climbs. Some courses run year-round so you can still give it a hand during the rainy season. Half and full-day rock climbing experiences are available.
Take a Walk in the Rice Paddies
Not so adventurous but a totally relaxing and well deserved time in nature for you to be at peace. There are wooden paths that lead you through the flooded rice paddies with the limestone mountains as your backdrop.
Hit one of the restaurants or bars lining the Nam Song River for an easy-going evening as the sun sets and you have a happy hour cocktail in hand. The cocktails to begin are cheap so get ready to tuck in for a few sweet drinks (or beers) and a river breeze.
Get Your Yoga On
All of the adventure activities can get you feeling tight and your adrenaline pumping so what better way to wind down than a yoga class that will help you loosen up? You can have your class lead by an expert instructor while you take in the surrounding scenery.
Yoga in Vang Vieng is the yoga studio to check out.
Stop by the Night Market
The night market runs the length of the town (I said it was tiny!) and has a number of street food stalls, drinks and a large selection of souvenirs. Luckily the market is pretty quiet considering the number of tourists in Vang Vieng so you can explore and eat without crowds.
The market starts in front of the Silver Naga Hotel.
Vang Vieng Accommodation
Find where to stay in Vang Vieng to be close to nature or the party place with a bed that it’s in your budget.
Vang Vieng Hostels
- Nana Backpackers Hostel | BOOK NOW: Hostelworld
- Pans Place Guesthouse | BOOK NOW: Hostelworld
- Real Backpacker Hostel Vang Vieng | BOOK NOW: Hostelworld
Mid-Range Vang Vieng Hotels
- Magic Monkey Garden | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
- Vang Vieng centralpark Hotel | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
- Simon Riverside Hotel | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
Luxury Vang Vieng Hotels
- Amari Vang Vieng | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
- Silver Naga Hotel | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
- Eden de Vang Vieng Hotel | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
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