Make sure to stop at Vang Vieng if you’re traveling between Luang Prabang and Vientiane in Laos. It may look like just a small town on the map but you can easily spend a couple of days here.
Vang Vieng used to be a party town where drunk and stoned tourists would go tubing down the river to drink even more at the riverside bars. It got a little too crazy, resulting in several deaths each year. The government has made some changes and new rules so it isn’t the crazy town it used to be anymore. But it’s still a great place for backpackers to visit. There are quite a few nice bars and restaurants and some clubs for going out. And the nature around Vang Vieng is magnificent. There are all kinds of activities that are great fun; like kayaking, swimming in a blue lagoon and hiking. On this page I’m telling you all about the top sights and activities in and around Vang Vieng as well as my favorite places to eat and drink.
Activities near Vang Vieng
The best thing to do is book a half day or full day tour at one of the many booking agencies in Vang Vieng. They all offer similar packages for similar prices. A day tour will cost you around 30-35$. You will be picked up at your hotel and lunch is included.
We went on a full day tour (they start at 9am and end at 5pm). A van took us a few miles North where we started with kayaking down the river. It’s a great ride with some exciting small rapids and a beautiful view all along the way. The kayaking lasted about an hour, and I enjoyed every second of it.
We kayaked too ‘Neverland’ where it was time to go ziplining. Some tour operators offer 2 or 3 day ziplining adventures, but we wanted to go on a one day zipline tour as we didn’t have much time. I thought it was great that the ziplines were included in this 1 day tour. You go on about 7 ziplines and the whole experience takes about 40-60 minutes.
After that it was time for lunch. Everyone got rice with vegetables, bread and skewers with chicken and vegetables. There was also some fresh fruit, so if you’re eating vegetarian (like me) you still got enough to eat.
On the same grounds was also a cave in which we went tubing. You all got a big inflated tractor tire tube, a helmet and a headlight. You go tubing down the water in the cave for 5 to 10 minutes and continue on foot.
After that a van took us to a Blue Lagoon. There are actually 3 Blue Lagoons around Vang Vieng. Conveniently called Blue Lagoon 1, 2 and 3. It must be like paradise if you were to be there by yourself, but be prepared for many Asian tourists in orange life vests when you’re there. Nevertheless, it’s a relaxing way to spend your afternoon after the adrenaline rush from earlier. Have a swim, jump off the trees, take a nap in the sun or order a cold Lao Beer at the bar.
The van will drop you off in Vang Vieng again around 5pm. Bring only some necessities on this trip like a small towel and your phone. You’ll get a waterproof bag to put them in. Wear your swimsuit and clothes/shoes that can get wet.
Viewpoints Vang Vieng
There are several beautiful view points near Vang Vieng. You can find them just West of the town. The best way to get there is to hire a scooter or motorbike. You can walk it, but it’s a long walk without any shade and you’ll need your energy for the hike up to the viewpoints.
You’ll have to pay to cross the bridge over the river. After the river you go right straight away and follow the road that turns to the left. After a few miles you’ll see a dirt road on your right with a sign about a viewpoint, a cave and a village. We went in there, and even though I first thought the road didn’t lead to anything as we ended up in a sand pit; you can take a left to get to a small house where you can buy your entrance ticket. You druve a little bit further for the actual start of the trail. It starts with stone steps but will soon be a rocky climb up all the way to the viewpoint. It’ll take you between 45 tot 60 minutes to get there and it’s quite exhausting at times because it’s a steep climb and it’s often very warm. The viewpoint is a bamboo house that gives you a truely magnificent view over the mountains around Vang Vieng.
There’s a sign saying that viewpoint 2 is 100 meters away. It’s actually a bit more, it took us 5 to 10 minutes to reach it. Again you have some beautiful views from here.
There’s also a Viewpoint 3, in about a 5 minutes walk. This part is a bit more challenging as you’ll have to climb over some rocks. But there’s a bamboo handrail all along the way and your climbing will be rewarded. Viewpoint 3 is absolutely the best one of this hike. It’s a wooden platform right on the rocks on top of the mountain. From here you’ll have a beautiful 360° view over the area.
The walk down is of course a bit easier, I guess it took us 20 minutes to get back down. Make sure to wear good shoes and bring plenty of water. There’s usually a lady selling cold water at the entrance.
A bit further away from Vang Vieng is another viewpoint. This Instagrammable viewpoint with an old motorcycle at the top is called Pha Ngeun and is clearly marked with road signs.
Another few miles down the road you can find Nam Xay viewpoint.
Hot air ballooning
Every afternoon you’ll see some hot air balloons flying over Vang Vieng. And even though it’s already a pretty sight to see the balloons at sunset with the mountains on the background, the best view is from the balloon itself of course. You can buy your ticket at one of the agencies in Vang Vieng, you’ll pay around 90$ per person. A van will drive you to the hot air balloon site from where you’ll have a 40-45 minute ride. The views over the mountains, river and town are amazing.
You’ll land North of the town and the van will drop you off at your hotel again.
It’s not cheap, but I thought it was a wonderful experience.
Food Spots in Vang Vieng
At the 2 main streets you’ll find several food stands offering sandwiches, fruitshakes and pancakes. The menu and prices are pretty much the same at all of them. The sandwiches make a great breakfast or lunch. For only 2$ you get a baguette with toppings of your choice. The avocado, egg and cheese combination is my favorite.
The menu at Bamboo bistro is a mix of Lao, Thai and Western food. It’s small and cosy. We actually liked it so much that we went twice. The first time I went for the vegetarian Pad Thai with vegetables and tofu and the second time I felt like a break from all the Asian food and went for a vegetarian burger from chickpeas.
They have quite a few nice vegetarian and vegan options at Bamboo Bistro.
The Other Side
If you cross the walking bridge over the Nam Song River you’ll find 2 restaurants with seats on the water. Reserve a table if you wan’t to be sure of a water side spot. It’s a real local experience where you take your shoes off and sit on a low chair while you enjoy barbecued food.
A little less adventurous as The Other Side, but still great riverfront views can be found at Phubarn Cafe. In a romantic setting you can enjoy a large variety of dishes with a good glass of wine.
Mama Sababa is run by a Lao Jew and has some great Middle Eastern food. The best place to go if you’re craving falafal, pita bread and hummus.
Sakura Bar is a great bar to go for a drink. We were there for New Year’s Eve in Vang Vieng and had a great time at their party. But also on other nights it’s a great spot for a dance or cheap cocktail
Serene Hotel Vang Vieng
We stayed at Serene Hotel in Vang Vieng. This modern hotel is located on the Southern edge of the town. It has a small swimming pool and free breakfast. Our room had a balcony from which you could see the sunset in the mountains.
In this 2 minute movie you’ll see all the highlights from our trip to Northern Laos.