Vang Vieng was once a byword for backpackers excess and the devastating effects it can have on a place. In the past this wonderful village surrounded by mountains and stunning rivers was described as a “Paradise Lost”, engulfed by the drunken backpackers who would pass through without a care for the culture or indeed the opportunities for true adventure travel here. But today the town is a very different place, especially if you venture out of the centre! Now it really is a paradise for those seeking all the thrills, views and culture Laos can conjure up! A true wonderland once again, here’s our top things to do Vang Vieng!
Things to do Vang Vieng:
Go hiking in this magical landscape through jungles and up mountains
Vang Vieng is surrounded by amazing mountains and lush jungles, it would be a shame not to explore these wonderful surroundings. Heading across the river and beyond the first set of bungalows are several easy hikes to be taken, all of which will leave you in awe of this magnificent place. Following the trail of plastic bags used as flags through the countryside will bring you to a small peak topped with a red flag called Pha Poak. From the bottom it might look rather modest, but take the steep scramble up to the top and you will be rewarded with jaw dropping views at every angle! Head further passed here and you will find yourself trekking deep within the jungle! This is such a cheap and rewarding entry on our things to do Vang Vieng list.
The entrance price for the mountain is 10,000 kip / £1
Explore hidden cave systems by torch light
It will come surely as no surprise that with such a mountainous karst region comes many hidden caves and crevices. These limestone features have worn down over thousands of years to create magnificent voids within the peaks that can be explored by the brave and intrepid. There are quite a few caves around Vang Vieng, the most popular being Pha Thao Cave 11km out of town. However our favourite was the lesser visited Lusi Cave, this place is actually a lot bigger than you first imagine taking almost an hour to explore it all and get back out. Made even more intense also by the fact it is only accessible via torch light and you will be likely the only people in there…apart from the huge huntsman spider that is!! For sheer adventure this is one of the top things to do Vang Vieng!
The cave entrance price is 10,000 kip / £1
There is also Tham Nam, the water cave available on several tours from the centre of town, this takes you on an adventure tubing through an eerie spider filled cave in the pitch black! What could be better!?
Climb on the amazing limestone cliffs
Vang Vieng is also a rock climbers mecca. It not only features many developed routes and crags for the more well rehearsed climber but there are also easier walls and scrambles available all over town. You can choose to rent your own gear out from the many shops in town or take a guide for a lesson in the art of clinging to rock with your fingertips! We didn’t get to do any actual rock climbing here because the weather was just too hot, but we were well informed it was much like the amazing limestone over in Yangshuo. However we did take the opportunity to do some amazing scrambling up some of the smaller mountains here called Pha Poak. The views speak for themselves!
Spend a lazy day tubing on the river
Tubing on the Nam Son river hasn’t had the greatest of reputations over the years. It has been seen as the ultimate activity of the drunk, disrespectful and downright idiotic backpacker. However after the authorities cleaned up the river of the illegal bars, drug fuelled raves and death trap swings we are here to tell you tubing in Vang Vieng can be something completely different. We headed out on the water for a peaceful float down this lazy river, instead of stopping off at bars we were laid back taking in the stunning scenery around us. There is no better way to see both the sheer beauty of the area as well as having the most relaxing day you could imagine! Don’t be put off by previous reputations, tubing is one of the best things to do Vang Vieng!
Renting the tube costs: 50,000 (£5), plus a returnable deposit of 60,000 (£6)
Read more about it here: Tubing in Vang Vieng
Take a leap of faith or just a dip at the Blue Lagoon!
Vang Vieng has no shortage of amazing water to take a dip in, be in inside a cave, on a tube or after jumping 35ft from a tree!! Over at the blue lagoon a few km from town you will find a haven for both the adrenaline junkie within you and also the relaxation seeker! The natural phenomenon set in the stunning karst mountains of Vang Vieng shines a light turquoise colour in the blistering Laotian sun. Here you can climb the tree that overhangs the water and test out your bravery from its highest point at 35ft / 10m! If that’s not your cup of tea then instead relax on the many low swings that sit in the water and watch the others take the leap into this wonderful water!
Get lost in the amazing countryside and take in local life
Whilst Vang Vieng town centre itself might not be much to look at the surrounding countryside is awash with local culture and beautiful farmlands. Set to the backdrop of the jungle covered mountains taking just a short walk from the bars and noise of Vang Vieng itself you will find yourself completely surrounded by untamed nature and fascinating culture. Out here many local ways still remain despite the invasion of tourism in the centre. Rickety bamboo bridges cross the river, leave covered shelters house farmers in their fields and children play happily in the river! Without costing you a penny and one of the best things to do Vang Vieng seeing real life here is such a wonderful experience.
Catch unforgettable sunsets
Vang Vieng just seems like one of those wonderful places that never fails to provide you with the perfect sunset…even on the dullest of days. It’s unique climate, mountain ridges, open fields and stunning river allow a multitude of locations from which to watch the glowing orange sun dip below the horizon. There are also balloon rides for those brave enough to float above this magical landscape at this most beautiful of times. Those of us with a smaller budget can wander over to the sunflower fields behind the river for one of the most awe inspiring sunsets we’ve ever witnessed.
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