When backpacking in South-East Asia, I spend some days in Nong Khiaw, Laos and really enjoyed the serene environment. The little town is located on the banks of the Nam Ou River and is surrounded by limestone karsts and high mountains. There are plenty of things to do in Nong Khiaw, some great places to eat and nice places to stay. I’ve collected several tips in this comprehensive travel guide to Nong Khiaw, Laos. Enjoy reading!
How to get to Nong Khiaw?
Nong Khiaw is a small town located in Northern Laos, about 7-8 hours away from the capital city Vientiane and 3-4 hours away from Luang Prabang.
Traveling from Vientiane to Nong Khiaw
The easiest way to get from Vientiane to Nong Khiaw is by taking the train (Boten–Vientiane railway) from Vientiane to Luang Prabang and then taking a minivan or bus to Nong Khiaw. The train takes around 3-4 hours and costs between 194,000 and 435,000 kip (about $7-25 USD) per person. In Luang Prabang you can choose to take a bus or minivan to Nong Khiaw.
Traveling from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw
Most people travel from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw. Here are some options to consider:
By bus: There are several buses that run between Luang Prabang and Nong Khiaw each day. The journey takes around 3-4 hours and costs between 40,000 and 50,000 kip (about $5-6 USD) per person, depending on the bus company you choose. Buses can be booked in advance through travel agents in Luang Prabang or at the Northern bus station where you can buy a ticket directly. Remember that the buses are first come first served, so you’re not guaranteed a seat. For this reason I’d recommend arriving as early as possible to buy.
By minivan: If you’re looking for a faster and more comfortable option, you can take an air-conditioned minivan from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw. The trip takes around 3-4 hours and costs between 70,000 and 90,000 kip (about $8-11 USD) per person. You can book minivans in advance through travel agents, online or at the Northern bus station. I recommend booking your ticket online and in advance, so you are guaranteed a seat.
Tip: ensure you go to the bathroom before boarding the minivan or bus as they generally don’t stop for toilet breaks
Getting around in Nong Khiaw
Once you arrive in Nong Khiaw, you can easily explore around on foot as the distance between attractions is quite short. You can also take a bicycle for a more convenient and comfortable journey. Uber and Grab don’t operate in Laos, but Laos has its own ride-hailing app called Loca.
What is the best time to visit Nong Khiaw?
The best time of the year to visit Nong Khiaw is during the dry season, from October to April. During this time, the climate is dry and sunny, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking.
What are the best tings to do in Nong Khiaw, Laos?
There are plenty of activities and things to do in Nong Khiaw that make it a great place to visit. You can explore the stunning limestone cliffs and caves, take a boat trip down the Nam Ou River, go kayaking or hiking, or visit the nearby villages. Below you can find some inspiration:
Take a boat trip from Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoi
A boat trip from Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoi is an amazing experience. The journey takes around 90 minutes and is filled with stunning, breathtaking views of the river, the limestone cliffs, and the lush greenery that surrounds it. You need to buy the ticket on the spot, a few minutes before the boat leaves. It costs 25.000 kip per person, one way. There are two boats per day. Please ask your ho(s)tel for the actual times.
Once you reach Muang Ngoi, it is easy to explore the area and take in the small village atmosphere. The village is actually not more than one long street. At one end of it, there is a buddhist temple, which is nice to visit. You can also make a hike to Ban Na, which is only half an hour away on foot. Along the way, you will pass a cave.
Tip: there are multiple homestays and accommodations available in Muang Ngoi if you would like to stay a little longer. Riverview Bungalows & GH is a recommended place to stay.
Visit the Tad Mook Waterfall
One of the best things to do in Nong Khiaw is to visit the Tad Mook waterfall. This waterfall is located in the Sop Kong village, around 15 kilometers from Nong Khiaw. You can reach the Tad Mook Waterfall from Nong Khiaw by taking a tour, renting a private boat or taking a boat to Muang Ngoi and ask to get dropped off in Sop Kong. If you choose the last option, you have to hike back to Nong Khiaw afterwards. The entrance fee to visit the Tad Mook Waterfall is 10,000 kip.
If you like agritourism, I can recommend visiting the Yensabai Organic Farm. You will cross this farm when hiking to the Tad Mook Waterfall. The farm is known for community projects, serving delicious coffee and providing cooking classes.
Climb to the Nong Khiaw Viewpoint
One of the best things to do in Nong Khiaw is climbing to the Nong Khiaw Viewpoint (Pha Daeng Peak). This hike takes around 1-2 hours and you go through jungle and up steep, rocky trails. The peak provides stunning views of Nong Khiaw and the reward of reaching the top is well worth the effort.
Tip: most people hike to this viewpoint during the sunset, but I recommend going before the sunrise. At this time, it’s much cooler and more quiet.
With its clear waters, lush green mountains and limestone cliffs, kayaking in Nong Khiaw is something I can recommend. Most of the ho(s)tels that are located at the river, provide kayak rental.
Climb to the other viewpoints
Aside from the Pha Daeng Peak, there are a few other viewpoints to explore around Nong Khiaw. Located close to the bus station, you can find the Sleepy Lady Viewpoint and close to the river the Som Nang Viewpoint. I have no experience with these viewpoints, but heard they are well worth a visit if you like climbing.
Have a herbal steam bath
For a traditional Lao experience and to relax, try a herbal steam bath in Nong Khiaw. Herbal steam baths are believed to have many health benefits, including improving circulation, relieving muscle tension, increasing energy levels, and improving skin health. If you walk around the village, you can find several places offering herbal steam baths and traditional massages. Expect to pay between 15,000 and 30,000 kip per bath and around 80,000 kip for a Lao massage.
Go rock climbing in Nong Khiaw
Nong Khiaw is well-known for rock climbing. The limestones are rich in cracks and crevices, making it perfect for a variety of climbing techniques. With the help of local guides, you can explore the area and discover the stunning nature.
Visit the Tham Pha Tok Cave
The Tham Pha Thok cave is a leisurely 2-3 km ride from the bridge. You can’t miss it, there’s a massive sign on the road pointing down to the cave. The cave actually consist of three caves that were of significant importance for the Phatet Lao as a hiding place during the Laotian Civil War. There are some signs inside stating who slept where and what each cavern was used for during the bombings. It’s impressive to see and hard to imagine that people lived inside. The entrance fee was 15,000 kip at the time of my visit.
Tip: it’s really dark inside, so bring a flash light.
Sign up for a trek
Nong Khiaw offers some of the best trekking experiences in Laos. There are numerous trekking routes available, from single-day hikes to multi-day treks through the landscape. During these trekking adventures, you will hike from one local village to another, stay in small homestays and explore caves and waterfalls along the way. It’s a great way to explore the area and get up close to the natural beauty. Look for Nong Khiaw Trekking Tours at the travel agencies in town.
Take a tour to the 100 Waterfalls
In Don Khoun, a village about 15 kilometers from Nong Khiaw, you can find beautiful waterfalls. It is only accessible by boat, so you will need to book a tour to get there.
Visit the local market
A great way to experience the local culture in Nong Khiaw is to visit the local market. Here, you can find regular things like fruits, vegetables, local cakes, soups and noodles. The morning market is located on road 1C near the bus station.
Head off cycling
Nong Khiaw is the perfect base for exploring the surrounding area by bike. Try to rent a mountain bike instead of a bicycle, because the countrside is pretty hilly and and the streets are not in the best shape.
Walk to a nearby village like Ban Had Sao
Instead of cycling, you can also walk to nearby villages. A popular village to walk to is called Ban Had Sao. It takes about 30 minutes to reach and it’s the perfect way to explore the countryside and to see how people live in small villages. The area is also known for some smaller and hidden waterfalls.
Have a drink on the river (and watch the sunset)
One of the highlights of Nong Khiaw is the Nam Ou River. The best way to enjoy the stunning views of the rivers and surrounding mountains is to have a drink on the river. There are plenty of riverside bars and restaurants to choose from, offering delicious local dishes and refreshing cocktails.
Where to eat in Nong Khiaw Laos?
There are a number of restaurants in Nong Khiaw where you can eat local food, Western food or Indian food. Here are my favorites:
Couleur Cafe Restaurant – This is a popular spot for lunch and dinner. They serve a mix of Lao and Western food and have a great selection of juices and beer too.
Deen Indian Food – The curries and naan are particularly delicious. They have a great selection of vegetarian dishes.
Delilah’s – If you’re in the mood for some baked goods, head to Delilah’s. They have a great selection of pastries, cakes, and sandwiches.
Q Bar and Restaurant – THE place to watch the sunset and to enjoy some Western meals and cocktails. There’s a pool table and games too.
Make sure to try som Lao dishes like Laap (spicy minced meat salad), Khao Soi (noodle soup), Khao Poon (sticky rice and vegetable dish) and sticky rice with mango.
Where to stay in Nong Khiaw?
When it comes to accommodation, there is a wide range of options in Nong Khiaw. For those on a budget, there are several hostels and guesthouses in town, offering basic but comfortable accommodation. Alternatively, there are a number of mid-range and luxury resorts in Nong Khiaw, offering a more luxurious stay.
Ou River House: my favorite place to stay in Nong Khiaw and a great place for backpackers! Here you can book a double room that floats on the river. You can jump in the water from your accommodation! They also have a great restaurant and some nice areas to chill.
Meexok guesthouse: a small guesthouse that has private rooms. It doesn’t have river views but the rooms are clean, great value for money and you get free tea, coffee, and fruits.
Nam ou view villa: an accommodation that provides mid-range and luxury rooms. The double rooms already have a stunning view on the river. The ambience is peaceful and the staff is amazing. When you book the suite with river view, you can enjoy some more luxury and even have a bath tub with river view.
Arthith Guesthouse: this accommodation has spacious, clean and comfortable rooms. The view from the rooms is to die for! Great value for the price including breakfast.
Mandala Ou Resort: here you can book a private bungalow to stay at. The property has a beautiful swimming pool and a restaurant overlooking the river.
Nong Khiaw is the perfect destination for an unforgettable adventure in Laos. With its stunning landscapes, friendly locals, and incredible opportunities for adventure, it’s definitely worth a visit.
If you have any questions about the above mentioned information, please let me know in the comment section below. I’m happy to help you. Safe travels!
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