Nong Khiaw is a beautiful rustic little town on the west banks of the Nam Ou River in Laos spanned by a vertiginous bridge and ended by towering limestone crags. It is surely one of the most photogenic spots in Laos with a gorgeous backdrop of imposing limestone mountains and picturesque river views.
This town is famous for backpackers, and new riverside bungalows, tourist-friendly restaurants and travel agencies keep being added to accommodate them.
Nong Khiaw, with the beautiful untouched nature, is an ideal place to explore while combining with Luang Prabang. The journey here makes it all worthwhile. It takes you about three hours by road from Luang Prabang and six hours to discover Nam Ou River by boat. It is a great chance to embark yourself in nature with lush green mountains, grazing water buffalo and you also learn more about Lao rural life in small towns.
Nong Khiaw is alternatively known as Muang Ngoi (the name of the surrounding district). Be careful to avoid confusion between Muang Ngoi Neua, a 75-minute boat ride further north and Muang Ngoi.
The village itself is not very big, but there are plenty of things to keep you active and busy during the day, as well as great ways to relax at night.
Hike to the 100 Waterfalls
The ‘100 Waterfalls’ is an absolutely unique experience. This adventurous trail and trek was only discovered and ‘opened’ for visitors to Nong Khiaw just a few years ago. It’s an adventurous trek. You will stay wet for hours but the scenery is more than rewarding.
You will follow the cascading stream as you ascend the mountain covered in thick virgin rain forest, following the water through dozens of pools, cascades and huge rocks before having a complimentary Lao lunch at the top of the falls in the traditional way – folded banana leaves. Along the way, you will be explained about the local fauna and flora, use of plants for traditional medicine, and local culture and traditions.
After lunch, it’s time to relax in the pools before making your way down the other side of the mountain, and returning by boat to Nong Khiaw. Remember to wear closed shoes, sturdy sandals or hiking boots. A zip-lock or diving bag is also recommended to keep cameras and valuables dry.
Hike to the caves
There are two different caves near Nong Khiaw, but the most famous is the Tham Phatok Cave south of town (east of the river), which can be reached in an easy walk (around 1 – 1.5 hours) along the paved road, or you can rent a bicycle in town and get there in 20 minutes. Entrance for the cave is 5,000 kip ($0.63) and another 5,000 for a flashlight.
After visiting the cave, you can walk back to town through the paddy field. If you are looking for the more leisure, and interesting way back to town, check with the people at the “ticket table, you can rent a small motorboat from the locals, which will cost around KIP50,000 (about $6.25)
Rent a bicycle and explore the surrounding area of Nong Khiaw
You will be given chance to enjoy the breathtaking view here by bicycle. There are several places on both sides of the river that rent bikes. You can either follow the dirt road east of the river north out of town and visit the cave, a small village and waterfalls; or ride on the paved road south towards the mountains. Riding can be challenging but you will be amazed at the stunning landscape.
Relax in an herbal steam bath
Relax in an herbal steam bath cannot be missed in your list. It is a very relaxing activity. It costs about 15,000 kip ($1.85). Herbal tea, taken during frequent breaks, is included in the price, and you will leave feeling truly relaxed and cleared out of any congestion.
Take in the sunset from one of the riverside bars
Watching the sun setting over the mountains and seeing the sky turn purple while sipping a cool Beer Lao is a nightly ritual. It is the great chance to relax and all your worry seem to fall away.
One day boat excursion to Muang Ngoi, Waterfalls, and the villages along the way
This is one of the most exciting day to spend while you are in Nong Khiaw. Starting the day with a boat ride upstream the Nam Ou River, and make the first stop at the riverside village, where we can visit the local school, watching the children attending the classes, or playing in the ground. From there, we will walk to Ban Sopkong, the ethnic Khmu village, and 01-hour trek from the river. We then continue onward to the nearby Tad Mork Waterfalls, which nests inside the beautiful virgin nature, where we can swim, and enjoy the fresh cool water before having the picnic lunch by the falls.
In the afternoon, we will cruise a bit further to Muang Ngoi, visiting around if time permits, or enjoying the cold drink at one of the riverside bars. Along the way back to Nong Khiaw, it is worthwhile visiting the village of Ban Sopvan, before cruising down the Nam Ou River whilst the sun is setting behind the mountains. From Ban Sopvan, there is also the option to enjoy the kayaking down, or floating with the tube back to Nong Khiaw
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