18 Best Day Trips from Vientiane, Laos

Want to get away for the day? Our insider’s guide to the top day trips from Vientiane, Laos will help you discover the best attractions and hidden gems within a short distance from the city center.

Travelers and residents enjoy Vientiane for its laid back, bor pen yang vibe and shabby-chic charm. The Laos capital might not blow you away with stunning architecture, historical sites, or state of the art infrastructure. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t lots to love about this unassuming capital city on the Mekong.

In this article, you’ll find a handpicked list of fun and totally worthwhile Vientiane day trips within an hour drive from the city.

Here are the top day trips from Vientiane, Laos:

1. Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)

Buddha Park statues near Vientiane Laos

We’ve written a lot about Vientiane’s venerable Buddha Park over the years, and for good reason! It’s a unique place you simply won’t find anywhere else (well…except for the other Buddha Park across the river in Thailand).

In our minds, Buddha Park is one of Vientiane’s top day trips, which is why we make sure to take all our visitors there at least once.

Buddha Park is weird, spiritual, terrifying, uplifting, and so much more! Where else can you crawl into a four-story giant pumpkin?

Time Commitment

Plan on a 40-minute journey from Nam Phou fountain (central Vientiane) in the direction of the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (public transport is available); 30-60 minutes exploring Buddha Park—add more time if you opt for lunch at their excellent on-site Lao restaurant.

Nearby Attractions

  • Inpeng Culture Park (#16)
  • Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre (local handicrafts, learning)
  • Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (convenient for those heading on to Thailand)

Read our helpful article, Buddha Park: The Hidden Gem of Greater Vientiane, including tips on getting there!

2. Tha Ngon Floating Restaurants

Laotian floating restaurant
Vientiane Day Trip: Local lunch on the water.

Another one of those quintessential Laotian experiences, having lunch on a thatch-covered boat motoring slowly down the river.

These days, you’ll be hard pressed to find this experience on the Mekong. Most locals will tell you to head north out of town to the community of Tha Ngon, distinguished by its aging steel bridge over the picturesque Nam Ngum river. From the bridge, it’s hard NOT to spot the floating restaurants, as they are everywhere!

Find the Tha Ngon Floating Restaurants on the map.

Time Commitment

About an hour drive (50km) from the city center (Nam Phou fountain), straight up Route 10; 30 minutes to two hours at Tha Ngon, depending on how long you opt to stay on the water.

Nearby Attractions

  • Tad Xangthevada waterfall/ river complex (#14)
  • Na Deer Park
  • Laodi distillery with a little backtracking (#7)

3. Nam Ngum Lake Tour

tour boat on lake in Laos
Vientiane Day Trip: Cruising Nam Ngum Lake (Chaoborus / Wikimedia Commons)

Take a half day boat cruise on the scenic Nam Ngum reservoir.

Most boats depart from the small village just south of the Nam Ngum Dam 1 complex. There are also tour agencies in Vientiane that can arrange a day trip for you, such as Green Discovery.

Time Commitment

90-minute drive from Vientiane; One hour cruise plus additional time for lunch and any other activities along the way.

Nearby Attractions

  • Van Sang Buddhas (#17)
  • Nam Ngum 1 hydroelectric dam

4. Champa Garden Restaurant

stilted restaurant huts
Lao food on the water, and a sprawling botanical garden.

Just a 10 km drive north of the city center, Champa Garden Restaurant offers delicious Lao food in garden huts set around a manmade lake.

It’s the quintessential Lao family weekend experience accessible to anyone.

While this restaurant model is quite common around town (and there are certainly similar experiences much closer to the city center), Champa Garden has something you won’t find anywhere else in Vientiane: A sprawling Champa flower garden, complete with water features and viewing platforms!

Time Commitment

30 minute drive (14 km) from city center/ Nam Phou Fountain; 1-2 hours at the grounds, depending on how long you take to explore the flower garden.

5. Wealth Coffee Shop & Nature Trails

hiking with baby in Laos
Vientiane Day Trip: Walking/ hiking/ trail running/ biking Wealth Coffee’s nature trails.

It’s no secret that there isn’t a lot of proper nature hiking to be had in this part of Laos. The nature trails at Wealth Coffee are one of the few exceptions.

The multi-use trails are popular with hikers, walkers, trail runners, and mountain bikers, and are maintained by Wealth Coffee, an excellent little coffee shop and restaurant right onsite.

Grab your favorite caffeinated beverage and hit the trails, then stop for lunch on the way back before heading back to Vientiane.

Makes for a great Saturday morning away from the motorbikes and construction that increasingly define Vientiane capital.

Time Commitment

40 minute drive (30 km); 1-2 hours at the property, depending on your pace/activity and whether you choose to dine in at Wealth Coffee.

Nearby Attractions

  • Tad Moun Waterfalls river complex (#12)
  • Phou Phanang Cycle Route (#11)
  • Wat Tham Phra (#8)

Read more in our article, Hiking Wealth Coffee Nature Trails.

6. Lao Textile Museum

stilted home in Vientiane
Vientiane Day Trip close to town: Lao Textile Museum.

A bit closer to the city center, the Lao Textile Museum complex is a unique living museum and active textile producer.

The brainchild of a Japanese transplant, the grounds are peaceful and evocative. Structures are beautiful traditional Lao replicas from a bygone past when Vientiane Lao were more concerned with perfecting their time-honored craft than chasing plastic smart phone dreams.

See the old craft of dying and weaving revived and don’t forget to grab a cup of Indigo tea before you leave this oasis of calm and serenity.

Time Commitment

20 minute (6 km) drive from Nam Phou fountain; One hour at the museum.

7. LAODI Distillery

For a different kind of day trip from Vientiane, rent a van with a designated driver, load it with friends or family and head up to Central Laos’ flagship rum distillery, LAODI, for an afternoon of local craft rum tasting.

LAODI’s pure sugarcane rum is produced in a variety of flavors, something for every taste and palate. Take a tour and see the process from start to finish, then settle down for some tasty sampling.

If a day trip doesn’t strike your fancy but you’d still like to sample all of LAODI’s offerings, head on over to Laodi Bar Mekong in the heart of Vientiane’s downtown Mekong Zone for a taste of the regional hooch and some of the best sunsets in town.

Time Commitment

60 minute journey (50 km) from city center; 1-2 hours onsite.

8. Wat Tham Phra Buddha Images Cave Temple

Buddha shrine near Mekong
Join the locals in quiet contemplation and explore this intriguing temple complex.

A visit to this unique rock, cave, and temple complex (also called Tham Pha Leusi) just outside of the city is worth for the drive along the Mekong alone.

It’s best done, however, with a visit to nearby Wealth Coffee & Nature Trails (see above), or on the way to/from hiking around Phou Phanang National Protected Area and Tad Moun Waterfalls river complex.

The temple complex, itself, is a peaceful place set among secondary forest with a small network of walking paths connecting the various parts of the sprawling complex.

Please note that this is an active (and sometime popular) place of worship, so please respect worshippers and property, and dress appropriately.

Find Wat Tham Phra on the map.

Time Commitment

30 minute (20km) drive from Nam Phou fountain; 30 minutes at the temple.

Nearby Attractions

  • Wealth Coffee & Nature Trails (#5)
  • Phou Phanang Cycle Route (#11)
  • Tad Moun Waterfalls river complex (#12)

9. Floating Hut Restaurants on Nam Houm Reservoir

floating restaurants at sunset
Lao food on rustic floating huts.

If the thought of enjoying your lunch or dinner with friends or family on the water in Laos intrigues you but you yearn for a more authentic experience than what’s on offer at Champa Garden Restaurant or the floating restaurants at Tha Ngon, then head to the Nam Houm reservoir!

The beach at Angnamhoum Village (across the water from Lao Lake House) has more than twenty covered floating huts made of bamboo and reed.

A number of these can be untied and driven around the inlet (with the help of a boat driver with long-tail motor that can be hired onsite).

Order at the large restaurant hut at the top of the hill, give them the number of your hut, and as soon as your food comes, head out on the lake.

This place is very popular with locals on the weekends, so arrive early to secure a floating hut.

Find on the map.

Time Commitment

60 minute (35 km) drive up Route 13 North from Nam Phou fountain; 30+ minutes on the lake.

Nearby Attractions

  • Lao Lake House (if looking for excellent nearby lodging on the lake)
  • Ban Lak 52 (KM 52 Hmong village) (#10)
  • Vang Sang Buddhas (#17)

10. Ban Lak 52 (KM 52 Hmong village)

Hmong wedding in Laos
Hmong wedding in Laos (Oliver Spalt / Wikimedia Commons).

52 kilometers up Route 13 North, visitors have a unique opportunity in the capital region to explore a Hmong ethnic village.

Here, you can meet weavers and musicians from this ethnic group with a fascinating and bittersweet history, and purchase handicrafts straight from the community.

You can also participate in various Hmong festivals, the Hmong New Year festival, which falls between late November and early December each year, being the most popular.

There are homestays available and some residents even offer accommodation on CouchSurfing.

Find Lak 52 Hmong Village on the map.

Time Commitment

90 minutes (50km) driving from city center; 30-60 minutes to walk around the village, longer if you plan to stay overnight or are around during festival time.

Nearby Attractions

  • Vang Sang Buddhas (#17)

11. Phou Phanang Reserve / Ban Mai Cycle Route

highway near Vientiane Laos
Cycling along the Mekong in rural Vientiane Prefecture.

If being active outdoors is more your style, area cycle clubs offer regular rides from Vientiane, west along the Mekong.

This route has the unique distinction in the capital region of being both well-maintained and not a major highway to anywhere — perfect for cycling.

If you’re visiting for a short time and don’t have your own wheels, Green Discovery offers package tours along this route.

You can also rent a bike in town and do the route on your own. However, the more scenic part of the ride begins several kilometers out of town, so you’ll likely want to get your hands on a swift and lightweight road bike for this excursion.

Alternatively, this activity can be done with a motorbike, and there are several places you can rent one in town for the day for cheap.

Time Commitment

Completely dependent on your time allocation, ability, and bicycle, but 1-3 hours would likely be sufficient for most riders, particularly if you want to avoid riding in the heat of the day.

Nearby Attractions

  • Wealth Coffee & Nature Trails (#5)
  • Wat Tham Phra (#8)
  • Tad Moun Waterfalls river complex (#12)

12. Tad Moun Waterfalls river complex

waterfall and restaurant huts
Vientiane Day Trip: Cool off like a local and enjoy Lao food at this waterfall complex.

This natural water complex along the Phou Phanang protected area access road can be hit or miss, but a visit between June and October (depending on the year) will increase your chances of encountering clean, running water and fully-functioning restaurants.

While the “waterfall” here is little more than a set of gentle rapids, it can be a nice place to cool off on a hot day, depending on the season.

There are a number of rustic huts here with local food, but you can also bring your own and have a picnic in one of the huts along the river for the price of a soda or BeerLao.

Find Tad Moun Waterfalls on the map.

Time Commitment

45 minutes (20km) drive from city center; 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how much eating and swimming you plan to do.

Nearby Attractions

  • A round of golf at the Mekong Golf & Resort

13. Visit an Organic Farm

produce from organic farm
Vientiane Day Trip: Visit an organic farm.

A trip to one of Vientiane area’s growing number of organic farms can be a fun way to spend some time in the countryside and see farm operations in action. Many of the area’s organic farms, in particular, are open to the public on certain days of the week or for special events.

We visited Agro Asie during an open house event, but Phutawen Farm and Panyanivej Farm have regular visiting days and hours (though you might need to contact them ahead of time to confirm and/or make an appointment).

Panyanivej is the closest to the city center and offers visitors hands-on experiences with Lao farming techniques, planting, fishing, harvesting, and more, depending on the season.

Time Commitment

Varies, depending on the location and activities available.

14. Tad Xangthevada Waterfall river complex

river pool near waterfall
Chill out like a local on a hot day.

Like Tad Moun west of Vientiane, Tad Xangthevada is one of a handful of popular area day trips offering natural water features, areas for relaxation, and local food. It is also best enjoyed during wet season (June-Oct)

However, Tad Xangthevada is a bit more developed with a larger waterfall (in the wet season) and a few more activities (like paddle boating), and as a result, tends to attract larger crowds.

While Tad Xangthevada is on the edge of Phou Khao Khouay protected area, it is on the very far western edge of the reserve, and there is no easy access to eastern part which is more popular with foreign tourists.

Find Tad Xangthevada on the map.

Time Commitment

90 minutes (60 km) drive from city center; Pop in for 30 minutes, or stay for most of the day, it’s up to you.

Nearby Attractions

  • Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort & Casino

15. Houey Hong Vocational Center

There are several vocational training centers for women in Vientiane, but none quite like Houey Hong.

Tour the facility and see textile weaving and natural dye technique training in action. Or, sign up for a half-day or full-day workshop and learn how to weave and dye yourself!

Time Commitment

25 minutes (8 km) driving from city center; 30-60 minutes for tour, half-day or full-day for workshops.

Nearby Attractions

  • Lao Textile Museum (#6).

16. Inpeng Culture Park (Waterpark)

No doubt, there are numerous places to cool off on a hot day in and around Vientiane. If manmade waterparks and cold beer are more your thing, head over to Inpeng Culture Park near the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.

To be honest, there’s not a lot of “culture” on display at this Culture Park, unless you count the crowds of local kids jockeying to use the various waterslides and pool toys while their parents sip on glasses of beer and ice on a sunny Saturday.

If you are traveling with kids or are simply looking for a place to cool off on your way to or from Buddha Park or Nong Khai, Thailand, Inpeng might just be what you’re pining for.

Find Inpeng Culture Park on the map.

Time Commitment

40 minute drive from city center; 1-3 hours at the park, depending on your commitment to water activities and poolside lounging.

Nearby Attractions

  • Buddha Park (#1)
  • Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre (local handicrafts, learning)
  • Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (convenient for those heading on to Thailand)

17. Vang Sang Buddhas Archeological Site

Hidden in the woods in Vientiane Province is a mysterious group of Buddha image sculptures carved into rock. Some of the statues are 10 feet high (3 meters) and are believed to date back to between the 10th and 16th century.

This is not a highly-trafficked tourist site by any stretch, and half the adventure of the Vang Sang Buddhas is setting out with this knowledge and actually finding them—definitely one of the more mysterious day trips on our list.

Time Commitment

1 hour 45 minutes (70 km) drive from city center; 30-60 minutes at the site.

Read this Atlas Obscura article for more on the site, including driving directions.

18. Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area

Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to put Central Laos’ beloved national protected area on this because getting there and back (at least to the eastern part of the park where most of the tour operators head to) makes for one heck of a day trip. That’s not to say it’s a bad idea to do it in a day trip, but know that it can be quite the full day.

The park boasts some of the best forest walks, waterfalls, wildlife viewing, and rural village experiences in Central Laos. Sadly, however, elephants (once the park’s key feature) have not roamed the park freely in a decade.

While Phou Khao Khouay can be done on your own, this is one of the few day trips that we strongly recommend be done through an organized tour, particularly if you’re looking to make a day trip out of it.

There are several good operators that run day trips from Vientiane, but Green Discovery is reputed to be one of the best.

2 thoughts on “18 Best Day Trips from Vientiane, Laos”

  1. Wow, I loved all of these ideas! Definitely will try at least one.


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