Complete guide to Nong Khiaw, Laos

A 4 hour bus ride away from Luang Prabang, there is Nong Khiaw. My favorite little town in Laos. It’s no longer an off the beaten track destination, but by no means overrun by tourists yet. It still has all the authentic charm and the locals seem to be genuinely happy to see you there. The kids yelling local greetings at you and the adults happy to stop for a chat. Its location along the Nam Ou river provides beautiful views for and the surrounding mountains some incredible viewpoints to hike up to.

Nong Khiaw (also spelled Nong Khiew, Nong Kiew, Nong Kiau or Nong Kiao) has tons of activities and there are some things I wish I’d known before visiting. So I compiled a little list of my favorite things to do in town in this guide to Nong Khiaw.

Curious about the ideal travel route in Laos? Read more here. 

Climb Pha Daeng for sunset – Viewpoint 1

The most well know viewpoint in Nong Khiaw and one of the easier ones to climb. Its’ possible to make it up in around an hour. But I’d make sure to have at least 2 hours to be safe. The sun sets behind the mountains in the valley and you get the perfect view from this viewpoint. You won’t be alone, as many others will also scramble to make it up in time. There was enough space for all of us thought to enjoy the beautiful sunset. Its advisable to take a torch to light your way down!

Opening times: 6 A.M. to  4 P.M.

Entrance fee: 40 000 kips.

Phar Khew Lom Viewpoint/Pha Kao Viewpoint

This Viewpoint, confusingly goes by many different names. It’s the highest one in Nong Khiaw and also my favorite! I decided to try and make it up for the sunrise. I’d heard the sunrise up there is spectacular, cause at the top you get a 360 panoramic view! With the sun coming around 7, I left my hostel around 4 am. From my hostel it was bit of a walk to the start of the trails, so that added an extra 40 minutes. I couldn’t convince anyone to join me this early in the morning so I’d have to go up by myself. A little voice in my was questioning wether this was a good idea. As I walked further down the road, leaving the town behind me, it was getting darker and darker. I finally managed to find the start of the trail and I was off! Or so I thought.. Within 5 minutes I arrived at field with cows and I was unsure how to proceed. As everything was pitch black I couldn’t really see the trail. After a bit of exploring off trail, I came to the concluding I’d have to go through the field. I’m not usually afraid of cows, but I can tell you that only their eyes lighting up from your flashlight is quite creepy. I managed to find the trail and from there I’d have a 1,5 hour climb ahead of me. On my way up, there was one more scare, when I heard some strange noises. Since my only option was to follow the trail, I tried to tap into my bravery and continued. Then, some monkeys decided to surprise me and at the same time ease my mind! It’s a lot less scary when you can see what is making the noice. I did the hike fairy quickly as I was racing to make it in time for the sunrise, after getting lost in the beginning. I made it in time, right before the sun came up from behind the mountains. After the long and strenuous climb I could almost cry arriving at this viewpoint, having this beautiful serene sunrise all to myself. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a spot like this all alone. It’s a moment I’ll never forget!

Time: around 4 hours total.

Height 1088m

Extra tip: Don’t try to do this hike when it has rained recently. I get’s very slippery. 

Nang None Mountain- Sleeping Lady Viewpoint

This is the only viewpoint I didn’t make it up to myself, but a good friend of mine did. I had already done the other two viewpoints and from what I could see the other ones had a slightly more impressive view. I decided to give my legs a bit of rest instead of attempting this one as well. If you however, have the time and energy to hike up one more viewpoint, this one is also very beautiful. Especially if you get a chance to do it early in the morning you’ll like be above the clouds!

Pha Kuang Cave

Pha Kuang Cave was used as refuge during the Indochina war. It is 300 meters long and to get to some sections of the cave you have to squeeze through very tight passages. To visit the cave without a local guide, you have to pay 10.000 kip for a ticket. You’ll feel the air getting thinner as you get deeper into the cave and I would recommend going with a small group. You’ll need a flashlight, so if you have one bring it! If you don’t you can borrow one when you buy your ticket.

Entrance fee: 10.000 kip

100 Waterfalls Hike

When arriving to start of the trail you’ll have to wait to be appointed a guide. it would be quite difficult to find the waterfall without one and our guide, who was clearly new to the job had to ask for directions a couple of times. The start of the trek is through some beautiful green fields, before you start heading through the forest. We started all the way at the top of the waterfall and waded down through the different levels of the waterfall. Don’t take the name too literal as there’s not really a 100 waterfalls. You’ll be walking through water quite a bit, so be sure to bring trekking sandals or trainers that can get wet! There will be an opportunity to take a little dip, so make sure to bring a bathing suit.

Where to stay in Nong Khiaw

Meexok Guesthouse: I stayed here with two of my friends and really loved it! They have a cute little patio with places to sit and it’s walking distance from town. The room was clean and the owner very helpful!

Mandala Ou Resort: This resort offers a beautiful view, an outdoor pool, incredible views and Wonderfull food. The only downside is that is about a 15 minute walk from town. This is not a huge problem, but a little less convenient if you’re planning on doing the sunrise hikes.

Where to eat in Nong Khiaw

Mama Alex: Mama Alex is a wonderful local place with the old lady who owns it at the heart. Make sure to try the local eggplant dip, because it is delicious!

Couleur Cafe: They offer both local and western dishes, so whatever you’re craving, you’ll be satisfied! Great breakfast and dinner.