Waterfalls & Rapids

Everyone dreams of splashing alone in a clear waterfall pool hidden in nature. Wake up in Laos, where your fantasy comes true at every turn.

Waterfalls & Rapids

The steep mountains of Laos spawn hundreds of rivers and streams searching for the fastest way downhill. Some drop more than 100 metres off cliffs in the thick forest. Others cascade down wide rocky steps or rumble over piles of boulders on the way to the bottom. And the Mekong’s Khone Phapheng Falls is the king of them all, crowned Southeast Asia’s largest waterfall by volume.

Luang Prabang’s Kuang Si Waterfall rules over Northern Laos, but a look around reveals many more that are easy to reach or take a bit of a trek. You can zip-line across Tad Sae Falls near the UNESCO town and at Nam Kat Waterfall in Oudomxay. Take a motorbike ride to Nam Dee Waterfalls near Luang Namtha Town, or venture on a 2-day trek to the Nam Bo Twin Falls. Wherever you travel in the north, a waterfall is within reach.

Near Vientiane Capital, Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area’s nature trails lead to several falls with swimming holes. Head up to Vang Vieng and take a spin on the Kaeng Nyui Waterfall Loop, a 400-metre, stream-side trail passing cascades and rapids to Kenlon Falls. A 1-5-km trail in Khamouanne ends at Tad Nam Sanam, a pair of falls bouncing off 5 steps down Phou Phaman Mountain. Trekkers on Savannakhet’s Ho Chi Minh Trail will find the 3-waterfall Tad Salene Cluster buried in the woods.

The Bolaven Plateau launches a list of falls to complement Southern Laos’ Khone Phapheng. Check out Champasak’s Tad Fane Falls, where two rivers plunge, side-by-side, 120 metres over a cliff into a single pool. A short drive from Pakse to Salavan stops at Tad Lo and Tad Hang, where the Xe Xet River tumbles down wide, 10-12-metre rock ledges. And 60 km from Attapeu Town, the Xe Pian River widens to 120 metres, before dropping off a 23-metre ledge.

Northern Lao Waterfalls

Bokeo: Adventurers are discovering new falls every year. The Nam Nyon Waterfalls drop off Phou Pha Houng Mountain Trek at Pa Na Village, where you can swim and watch locals weave baskets.

Luang Namtha: Inspect the waterfall gems in Luang Namtha and its Nam Ha National Protected Area. You can explore cascades near town or visit tall mountain drop-offs during an adventure trek. Take half-hour hike to the top of Long District’s Nam Bo Waterfalls, where a giant jutting rock slices the mountain river in two, as it dives 20 metres over a cliff. The narrow, twin cascades then crash over a rock-filled gorge.

Luang Prabang: Several waterfalls tumble down the mountains around Luang Prabang Town. Some have developed the fall’s environment into nature parks with botanical gardens, zip lines, and camping. Plan on spending time at Kuang Si Waterfalls, one of Luang Prabang’s most popular attractions. Follow the trail as it climbs alongside the multi-tier, 200-metre-high falls with numerous turquoise pools.

Oudomxay: Have fun at the Nam Kat Waterfall Park’s steep boulder-based cascades with a zip-line view, and take a trip to Talae Waterfall cutting through “Candle Trees” on its 600-metre mountainside ramble. Pick a trail at Ban Faen Village; they all lead through pristine old-growth jungle and limestone outcrops to Nam Kat Waterfall and Nature Park. A kingdom of boulders, large and small, surround the falls.

Sayabouly: Watch Tad Houay Sakhaeng funnel down a 28-metre rocky flume. View the narrow Tad Jao launch 20 metres from a Mekong Riverside cliff. Trek to the mountaintop Tad Ham. Tad Houay Sakhaeng shoots down a 28-metre rocky mountain flume lined with trees just 6 km west of Ngeun on the Xienghone Road. Watch the narrow Tad Jao Waterfall plunge 20 metres off a cliff into the Mekong.

Xieng Khouang: Add a pair of waterfalls to your Plain of Jars visit. Follow a 700-metre trail winding along the Nam Xan River. The waterway reaches a pile of boulders you crisscross and start the final misty march to Tad Lang Waterfall. The 800-metre cascade over a stretch of stone offers great picnic spots along its banks. The going gets rough during rainy season when the falls widen and pick up pace.

Central Lao Waterfalls

Bolikhamxay: Bolikhamxay’s Phou Khao Kwai (PKK) National Protected Area (NPA) presents several waterfalls on a day-trip or overnight from Vientiane Capital. Visitors spending a few days in the province or passing through can visit waterfalls in the Nam Kading NPA and near Lak Xao. Many are easy to access by foot or boat. “What a paradise! If I’d known, I’d have come here for more than just a day,” said one visitor swimming.

Khammouane: The paths along Khammouane’s limestone landscape lead to waterfalls and rapids hidden in the forest. Meander on a path along a narrow, lush-lined stream, as you follow Tad Mouang spilling down 18 slabs until dropping into a river in the Limestone Forest. To reach the lowest level and trail to the top, walk 1 km from Ban Nahin Village on Route 8. The hike follows a network of old forest trails with wild mango.

Savannakhet: Savannakhet’s waterfalls are easy to reach on a self or booked tour or trek from the Savannakhet Eco-Guide Unit on Ratsaphanith Road. Waterfall treks in the National Protected Areas (NPAs) require guides. Witness the Mekong crash over boulders at Khaeng Kabao Rapids, some 35 km north of Savannakhet Town on the river road. The rarely visited village at the rapids offer a unique insight into river life.

Vientiane: Head up to Vang Vieng and take a spin on the Kaeng Nyui Waterfall Loop, or check out a pair of waterfalls in Khoun Lang Cave Nature Park near Kasi Town. Take a spin on the Kaeng Nyui Waterfall Loop. After a short 4-km drive past the Vang Vieng airstrip to Ban Naduang, follow a 400-metre trail along the Houay Nyui and Nam Lao streams. You’ll cross bridges, and pass several cascades and rapids.

Southern Lao Waterfalls

Attapeu: Access Attapeu’s amazing waterfalls on a trek or boat ride in the Xe Pian National Protected Area (NPA). Head into the jungle by foot or boat to the solitude of Tad Saepha Waterfall, where the Xe Pian River widens to 120 metres, before dropping off a 23-metre jagged-rock ledge. The experience starts about 60 km from Attapeu Town at Ban Mai (ethnic Oy) in the Xe Pian NPA.

Champasak: Champasak presents all types of waterfalls. Check out rocky rapids and towering leaps from tree-lined cliffs. From the 4,000 Islands to the Bolaven Plateau, you can hike, drive, or boat to the province’s many falls. Stand in awe at Khone Phapheng, Southeast Asia’s largest waterfall by volume, dumping millions of litres of the Mekong every minute over a river-wide mass of boulders. Khone Phapheng forms a curved fault.

Salavan: Salavan’s remote waterfalls pouring off the Bolaven Plateau are easy to reach. Most are a short drive from town and a short walk. Stand at the knee-shaking precipice of a 90-metre-high cliff, where the Xe Set River leaps off the edge into the valley below. To admire the lead up to the launch, sit at a perch on the upriver banks of the Xe Set. Watch the river weave between boulders into small pools.

Sekong: You can visit the province’s waterfalls dropping off the eastern ridge of the Bolaven Plateau and into their waterways leading to the Sekong River. Tad Faek interrupts a wide stretch of the Sekong River with a 5-metre-high rock ledge. It creates a large upper pool for swimming, and a lower, boulder-lined pool, home to the sharp-toothed pa pao puffer fish. Visit Tad Hua Khon, a roadside wonder on Route 11 at the Se Nam.

Discover Laos: The Last Frontier