Nong Khiaw - The Jewel of the Nam Ou
Nong Khiaw - The Jewel of the Nam Ou


Nong Khiaw - The Jewel of the Nam Ou


Nong Khiaw is a picturesque town, built on the banks of the Nam Ou River and surrounded by towering limestone mountains. It is a popular stop on the North East Loop and attracts many travellers for its beauty, natural surrounds, ecotourism activities and access to more remote parts of Northern Laos. For more information on the North East Loop, click HERE to read our handy guide. The town boasts a range of accommodation, restaurants, and bars, offering something for everyone. It is easily accessible from the city of Luang Prabang by bus, bike, or even by boat. Recent dam construction has made travel along the Nam Ou more complicated, but is still possible by changing boats at the various dams. This quaint little town is a perfect oasis to relax and unwind into the slow pace of Lao life.


Nong Khiaw offers travellers a choice of budget and upmarket accommodation. Some newer resorts offer private bungalows with river views, while more budget conscious travellers might prefer the basic but clean local guesthouses. Restaurants and bars offer a similar range of prices, with choices ranging from European food and wine to hearty local staples and the ubiquitous Beer Lao. No matter what your budget is, you’ll be sure to find something to tickle your fancy. 


One of the most popular attractions of Nong Khiaw is the Pha Daeng Peak Viewpoint, a stunning lookout offering sweeping views of the mountains and valleys surrounding the town. It is especially popular for sunrise when the mountain top viewpoint sits above a sea of clouds and mist, which slowly dissipates in the morning sun to gradually reveal the sights below. 

Located just outside of town, across the bridge and to the east, the entrance to the viewpoint is well signposted and leads to a steep climb to the mountain top. The climb up requires a reasonable degree of fitness, but is not technically challenging. Make sure to bring some water with you and carry out any trash you make. For more tips on how to reduce your environmental impact while travelling, check out our handy guide HERE.


Nong Khiaw is also the starting point for many ecotourism tours in the area. Popular choices include kayaking on the Nam Ou, trekking to waterfalls and remote ethnic villages, or mountain biking along dirt roads. Some of these activities require a guide and some can be done independently, but all cane be arranged in town. The town’s proximity to jungles and rivers make it a great option for travellers to immerse themselves in Lao’s natural beauty.

Nearby the town there are also some caves which can be explored. These caves acted as air raid shelters during the second Indochina War, housing Pathet Lao soldiers and local villagers. Some of these caves still have evidence of this purpose, with some basic information signs indicating officer’s quarters and observation posts. Be sure to take a torch or rent one from the villagers!


The Nam Ou once acted as an important trade route for the many villages along the river. The multiple dams that have been constructed have hindered this process, but travel along the river is still possible. Nong Khiaw is a great starting point for a boat trip lasting anywhere between a few hours and a few days. Longer trips up into Phongsaly require changing boats at the dams but are still doable, while shorter trips can be done without changing boats. Travelling along the river is a lovely way to see the countryside, offering a window into the traditional lives of the villagers who live on the river and one of the popular activities to do in Nong Khiaw.


Whether you are stopping for a night on the North East Loop, or coming to spend a few days in the relaxed town, Nong Khiaw has something for everyone. 


David Ormsby

David is a writer, explorer, adventurer, outdoor educator, and guide. He was worked across the Asia Pacific in a number of different roles within the eco-tourism and outdoor industry. Since 2016 David has lived and worked in Laos, and brings a depth of experience to his writing in Laos.