Things to Do in Khammouane

Head to Laos’ hottest new adventure destination, Khammouane, with something for everyone.

 

Jump on “The Loop”, a provincial lap taking in Thakaek Town, Cave Alley, Limestone Forest, and the Nakai Plateau. The daring can head east into The Hinterlands for extreme adventures in rugged terrain.

The Loop

Grab a scooter in Thakaek, and put yourself in The Loop, Khammouane’s popular new circuit connecting the province’s top adventures. The Loop begins in Thakaek, and runs eastbound through Cave Alley, a 17-km stretch with easy-to-access caves, many with underground river boat rides and ancient Buddha images. The Loop then splits north to the Nakai Plateau with the Nam Theun 2 Dam and Reservoir Resort.

The Loop continues to Lak Xao in Bolikhamxay Province, then travels west on Route 8, through the Karst Corridor”, with its fairy tale Limestone Forest. Here, you’ll find Ban Na Hin Town and the turnoff to Konglor Cave and other natural adventures. From Ban Na Hin, The Loop continues to Nam Thone (Vieng Kham) and the 100-km drive to Thakaek with a break in Hinboun.  

Around Thakaek Town

Step into the past in Thakaek as it starts awakening from its 100-year-long slumber as “Guest Landing” on the Mekong. Today, tiny Old Thakaek brims with French colonial structures converted into guesthouses, noodle shops, and small stores huddled around the Night Market.

The Mekong draws visitors to the tables and chairs lining the shady Mekong banks with views to Nakhon Phanom in Thailand. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants across the street deliver meals and refreshments.

For a bit of culture, head south of town to the 6th-century Sikhottabong Stupa and its grounds displaying a nine-house cultural village, a pair of old temples, and a historic monument.

The 9th-century Kampaeng Yak (Giant Wall) made with massive brick-shaped slabs mesmerizes visitors a few kilometres to the north.

Cave Alley

Cave Alley, the 17-km stretch of seven caverns just outside Thakaek can keep amateur spelunkers busy for days. Just 5 km from town, a short hike leads to the staircase up the mountainside to Tham Xang (Elephant Cave).

Next to the cave, bamboo handrails and wooden steps assist in a moderate trek to a viewpoint over rice paddies, villages, streams, and surrounding mountains. From here, a rigorous 40-minute climb takes you to the peak and Mekong view.

A 400-metre hike or boat ride up creek reaches Xieng Liab Cave. You can continue into the oversized opening by boat along the stream during the Green Season, or by foot when the waters are low. The sun peeks through holes in the cave’s roof, providing natural light on the 200-metre expedition.

A 90-minute dirt-road drive from Xieng Liab Cave ends at Tham Pha Chan (Sandalwood Buddha Cave), which cuts hundreds of meters through a limestone mountain. The entrance delivers you to a domed rock cathedral displaying Buddha images, the most revered of which is made of sandalwood.

A short walk along the Nam Don River ends at a cave with a resurgence river that empties into a lagoon 300-metres below, perfect for a swim or picnic.

Since its discovery in 2004, Tham Pa Fa (Buddha Cave) and its surrounding area has evolved into a recreation centre. A concrete staircase now scales the crag to the vine-covered cave concealing 229 Buddha statues. Boats await to paddle you into the lower cave.

Vendors sell herbal cures, refreshments, and local handicrafts at the Buddha Cave Park entrance. A 400-metre shady trail leads to Nong Tao (Turtle Lake), where you can picnic, swim, or go fishing. From here, a rocky trail ends at Tham Pla Xaem (Blind Fish Cave). From August to November you can kayak into the cave.

For family fun or the soft-adventure crowd seeking an underground encounter, stop at Tham Nang Aen (Sitting and Flirting Cave) for an amusement park-like experience. Step through the eerily wide, narrow slit, before the cavern opens into a natural wonderland and river. Well-lit cement walkways follow the inner-cave’s contour. Boats also await to take passengers on a 1-km voyage into the cave.  

Nakai Plateau

Did you ever wonder how a dam blends into the surroundings while benefiting locals and lessening negative environmental and social impacts? Find out the facts at the Nam Theun 2 Dam’s (NT2) Visitor Centre atop the Nakai Plateau.

Nakai Town sits at the head of the NT2 Dam’s Reservoir Retreat, and offers guesthouses, restaurants, and a bus station. Stop at the Nakai Visitor Centre, where you’ll find a couple of defused bombs and an old military helicopter engine.

About 20 km north at Tha Long, where the wetlands are already flourishing, a guesthouse offers a range of activities including boating, fishing, village tours, camping, picnic treks, and evening campfires.

The Limestone Forest

Stop at the Route 8 Viewpoint and gaze over stone spires, crowded together like geological cathedrals. Welcome to Khammouane’s Limestone Forest in Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area (NPA), a playground filled with natural adventures for fun-seeking families, baby boomers, and inquisitive trekkers wondering what’s around the next bend.

Ban Na Hin presents a perfect stopover before or after exploring Phou Hin Poun NPA. A one-day trek follows the Hinboun River through a pristine forest to Tad Nam Sanam Waterfall, and the return route follows the river to the 18-tier Tad Mouang Waterfall. Those who want to dig deeper, continue to Tham Heup Cave, a massive 19x15-meter black hole that bores more than 1 km into the mountain.

Ban Na Hin also presents entry to Konglor Village, where you’ll board a long-tail boat and take a journey down the Hinboun River to a black void that opens into a 100-metre-high cavern. The popular 7.5-km Konglor Cave boat ride flows by sandy beaches and rock formations before reaching Ban Natan. Village overnights are available.

Hinboun Town opens the door to lesser-known sites like Khoun Kong Leng Lake (Blue Lagoon). Nature trails circle the limestone-filtered lake. A few km south of the lake, the Hinboun River skirts the Phou Hin Poun NPA as it tumbles over the Ban Khon Keo Rapids. Take a swim on one of the Hinboun River’s many natural pools.

The Hinterlands

Spread your wings high in the mountains near Vietnam. A growing number of tourists are making their way to Ban Phon Ton Village and the 2.5-km walk through rice paddies, shady forest, and 15-metre climb to Tham Phi Seua. Tham Phabang Cave holds a wooden Buddha that could date to more than 300 years ago. Xebangfai Cave presents one of Khammouane’s most spectacular underground adventures, as it opens the way for the Xe Bang Fai River to pass 9.5 km underground.

 

Community-based Adventures

The Khammouane Eco-guide Unit operates community-based tourism (CBT) experiences, which contribute to poverty reduction and nature conservation. Villagers play a major role in operating these treks, and receive a major portion of the fees you pay when embarking on a CBT trek.

Trained and certified provincial and local guides will lead you through the forest and explain about the lives, beliefs, and traditions of local people. Book your tours in Thakaek or Ban Na Hin. Be sure to make the most of their knowledge during your tour. Book your tours in with the Eco-guide Unit at Thakaek, Ban Na Hin, Konglor, or Hinboun.

Embark on the classic 3-day Konglor Cave and Homestay Trek. After arriving at Ban Na Hin, you’ll head down a forest trail to That Mouang and That Namsanam Waterfalls. The following morning takes you to Ban Kong Lor and a village tour.

Then boat or walk to the Konglor Cave entrance and the 7.5-km voyage through the cave to Ban Natan. After experiencing village life, you can overnight in a homestay or lodge, or return to Ban Kong Lor for the night.

Explore Khammouane province's pristine Phou Hin Poun NPA on this 2-day trek led by local ecotourism guides to the Limestone Forest, Tham Pa Chan, Muang Pone Stupa, Khoun Kong Leng Lake and the Khon Keo Rapids, with an overnight stay in a remote village.

Spend three days on the Limestone Forest Excursion and scour a natural backdrop that looks like a fantasy world. You’ll take in the famed Konglor Cave, trek along mountain trails, spend the night at village homestays, and climb to a pair of waterfalls.

For the super adventurer, Green Discovery Laos can take you rock climbing near Xiengliab Cave with bungalow accommodation at the base. Green also offers more than 10 kayaking expeditions along with mountain bike tours and multi-activity experiences.

 

Khammouane…The River Cave Capital

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