The Best Rivers Of Laos - Top Must-Visit Rivers In Laos

In general, between October and March, Lao rivers are Class I (Easy) and II (Novice) (on a scale of six based on the international scale of river difficulty). Not many rivers are runnable in the dry season between April and June. When the monsoon rains fall from July to October, generally gentle rivers start to rage and paddlers with rudimentary kayaking skills are advised not to risk on to them.

Unlike the rivers in neighbouring countries, the Lao rivers are long and allow for multi-day journeys that makes it more special. Besides, the rivers run where roads don’t, so one passes through relatively untouched rainforest and comes across a few signs of development, with chances to see birds and wildlife.

Read below for information on select rivers throughout the country, listed by region:

River in Northern Laos

Nam Fa - Luang Namtha Province

This is perhaps the most superb and intense rafting trip available in Laos. This journey, loaded with fast-moving water, wildlife and forest, starts in Vieng Phoukha and ends four days and 75 km later at the Mekong between Laos and Myanmar.

Nam Ha-Nam Tha - Luang Namtha Province

Running near the northwestern border of Luang Namtha province, these two rivers thread their way through the Nam Ha NPA occupied by a variety of tribes, making it one of the more lively and cultural journeys. Rafting and kayaking are available through thrilling 2-3 grade rapids.

Nam Ou - Luang Prabang / Phongsaly Provinces

Generally, people paddle the Ou just above Luang Prabang but its upper reaches near the Chinese border are more untouched, cutting through the tranquil Phou Den Din NPA in which there are a small number of villages. This is the longest inbound river in all of Laos is well known for its outstanding karsts formations and natural landscape.

Nam Song - Vientiane Province

Kayaking on this river is one of the most popular activities in Vang Vieng. Nam Song River flows through breathtaking rural scenery and steep karsts. You can stop and visit some impressive limestone caves.

Nam Pa - Luang Prabang

This small river curves through rocky mountains in north Luang Prabang and has some outstanding rapids not counting chances for birdwatching. This Nam Pa is perfect for quick, one-day trips into some distant villages and forest.

Read more: 10 Interesting things to do in Luang Prabang

Nam Nern - Houaphanh Province

If you are looking to spot rare wildlife while in Laos, the Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA and Ban Son Koua villagers are now proposing a two-day Night Safari program with an evening boat ride along the Nam Nern River to catch a sight of animal nightlife.

Nam Lik - Vientiane Province

Numerous rafting companies offer day-trips as part of a van-ride from Luang Prabang and Vientiane on the lower Lik but the upper Lik offers various kayaking opportunities and long trips. The most interesting part is to see wildlife along the way such as monkeys, wild boar, rare birds, iguana and other reptiles. You can come here year-round. 

Nam Ming-Nam Khan - Luang Prabang Province

The attractiveness of these rivers is their closeness to Luang Prabang. The Ming can be animated but smooth out once it joins the larger Khan River. The Khan offers both rainforest, farmlands and some fun rapids along the way.

Nam Ngum - Xieng Kouang / Vientiane

A short, remote river through deep valleys that dares the most skilled hard-shell kayakers. Located fairly north of Vientiane at the site of the country’s first dam, it is suitable only for whitewater experts although numerous short raft-based trips are offered.

Read more: Attractive tourist destination in Vientiane

River in Central-Southern Laos

4,000 Islands - Champsak Province

This is one of the more fascinating areas of Laos. You should choose the route carefully to avoid falling over the many waterfalls. A flaw line just above the border with Cambodian braids the river to 14 kilometres wide, creating massive variety in landforms and landscape.

Hinboun - Khammouane Province

The 7.5-kilometre Konglor Cave, through which one can paddle, is the leading charm of this tranquil river that streams through the Khammouane Range located south of Vientiane. Downriver, towering limestone karsts offer endless scenic variety. Villages are few and far between which keeps the journey fascinating. If you mean to come here, the best time is from October to March.

Nam Champi - Champasak Province

Champi Creek is a small river that streams into Sedone River, which finally flows into the great Mekong. This river offers challenging one-day adventures with stunning countryside scenery of the Bolaven Plateau known for coffee plantations and cascading waterfalls.

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