A GUIDE TO VISITING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WATERFALLS IN LAOS
In only a matter of days, Luang Prabang became one of my favourite places, not just in SE Asia, but in the world.
There wasn’t a specific thing I loved the most about Luang Prabang. Really, it was the wandering that I fell in love with. The slow pace of life encouraging days without real plans, just waking up and deciding what to do. Meandering town, popping into cafes, enjoying strong cold brew and delicious, salty khao soi.
And, all of this before even mentioning the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos, which also happen to be the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen: Kuang Si Falls.
Luang Prabang is the kind of place that, even months later, I can’t stop thinking about.
In discussions with friend about planning a potential return, I’ve shared I’m even keen to re-visit Kuang Si Falls.
They were that spectacular.
Picture multi-level, turquoise flowing waterfalls.
Seeing the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos is truthfully reason enough to visit Luang Prabang.
A mere ~30 kilometers from Luang Prabang, you can see the majestic falls for yourself easily enough on any trip.
Planning my visit, I’d heard the falls opened at 8 am, and were likely to be busy by 9:30 / 10 am.
As such, I booked a tuk tuk to leave my hotel at 7:30 am so I didn’t arrive later than 8:15/8:30. Sure enough, by the time we parked, I bought a ticket and walked down to the falls on the short trail, it was nearing 8:30 am.
Fortunately, there were only two other people at the falls when I first walked up. We were mindful of each other, keeping out of the way, and blissfully enjoyed just over thirty minutes of beautiful morning silence before more people arrived.
Tuk tuks from the centre of Luang Prabang usually cost $25-35 USD for a return trip to the falls, which includes time for the driver to wait for you while you’re at the falls (usually ~2 hours).
You could ride to the falls on a scooter, but the roads in Laos were the worst I’ve experienced in SE Asia (aside from Nusa Penida in Bali), so I’d only recommend doing so if you are an experienced rider.
Even my tuk tuk driver commented on how bad the road we were driving on was. Seriously, think of a dirt road filled with bumps, pot holes and huge craters. It was beyond bumpy.
If you want to head to the falls early, it may be best to reserve a tuk tuk in advance so you don’t have to search for one when you’re ready to leave. I did so through my hotel the night prior. If you’re planning a late morning or early afternoon visit to the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos, you should be fine to just wander into town in the morning and find a driver.
Once at the falls, you walk through a small town with shops selling fruit, food and drinks. Nothing like an ice cold sugarcane juice on a sweltering day.
The entry fee into the falls is only $2.50 USD. Once you pay, you’ll head on to the right side path. There’s also an option to stay to the left and hike to the top of the falls first, but if you’re there early, I’d bear right.
Heading right, you’ll arrive at the lower falls in about five minutes.
Why visit the lower falls first?
Because, once other people arrive, the swimming pools will be packed. You can’t swim at the upper falls, so it’s nice to have the lower ones to yourself before the crowds descend.
There are numerous points to enter the pools, including a set of stone steps for those not willing to jump off trees or rocks.
When I visited in early April, the water was deep enough to jump off a tree branch hanging over one of the lower pools, which was a fun plunge into icy water.
Always double check depth before you jump though, especially if you’re visiting in the dry season.
While swimming, little fish will come up and start nibbling on your feet. They’re harmless, like the fish you find at feet spas all over SE Asia- they’re just eating your dead skin.
I swam in the lower pools for about a half hour. Once other people started arriving, I got out to dry off and had fun watching others jump in and enjoy their first impressions of the falls.
When about ~30 people had arrived (9:30 am), I decided to walk a bit higher and see more of the falls.
The path to the upper falls is well kept and easy to walk on. Along the way, I stopped a few times to take photos of midway falls.
The entire time, I was stunned by how beautiful everything was. I couldn’t imagine it getting any better, but really had no idea what was awaiting me several feet further.
Few experiences compare to the first time you see the upper falls, featuring a 50-meter drop, and many tiers of cascading azure water.
Situated in the midst of lush jungle, it’s absolutely incredible.
A bridge stretches over the pool in front of the upper falls, which you can walk over for photos, and gawking, of course.
You can’t swim in the upper pools, but they’re beautiful just to behold.
If you’re adventurous, you can continue climbing upwards. The trail is steep, and I’d heard the view from the top wasn’t great, so I decided to skip climbing to the tippy top.
There’s also a secret pool near the very top, but it’s not recommended you visit it, as it’s unsupervised and frankly, can be dangerous.
If you’re a risk taker, and up for the trek, check out Nomadic Matt’s post about visiting the secret pool.
After about two hours at the falls, I was ready to head back to Luang Prabang. Even though I spent the morning relaxing, I felt tired and was grateful to have my driver, who navigated our way back to the city.
Have you ever been somewhere, like Kuang Si Falls, the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos, that exceeded every expectation you could have dreamed of? Where was it?
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