Kong Lor Cave
The highlight of the trip, Kong Lor Cave is tucked 41 km inside the main the loop down a mostly paved road. Up to three visitors can fit in a motor boat with a driver to explore the 7.5 km water-filled cave. Step out onto dry land to see the spectacular stalagmites and stalactites illuminated with electric lighting. The rest of the journey is in the pitch black, so bring a headlamp or rent one from the ticket counter. Wear shoes that can get wet, as you’ll be ankle deep in water getting in and out of the boat!
Tham Nang Aen
Tham Nang Aen is a cave 20 km down Route 13 from Thakhek. Highly accessible with cement walkways and ramps, this cave is illuminated with colourful lights and alters. The cave’s name means “Sitting and Flirting” and as a constant cool breeze blows from the cave’s mouth, it’s a great place to do just that. Tham Nang Aen is 1.5 km long and contains a lake. Rowboat rides are offered for visitors and an outdoor restaurant is open in the dry season.
© Johannes / Traveltechie
Nasanam Waterfall is accessible off Route 8 near the road that leads to Kong Lor. The waterfall is 3km from the road. The first kilometre can be done on a motorbike but the rest of the path is a challenging hike up boulders and across streams through the jungle. Look and listen for birds and frogs. A natural swimming pool at the lower falls offers a cooling break. Continue to the upper falls or just admire the cascade (more brilliant in the wet season) from afar.
Detour down a dusty dirt-packed road to the entrance of Buddha Cave, which was re-discovered in 2004. In addition to being a tourist destination, it is also a pilgrimage site for devout Buddhists. Don’t be surprised to witness a prayer session led by a monk. Women need to cover their shoulders and knees and everyone must remove their footwear before entering the cave, which has bamboo mats for praying and giving offerings in front of over 200 Buddha statues. Photography is not permitted inside the cave. Paseum Cave, below Buddha Cave is filled with water and a three-hour kayak tour can be arranged with a local guide.
Tad Song Sou
Just across the bridge past the Nam Theun 2 Visitor Center is a dirt path with a little sign pointing to one of the most peaceful places to spend an afternoon: Tad Song Sou. This waterfall has cabanas to enjoy a picnic while taking in the mountains and babbling water. An on-site bar and restaurant offers food, drinks, a pétanque pit and hiking.