While most river-journey enthusiasts are satisfied with a slow boat down the Mekong between Houayxai and Luang Prabang, many opportunities exist for exploring Laos’s faster waterways. Several companies offer whitewater-rafting trips out of Luang Prabang on a number of northern rivers, including the Nam Ou, the Nam Xuang and the Nam Ming.
Even more popular are river-kayaking adventures ranging from easy day-trips for beginners to multi-day adventures down rivers with grade 5 rapids. Professional guided kayaking tours are currently operated on a regular basis on eight northern rivers as well as the Ang Nam Ngum Reservoir (near the capital) and in Si Phan Don. The best bases for kayaking tours are Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and Luang Namtha. Another fantastic region for kayaking is the Khammouane Limestone NBCA. Among other scenic wonders, this NBCA features a 7km-long natural river-tunnel through the heart of a mountain, and is becoming popular for organized tours out of Vientiane.