Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is an outstanding location to explore in Vietnam. This is the site of Son Doong, the world’s biggest cave, but it’s more than just one cave. Phong Nha National Park is a glorious place, packed with natural wonders like mountains, lakes, caves, jungles, and exotic wildlife, definitely, if you want it, an adventurer’s dream, although it’s also a particularly laid-back part of Vietnam. Although the enormous caves are the main attraction here, if you spend more time in Phong Nha you’ll find excellent hiking trails, remote country roads perfect for exploring on a scooter or motorbike, and rivers perfect for kayaking. There are other caves here to explore and they’re truly stunning, the locals are kind, and you’ll even feel, in places, as if you had the whole wilderness to yourself. Welcome to the best things to do in Phong Nha.
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#1 THING TO DO
Visit Paradise Cave in Phong Nha
Take a trip to the Paradise Cave in Phong Nha – it’s a fabulous place to visit. Combine with a trip to Phong Nha Cave for a truly spectacular time.
Why Go to Phong Nha
Phong Nha is famous for its massive cave system, which is perhaps the main reason to visit here. Since 2003, the national park has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it contains Asia’s oldest karst mountains. The karst mountains of Phong Nha originated around 400 million years ago and include hundreds of cave systems, including the largest cave in the world (Hang Son Doong) and Asia’s longest dry cave (Paradise Cave). And if you’re looking for a less crowded and more peaceful destination, you’ve come to the right place! Phong Nha sees just a small number of the visitors who come to Vietnam, which is glorious and you’ll likely find yourself riding on rather deserted roads despite their excellent condition. It’s definitely our sort of place and we adored visiting Phong Nha.
How to Get to Phong Nha
There are limited transport options when it comes to getting to Phong Nha National Park, although if you head to the nearby city of Dong Hoi then there are more options. If you’re coming from the south, you can fly from Danang to Dong Hoi and then take a taxi or a local bus to town. You can also travel from Nha Trang’s Cam Ranh International Airport to Dong Hoi.
Our guide for traveling between Phong Nha and Hanoi is here.
The most popular way to get to Phong Nha is to take the bus. Buses are the cheapest way to go to Phong Nha and are easy to book online. There are frequent buses from Danang, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Dalat, and Ho Chi Minh City. You can also go from Hue to Phong Nha, as well as from Hanoi to Phong Nha and from Phong Nha to Hue. The route from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh/Tam Coc is also a popular route. Taking the bus is the best option for these itineraries, particularly if you want to save time and money on overnight accommodation.
There’s no train station at Phong Nha, Dong Hoi is the closest railway station. If you’re planning to get the train to Dong Hoi and then travel from there you will need to buy train tickets in advance. There’s more on all this type of travel in our guide to Vietnamese transport.
How Long To Spend in Phong Nha
We suggest staying in Phong Nha National Park for three days, depending on how many caves you wish to visit and how much of the outdoor space you want to either walk or drive around. This will also give you plenty of time to explore the above-ground attractions of Phong Nha. If you don’t have much time, you can arrange a 2 day trip from Dong Hoi or Hue.
How to get around Phong Nha
If you are traveling independently, then you can either walk or rent motorbikes to get around Phong Nha. There are various motorbike rental firms, including Thang’s Phong Nha Riders and Easy Tiger. You can either ride independently or ride on the back of a motorcycle with local guides who show you the highlights of Phong Nha.
You can also pick up your own rental scooter in either Dong Hoi or Phong Nha and explore independently.
When to Visit Phong Nha
The dry season, between February and April, is the ideal time to explore Phong Nha Caves since the temperature is cool and there is no flooding. If you’re traveling to Phong Nha around November and December, then check the weather locally before traveling, since the river is prone to overflowing during this time and it may not be possible to go into the caves.
Things to do in Phong Nha
Among Vietnam’s national parks, Phong Nha Ke is one of the most popular and highly regarded. The huge karst mountain range here is estimated to be at least 400 million years old, and its hundreds of stunning, mysterious caves have earned this area a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The massive caves here are definitely the main draw, but if you stay a bit longer, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is perfect for exploring and you’ll find hiking paths, rural roads, and rivers ideal for kayaking. Here are the best things to do and see at Phong Nha National Park.
1. Visit the Phong Nha Caves
Phong Nha caves vary from tame to tremendous and local authorities limit entry to the major caves for preservation purposes. Some tour operators have exclusive rights to transport passengers into specific caves, while others are available to everyone. Son Doong, the world’s largest cave is truly one of the world’s greatest natural treasures, but reservations are required months if not years in advance and it’s not cheap. However, it’s not a must for coming here. There are plenty of other caves to explore here that won’t bust the budget.
We advise that you don’t visit this area from October to December as the caves are not accessible during the rainy season.
Son Doong Cave
Son Doong is the world’s biggest cave, featuring stalagmites taller than London’s Big Ben. The journey to Son Doong takes four days, with camping areas put up along the way. This is the most difficult and expensive adventure in the area, and it is sometimes scheduled months in advance. There’s one company that is allowed to take you to this cave, and that’s Oxalis Adventure.
Tu Lan Cave
The Tu Lan cave system, which includes over twenty caves, was fully discovered by British caving researchers in 1992, but its location has been known about for much longer. The Tu Lan cave system allows you to wade, swim, climb, and crawl through an endless network of tunnels. This is the cave system for you if you prefer floating along underground rivers and crawling through narrow corridors. Tu Lan tours vary from one-day moderate excursions to four-day adventures.
Hang Va and Nuoc Nut
Hang Va and Nuoc Nut are great for a two-day visit because of their stunning stalagmites and lovely rock pools. Hang Va is unquestionably the best, particularly from January to March when the rock pools are at their peak.
Pygmy Cave, the world’s fourth-largest cave, can only be reached after a three-day adventure that includes abseiling and climbing. You’ll swim underneath rivers in Tiger Cave and wade across jade-colored ponds in Over Cave along the way. If you don’t have the time or cash for Son Doong, Pygmy Cave is an excellent substitute at a smaller expense. It’s easiest to visit the cave on a guided tour with Hang Pygmy Exploration.
Hang En, the third-biggest cave in the world, may be reached after a moderate, full-day hike through the national park. Camping out in the forest or near the cave mouth at Hang En requires braving the swarms of bats and swift-flying swallows above. Booking tours to Hang En with Oxalis is the best option. Get in contact with them ahead of time if possible, to avoid any conflicts.
In 2005, a local guy called “Ho Khanh” discovered Paradise Cave, also known as Hang Thien Duong. The British Cave Research Association determined the cave to be 31.4 kilometers long, making it the longest-known cave in Asia.
Based on the amazing structures, scientists estimate that the cave has been forming for almost 300 million years. It looks to be an underground city with a secret entrance. For all its hidden treasures, the cave awaits you with another 7,000 meters inside. Take a trip to Paradise Cave, Phong Nha here.
- Address of Paradise Cave: Dong Hoi, Phong Nha, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Paradise Cave: Open from 7:00 am to 4:30 pm during summer and 7:30 am to 4:00 pm during winter
- Entry Fees for Paradise Cave: Tickets cost 250,000 VND per person
Phong Nha Cave is one of the many breathtaking sights in Vietnam, yet its surreal charm sets it apart. Phong Nha Cave is a natural marvel that has earned its place among the world’s cultural heritage sites. Phong Nha’s entrance is about 40 minutes away by boat on the Son River.
On entering the cave, you will find yourself in a magical area of stalactites that hint at a long-lost secret, so be patient, as this is the world’s longest underground river. Phong Nha Cave is a truly magnificent Southeast Asian cave, and you can visit it on this tour here.
- Address of Phong Nha Cave: Dong Hoi, Phong Nha, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Phong Nha Cave: Open from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm in the summer and 7:30 am to 4:30 pm in the winter
- Entry Fees for Phong Nha Cave: Tickets cost 150,000 VND per person
2. Go Tubing down the River in Phong Nha
Just a little farther down the road is the Bong Lai Rattan House. Rent a river tube and have someone drive you up the road for two kilometers for about 100,000 VND. Float back down to where you came from at your own leisure. The landscape here is glorious.
3. Hike the Nuoc Moor Eco Trail in Phong Nha
The Nuoc Mooc Eco Trail is located in the National Park, which is a safe haven for many endangered animal and plant species. Aside from exploring the caves, this is one of the best things to do in Phong Nha. The route is a loop that goes all the way around the park. Hiking on this path with a guide is a great way to see rare and exotic animals like Asian black bears and langurs. The whole eco-trail experience costs 180,000 VND, while a day pass costs just 80,000 VND. The Eight Ladies’ Cave is a tribute to the ladies who died while seeking refuge in the cave during the Vietnam War. The nearby floral park is approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Phong Nha and costs 42,000 VND to enter.
4. Rent a Bike and Explore Phong Nha
Explore the landscape by traveling on windy roads through rice fields and past rivers. As a means of getting about town, several hotels provide free bicycle rentals. The Bong Lai Valley, located along the Ho Chi Minh Highway, is a great place to get a feel for the Vietnamese countryside.
Farms, scenic lookouts, and swimming holes may all be found in this gorgeous region. It’s a tranquil loop of 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) in rural areas, we did this and it was fabulous.
We rented an automatic bike in Phong Nha for two days, a bargain at 100k VND (US $5) a day, and complete with three 1.5 liter water bottles of gas (for 100k) headed out into the National Park. Perfect. There’s little traffic there, and while technically we were breaking the law, by renting and riding the bike, I don’t think we actually went fast enough for anyone to notice us. I even got to ride my first motorbike ever, for about 200 meters, turned, and then went back. I do believe that I topped out at 15 miles per hour, which is quite fast enough thank you. We skipped the National Park fee, as we were following two Vietnamese bikes, and we just ducked under the barrier like they did and figured that seeing as no one yelled at us or ran after us, it was fine.
We rode down the side of rice paddies, negotiated water buffaloes, and bamboo bridges, forded a river (only after I waded through and made sure it was shallow enough of course), and got gloriously lost in the most amazing countryside. The kid in one of the villages telling us to F-off kind of spoils the picture I’m painting, but hey, teenagers, the same the world over eh?
5. Visit the Phong Nha Botanical Gardens
When visiting Phong Nha, make sure to check out the botanical garden. The highlights may be seen in less than two hours, making it a convenient stop on the way to Paradise Cave. After you’ve paid for your admission, walk through the two bamboo bridges and take the first right to follow Route 1. The beautiful Thac Gio Waterfall is less than a mile away. It is best to visit via tour or motorcycle or scooter trip.
- Address of Botanic Gardens: Phong Nha -Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Botanic Gardens: Open from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm
- Entry Fees for Botanic Gardens: Ticket costs 40,000 VND per person
6. Eat at the Pub with Cold Beer
After a day of exploring nature, you will surely appreciate the fact that most homestays and guest rooms have their own menus. Small, family-run eateries serving both Vietnamese and Western cuisine may be found throughout Phong Nha town. If you want to try some farm-to-table cuisine, you should go to The Pub with Cold Beer.
Where to stay in Phong Nha
My selection of places to stay in Phong Nha all have fantastic ratings, and it’s difficult to choose between budget and luxury (it’s truly not an expensive place to stay!); simply choose a location and decide whether you want a pool!
The Phong Nha Eco Mountain Farmstay is a three-star hotel located in Phong Nha, Vietnam. Phong Nha Eco Mountain Farmstay is a fabulous hotel offering a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk, a bar, a garden, a year-round outdoor pool, and a terrace with lake views. Breakfast is served here each day and this truly is a wonderful place to stay in Phong Nha. You can check rates and book a room here.
Hưng Phát Bungalow is a mid-range hotel located in Phong Nha, Vietnam. This mid-range hotel in Phong Nha, Hưng Phát Bungalow, offers a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk, a bar, a garden, a year-round outdoor pool, and a terrace with pool views. Each room has a sitting area and a private bathroom with bathrobes and slippers. Check the room rates here.
Final Words on the Best Things to Do in Phong Nha Vietnam
Phong Nha is a fabulous place to come for two or three days – although, yes you can take a day trip if you are short of time. This is a lovely place to kick back, ride around on quiet roads, and see some of the glorious Vietnamese landscape. The area is teeming with diverse wildlife and natural treasures from the mountains, lakes, and rainforests. However, it’s the caves of Phong Nha that are the star here and you absolutely should explore them, they are truly incredible.
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