Best Way to visit Phong Nha Caves
Phong Nha Ke Bang national park in Quang Binh Province - Vietnam, the absolutely stunning place where the largest cave in the world, Son Doong, is located, is one of those must visit places with Top World Amazing Cave System: Son Dong Cave, Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave, Dark Cave, Tu Lan Cave, Hang En Cave, Tiger Cave,…
How Many Days Should You Spend In Phong Nha National Park?
One day is never enough in Phong Nha. Phong Nha is so beautiful and there is so much to see that you need couple of days to explore. You can Day Trip Tours from Hue or Dong Hoi to Phong Nha.
With two days, you can see some things and it is worth it for sure if you have a time restriction. However, everything will be rushed and you will miss out on some peace and quiet to yourself where you can explore the beauty of nature here.
Three days and up is ideal for your exploration, you can spread your activities into two days and relax on the third day. But we recommend four, five or even six days if you really want some Adventure Activities. Make sure you book your accommodation in advance as rooms can run out during high season.
How To Get There: Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
Being a new tourist destination in Vietnam, getting to Phong Nha National Park will require a little more planning than usual and flexibility on your part. There are planes, trains and some buses that will drop you off in Dong Hoi – the nearest urban area, or right in Phong Nha Village. Good news for those traveling from Chiang Mai – Thailand; Jetstar Pacific starts Chiang Mai – Dong Hoi flights twice weekly service as of this August. 1 hour and 40 mins and you will be in Dong Hoi city. Below is the information you need about getting to Dong Hoi and then to Phong Nha within Vietnam.
Taking the bus is obviously your cheapest option but be prepared to allocate a lot of your time if you’re taking this option. There are buses running the North to South route that you can book from any major urban area in the North. You can get buses from major cities of Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An among others. Depending on your location and the company you choose, the price will change, however, the general amount is around 250.000VND. You can book your ticket from one of these trustworthy bus lines:
Camel travel – http://www.hungthanhtravel.vn
Hung Long travel – http://www.hunglongtravel.com.vn
Sinh café – http://www.thesinhtourist.vn
Hoang Long – http://www.hoanglongasia.com
Please make sure you book your bus through a trustworthy and well-known name as these companies are the ones that care about your safety.
From the South (Hoi Chi Minh), it’s obviously a long route – over 30 hours, and you will make multiple stops along the way in major cities. We don’t recommend you do this journey by bus or train unless you plan to stay over in other cities on the way such as Nha Trang, Da Lat, Hoi An, etc.
It is not a bad idea to get a train to Dong Hoi from Saigon, Nha Trang, Danang, Hue northward or from Hanoi, Ninh Binh southward. The soft sleeper bed is comfortable and the timing is acceptable (from Hanoi, of course!). From Saigon, it’s another story. Go to this site to check the availability of seats and bookings to Dong Hoi city: vetau.com.vn.
Payment can only be made using Vietnamese credit cards. Hopefully, it will change soon. It is also important to note that prices vary depending on the type of seat and time of year, but most of the time it is more expensive than buses.
It’ll be cheaper and more convenient for you if you are booking your flight from Ho Chi Minh because from Hanoi, Vietnam Airlines is the only airline that offers flights to Dong Hoi. The timing is therefore not that flexible as well since you won’t have many options within a day. Generally, prices change depending on airline, and time of year, and it is more expensive than taking the bus or the train. Your options for airlines include:
Vietnam Airlines – https://www.vietnamairlines.com/
VietjetAir – http://www.vietjetair.com/Sites/Web/en-US/Home
Jetstar – http://www.jetstar.com/vn/en/home
Once you reach Dong Hoi, you will have to carry on to Phong Nha.
It takes you 90 mins to get to Phong Nha from Dong Hoi city by bus. You can get the bus from the Nam Ly bus station (Ben Xe Nam Ly) or at any bus stop on Tran Hung Dao street. The bus number you should keep an eye out for is B4 with a sign that says Dong Hoi – Hoan Lao – Phong Nha wrote across the windscreen.
Returning buses depart from Dong Hoi at these times: 05h30, 05h45, 07h10, 08h00, 09h00, 10h00, 11h00, 13h00, 14h00, 15h00, 16h00, and 17h00, so make sure to plan ahead if you don’t want to be stranded.
You can ask your hotel or hostel to arrange for you a private car. To do this, you should ask them in advance, and give them the details of your arrival time to Dong Hoi Airport. It can cost you around 500.000 VND for a car which is approximately 25USD. If you travel in a group, I’ll be cheaper when you share.
Taxis are available in Dong Hoi to Phong Nha. Prices should be between 400.000VND and 500.000VND.
Motorbike taxis are also available for this journey and it will cost around 200.000 VND to 250.000 VND. This option is a good one during the day, but at night, we wouldn’t recommend that you opt for it.
Now that you know how to get there, here are our recommendations of where to stay, what to do for low and mid-range budgets.
Activities – What to do in Phong Nha?
Whether you have a week or just 2 days in Phong Nha, there are some certain places that you should definitely not miss out on and therefore should prioritize! You can either do the following by yourself or take a guided tour through your hostel/hotel. Tours are mentioned as the list goes on, and to do it yourself, you will find a map of the Phong Nha loop as you scroll down.
1. Phong Nha and Tien Son caves
Phong Nha is the first cave in the area that opened to the public. The US Army dropped over a thousand bombs in Central Vietnam including this area during the Vietnam War. Phong Nha cave was actually used during this time as a hospital and a place to hide from the bombs. There should have been so many items left over from the war left in the caves, but floods come every year and sweep away what’s inside. However, the stories left in the memories of the locals haven’t been washed away.
The only way to visit Phong Nha is by taking the traditional dragon boat from the Xuan Son boat dock. The locals will drive you up the river. You will be rewarded with stunning views of the natural Karst mountains and of course, of the local river life.
Tien Son is a smaller dry cave just a few meters above the Phong Nha cave and will take you another 2 hours to visit. After climbing the 400 stairs, you will have a beautiful view of the quiet town below.
A good way to visit these caves is to join the 9 AM morning talk at Easy Tiger Hostel. You will be provided with all the necessary information about the area and you will also be able to find a good group of people to share the boat with.
To Phong Nha cave: 150.000 VND
To Tien Son cave: 80.000 VND
Boat price (shared):
To Phong Nha: 360.000 VND
To Tien Son: 400.000 VND
2. Paradise Cave
Paradise Cave is the longest dry cave in South East Asia with a length of 31.4 kilometers. If you are in Phong Nha, and you never visit Paradise Cave, then you might as well tell others that you were never in Phong Nha. It is THE place to go. The 1st kilometer, you can easily explored by yourself, but if you want something adventurous, you can take the 1-day tour of Paradise cave that includes a trek of 7km in total. Physical fitness is required for this tour but don’t worry, it’s not too extreme.
Entrance ticket: 250.000 VND
As for the 7 km trekking tour, please contact your hotel/hostel to book. http://adventurejourney.vn/daily-group-tours/paradise-cave-7km-adventure_126.html
3. Dark caves
If you want to put your body through a slight trial, Dark caves is ideal. In addition to exploring the cave, your activities will include kayaking through the river to get there, having a mud fight in the mud baths inside, swimming in the lake, and zip-lining above the river. The entrance ticket for the Dark Cave including activities is 450.000 VND (including kayaking, zip-lining, equipment, and guide).
There is another part of the Dark Cave, by the way! But to get there, you have to do a 12km trek/hike through the jungle to the Abandoned Valley at the end of the cave and then swim into the cave from there. It is an amazing and authentic experience. To explore the Abandon valley, and the end of the Dark Cave, you should take a tour with the Jungle Boss company. Tour price is 1.650.000 VND/pax and this includes English speaking guide, porters, transportation, and meals. You will trek through the jungle, up misty mountains, wade up-stream of the river, jump into a freshwater lagoon and swim inside a giant cave. What else do you need?
4. The national park
Phong Nha Ke Bang national park is the biggest national park in Vietnam and is always mentioned in the list of the must-see parks in South East Asia. Famous for its tropical forests, underground rivers, ancient limestone karst mountains and a vast network of caves, it is definitely worth your visit.
There are 2 ways to explore the park: one is by taking a loop around national park by motorbike or your other option is to take a tour exploring the jungle.