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Travel Guide To Phong Nha National Park

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Before finalizing a place to travel there is something that draws you to the destination. Phong Nha Ke Bang was that attraction for me. I stumbled upon a picture of one of the majestic caves of Phong Nha a couple of hours later I booked my tickets to Vietnam. Now I present to you my Phong Nha National Park travel guide. 

The first known writing about the cave system was somewhere in 1550. However, this pristine untouched forest and the purest limestone massive was given UNESCO World Heritage status in the year 2003. Most caves opened to tourists only around 2011. Trust me, you gotta visit this place to believe it exists! Here’s my Phong Nha National Park travel guide to help you plan your trip. 

How do I get to Phong Nha National Park from Hanoi?

To get to Phong Nha National Park from Hanoi, you have a few transportation options. Here are the common methods:

  1. By Bus: Buses are a popular and affordable mode of transportation in Vietnam. You can take a bus from Hanoi to Phong Nha, which usually takes around 8 to 10 hours. Multiple bus companies operate this route, and you can book your ticket in advance through travel agencies or at the bus stations in Hanoi. The bus fares from Hanoi to Phong Nha typically range from 200,000 to 400,000 VND.
  2. By Train: Although there is no direct train service from Hanoi to Phong Nha, you can take a train to Dong Hoi, the nearest city to the national park. The estimated cost for a soft sleeper berth (4-berth cabin) on a regular train from Hanoi to Dong Hoi is around 500,000 to 800,000 VND per person. Prices for high-speed trains may be slightly higher. It typically takes around 10 to 12 hours. From Dong Hoi, you can hire a taxi or take a local bus to reach Phong Nha.
  3. By Flight: The quickest way to reach Phong Nha from Hanoi is by taking a flight to Dong Hoi. There are several daily flights operated by local airlines. The flight duration is approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. Once you arrive at Dong Hoi Airport, hop on a local bus that takes another 50 minutes to reach Phong Nha (30,000 VND). In case you do not wish to wait for the bus, take a taxi. Taxi drivers may ask you anywhere from 500,000 VND to 1,000,000 VND.

Regardless of the mode of transportation you choose, it’s recommended to check the schedules and availability in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.

How do I get to Phong Nha National Park from Ho Chi Minh City?

To get to Phong Nha National Park from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), you have a few transportation options. Here are the common methods:

  1. By Flight: The fastest way to reach Phong Nha from Ho Chi Minh City is by taking a flight to Dong Hoi. There are several daily flights operated by local airlines. The flight duration is approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Once you arrive at Dong Hoi Airport, you can take a taxi or arrange for transportation to Phong Nha, which is about a 45-minute drive away.
  2. By Train: Although there is no direct train service from Ho Chi Minh City to Phong Nha, you can take a train to Dong Hoi, the nearest city to the national park. Trains from Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi typically take around 17 to 20 hours. From Dong Hoi, you can hire a taxi or take a local bus to reach Phong Nha, which is about a 45-minute drive away. The approximate cost for a soft sleeper berth (4-berth cabin) on a regular train from Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi is around 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 VND per person. Prices for high-speed trains may be slightly higher.
  3. By Bus: Buses are a popular mode of transportation in Vietnam. You can take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phong Nha, which usually takes around 16 to 18 hours. Multiple bus companies operate this route, and you can book your ticket in advance through travel agencies or at the bus stations in Ho Chi Minh City. The estimated cost for a one-way bus ticket ranges from 400,000 to 800,000 VND per person. 

What is the weather like in Phong Nha National Park?

Let’s talk about the weather in Phong Nha National Park! It’s good to know what you’re getting into, right? So, here’s the lowdown on the park’s weather.

During the dry season (April to August), things can get pretty hot and humid. We’re talking temperatures soaring up to a toasty 35°C (95°F)! Make sure you pack your sunscreen, hats, and lots of water to stay cool and hydrated. The skies are usually clear, and rain is scarce during this time, which means it’s prime time for outdoor adventures and exploring those incredible caves.

Now, let’s move on to the rainy season (September to March). This is when the park gets its fair share of showers and thunderstorms. The humidity levels are high, and the greenery comes alive. Keep in mind that heavy rain might cause temporary closures of some caves and trekking routes for safety reasons. But fear not, because fewer tourists venture out during this time. And if you aren’t too keen on exploring the bigger caves, you can enjoy a more peaceful experience with nature.

Are there any accommodation options near Phong Nha National Park?

There are plenty of options to stay for budget and high-range travellers alike. My top suggestions:

  • Phong Nha Farmstay
  • Funny Monkey Homestay
  • Central Backpackers Hostel
  • Carambola Bungalows
  • Restful River Bungalow

What are the best caves to visit in Vietnam

Phong Nha Cave

Phong Nha Cave is a mesmerizing underground wonder located in the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Step into a surreal world of stalactites and stalagmites as you cruise along the Son River to reach the cave entrance. Inside, you’ll be greeted by an awe-inspiring spectacle of stunning rock formations and shimmering water. Take a boat ride through the cave’s mystical chambers and marvel at its grandeur. Don’t miss the chance to witness the natural phenomenon of light illuminating the cave, creating a surreal ambience. How much does it cost to visit Phong Nha Cave? Entrance fee: VND 150,000 for adults, VND 75,000 for children.

Paradise Cave

True to its name, Paradise Cave is a breathtaking underground paradise nestled in the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Prepare to be amazed as you explore one of the longest dry caves in the world, with its colossal chambers and intricate limestone formations. Walk along the well-lit boardwalks that wind through the cave, allowing you to admire its impressive beauty. The sheer size and intricate patterns of stalactites and stalagmites will leave you in awe. Entrance fee: VND 250,000 for adults, VND 125,000 for children.

Dark Cave

For adventurous souls, Dark Cave offers an exhilarating experience like no other. Put on your headlamp and zip-line across the river to reach the entrance. Inside, you’ll be greeted by darkness and excitement. Wade through mud-filled passages, squeeze through narrow crevices and swim in the cool underground river. Feel the thrill of caving as you challenge your limits and emerge covered in mud. After the adventure, enjoy a refreshing swim in the lake’s crystal-clear waters outside the cave. Entrance fee: VND 450,000 for adults, VND 225,000 for children.

Son Doong Cave

Son Doong Cave is a world-famous marvel that will take your breath away. As one of the largest caves on the planet, it offers an unparalleled adventure for explorers. Traverse through colossal chambers, witness towering stalagmites, and marvel at the vastness of this natural wonder. The ethereal beauty of the cave will leave you speechless. Due to its protected status and limited capacity, visiting Son Doong requires joining a guided expedition organized by Oxalis Adventure. Entrance fee: Prices vary.

Hang En Cave

Hang En Cave, also known as Swallow Cave, is renowned for its immense size and impressive formations. Located in the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, it offers a unique camping experience within its vast chamber. Spend a night under the starry sky and wake up to the serenity of the cave’s interior. The enchanting beauty of Hang En, with its natural skylights and underground river, creates a truly unforgettable experience. Entrance fee: VND 80,000 for adults, VND 40,000 for children.

Tu Lan Cave System

The Tu Lan Cave System is an adventure lover’s paradise. Embark on a multi-day expedition and explore a network of caves, underground rivers, and breathtaking formations. Swim through cave passages, climb over boulders, and witness the untouched beauty of these hidden gems. Immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Tu Lan Cave System and create memories that will last a lifetime. Entrance fee: Prices vary depending on the tour package.

You may also like to read: Cat Ba Island Travel Guide: UPDATED 2023

What are the best activities to do in Phong Nha National Park?

There is no denying that the majestic cave systems are what draws the crowd to Phon Nha National Park. But, in this section, my travel guide will show all the activities one can take part in while staying in Phon Nha. And if you are visiting Vietnam for a week or more, you can easily add some of this to your Vietnam itinerary

  1. Cave Exploration: Phong Nha National Park is renowned for its magnificent caves, including the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong. You can take guided tours to explore various caves such as Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave, and Dark Cave. Marvel at the stunning rock formations, underground rivers, and unique ecosystems found within these caves.
  2. Boat Tours: Take a boat tour along the Son River that runs through the national park. Enjoy the scenic views of limestone karsts, lush forests, and local villages along the riverbanks. You can also visit Phong Nha Cave, accessible by boat, and admire its impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
  3. Jungle Trekking: Embark on a trekking adventure through the dense forests of Phong Nha National Park. Discover the diverse flora and fauna as you hike along the trails, accompanied by experienced guides. Trek to viewpoints, waterfalls, and remote areas within the park for a truly immersive nature experience.
  4. Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding: Explore the river systems and smaller waterways of the national park by kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. Paddle through serene landscapes, observe wildlife, and enjoy the tranquillity of the park’s waterways.
  5. Zip-lining and Cave Swimming: For a thrilling experience, try zip-lining across the Chay River, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape. You can also go cave swimming in the Dark Cave, an adventurous activity where you swim through dark underground passages with a headlamp.
  6. Biking and Motorbike Tours: Rent a bicycle or a motorbike to explore the park and its surrounding areas at your own pace. Ride through picturesque villages, visit local markets, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the countryside.
  7. Village Visits and Cultural Experiences: Take the opportunity to visit local ethnic minority villages, such as the Mooc Village, where you can interact with the local people, learn about their traditional customs, and experience their way of life.

Itinerary Suggestions for Phong Nha

One-day trip to Phong Nha

If you only have one day in Phong Nha, you should focus on the main attraction, which is the Phong Nha Cave. You can join a half-day tour that will take you by boat to the cave, where you can admire the stunning formations and the underground river. You can also hike to the upper part of the cave, where you can see the ancient temple and the inscriptions. In the afternoon, you can visit the Paradise Cave, which is another impressive cave that you can walk along a wooden boardwalk. You can also stop by the Eight Ladies Cave, which is a memorial site for eight women who died during the Vietnam War. In the evening, you can enjoy the nightlife and the food in the town, or relax at your accommodation.

Two-day trip to Phong Nha

If you have two days in Phong Nha, you can add some more adventure and nature to your trip. On the first day, you can do the same as the one-day trip, but instead of visiting the Paradise Cave, you can visit the Dark Cave, which is a wet cave that offers a fun and thrilling experience. You can zip-line, kayak, swim, and mud-bath in the cave, which is completely dark and mysterious. On the second day, you can join a full-day tour that will take you to the Hang En Cave, which is the third largest cave in the world and the most popular overnight camping spot in the park. You can hike through the jungle, swim in the lake, and sleep in the cave, where you can enjoy the sound of the swallows and the stars.

Three-day trip to Phong Nha

If you have three days in Phong Nha, you can add some more culture and history to your trip. On the first and second day, you can do the same as the two-day trip, but instead of visiting the Dark Cave, you can visit the Nuoc Mooc Spring, which is a beautiful and refreshing spot where you can swim and relax. On the third day, you can join a half-day tour that will take you to the DMZ, which is the former border between North and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. You can see some of the historical sites and monuments, such as the Hien Luong Bridge, the Ben Hai River, and the Vinh Moc Tunnels, which are underground tunnels where thousands of people lived and fought during the war.

Four-day trip to Phong Nha

If you have four days in Phong Nha, you can add some more luxury and exclusivity to your trip. On the first, second, and third day, you can do the same as the three-day trip, but instead of visiting the Nuoc Mooc Spring, you can visit the Botanic Garden, which is a lovely and peaceful spot where you can see some of the flora and fauna of the park. On the fourth day, you can join the ultimate tour that will take you to the Son Doong Cave, which is the largest cave in the world and the most expensive and exclusive attraction in the park. You can trek through the jungle, camp inside the cave, and marvel at the incredible formations and features of the cave, such as the jungle, the river, and the climate.

FAQs on Phong Nha National Park

Can I visit Son Doong Cave in Phong Nha National Park?

Yes, you can visit Son Doong Cave in Phong Nha National Park. To explore Son Doong Cave, you must join a guided expedition organized by Oxalis Adventure, the sole tour operator licensed to lead tours to this extraordinary cave. They offer exclusive and carefully curated tours that provide an unparalleled experience for adventurers.

Are there any guided tours available for exploring Phong Nha National Park?

Yes, a guided expedition organized by Oxalis Adventure, the sole tour operator licensed to lead tours in Phong Nha National Park. 

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