Travel Guide To Phong Nha National Park
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
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 had booked my tickets to Vietnam. Trust me, you gotta visit this place! Here’s my travel guide to Phong Nha National Park to help you plan your trip.
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.
Reaching Phong Nha
Due to the increasing tourism Phong Nha has become easily accessible by rail, road and air. If you are coming from Ho Chi Minh City the best way is to take a flight to Dong Hoi which takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. After reaching the airport get out on the highway. Hop on a local bus that takes another 90 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. You can negotiate the price down to about 400,000 VND. Another way is to book a taxi with the place you are staying.
From other parts of Vietnam like- Hue, Hoi An, and Hanoi- one can take an overnight bus/train to Dong Hoi. If you aren’t on a budget & looking for comfort, simply take a train.
Where to Stay in Phin Nha
There are plenty of options to stay for the budget and high-range travellers alike. My suggestions:
- Phong Nha Farmstay
- Funny Monkey Homestay
- Central Backpackers Hostel
- Carambola Bungalows
- Restful River Bungalow
I stayed at the Easy Tigers. It is very conveniently located near the bus stop and the boat station which takes you to the Phong Nha Caves. Every morning they give you general information about the caves. Which is very helpful to plan your adventure in the vicinity. Most of the buses from Phong Nha to another city in Vietnam run at night. This gives you plenty of time to explore the area.
UPDATE: Easy tigers shut their operations. I have updated the list according to the latest stays in September 2022.
The Phong Nha National Park Cave System
When I saw the photo of the Phong Nha cave which led me to Vietnam. I had no idea the reality would be way better than what I was in that tiny frame. I managed to visit a few of the 300 caves and my only regret was missing out on the Son Doong Cave. Which is also the world’s largest cave! These caves are not only of geological importance but also have great historic importance. They were used as bomb shelters, ammunition depots and hospitals during the American war.
To reach Phong Nha and Tien Son caves you have to take a boat. Note that the boat has a capacity of 14 people the cost is shared by the number of people in the group. So if you are travelling alone chances are you will end up paying 250,000 VND just for the boat ride! Try to find a group to share the cost. The boat ride to the caves is beautiful in its own way. The area is scenic enough for you to daze away in the beauty of untouched nature. Only to notice that you are approaching a wide opening in one of the huge limestone massive. Enter Phong Nha Cave (Fee- 150,000 VND). The boat ride inside the cave is about 20 minutes. After which we were left to explore the cave on foot. After Phong Nha cave, make your way to the Tien Son Cave (80,000 VND). This one comes with an extremely tiring hike! Unlike the previous cave here is a clearly laid out staircase that goes through the grand structure.
The Paradise cave (opened to the public in 2011) can be best reached by motorbike. A number of options are available to rent one in about 100,000 VND. The roads can get slippery due to rain so make sure you ride around the area only if you are an experienced rider. Another cave that you can (and must) visit on your own is the Dark Cave here you zip-line your way inside the caves, get real muddy walking your way through it, wash off in the river and kayak your way out on the land- sounds amazing, isn’t it?
Other Things To Do In Phong Nha
Apart from the above-mentioned caves, there are several cave systems that are not advisable to reach without a tour operator. Mainly because the park has one of the highest concentrations of unexploded ordnance in the world. You can take one of the tours to the Tu Lan cave or Son Doong cave – I recommend taking an overnight tour to these caves as a lot of time goes into hiking through the jungle to reach them also camping in the caves would be the closest to a magical experience.
The locals are extremely friendly and are always eager to help or strike up a conversation. One can easily spend a day cycling through the paddy fields and relaxing by the river (or taking a dip) only to restore the energy required for the next day of cave explorations!
The national park has to offer one of the hardest eco trails and a large number of fauna & flora, one can hike their way to a new adventure. And at the end of the adrenaline-packed day, you can choose to relax by the Mountain River Café, order special chocolate coffee and let the mesmerizing beauty of Phong Nha Ke Bang leave you breathless.
I would love to know about your experience in Phong Nha and suggestions. If you want more information feel free to comment or write to me. Read my 1 week Vietnam itinerary on a budget to help you plan the Vietnam trip.