How to visit the Caves of Phong Nha (Son Trach)?
Visiting the caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park is one of the main sights in Vietnam. There are several caves you can visit, which was also a little bit confusing when we were planning our trip. So here you find all the important information you need to visit the amazing caves of Phong Nha-Ke Bang.
How to get to Phong Nha?
So first of all you need to know where to stay for visiting the caves. Our advice is not to stay in Dong Hoi which is 55 km (34 miles) away from the caves. So the best and closest place to stay is Phong Nha village, also called Son Trach. If you travel north you probably come from Hue. The bus ride takes around 4-5 hours and costs 160.000 VND ($7, 6.20€ and £4.60). When you travel south you maybe come from Ninh Bình. In this case it is possible that you need to take a sleeper bus: the 7.5 hour bus ride costs around 200.000 VND ($8.80, 7.70 € and £5.75).
Where to stay?
Phong Nha village is basically just one long street where you find all the hotels, backpackers and restaurants. There is not a lot to do here, so we would recommend to stay here for around one or two nights depending how many caves you want to visit. We stayed in a hotel called Khach San Hoa Phuong Hotel, which was alright and costs around $10 for a double room. The hostel Easy Tiger is also a popular place to stay at, but here you need a reservation in high season. It is also possible to stay at a homestay or farmstay, but these places are a little bit out of town. So better check the address and location when you book a room in advance. There are not many places for food, but the Tuan Ngoc restaurant is certainly a good choice – here you can also hire scooters (see below).
How to visit the caves?
One of the hardest decisions you have to make is probably which caves you should visit. This really depends on your time and money. Here you find a short description of the main caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park:
Phong Nha Cave: was used as a hospital during the Vietnam War. You enter the cave by boat. It is better to share the boat with as many people as possible as you pay for the boat and not for the seat.
Dark Cave: is an adventure cave. It is all about ziplining, walking through dark tunnels, fighting in the mud and swimming in small creeks. A visit costs around 350.000 VND ($15, 13.60 € and £10). We asked people how the Dark Cave was and they said “very dark”.
Paradise Cave: people recommended us to visit the Paradise Cave before we even went to Vietnam. This cave is enormous, illuminated and spectacular. The entry fee is 250.000 VND ($11, 9.70 € and £7.15). We only visited the Paradise Cave but this is truly one of the most impressive sights we have ever seen. It is definitely a must-see in Vietnam!
The best way to visit the caves is by hiring a scooter. Hiring one scooter costs around 90.000 VND for a day and you need petrol for roughly 50.000 VND. We hired the scooter in the Tuan Ngoc Restaurant. You reach the caves quite easy as you can make a big loop, first you pass by Dark Cave, then Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave at the end. From Phong Nha Cave you can ride back to Phong Nha village, but be careful – the last part is a gravel path.
On the way back, between Paradise Cave and Dark Cave you can visit the Suoi Nuoc Mooc, a blue spring where you can cool off. The water is crystal clear, but the whole area is quite touristy. You pay 80.000 VND for the entry + 10.000 VND for hiring a life jacket (you have to wear it). For a price of 180.000 VND you can do some kayaking through the spring (very little space for kayaking) and you can climb through a high-wire garden (not that spectacular by the way).
You find all information summarized on my website:
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